|Looking through the coupe's window, Lucas checks in on Mackenzie Phillips.|
A revisionist ethos motivated George Lucas to spruce up the Star Wars "special editions" released in 1997. And, according to spokesperson Lynne Hale, when Lucas first learned that Universal Studios Home Video was going to be issuing a 25th-anniversary edition of American Graffiti, he got the urge to airbrush the past again. "That opening shot always really bugged him," Hale said with indignation.
Glance at earlier video editions of Graffiti ('cause everybody still owns a VCR, right?) and you'll see why. The credits unfold over a grainy photo of Mel's Drive-In, a compromise required after a camera malfunction prevented a better shot. Production notes reveal that while filming at Mels Drive-in on 7/17/72, Lucas' favorite Eclaire camera fell off the tripod and was badly damaged. As a result, the sky is washedout, making it hard to tell that the time of day is sunset--a detail crucial to establishing the movie's dusk-to-dawn time frame.
|4-song soundtrack sampler included with 25th-anniversary VHS edition|
I think the revised shot is an improvement. The hell with purity; it is a welcome grace note to Lucas' cinematic masterpiece. Now leave it alone, George! I wonder if there will be any surprises for the Blu-ray edition? The 3-hour director's cut, perhaps? Well, one can dream can't he?
• American Graffiti, Collector’s Edition. [DVD] (1973, 1998). High School Reunion Collection. Universal Studios.
• American Graffiti [VHS] (1973, 1998). Universal Studios.
• Daly, Steve. (1998). Entertainment Weekly. Issue 452, p77.
• Hearn, Marcus. (2005). The Cinema of George Lucas. Harry N. Abrams.