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UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Steven Spielberg
Cast:
Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Robert MacNaughton, Dee Wallace-Stone, Peter Coyote, K.C. Martel, Sean Frye
Screenplay:
Melissa Mathison

Tagling:
His Adventure On Earth
MPAA:
Rated PG for language and mild thematic elements.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Sound Effects Editing; Best Visual Effects; Best Sound; Best Score-John Williams.
Nominated for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Screenply; Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English DD-EX 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French DD-EX 5.1
Subtitles:
English, Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $69.98
Release Date: 10/22/2002

Bonus:
• 1982 Theatrical Cut of E.T.
• “A Look Back” Documentary
• “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The 20th Anniversary Celebration” Documentary
• “The Reunion” Featurette
• “The Music of E.T.: A Discussion with John Williams” Featurette
• “The 20th Anniversary Premiere” Featurette
• “Designs, Photographs and Marketing” Stills
• Theatrical Trailers
• Special Announcements
• 20th Anniversary Soundtrack CD
• Collectible Senitype
• “From Concept to Classic” Hardback Book
• DVD-ROM Features


PURCHASE
DVD

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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial - Ultimate Gift Set (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Back when we attended college together in the late Eighties, a friend of mine adored this cheesy metal band called W.A.S.P. He really thought they were the greatest thing ever to come down the musical pike. A few years ago I asked him about them, and he indicated that he’d lost much of his passion for the band. He still liked them a lot and he clearly maintained a soft spot in his heart for them, but they no longer were such a prime force in his life.

That closely resembles my feelings about E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Once upon a time, I truly loved that film. When it came out in 1982, I was 15 and fell for it instantly. I saw the movie six times that summer and I quickly came to regard it as my all-time favorite. I eagerly bought the videotape when it finally hit shelves in 1988, and I also owned two laserdisc releases in the Nineties, with the most recent being the elaborate “Signature Collection” edition from 1996.

Over that time, I must admit my passion waned. To be sure, I still really enjoyed the movie, but I couldn’t quite muster the same enthusiasm I once felt. Until the arrival of this DVD set, I hadn’t even watched it since I got that last LD in October 1996, and I’ve come to regard a number of other flicks as being higher on my all-time faves list.

Six years after my last screening of E.T., I was definitely curious to see if I could recapture some of the old magic. Although E.T. reappeared theatrically in March 2002, I avoided that version. As I’ll discuss soon, it offered an altered cut of the film, and I had no interest in it.

Why director Steven Spielberg felt the need to tamper with greatness remains beyond me. E.T. tells the simple story of a boy and an alien. Pre-pubescent Elliott (Henry Thomas) discovers the critter in his backyard one night and decides to “adopt” him. He names the visitor “E.T.” and the two quickly become best friends. Except for teen brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and little sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore), no one knows of E.T.’s existence – or so they think. Elliott and E.T. bond but they soon realize that if he doesn’t return to his home planet he’ll die, so they attempt to contact his companions. In the meantime, government agents – represented mainly by a mystery man notable because of his ever-present jangling keys (Peter Coyote) – stalk E.T. so they can take possession of the alien.

That latter element leads to some climactic action, but overall, E.T. offers a tremendously simple story. The magic of the film comes from what Spielberg does with it. It seems amazing to consider just how much of an emotional impact the film packs with a squishy brown puppet as a lead character. It’s one thing for audiences to care for personalities in animated films, but when you place a non-human in a live-action setting, it becomes much more difficult. To be sure, folks embraced entities such as Yoda or R2-D2, but none of these asked so much emotionally. We love and care about those characters, but we never confronted any deep feelings as part of those films. Even when Yoda died in Return of the Jedi, it occurred in a quick and fairly non-emotional manner.

On the other hand, Spielberg asked us to accept E.T. as another member of the cast, and he tried to get us to feel for the character just as we would for any of the humans in the film. Miraculously, Spielberg pulled off this feat. Many tears are shed during a screening of E.T., but not because of direct harm to the humans. We become deeply sad due to the events that affect E.T. himself. Intellectually, we know this is nothing more than a puppet on steroids, but that doesn’t keep us from become emotionally involved in the role. No one made us love a piece of hardware this much before Spielberg got his hands on E.T., and no one’s done it since then either.

