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E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial: Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

5 Oct, 2012 By: John Latchem

Street 10/9/12
$22.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray combo
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Robert MacNaughton, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote.

Following Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977, director Steven Spielberg would take a turn at zany comedy with 1941 and escapist adventure with Raiders of the Lost Ark.

For his next project, Spielberg wanted something simpler and closer to his own heart. Returning to the alien milieu of Close Encounters, he wondered how one of the aliens would react to being left behind. The alien would befriend a young boy, the government would chase after them, the alien would try to go home, and there wasn’t much more to it than that.

But the result transcended all expectations. E.T. became the top-grossing film of all time upon its release in 1982, and still holds the box office record for most weekends at No. 1, with 16.

Despite its occasional hokeyness, E.T. endures because of its timeless charm — an old-fashioned “boy and his alien” quality that many films since have tried to emulate without much luck. It remains one of Spielberg’s most personal films; he admitted, years later, that the film was inspired by his own experiences as a boy dealing with the divorce of his parents, and needing to fill a void in his life that created.

For Blu-ray, the film has been restored to its original, pre-20th anniversary special-edition glory. That means the return not only of the guns in the hands of the federal agents (instead of CG walkie talkies), but also snippets of dialogue dropped over the years for being too un-family friendly.

Most of the bonus material consists of leftovers from previous DVD versions, in particular the 20th anniversary edition.

This includes two deleted scenes that had been added back into the special-edition cut of the film. The main scene involves an obvious CG E.T. being fascinated by the prospect of taking a bath.

A number of the older extras rightly focus on John Williams’ Oscar-winning music for the film, primarily a featurette in which the composer looks back after 20 years. Williams also takes center stage in a featurette about the 20th anniversary premiere, in which Williams conducted an orchestra as it played the music live as the film played.

Other carryover extras include retrospective interviews with Spielberg and the cast, and a making-of featurette, plus various promotional materials such as trailers and a Special Olympics TV spot.

New extras include an interview with Spielberg reflecting on the film, and an hour-long behind-the-scenes documentary consisting entirely of footage shot during the production 30 years ago (similar to the Raiders of the Lost Ark making-of documentary on the new “Indiana Jones” Blu-ray). This is actually a fun little piece because we get to see the cast and crew interacting when the cameras weren’t rolling, such as Spielberg discussing his favorite video games with the kids, or directing a scene while dressed in drag for Halloween.

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