CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND: 30TH ANNIVERSARY ULTIMATE EDITION
MOVIE: ****1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***** (out of 5)
Richard Dreyfuss as ROY NEARY
Francois Truffaut as CLAUDE LACOMBE
Teri Garr as RONNIE NEARY
Melinda Dillon as GILLIAN GUILER
Bob Balaban as DAVID LAUGHLIN
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Studio: Columbia Pictures
BY KEVIN CARR
While “Star Wars” was a much more influential film in my youth, I have very strong memories of seeing “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in the theaters. It became part of my personal pop culture and first spawned my serious interest in UFOs.
This film tells the story of a blue-collar electrician from the Midwest who has a close encounter with a flying saucer. He obsesses about the sighting, to the point of driving away his family, and eventually rendezvous with other contactees and the military trying to cover the event up. The film’s climax takes place at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, reminding the audience that we are not alone in this universe.
Over the years, the movie’s been re-released time and again – in theaters, on television and on home video. The version you’ll most often see is the “Special Edition” that included footage of Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) stepping into the mother ship. Spielberg never wanted that footage in the film, but he had to shoot it in order to get the studio to fun additional scenes he wanted to complete the movie.
While “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” has been available in many formats, the definitive edition is now being released on video. This three-disc set includes three different versions of the film, which only differ in running time by about 5 minutes total, but each offers a slightly different take on the story.
The first disc includes the theatrical version, which hasn’t been seen publicly for years. While somewhat incomplete by Spielberg’s standards, it offers a more imaginative experience with the mother ship’s interior left to the imagination.
The second disc includes the special edition, which has been most widely played on television and home video. But the real gem of the release is the third disc, which is Spielberg’s director’s cut. Here, he restores several scenes from the theatrical release and finishes the film as he originally intended.
To complete the experience, the set also includes a commemorative booklet and a mini poster that has a scene-by-scene comparison of the three versions. For cinemaphiles and “Close Encounter” fans, this is the jackpot of the set.
In addition to the three movies, the extended feature-length documentary of the film is included in three parts over the three discs. There’s also new interview footage with Spielberg discussing the film, the different versions of it and how his views of UFOs, life and the world have changed over the years.
Even if you have one of the versions of this film in your private library, this three disc set is worth getting your hands on to get the full experience of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”