It helps that Spielberg amassed a cast who helped us believe. Spielberg developed a legendary touch for working with kids largely based on his handling of this crew. Granted, he did very nicely with little Cary Guffey in 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but that role required much less involvement than did the trio of E.T.. Guffey’s Barry was an important role, but he remained fairly tangential most of the time.

Instead, E.T. focused on a world dominated by children. Adults play their roles, and our two prominent grown-ups – Coyote’s “Keys” and Dee Wallace’s mother – do very nicely in their parts. They help make some rather two-dimensional figures seem full-blooded and real.

But Spielberg didn’t use A Boy’s Life as the working title of E.T. for nothing, and the film concentrates heavily on Elliott and the others. Henry Thomas offers a truly miraculous performance as Elliott. Rarely will you see a kid seem quite so much like a kid on film. He never comes across as an adult in a little body, an issue that affects most child performers. Instead, Thomas delivers a sublimely natural and compelling performance that truly helps us get into the film and allows us to accept E.T. as a real being.

The fine chemistry between Thomas and screen siblings MacNaughton and Barrymore assists the process as well. Again, Spielberg matches them in such a way that we really buy this little group as a family. None of them looks much alike, but that doesn’t matter. They mesh emotionally and interact together in a lively and realistic manner.

Some may disparage E.T. due to it alleged sentimentality, but I strongly oppose such arguments. E.T. comes by its emotions naturally. Yes, it manipulates the audience to a certain degree – most films do – but it never does this a cynical or forced manner. All the swelling music and glowing imagery wouldn’t matter one iota if Spielberg hadn’t done his job right from the beginning. If he didn’t make us care about the bucket of bolts that came to be E.T., no tears would fall and no cheers would arise.

And that’s what makes E.T. one of the greatest films ever created. It’s a virtually perfect piece of cinema. It doesn’t pretend to be anything tremendously deep, though it does offer a fine snapshot of a fractured family; some may miss Spielberg’s social insight because of the packaging. Otherwise, Spielberg simply tried to give us a lovely fable. In doing so, he made an immaculate piece of work in which he never faltered.

As a result, E.T. remains a movie for the ages, an achievement that may never be topped. Like I mentioned at the start of this review, my passion for E.T. has waned somewhat over the years. Whereas I once considered it my all-time favorite movie, now it simply resides somewhere in the top 10. However, I still see it as an amazing piece of work, and I regard it as the greatest family film ever created. As an outgrowth of sheer directorial will, E.T. stands as a flawless effort that continues to amaze.

This DVD offers both the original 1982 version of E.T. and the 2002 “special edition”. How do the two differ? The latter adds an extra six minutes of material and also updates some shots and dialogue. This means we occasionally see an “enhanced” E.T. A few times the computer simply makes him more “expressive”, while in others, we watch an entirely digital alien. In addition, Spielberg uses technology to erase guns from the government agents and also changes a line of dialogue; for Halloween, Michael wants to go as a hippie now instead of a terrorist like in the original.

Note that the latter alteration occurred in some form a long time ago; the terrorist line didn’t appear when E.T. first hit home video in 1988. Actually, in prior home video incarnations, the line made no sense; Mary never specified what costume Michael wanted to wear, so the gag lacked its appropriate punch. The “hippie” line doesn’t make much more sense, but it’s better than the old bit.

The removal of the guns is brand-new, however, as are all of the other CG changes. As I noted when I opened this review, I didn’t look forward to the prospect of a CG E.T. and all the other variations. Now that I’ve seen the 2002 edition, I can say that it didn’t offer the abomination I expected. However, I continue to strongly prefer the original version.

I tried to view the flick from the point of view of what appeared well executed and I attempted not to penalize segments just because they were different. What worked well in the new one? Some of the altered effects did look better. When E.T. ran from the agents early in the flick, the new CG critter definitely seemed more convincing than the old “red light on a rail”. The opening shots of the spaceship also came across as more realistic.

