E.T. - THE
Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Drew Barrymore
An alien is stranded on Earth, and is hidden from the
authorities by a group of children.
were you in '83? The chances are that if you were anywhere, you'll
remember that 1983 was the year that E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial was
one point you couldn't open a newspaper or a magazine without seeing the
little critter's ugly mug, or visit the shops without being assailed by
some greasy ne'er do well flogging dodgy T-shirts or knock-off dolls (yes,
dolls, we didn't have "action figures" back in the olden
after its release, the film broke box office records, and made film
history in video shops up and down the country: it was the first time
ever that the question "when's it coming out on video?"
was frequently answered by someone disappearing into a dingy storeroom,
only to return with an no-brand E180 with a hastily-scrawled, hand-written
label. The era of video piracy had dawned!
of which makes it all the more surprising that the film's recent
theatrical 20th anniversary re-release failed to re-ignite the spark that
resulted in the film grossing more than seven hundred million dollars. The
re-issue added a
mere $35m to Universal's bank balance.
gave the film a thorough overhaul for its re-release, re-mastering the
existing elements and adding or extending a couple of sequences (including
reinstating a scene that Spielberg always wanted in the film, but simply
didn't work because the animatronic effects weren't good enough) and
fiddling around with some of John Williams' music cues. He also made a
couple of revisionist, politically-correct tweaks, to remove a line of
suspect dialogue (in the original film Mom tells her son he can't go
trick-or-treating dressed as a "terrorist", which has now been
replaced, Newspeak style, by "hippie"), and by digitally
changing the guns of the FBI agents tracking E.T. into walkie-talkies.
("People are looking for films that don't remind them of the troubled
times we live in", Spielberg explains). Pathetic, really. The changes
may be minor, and there's no doubt that some of them undoubtedly improve
the film, but that doesn't stop them being odious.
you're a purist, you might as well skip the rest of this review, and buy
one of the Region 1 disc sets, or wait for the UK 3-disc set!
When the DVD release of the film was announced in the
US, there was relief that the original version of the film was being made
available for those who wanted it, but also some concern, because to get
it potential customers would have to buy an overly-lavish three-disc
bells-and-whistles box set. In a spectacular volte-face - and something of a PR disaster -
Universal eventually relented, and - apparently under instruction from Mr
Spielberg himself - made sure that both versions of the film
would be available on the more affordable, mass-market 2-disc set. Fans
rejoiced. Universal's UK division promptly swung into action,
studiously ignoring the wishes of the director, and released their
own re-hash-only version anyway. It's quite bizarre that copies of the two
disc set were already on sale by the time the announcement that the UK,
too, would get a three-disc set that contained the original version of the
put the lack of the original, unadulterated version aside, and focus on what the
two-disc Region 2 set does offer.
Front and foremost is an anamorphic widescreen transfer, framed at about
1.85:1. The film has a slightly unpleasant processed appearance, with some
prominent edge enhancement haloing and aliasing. Other than that it's
generally pretty decent. It's certainly not as good as you might expect
relatively recent film that's had a full-fledged anniversary cleanup, but
then you have to take into account the fine moody cinematography of Allen
Daviau, which must have presented a real challenge for the telecine team. Colour balance and contrast are
good (a lot of the film is very dark, but detail in the shadows is
excellent) and only a modest amount of
original film grain is present. The first thing you'll probably notice is
that there's a surprising amount of side-to-side film weave, which is most
obvious during the opening credits.
a choice of audio options: there are Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mixes in English
and Dutch (both using the crippled 384kbps bit-rate), and a DTS 5.1 ES mix
(at 754kbps). The DTS mix is noticeably more spacious, but both are quite
accomplished, and have a satisfying presence. Another audio track, a
recording of the 20th Anniversary version's Shrine Auditorium premiere,
with live accompaniment by John Williams and orchestra. This is presented
in 5.1 (at 384kbps), and includes the sound effects, dialogue and crowd
noise. If it had been a presentation of the isolated score, it might have
been more useful, but then there would have been no point in Universal
putting the soundtrack CD in the 3-disc Region 1 box set. Annoyingly, this
track is only accessible by going to the Bonus Features menu, which leads
automatically to An Introduction by Steven Spielberg (1'58"),
which isn't related to, but leads to the option to play the alternate
audio track. The Region 1 disc better puts this feature in context, by
including on disc one an explanatory documentary featurette, which has
been shunted to disc two for the UK set.
MUCH FOR THE MOVIE, WHAT'S ON THE OTHER DISC?