Saturday, September 21, 2013

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Two-Disc 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition) (1977)

Close Encounters of the Third KindNow this is the way it should be. You get all three cuts, all remastered in 5.1 surround and all have been digitally transferred. Thank you so much Mr. Spielberg because this without a doubt has to be one of your best (along with the original ET).

Last night, I watched the original theatrical version and forgot how much was removed for the "Special Editions" and the final "Director's Cut". In my mind, the original version is the best and to finally have it in all it's uncut 5.1 surround sound (which didn't exist back then) glory is simply wonderful.

The packaging is nice, although I found it very difficult to remove the DVDs without fearing I might snap them because the locking mechanism seems to not want to let go of the DVDs no matter how hard I press down on them. I suppose I could look at it in that I shouldn't fear them coming off during shipping and getting scratched up.

The box is nicely designed and inside are some wonderful items. It comes with a poster that gives a time line for each movie and where each cut differs which I found really interesting. It also comes with a book full of bios on the actors and other people that worked on the film. Plenty of in-movie and behind-the-scene shots. Finally, the three DVDs are housed in a tri-fold container. Inside and outside are colorful shots from the movies and it really makes the entire set look nice.

In addition to the three editions of the movies, there is also a new "30 Years" documentary looking back over time at how CE has been a favorite movie that has stood the test of time. Also, the making-of documentary that was on the original Director's Edition that came out a few years ago has been split across the three DVDs. Also included is the 1977 making of documentary which was also on the previously released Director's Cut DVD.

Missing are all the "deleted" scenes that were included on the Director's Cut. So, if you own that one, it might be best to keep it since they are absent from this edition.

Overall, this is an excellent release and no one should be without it. To finally watch it like I did when it first came out back in 1977 (and I lived in Muncie, Indiana at that time so you can just imagine what the crowd did when that came up during the movie) was so refreshing and wonderful that I can't wait to watch it again!

This two-disc set features a THX-certified 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer of Spielberg's (so far) favored cut of the film (the third!), dubbed the "Collector's Edition" after its 1998 release on VHS and laserdisc, and runs 137 minutes. The anamorphic transfer is minted from a hi-def transfer created at Sony's DVD center in Culver City, California and cleaned up for this release. The disc features both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtracks, the 102-minute "The Making Of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind" documentary by Laurent Bouzereau created for the 1998 laserdisc, a collection of additional deleted scenes, a featurette on the film's enduring place in the sci-fi film pantheon entitled "Watch The Skies" (which, coincidentally, was the original working title for Spielberg's opus), talent files, and two theatrical trailers. Note that the still gallery on the laserdisc will not be carried over to the DVD. The set also comes packaged in Columbia's new "book-like" special edition casing with extensive production notes.

Buy Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Two-Disc 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition) (1977) Now

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg's 1977 UFO classic, is the thematic antitheses to 1996's Independence Day. While Roland Emmerich's ID4 is a throwback to 1950s "invaders from space" flicks, Spielberg's vision of a "close encounter" between humanity and extraterrestrials is more mysterious and, in the end, more hopeful and awe-inspiring. Instead of exchanging bullets and "heat rays," humans and aliens communicate by using musical notes.

Spielberg's screenplay divides Close Encounters roughly into three acts, basically corresponding to each of the three kinds of "encounters."

In the first category, sightings of a UFO, we first see a very strange sight in the Mexican desert: an international team of researchers led by French UFO expert Lacombe (the late Francois Truffaut) and guided by several Mexican Federales finds five World War II vintage Grumman TBM Avengers. The planes are abandoned but strangely intact, as though they were brand new. "Who flies this kind of plane?" asks a bewildered cartographer/interpreter named Laughlin (Bob Balaban).

"No one," replies another astonished researcher. "This is Flight 19."

(Flight 19, of course, is a reference to a Navy training flight which took off from Ft. Lauderdale one morning in December 1945 and vanished, along with a Martin Mariner search plane sent up to look for the missing planes and crews. Flight 19 is now famous in the lore of unsolved mysteries related to the Bermuda triangle.)

Laughlin is baffled by something else, as well. A Mexican villager, old, sunburned, and seemingly delirious, keeps repeating, "El sol salio anoche y me canto. El sol salio anoche y me canto." When Laughlin asks what the phrase mean, a researcher who is fluent in Spanish says, in an awed tone, "He says the sun came out last night. He says it sang to him."