Otherwise, I couldn’t think of any new material or alterations I preferred. The CG E.T. shots varied from watchable to terrible. In Spielberg’s defense, he didn’t go nuts with his new toy. Many of the E.T. facial and body shots carried over from the original; not each and every one of them received an update. A few of the images looked decent, but most came across as overly animated. For example, when we saw E.T. after Gertie dressed him up in drag, the attempts to make him appear humiliated showed far too much movement. CG animators often pour on mannerisms in an attempt to simulate life, but sometimes less is more. For whatever flaws it possessed, the old E.T. puppet had a spark of life that the new CG one lacked.

As for the omission of the guns, that change simply seemed silly. Why wouldn’t government agents out to capture an alien use weapons to execute that task? The switch to walkie-talkies appeared pointless and insulting.

The other most prominent effects alterations occurred during the film’s final act. We saw changes made to the flying bicycle scenes, and E.T.’s spaceship got a makeover as well. I felt indifferently toward the bike scenes. Elliott’s initial ride looked fine, but the group jaunt later in the flick looked a little silly; it added some distracting animations to the kids that seemed unnatural. E.T.’s ship also appeared too busy. The artists tacked on different lights and exhaust effects that didn’t make the vehicle look any more convincing; if anything, they distracted as they called too much attention to themselves.

In addition to the “hippie” line, the 2002 E.T. included at least one altered piece of audio. (Actually, there’s more than that, but I’ll save mention of the other until I discuss the 1982 cut in the supplements.) When Michael sang “nothin’ but health shit” as he checked out the refrigerator, the word “shit” got lowered in volume to the point where it effectively became chopped off after “sh”. E.T. still contained other mild profanity – why did Spielberg feel the need to make this odd little change?

In regard to the six minutes of new footage, two minutes accommodated credits added for the 2002 version. Another 54 seconds included a Halloween scene in which Mary found Michael and Gertie in the neighborhood. This scene made the ensuing scene with the police officer confusing. Since Gertie basically tells Mary where to find Elliott, why doesn’t she just go get him? Why not tell the cop that he’s out in the forest? During the police scene, Mary clearly had no idea where to locate Elliott. Barrymore’s performance in the new scene seemed amusing, but the clip had no place in the movie.

The final and most substantial addition came during the first day that E.T. and Elliott spent together when the latter stayed home from school. It showed them as they weighed each other and E.T. took a bath while Elliott received a call from his mom. Painless but inconsequential, the sequence didn’t actively detract from the film, but it also added nothing and it should have remained on the cutting room floor.

Ultimately, most of the alterations seemed fairly minor. As he states during the DVD’s supplements, Spielberg feels that even the most attentive fans won’t notice the changes, which leads me to wonder what he’s smoking; most of the variations will appear exceedingly obvious to dedicated fans. However, others probably won’t find any problems with them. Some of the CG suffers from the usual overactive qualities, but the 2002 E.T. leaves enough shots alone to mean that these segments don’t overwhelm. Overall, I don’t much like the 2002 version, and I doubt I’ll ever watch it again, but I will admit I don’t feel as negatively toward it as I expected.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus A-

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For this section, I reviewed only the 2002 version of E.T.; I’ll discuss the original 1982 cut when I get to the supplements. Despite my misgivings about the content of the 2002 edition, the picture looked quite good for the most part.

Sharpness seemed solid. The image always came across as nicely crisp and distinct, and I noticed no issues related to softness. Instead, the movie remained accurate and well defined. However, I noticed some light edge enhancement, and both jagged edges and moiré effects cropped up more often than I’d like. The latter mostly appeared during early shots with E.T. in Elliott’s bedroom. From the blinds to the closet slats to Elliott’s long johns, I detected a little more shimmer than normal. Additional concerns showed up in other scenes – roofs on houses also demonstrated some moiré effects – but the Elliott’s bedroom segments had the most prominent examples.

Despite the advancing age of E.T., the movie displayed virtually no defects. I witnessed no examples of grit, speckles, grain, or other issues. Instead, the film remained clean and fresh from start to finish.

