STEVEN SPIELBERG Director’s Collection, Blu-ray (1971/2014)

STEVEN SPIELBERG Director’s Collection, Blu-ray (2014)

Duel (1971)
The Sugerland Express (1974)
Jaws (1975)
1941 (1979)
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Always (1989)
Jurassic Park (1993)
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Actors: Dennis Weaver, Goldie Hawn, Roy Scheider, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Sam Neil, Jeff Goldblum, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Julianne Moore, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Shaw, Teri Garr
Writers: Richard Matheson, Melisa Mathison, Hal Barwood, Peter Benchley, Matthew Robbins Amblin Ent./ Universal
Studio: Amblin’ Ent./ Universal Studios (10/14/14)
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD & Dolby Digital mono, stereo & 5.1, also French & Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
No Region Codes
Extras: Making-Of documentaries, Interviews with Spielberg, Behind-the-Scenes featurettes, Archival footage, Deleted Scenes, Photography galleries, More, Plus 58-page illustrated book
Total Length: 1083 minutes
Rating: ****1/2

I hadn’t seen three of these eight films, so started with viewing them. Duel was originally a movie for TV, where Spielberg got his start since he couldn’t break into feature film directing right away. He shot some additional footage for the 90-minute feature film. The plot involves mainly two characters: the driver of the car, and the driver of the big old truck, who face is not seen. Dennis Weaver, the traveling salesman, is terrorized on a remote desert highway by the unseen trucker who is clearly trying to kill him. It ends with the truck going off a cliff, and in 1941 he again has a whole house go off a cliff at the end of the movie.

The Sugarland Express is a non-comedy role for Goldie Hawn as the wife who helps her husband escape prison and kidnaps their son back from the authorities. Cars again play a major role in the film, as they did in Duel. Both of these early films were digitally remastered from original elements and are part of the four never before released on Blu-ray. (Spielberg re-used the lady who had the rattlesnake collection in the desert in 1941.) We all know the unforgettable Jaws theme for the big shark, composed by John Williams, who scored nearly all the Spielberg films for over 40 years. A great white shark (Spielberg had a lot of trouble with the mechanical shark) attacks a seaside community and the chief of police, a marine biologist and a shark hunter try to destroy the beast. Not having many closeups of the shark actually made the movie better and more frightening. The extra on “The Impact & Legacy of Jaws” is most interesting.

1941 is presented in either the theatrical or a longer extended version. It was Spielberg’s first big flop, but this wartime spoof has since been found more acceptable by critics. It is based on actual incidents early in WWII, including six hours when LA was blacked out due to the publics’ hysterical ideas about an attack by the Japanese, and anti-aircraft guns fired into the sky with nothing there. The role of John Belushi as a crazy pilot was expanded from the original script to make use of his unique comedy bits. Spielberg actually tried to get both John Wayne and Charlton Heston for the part of the sensible general who tries to downplay the hysteria, but both turned it down when they saw the script. It becomes more and more chaotic as it proceeds, but is quite a bit of fun. The Making-Of extra is fascinating, especially Spielberg talking about Toshiro Mifune playing the Japanese sub commander and acting like a tough Marine sargent in getting them all lined up for their roles.

Spielberg says of E.T. that a director isn’t supposed to fall in love with his creations, but with E.T. he did. Always gives one a useful look into the work of fire fighters, and Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter provide some very moving acting, aided by Audrey Hepburn’s last role, as an angel. Seeing both Jurassic Park and its first sequel is quite a kick if you haven’t seen them since the ‘90s. (Leaving off the second sequel was a good idea since it isn’t as good.) The first sequel has the subtitle “Something Survived.” The cgi on the dinosaurs was amazing in the first Jurassic Park, but in the sequel there are many more dinosaurs, using both cgi and mechanical creatures for the closeups. The tiny dinos, called compsognathuses, become as scary as the Tyranus Rexes, especially when they maul a little girl and then kill one of the men who has come to the island. Jeff Goldblum has a much bigger role in the sequel, again trying to stop the dangerous combination of humans and prehistoric animals. Both Jurassic Parks have a host of extras, including an interview with author Michael Crichton, the work ILM did on the special effects, and even a dance number. The book holding the eight Blu-rays is also very well done, with posters and information on each film.

This is an excellent package of some of the biggest box-office hits of the famed director who started on the Universal backlot over 40 years ago, and at $91 on Amazon is not a bad deal at all.

—John Sunier

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