Plot: What’s it about?
Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) is a normal man, he works on the line at a factory and has a regular life, but he is soon drawn into a most unusual chain of events. You see, Neary had an encounter with some strange flying objects and while he couldn’t believe what he saw, he thinks he has witnessed a UFO experience. After this event, he feels very strange and has visions he doesn’t understand, as well as a repeating series of musical notes, very unusual indeed. Although he doesn’t know these things have happened to him, he knows there is a reason of some kind and as such, he is determined to discover the truth. Soon, he feels an intense force that draws him toward an isolated stretch of woods, where he believes something important is going to happen. Roy Neary is not alone in these visions and such, but he is not aware of the others at this time. What are these visions he is having and what is going to happen in those woods? Is Roy involved in some sort of alien encounter, or has he just mixed up his facts with too much fantasy?
This is one of all time favorite films and as such, I am very pleased to see it given the two disc treatment here. I have the previous laserdisc special editions from both Columbia and Criterion, which I will keep because of additional materials, but this is still a must own edition, to be sure. I am still displeased that this release doesn’t include the original theatrical version of the film, as I feel it is the best incarnation, but I suppose we need laserdiscs for something, right? This edition also leaves off many other bonus materials, but in the end, the improved video & audio makes this well worth a purchase, even if you own the mentioned laserdisc packages. As far as the film goes, it is my choice as the definitive alien flick thus far, with great special effects and a phenomenal cast. Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, and even legendary director Francois Truffaut turn in superb efforts here, but the supporting cast is also up to the task. I am giving this release a high recommendation and all fans will want to own this edition, but don’t sell those laserdiscs just yet, as this is a very good, but incomplete treatment.
I’ve never been a fan of Steven Spielberg’s direction, but his movies are often fun to watch, if lacking in true substance. But no matter how much I dislike his style as an artist, Spielberg knows how to pack a theater, which is enough to allow him to keeping career alive. I like several of his movies however and of those, none comes close to this one, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Thanks to a cast loaded with talent, some awesome special effects, and an excellent premise, Spielberg steers this one down the right path, though later changes he enacted would lessen the experience. But I still think this film marks the peak of Spielberg’s career, which has taken a downturn since and of late, gotten almost senile at times. Other films directed by Spielberg include Jurassic Park, Jaws, Schindler’s List, The Sugarland Express, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and of course, Amistad. The cast here includes Richard Dreyfuss (American Graffiti, What About Bob?), Melinda Dillon (A Christmas Story, Magnolia), Lance Henriksen (The Terminator, Hard Target), Teri Garr (Mr. Mom, Tootsie), and Francois Truffaut, director of such classic films as The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, and Stolen Kisses.
Video: How does it look?
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As with most special effects laden films of the time, this one shows some source flaws in those instances, but not enough to lessen the experience. Aside from that issue, this transfer is excellent and is the finest presentation this movie has seen on home video. I saw no problems with contrast, as blacks were deep and rich, while detail remained sold and as intended. The colors look good also, very bold and vivid when needed, while flesh tones seemed natural at all times. In the end, this is a terrific presentation and while not flawless, it will please all fans, I am sure.
Audio: How does it sound?
On this deluxe two disc edition, we’re treated to both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround options, both awesome and whichever you choose, you’ll be very satisfied indeed. In most instances, the tracks were even and stayed close, but as per usual, the DTS sometimes seemed more rich and open, so if given a choice, I recommend the DTS option here. The surrounds are used more than a little, especially in a few key scenes and overall, both tracks more than delivers the goods. John Williams’ excellent score sounds immersive and effective, while dialogue is clean and crisp, with no volume flaws to report. This release also includes 2.0 surround tracks in English, Spanish, and French, as well as subtitles in Thai, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, French, Spanish, and of course, English.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As I mentioned above, this release doesn’t contain all the bonus materials from the previous laserdisc sets, but I think there’s enough here to warrant a Collector’s Edition banner. The main draw is The Making of Close Encounter, a behind the scenes documentary that runs just over one hundred minutes, so you know there’s a lot to learn from this one. This is by no means the normal fluff piece, as you’ll find in depth interviews with most of the cast & crew, revealing on set footage, and of course, some cool special effects insight, which is awesome. I think most people will be taken with this documentary, as it is one of the few really insightful on disc pieces you’ll see, very good work indeed here. I want to note however, that this is shorter than the piece found on the laserdisc release, but does include some updated interviews. A short featurette is also included, Watching the Skies and while it is pretty much an extended trailer, it also has some worthwhile content, so don’t skip it over. This release also includes a selection of eleven deleted sequences, some talent files, and two theatrical trailers. I wish this release would have contained the original 1977 cut via seamless branching or at least the excised scenes within the deleted sequences, but no such luck in this case, though this is still a nice selection of extras.