E.T. featured a warm and natural palette that the DVD replicate effectively. The hues stayed smooth and clean at all times, and they also came across as nicely vivid and bright. The colors showed strong tones that kept me impressed. Black levels also appeared deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately thick but didn’t seem too dense or dark. Without the light edge enhancement and shimmering concerns, E.T. would have earned an “A”, but it still merited a solid “B+”.

As for the audio of E.T., I encountered two main soundtrack options. The 2002 cut included both Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and DTS ES 6.1 mixes. I thought the two largely sounded pretty similar, though each differed somewhat and had their own plusses and minuses.

The DTS track featured a moderately more active soundfield, a fact that I regarded as a minor negative. Frankly, the DTS mix seemed a little too active, as though the sound designers tried to hard to reinvent the wheel. This didn’t come across as overwhelming, but at times the mix displayed a bit too much material from the sides and rears, which made it appear slightly unnatural for this kind of film.

On the other hand, the Dolby track kept things more firmly focused on the front, which seemed to make more sense for E.T.. Despite the forward emphasis, the Dolby version demonstrated a nice sense of atmosphere and the different elements blended together well. During the louder sequences, the track came to life nicely and used all five channels well. E.T.’s ship zoomed cleanly from front to back, and the kids’ bicycles zipped around neatly. The DTS track mainly duplicated this one’s soundfield, but its moderately higher level of activity made it a little distracting at times.

More differences appeared when I examined the quality of the two soundtracks, and the DTS mix won that battle by a hair. Both featured natural and warm speech that showed no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects came across as clean and distinct. They played a relatively minor role in much of the film, but they also sounded accurate, and when required to take a more prominent part – mainly during the flick’s last act – they were nicely dynamic and vibrant. Music worked best of all, as John Williams’ score appeared rich and vivid, with clear highs and rich lows.

Though both tracks sounded good, the DTS one presented slightly stronger audio. That piece presented clearer highs and more powerful bass. As with the soundfields, the differences weren’t enormous, but I did prefer the quality of the DTS mix. However, since I liked the more natural scope of the Dolby soundfield, my comparisons ended up in a wash, and I gave both tracks “A-“ grades. No matter which one you choose, you should feel happy with the results, as both mixes seemed very strong given the age of the original material.

Consumers will find a number of different DVD versions of E.T. on the market. Most folks will opt for the standard 2-DVD package, while I went for this 3-DVD “Ultimate Gift Set”. Since I don’t have the 2-disc affair, I can’t make direct comparisons, but based on what I know, I’ll try to point out materials that appear exclusively in the shorter package. Features found only in this set will be differentiated with an asterisk. Take some of these with a potential grain of salt, though. I’ve found lots of inconsistent information about the two different sets so I’m not always sure that the comparisons are accurate.

On DVD One, we encounter a few small extras. When you enter the “Bonus Materials” area, you first find An Introduction By Steven Spielberg. In this 115-second clip, he mostly tells us why he decided to “update” E.T. for the 2002 reissue.

John Williams Live at the Shrine Auditorium 2002 Premiere offers a very cool alternate audio track. During that premiere of the E.T. special edition, Williams led a live orchestra in a performance of the movie’s score that accompanied the film. Presented with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, this piece integrates the live music with the flick’s dialogue and effects, so it provides a very interesting way to watch the movie. It also features some crowd noise from the presentation, so you’ll hear laughing and cheers at appropriate times.

Aimed at the kiddies, Space Exploration issues a basic lesson about our galaxy. You can click on any of the nine planets as well as the sun and the Earth’s moon and then get some quick facts about them. Bizarrely, the program’s producers decided to use someone to play E.T. (badly) to narrate these pieces. This makes the moderately informative snippets something of a chore to watch; they proceed slowly to accommodate E.T.’s vocal patterns, and that voice gets pretty annoying before too long. Still, “Space Exploration” gives a decent little rudimentary astronomy seminar for the young ones.

