Close Encounters of the Third Kind 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review
A couple of weeks ago on a Podcast I do our group talked about what were, in our opinion, the 10 greatest films ever made. Of course, there were the usual suspects – CITIZEN KANE. THE GODFATHER. My number three choice was CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. JAWS made me fall in love with movies, but CE3K made me appreciate movies as the art form they are. It was the first film I applauded as the credits rolled, the majesty of what I had just seen overtaking me. Thankfully, pretty much everyone in the theatre felt the same way because the applause was deafening.
On an ordinarily quiet night in a regional air traffic control room, a group of controllers are huddled over a single screen, brought together because a pilot has reported an on-coming plane with amazingly bright lights. As the two get closer, the pilot realizes it’s not a plane. There is a loud burst of static, followed by silence. When the pilot returns he is asked if he’d like to report a UFO. Negative.
Thus begins one of the most amazing and original films ever made. Boosted by believable performances by Richard Dreyfuss and company, outstanding special effects and John William’s second spectacular musical score of 1977 (following STAR WARS), CE3K follow the stories of three different people. Roy Neary (Dreyfuss) is a family man with a childish streak. Jillian Guiller (Dillon) is a single mother who lives with her son, Barry (Cary Guffey). Claude Lacombe (Truffaut) is a French scientist who has been tracking UFOs for years. Assisted by his interpreter (Bob Balaban), he travels the world investigating every possible occurrence. His journeys take him all over the world – from the sandy, barren lands of Mexico to the mountains of Bombay to the middle of the Mojave Desert. After both Roy and Jillian observe some unusual activities, their lives take an unusual twist. For reporting what he saw Roy is fired. Jillian’s son is now missing, presumably taken by “them.” The two bond after revealing that they both have shared a vision since the beginning. Together they head west in their quest to prove that “we are not alone.”
Packed with extras (some new, others from the 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release), this 40th Anniversary Edition comes with THREE versions of the film; the Original 1977 theatrical release, the 1980 “Special Edition” and, finally, director Spielberg’s “Director’s Cut.” All three films have been lovingly transferred and are beautifully rendered. I’ve never been a fan of the “Special Edition” – where viewers were treated to a view inside the mothership. When I interviewed the film’s Academy Award-nominated Production Designer, Joe Alves, I told him it looked like Dreyfuss walked into the lobby of the Atlanta Hilton and everyone threw confetti on him. Joe agreed. But whatever version you prefer, you will not be disappointed. 40 years ago I declared CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND a masterpiece. Nothing has changed in those 40 years to make me change my mind.
Video: The film is presented in its original 2:39.1 aspect ratio jumps off the screen. I saw the recent 4K restoration in theatres and wasn’t as impressed with that viewing then I was here. The final 25 minutes are a bright, colorful adventure.
Audio: The English soundtrack is presented in both DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds incredible. Once again, I recommend you crank you speakers for the film’s last 25 minutes and enjoy!
The 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray package comes with a variety of extras, some newly released and others recycled from the 30th Anniversary release. An (*) denotes the new features. The film disc with all three versions also has a feature called “View From Above.” When you utilize it while watching the film you will be shown, through a series of colors, what versions of the film the scene you are watching is included in.
*Three Kinds of “Close Encounters” (22:03): A very informative look back at the film’s impact on both fans and later filmmakers. Interviewed besides Steven Spielberg are new genre’ stars J.J. Abrams and Denis Villeneuve. If you went to the theatre to see the recent 4K restoration, this is the feature they played before it, which was very informative but, if you hadn’t seen the film yet, gave away major plot points.
*Steven’s Home Video’s and Outtakes (5:25): Director Spielberg’s home movies on set are always great. Some nice “behind the scenes” shots here as well as him just wandering into people’s offices and saying hello.
The Making of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (101:41): Another “making of” classic by the great Laurent Bouzereau.
Watch the Skies (5:54): A trimmed down version of a 1977 featurette. I know it’s trimmed down because I own the original on 16mm
Steven Spielberg: 30 Years of Close Encounters (21:21): Spielberg shares his thoughts and ideas about the film, from his initial Watergate-inspired concept to the “Special Edition.” Ironically, he bemoans the fact that he showed viewers the inside of the mothership, feeling he should have left that up to each person’s imagination. That scene is NOT included in the Director’s Cut.
Deleted Scenes (18:23): 9 different scenes, all which would have fit nicely in the original film but I can see why they were cut for time. To me the scene I would have liked to have seen shows Roy Neary at work prior to his encounter. His actions dictate why, later in the film, he is fired from his job. In the film, it’s just a phone call to his wife, who informs him he’s fired. At least now you will know why.
Storyboard to Film Comparisons (22:10): Comparisons of (5) scenes, showing how they translate from the art of Joe Alves to the finished product on screen. I am very proud to call Joe Alves a friend. He has just written an amazing 40th Anniversay Book for “Close Encounters” which I highly recommend. You can visit Joe’s web site to learn about the book and the rest of his career at JoelsMovieArt.
Extensive Photo Gallery: An amazing array of photos taken during the production of the film.
*Original Theatrical Trailer (6:01): This is what I was commenting on in the “Watch the Skies” section above. This is NOT the original theatrical trailer, which I also own. This was a featurette that was offered by a company known as SWANK in early 1977. SWANK was the place you went to when you wanted to rent 16mm film copies of classic films to show at your high school or college. I obtained my copy thanks to setting up a screening of “To Kill a Mockingbird” at my high school.
*Special Edition Trailer (1:57): The dulcet tones of the late, great Percy Rodrigues (he was the voice of ALL of the great trailers from the 70s and early 80s) invite you to “share the experience of being…INSIDE!”