Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition (1977 – 2005), Blu-ray

by | Dec 9, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition (1977 – 2005), Blu-ray

Director: Stephen Spielberg
Starring: Richard Dreyfus, Teri Garr, Francois Truffaut
Studio: Columbia/Sony Pictures 22859 (2 DVDs)
Video: Anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, color 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS HD 5.1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish or French DD TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Arabic
Extras on second DVD: “Spielberg: 30 Years of Close Encounters,” Storyboard-to-Scene Comparisons, Extensive photo gallery, Making-of Documentary, 1977 featurette “Watch the Skies,”  Deleted scenes, Blu-ray exclusive on “A View From Above,” Collector’s heavily-illustrated book, Folding chart comparing the three versions
Length: 132 to 137 minutes
Rating: *****

Hard to know where to start with the massive special edition. Taking for granted most readers have seen it before, I would suggest going thru the extras first. Both Spielberg and Dreyfus are on camera a lot, talking easily about their work on the film. There are course sections on the scripting, working with the studios, the casting, the special effects (Douglas Trumbull explains how he retained such high quality without using cgi at all), the science and research behind the story, the music by John Williams, and so on. The details of selecting and working with both famed French director Truffaut and the 3 1/2-year-old child who is briefly abducted by one of the UFOs are extremely interesting.

Dreyfus plays an electric company cable worker named Roy who experiences an alien encounter of the first kind, along with a number of other people. Afterwards he becomes completely obsessed with an odd mountain-like formation (as does the mother of the small child who is later abducted).  He tears apart his house and ultimately his family to construct a giant model of the formation which he can’t get out of his head. His wife leaves with the children, and he sees Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower formation on TV, which is exactly the shape communicated to him by the UFO encounter.

A parallel story to Roy’s is the government’s investigation of an encounter involving hundreds of people in India, the finding of a long-lost ship in the middle of the desert, and several navy planes which disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle in 1948 showing up in the Mexican desert.  The government creates a fake emergency for the area around Devil’s Tower in order to have privacy to prepare for the encounter.  Roy believe that is a ruse and continues following his vision against all odds to Devil’s Tower, along with the mother of the child. They make it by the appointed time for the encounter of the third kind, and can witness the arrival of first a series of small UFOs with which the project communicates using the five notes of music, which have already been worked out from received signals, as a sort of greeting. Then when most begin to leave, thinking the show is over, comes the Mothership.  Quite an experience for all concerned, and in the end especially for Roy.

This is the first Blu-ray to make use of a new branching technique which allows all three different version of the film to be put on a single Blu-ray disc – leaving the second one for all the extras. First is the original theatrical version, which was rushed to completion due to a Christmas holiday season deadline. A few years later the studio requested Spielberg to add footage at the end showing Roy inside the impressive interior of the huge mothership, and reissue the film as The Special Edition. While hesitant on that point, Spielberg did it since it allowed him to correct or redo some other scenes in the film with which he was displeased. Finally there is the new Director’s Cut, which at 137 minutes is the longest although it deletes the interior of the mothership scenes at the end. The main additions are a lengthening of the lecture give by Truffaut’s character at the beginning and the prelude to the scene where Roy gets materials from his yard and the neighbors in order to construct the giant Devil’s Tower in his living room.  The disc allows one to select either of the three versions and using the A View From Above option a small icon will appear on the screen to show when a scenes has been added or deleted. This function failed to work on my Pioneer Blu-ray player, but I would agree with Spielberg – showing the spaceship interior does spoil the wonder and imaginative quality of the end of the film.

 – John Sunier


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