That completes the first disc, so now we move to DVD Two. Frankly, I don’t know if I should consider the 1982 theatrical cut of E.T. as an “extra”, but I’ve done the same for sets like Legend, so it made sense here as well.

If you read my review of the movie, you’ll know my feelings about the theatrical version of E.T., and although the 2002 cut wasn’t the abomination I expected, I still definitely prefer the original release. Quality-wise, this transfer of the 1982 version holds up well, though it doesn’t look quite as good as the 2002 one. The image seemed a little softer throughout the film, and it also appeared a bit more muted. Blacks were a bit flat, and shadows came across as slightly heavy. The picture remained quite good, but it just didn’t look as solid as the 2002 release.

One bizarre and annoying aspect of this set relates to the audio properties of the 1982 cut. From what I understand, the 2-DVD release lets you view this version with either Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 6.1 mixes, whereas the “Ultimate Gift Set” only provides the Dolby Digital option. It’s bad enough that neither of them features the movie’s original Dolby Surround mix, but to provide DTS for the cheaper set and leave off of this one seems nuts.

Apparently Universal did this to make room for French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks; they don’t appear in the 1982 cut on the 2-DVD package. I think Universal operated backwards. The more rudimentary set was the place to include more language options, while the more expensive package should be geared more at the people who would care about DTS. In any case, it seems very annoying that folks who buy the Ultimate Gift Set can’t get everything found on the cheaper version.

In any case, the 1982 version’s audio compared favorably with the Dolby Digital EX 5.1 soundtrack found on the 2002 feature. The main differences related to some changes made for the newer cut. As I noted earlier, the 2002 edition altered the line about Michael’s Halloween costume, and due to the removal of the guns, one music cue got changed to accommodate the elimination of one shot. Of course, the scenes new to the 2002 edition differed as well. Otherwise, I thought the two soundtracks sounded virtually identical.

Though the 1982 cut restored most of the audio from the original release, it eliminated one old cue. At the 86:25 mark, a gurgling vocal noise made by E.T. didn’t appear. It also failed to show up in the 2002 cut. I have no idea why these soundtracks omitted that cue. No, its absence didn’t negatively affect the movie, but as someone who saw the original version many times, its failure to appear seemed very noticeable.

Also on DVD Two we find *A Look Back, a 37-minute and 40-second documentary about the creation of E.T.. An abbreviation of the 90-minute program found on the 1996 deluxe laserdisc release, “Back” includes a few quick movie clips, but mostly it combines shots from the set with then-contemporary interviews with Steven Spielberg, producer Kathleen Kennedy, production illustrator Ed Verreaux, screenwriter/associate producer Melissa Mathison, actors Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace, Robert MacNaughton, and Peter Coyote, voice designer Ben Burtt, filmmaker George Lucas, visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, director of photography Allen Daviau, production designer James D. Bissell, space ship designer Ralph McQuarrie, and editor Carol Littleton.

Despite the relative brevity of “A Look Back”, it provides a satisfying view of the production. The show covers many topics, as we hear about the film’s genesis as well as E.T. visual design issues, the development of his voice, some special effects notes, reactions to the finished film and many impressions from the day-to-day production. That latter area offers the program’s best aspects. We get a nice feel for how things went and see lots of great candid images from the set. Overall, those components help make “A Look Back” an entertaining and informative piece.

So why didn’t Universal include the full documentary? I have no idea. As we’ll see, the package provides new programs on the third disc, but there’s no reason they couldn’t have tossed in the whole 1996 piece. When they halved the Jaws documentary, they did so to make everything fit onto one disc, but that argument doesn’t hold here. While the shortened edition still works, I definitely miss the full cut.

In addition to the film’s original theatrical trailer, disc two houses the sets DVD-ROM materials. In the “Games” area we find a few different pieces. The “E.T. Trivia Game” offers 10 questions of varying difficulty with no reward for successful completion. The “Save E.T. Game” provides a simplistic side-scrolling arcade game. It’s very basic and silly, but it’s actually a little fun, even though it also ends with no prize of any sort. The “Free the Frogs” game is an E.T. version of Pac-Man. It starts easy but gets pretty tricky as it progresses. The production values seem basic, but it’s still moderately enjoyable.

