Steven Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ is genius science fiction

Aliens arrive in 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'
Aliens arrive in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’

[rating=4]Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon
Director(s): Steven Spielberg
Writer(s): Steven Spielberg

When I was a wee-lad, I can remember seeing Close Encounters of the Third Kind on television. Originally released in 1977, it was in theaters a second time in 1979. However, I was still young at the time, and have no memory of seeing it in the theaters.

The first time I watched it in the widescreen format was only recently, when I purchased the “collector’s edition” DVD. Although I am extremely annoyed and disappointed with Spielberg for not doing audio commentary on ANY of his films released on DVD, I was really interested in adding this DVD to my collection.

And I don’t regret my choice.

Although I’m sure most of you are familiar wit the story, let me give a brief description of it for those of you who are not.

Close Encounters tells the story of humanity’s first full-fledged encounter with aliens from outer space. It follows a team of governmental-backed scientists who are striving to uncover the mystery of WWII airplanes appearing in the desert, a ship found in Mongolia, and strange signals coming from outer space.

At the same time, Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) is one of several people who witness several UFOs in his small suburban town. He is then haunted by a vision he cannot explain, and journey’s to Wyoming to find out what it means. There, he and the scientists discover that we are not alone.

They take him in 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'
They take him in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’

The film is, of course, presented with outstanding quality. The sound is crisp, the image quality is outstanding, everything you would expect from a DVD. There is even a THX guide that can help you properly calibrate your television’s sound and picture.

However, the highlight of this DVD is the one-hour-plus documentary featuring Spielberg—obviously interviewed from the set of Saving Private Ryan — as well as Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, and other cast and crewmembers. This featurette, which could have been a little shorter, was pretty interesting.

One of the most interesting aspects is that it details more about how the film was made. Close Encounters has gone through three different versions over the years.

According to Spielberg, the original film released in 1977 wasn’t exactly the way he wanted it. He approached Columbia about re-editing the film to add a few sequences. They replied by asking if he would alter the ending and show the inside of the ship. Spielberg agreed, and so came Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Special Edition.

Spielberg regretted making the change. Generally, when you see Close Encounters on television, they show the original version. But, Spielberg made a third edit on the DVD, removing some scenes and restoring others. However, these alterations are not discussed on the DVD. All they talk about are the differences between the original release and the “Special Edition.”

Do not fret, however, because all of the deleted scenes can be found on the DVD. Most are pretty dull, and you can easily understand why Spielberg removed them. It also includes the “Inside the Spaceship” sequence.

Another interesting tidbit to this DVD are the two trailers. Both the original version trailer and the “Special Edition” trailers are included, and both have a completely different style. It think this is a good example of how trailers are made changed between 1977 and 1979.

Well, that’s all ladies and germs.

Rated: PG
Run Time: 2 hr., 12 mins.

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan has written, directed and produced more than a dozen short films under the banner of Maynard Films, and has worked as a writer for more than a decade for websites, magazines and newspapers.

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