Special Editions, Director's Cuts, & "The Version You've Never Seen" (oh my)

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What do you folks think of practices like the E.T. "Rework"? Are such enhancements no more harmful that a second edition to a book, or are they corruptions of the historical record?

I'm not really too concerned about historical purity (especially when, as SS claims will be on the other side of the disc, the original finds a DVD release); I am concerned with crass 'value-added' CGI scenes that look incredibly fake inserted into footage shot over nearly 20 years ago. A few of the scenes on the trailer for the release frankly make me cringe, as the Star Wars release also did several years ago. Of course, Lucas claims the original Star Wars trilogy will never see the light of day on DVD. THAT is a shame.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I've given this quite a bit of thought since I originally posted this, as I didn't want to rant thoughtlessly. But I've decided it really does bother me. It's not that I object to director's cuts or extra footage. In fact, I can't wait for the 4-hour, R-rated cut of Fellowship of the Ring that will be coming out on DVD late this year (there will be a 2-disc set released initially, then a 4-disc (!) set with the extended cut released later). What bothers me is the elimination of the original cut! Case in point: your Star Wars observation. Someday the last VHS player will break, and the 1977 version of Star Wars will be dead. That seems to be true for Aliens as well. The only edition I can find on DVD currently has a fair amount of extra footage, including a cringe-inducing show of bravado from Bill Paxton's character during the descent to the planet. It's a detriment, and I can't get rid of it. And it's revisionist history. The physical record becomes out of sync with memory. How am I supposed to have a "these special effects were revolutionary at the time" conversation with my kids if all the copies I can get my hands on have gone through the computer mill?

Books can last hundreds of years. Subsequent book editions don't bother me so much since all you need to view the original edition is a working pair of eyeballs. You need a widespread book-burning to revise written history. To bastardize digital history, all you have to do is wait for the technology to go obsolete. I suppose their could be bootleg ports to future technology of old VHS copies, but that's hardly an ideal solution.

There are enough challenges to maintaining a digital library so it remains readable by modern players without willful tampering.