“Dress Up E.T.” lets you do exactly that. You can slide different head, body and feet apparel onto our favorite space monkey and watch the wacky results. Kids may get a kick out of it. “Wallpaper” offers six choices for computer screen visuals, while “Printables” provides six E.T. coloring pages, a cut-out mask, and and an E.T. door hanger.

In a generally annoying and unpopular move, Universal relegated some extras to their website called “Total Axess”. Right now (late October 2002), this area doesn’t include much. It features two short clips of the 2002 premiere as well as some “exclusive photos”, which offer nothing more than a few promotional shots. Otherwise, “Total Axess” just provides some other promotional material like trailers for different Universal titles and a mix of weblinks. In the pre-release hoopla, I recall hearing that “Total Axess” would feature juicier bits like deleted scenes. Perhaps Universal rethought that, or maybe they’ll appear on some later date, but they ain’t there almost a week after E.T. hit the shelves.

As we move to DVD Three, we find the bulk of the package’s extras. In contrast with the 1996 piece seen on DVD Two, *E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The 20th Anniversary Celebration provides a wholly new production. “Celebration” runs 50 minutes and 10 seconds and offers the standard mix of short movie snippets, images from the set, and interviews. The latter come from 2002 and include comments from Spielberg, writer Melissa Mathison, actors Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Robert MacNaughton, and Peter Coyote, E.T. creator Carlo Rambaldi, director of photography Allen Daviau, producer Kathleen Kennedy, 2002 edition visual effects supervisor Bill George, 2002 animation supervisor Colin Brady, 2002 animator Shawn Kelly, and 2002 visual effects editor David Tanaka.

”Celebration” takes on two separate topics, really. The first 33 minutes or so offer a look at the production of the film and give us more good material from the set as well as additional insight into the flick. We see parts of Henry Thomas’ audition and learn other casting tidbits along with nice information about working with the E.T. puppet. In fact, Barrymore utters one of the best indictments of computer graphics I’ve heard, as she essentially tells us how a CG E.T. would have weakened the film since the kids bonded so strongly with the puppet. “Celebration” doesn’t reiterate too much heard in “A Look Back” and it features some nice material.

After approximately 33 minutes, the focus shifts to the 2002 special edition. Spielberg tries to explain his rationale for the changes made to the movie. We also learn about the execution of the effects. Given my negative feelings toward the 2002 cut, this area didn’t do much for me, but it helped expand on the alterations.

Another reason to miss the 1996 documentary: “Celebration” hints at segments much better explored in the old program. For example, we see more of Henry Thomas’ audition there, and we get to check out the entire Harrison Ford deleted scene as well as other excised clips. This DVD’s presentation feels like a tease, and the absence of the deleted scenes seems cheesy. One oddity: the two scenes restored to the 2002 cut of E.T. never appeared on the 1996 DVD.

Note that although “Celebration” shows up in the two-DVD edition of E.T., apparently it includes a shortened version. From what I understand, that version only lasts about 24 minutes.

Another feature related to the 2002 reissue, The Reunion provides a 17-minute and 55-second group chat with the flick’s principals. It groups Spielberg, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and actors Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Wallace, and Peter Coyote. Though it mostly features their comments, it also tosses in some behind the scenes clips and a few movie segments. A fairly fluffy little piece, the shots from the set include the program’s best segments, as they don’t repeat much seen elsewhere. While it’s nice to see the principals reunite, they don’t provide much new information, as we mostly hear facts presented elsewhere. Probably the most compelling bit discusses the scene where the doctors work on E.T. Though nothing special, it merits a look for E.T. fans.

Notably absent from the other supplements, we focus on the film’s composer for The Music of *E.T.: A Discussion with John Williams. In this 10-minute program, we get the usual combination of behind the scenes images and movie clips along with new interviews from Williams and Spielberg. Though fairly rudimentary, Williams offers a decent look at his approach to the film and gives us a reasonable amount of useful information. The highlight comes from an archival clip in which Williams plays the movie’s main theme to Spielberg for the first time.

