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Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)

Sep 23, 2012 - 11:00:00 AM

I saw E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982) on opening night, Friday, June 11, 1982 at the long-gone Plainfield-Edison Drive-In Theatre in Edison, New Jersey.  At that time, E.T. was the first movie that I recall being released on multiple screens at the same theater simultaneously.  THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982) was the trailer of choice and is release date was still six months away.  In those days, seeing a trailer and the "Coming Soon" poster in the theater lobby was very often the only way that you would even hear about a new movie.  Naturally, there was no Internet to log onto, and magazines certainly didn't hawk the upcoming films the way that they do now.  I don't recall there being much fanfare attached to the film's release with the exception of the usual mention in Time and Newsweek magazines.

I remember having a difficult time seeing the film as most of it is darkly lit - a common complaint of Gordon Willis' work on THE GODFATHER (1972).  A follow-up screening indoors shed a great deal of light so to speak on the story. 

Lensed under the original title of A BOY'S LIFE, E.T. was penned by screenwriter Melissa Matheson and the fact that the title was changed illustrates the switching of focus from Elliot (Henry Thomas) to the titular creature.  A beautifully crafted story about the nature of childhood, loneliness, and the dreaded D-word is brought to life by perhaps the only filmmaker who could have done it justice.  Steven Spielberg had been fascinated by outer space and as a teenager made a 140-minute film called FIRELIGHT (1964) about UFOs. 

Years later, his own CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) acted as a sort of follow-up to it, and E.T. was inspired by the thought of one of the aliens at the end of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS being left behind and how he would try to get back to his ship.  Himself the product of divorced parents, E.T. is the only script that Spielberg has read and wanted to make immediately without major changes. 

E.T. has not lost one iota of its charm, nor does the film feel dated in any way.  In 2002, the director made significant changes to the original version by adding an additional scene with E.T. in the bathtub by way of computer generated imagery.  He also removed the guns from the hands of the men at the end who take over Elliott's house and replaced them with walkie-talkies. Fortunately, none of these changes have been made to the current version that has been released on Blu-ray. I hope that George Lucas eventually comes to his senses and gives fans of STAR WARS the versions that we all grew up seeing in movie theaters during their respective initial theatrical runs. While I understand that a director may want to tweak and alter their film, I feel that they have an obligation to give fans the version that saw when the film was originally released. I for one am not a fan of altering a film to satisfy the Zeitgeist or current sensibilities, however provided that fans get what they want, the director should be able to do what he chooses freely.

The only drawback to the Blu-ray set is the exclusion of Harrison Ford's role as Elliott's school principal. The only time this footage ever surfaced to my knowledge was in the deluxe CAV laser disc edition that was produced in limited quantities in 1996.  As far as I know, no VHS, DVD, or any other video format has ever offered up this footage, but you can see a low resolution transfer of it here on Youtube.

The Blu-ray comes with a standard DVD and a digital copy of the film in addition to these extras:

Steven Spielberg & E.T. (HD, 13 minutes)

The E.T. Journals (HD, 54 minutes)

Deleted Scenes (HD, 4 minutes)

A Look Back (SD, 38 minutes)

The Evolution and Creation of E.T. (SD, 50 minutes)

The E.T. Reunion (SD, 18 minutes)

The 20th Anniversary Premiere (SD, 18 minutes)

The Music of E.T. (SD, 10 minutes)

Designs, Photographs and Marketing (SD, 45 minutes)

Special Olympics TV Spot (SD, 1 minute)

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2 minutes)

This is clearly one of the best Blu-ray releases this year as the carefully orchestrated color palette has never looked better on home video.

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