Later, in the Indianapolis Air Traffic Control Center, a more dramatic close encounter of the first kind plays out on the radar scopes as airliner pilots call in reports of bright lights in the sky and unknown contacts make their presence known. For a few tense minutes it look as though tragedy is imminent, but within moments the contacts vanish into the night sky. Torn between reporting a UFO sighting or just letting the incident slide by, pilots and air traffic controllers alike opt to keep quiet, mainly to avoid having to fill out tons of bureaucratic paperwork.

As important as these sequences are, the focus of Spielberg's story is on Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), an employee of a Midwestern power company whose life on Earth is ordinary, hectic, and somewhat unfulfilling. Sent out to investigate a section of power lines in rural Indiana (caused, of course, by the UFOs' passage), Neary has a close encounter of the first kind and impulsively goes on a truck-borne pursuit of two small "flying saucers." This sequence, which ends with a Keystone Kops-like police chase of the same UFOs, triggers an obsession within Neary that neither his wife Ronnie (Teri Garr) nor his children will understand, much less accept. Neary, along with several hundred other people from different towns and states, will soon be haunted by both a visual image and a simple five-note musical phrase. The traces of the UFO flights that leave traces behind (sunburn on people who, like Neary, were exposed to bright light at night) are known as close encounters of the second kind.

Spielberg weaves Neary's everyman-faces-an-extraordinarysituation plot with the official investigations being carried out by the UN-sponsored Lacombe team and a more secretive U.S. government First Contact program. These plot threads will all lead to a climactic and awe-inspiring close encounter of the third kind: actual (and documented) contact between humanity and another space-faring civilization.

The Columbia/Tri-Star Collector's Edition brings not only a newly re-edited version (trimming some excess material from the 1980 Special Edition) of the 1977 film, but also comes with a second disc loaded with extras such as a Laurent Bouzereau documentary on the making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a 1977 promotional featurette, and the theatrical trailers.

Read Best Reviews of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Two-Disc 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition) (1977) Here

I would really rate this as 3.5 stars but not 4, so I'm forced to give it a 3.

First off, the movie overall is excellent. Heck, I was 11 years old when this came out and I LIVED in Muncie, Indiana when it was released. The theater went nuts when the subtitle came on, saying "Muncie, IN", and then seeing Roy wearing a Ball State University shirt, well that just got the crowd in the theatre all worked up. We loved it!

I saw the "Special Edition" on VHS when it came out. I was a little diasppointed at the time when the scene with Roy tearing up his lawn was removed from that edition.

However, I wasn't as disappointed with that version as I am with this. Many of the scenes from the 1st SE have been moved off to the second DVD as deleted scenes. A bad choice in my opinion. However, those scenes that were missing in the SE from the original release are back in with some other new scenes plonked in as well. Still, it's a disappointment with the other scenes missing.

But, the other features on the second DVD are great. But, I wish Columbia/TriStar would take notice of how James Cameron released T2 The Ultimate Edition. In that release, you have the choice of 3 versions of the movie on the same DVD: The original theatrical release, the Special Edition which came out a few years later on VHS, and then a third version with more deleted scenes in addition to the SE version. I don't know why Columbia/TriStar/Spielberg couldn't have done the same for Close Encounters.

The picture itself is great and the sound is excellent. Much better than the original release back in 1977, but of course, technology for sound has improved vastly since then, so it's not a surprise. Still, it's amazing how the sound can make a difference in how a movie is presented.

To have this on DVD is a must. Now, if Spielberg would release the Indiana Jones movies and Lucas would release the 2nd trilogy of Star Wars as well on DVD, my sci-fi/action DVD collection would be almost complete.

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This version is basically the 1980 "Special Edition" without the ridiculous "inside the Mother Ship" sequence at the end. All of the other scenes added for the special edition (The ship in the desert and the additional scenes of Roy Neary's breakdown) are here. The main scene cut from the original version, which shows Roy Neary at work at the power station is still missing, but it is present as one of 11 deleted scenes on the second disk of this set. Most of these scenes were justifiably cut from the film, adding nothing to the story. Most interesting is an alternate meeting between Bob Balaban and Francios Truffaut in a limousine at an airport. Similar dialog but different. This scene was clearly meant to follow the air traffic control scene that is still in the movie. Also includes the obligatory "Making of Documentary, clearly shot at the same time as "Saving Private Ryan" as Spielberg is filmed in front of a debris strewn European street. This is a first class DVD presentation. I just wish that they could have done what they did with "The Abyss" and include BOTH versions of the film.

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