The 20th Anniversary Premiere runs 17 minutes and 47 seconds and focuses mostly on the live performance of the score during that screening. We hear from composer Williams, 20th anniversary edition editorial assistant Dana Glauberman, music editor Ken Wannberg, Spielberg, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace, Kathleen Kennedy, and Henry Thomas. We learn of the challenges presented by the live orchestra premiere and also get to see shots from that production. It’s a decent little piece that nicely illustrates this ambitious undertaking.

Designs, Photographs and Marketing splits into six smaller areas. E.T. Designs by Production Illustrator Ed Verreaux offers 42 screens of drawings used to influence the creature’s visual look. E.T. Designs by Carol Rambaldi provides 10 screens of similar material, though those take a more technical view toward the work needed to bring the puppet to life.

In Spaceship Designs by Ralph McQuarrie, we get eight screens of those images, while Designs by Production Illustrator Ed Verreaux tosses in nine screens of more general art such as concept paintings and crew badges. Production Photographs features 139 pictures. Most of these come from the set, but we also see some publicity stills and a few that relate to the special effects. Marketing E.T. includes a mix of 62 publicity stills, ads and merchandise images. All told, these different sections offer a nice little look at the production’s different elements.

In the Theatrical Trailers domain, we get an ad for the 2002 reissue of E.T. as well as a promo for the upcoming DVD release of the Back to the Future trilogy. Cast and Filmmakers includes short biographies for actors Dee Wallace Stone, Peter Coyote, Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas and Robert MacNaughton as well as director Steven Spielberg, writer Melissa Mathison, and producer Kathleen Kennedy.

More text appears in the Production Notes section. These provide some decent comments about the original production and also toss in some info about the 2002 reissue. Special Announcements features public service promos for the Special Olympics and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. The former seems interesting since it comes from 1982 and shows E.T. as he encourages a kid to achieve. This area also gives us an ad for the Universal theme parks.

One nice touch: most of the video extras include subtitles. Actually, Universal go farther than most studios in that domain. Not only do we get the standard English text, but we also find Spanish and French translations.

Though that ends the disc-based supplements, the “Ultimate Gift Set” provides some other additions. One offers a compact disc with John Williams’ score, and we also find a senitype; the set describes this as a “limited edition art graphic produced from a single frame of motion picture film and includes one frame of the corresponding film footage.” Neither of those does much for me, but the other physical extra adds a lot to the package. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: From Concept to Classic gives us an excellent 192-page hardcover book that covers the scope described in its title. It goes over virtually all aspects of the production via interviews, archival materials and photos, and it also tosses provides the film’s script. The book offers a terrific look at the movie and stands as a must have for E.T. fans.

So does that make the “Ultimate Gift Set” the way to go for E.T. buffs? Maybe not, but every DVD collection should include some version of the flick. Although it doesn’t reside at the top of my list anymore, E.T. remains one of my top ten all-time favorites, and it definitely stands as one of the greatest films ever made. The DVD includes both the original 1982 version as well as the 2002 special edition cut. Both offer very positive picture and sound.

Since I recommend some version of E.T. to everyone, the question becomes which one to get. Frankly, I think the standard two-DVD set makes the most sense for the majority of folks. It provides both versions of the movie and also tosses in many of the bigger package’s extras.

The Ultimate Gift Set retails for more than twice as much as the 2-DVD package, which restricts its appeal to no one other than the biggest E.T. fans. The extra money buys you about 75 minutes of additional video material plus a CD soundtrack and an excellent hardcover book. I don’t care about the CD; movie music does little for me, and I already own the soundtrack that came with the 1996 laserdisc. However, the book provides a fantastic extra, so combined with the additional video pieces, the Ultimate Gift Set merited my attention. If you feel the same interest in these extras, definitely go for this package. Otherwise, you should feel happy with the 2-DVD set, which will cost you substantially less money.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6047 Stars Number of Votes: 167
1355:
134:
9 3:
52:
51:
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