Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection Blu-ray Review

Universal has decided to package nearly all their Steven Spielberg distributed titles in one group just in time for that nice Christmas gift aptly titled STEVEN SPIELBERG DIRECTOR’S COLLECTION. I say nearly, because noticeably missing from the group is two of the director’s best, SCHINDLER’S LIST and MUNICH. However, over half the group in this set of eight are pretty amazing, but even most of those films can already be purchased separately. I’m sure most people already own JAWS, E.T.: THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL and JURRASIC PARK, but if you haven’t gone out and picked those up, perhaps you will want to go ahead and throw down on this box set. There is no question the impact director Steven Spielberg has had on cinema, creating some of the biggest and most entertaining blockbusters of all time. He nearly always puts out a quality film, but if you are into seeing a few of the director’s lesser films early in his career and his very first movie, this is, for now, the place to get it.

Duel

DUEL (3/5): Steven Spielberg’s first movie features Dennis Weaver (Gunsmoke) as a business commuter being unexplainably chased and terrorized by a massive semi truck. We never see the other driver, as the the overbearing force of the vehicle is treated like the true villain. This is a low budget horror thriller that really showcases the director’s technical skills before making it big. Spielberg has famously talked about the similarities it has with JAWS.

THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1.5/5): Starring Goldie Hawn (OVERBOARD) and William Atherton (GHOSTBUSTERS) as a couple of young petty criminals who are good natured but naively foolish of the trouble they are in from kidnapping a police officer on the way to get back their baby. Other than the performances, the commentary on public opinion, influence, and obsession on these endearing criminals is shattered by the absurdity and unrealistic actions from the police. Plus, it’s simply unentertaining.

JAWS (5/5): Perhaps the greatest film of all time, JAWS is the first bonafide summer blockbuster that ended up being better due to the difficulties of the mechanical shark. By enlisting Hitchockian techniques and John Williams Oscar winning score, Spielberg created a character in a killer shark without even seeing it until a glimpse half way through the film. Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw are perfect with some of the best character development caught on film. I love this movie so darn much!

John Belushi in 1941

1941 (1.5/5): With a massive cast of who’s who actors, Spielberg’s endeavor into comedy did not fare so well. Days after Pearl Harbor, the California coast prepares for a Japanese invasion. There is so much going on and none of it makes much sense. This would be forgiven if it was actually funny. Even John Belushi and Dan Akroyd can’t save 1941 from being nothing more than an epic disaster.

E.T.: THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL (4.5/5): Another classic on numerous best lists. An extra terrestrial ends up in the backyard of a rural family (famously eating Reese’s Pieces). A young boy named Elliot befriends E.T., but when the government is on to the alien life form, everyone is in danger. Elliot, along with his older brother and friends, must do what they can to get E.T. back home safely. E.T. is a magical film that manages to pull at the heart strings and embodies the classic cinema inspiration. The most striking thing about E.T. to me now is the absolutely amazing performance Spielberg managed to achieve from his young lead actors in Drew Barrymore as Gertie and especially Henry Thomas as Elliott.

Henry Thomas in E.T.

ALWAYS (2/5): Following the dangerous life of a firefighter pilot, Pete (Richard Dreyfuss) must balance his passion for his dare devil career and the love of his life (Holly Hunter). When a deadly accident occurs while flying, Pete becomes a guardian angel for a young pilot who also happens to love Pete’s girl. An interesting idea that never fully works. Too much cheese without enough genuine moments, this romantic supernatural drama was mostly forgotten and superseded by another similar and more effective popular film that came out around the same time in GHOST.

JURASSIC PARK (4.5/5): Spielberg once again proves he’s the king of the Blockbuster, creating lifelike dinosaurs on screen with a thrilling adventure to boot. Click the title to read our full review from a previous date.

THE LOST WORLD (3/5): The follow up becomes a lot more silly and frustrating, but still manages to entertain. Click the title to read our full review from a previous date

BLU-RAY REVIEW

JAWS, E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, JURASSIC PARK, and THE LOST WORLD have all been previously released on Blu-ray with the identical features. This is the first time for DUEL, THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS, 1941, and ALWAYS, but they are all the same features from their respective DVD or Laserdisc releases. This set does include a nice little exclusive booklet titled Steven Spielberg: A Journey In Film, but that’s hardly reason alone to purchase this Universal box set. Most Steven Spielberg fans will already own his best films in this set. While the other films might be unnecessary for me to own (other than DUEL), those die hard fans who need everything, may want to go ahead and pick it up as it is the only way to get the other four. Otherwise, this set just isn’t that important, offering nothing new in the lines of bonus material.

OVERALL 3.5
    MOVIE REVIEW
    BLU-RAY REVIEW

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