Here it is folks in all its' wonderful glory,the original theatrical version of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".It seems Mr.Spielberg changed his mind about releasing it,and I for one am very thankful he did!
This release also goes to show what one of the "big boys" can do if they put their minds to it.That is that this release which contains the original theatrical version,the special edition and the directors cut released by Columbia Pictures,is one that is on a level with a Criterion video release and that is no small praise.All three movies have been lovingly transferred and despite the graininess visible(depending on the contrast in the scene)they are for the most part beautifully crisp and clean in their 2:35:1 widescreen ratio with their Dolby 5:1 sound.
The set(three discs)sit firmly in a bi-folding sectional contained within a handsome box with a cloth lifter for its extraction.Along with the discs is an approximately 62 page colour booklet and a colour chart showing the differences between each version.On the reverse side of the chart is a repro of the original theatre advert card for the movie.The set also contains a making of documentary which spans each disc in a three part format and the trailers for each movie are also included.
Now everyone I am sure is going to have their favourite versions of the film so I guess I had better put my hat into the ring,so to speak.In my oppinion there can be only one choice and that is the original theatrical version.It has always had all the basic elements of what made this movie great to begin with.The Special Edition slashed key elements from the first,turned sequences around and made additions along with,in my mind,the totally unnecessary ending inside the spaceship.The Directors Cut again slashes like the Special Edition but returns to more elements from the original.The latter two just don't have the impact of the first.
Mr.Spielberg would have been better off combining the elements of the original edition with the special edition.Wait....he did! ABC television ran just such an edition in the early 80s and I must admit I did like that version very much(it is quite worthy of general release.....Columbia?!)and it would be my second choice with the original version coming in first.
Close Encounters was a Sci-Fi benchmark of sorts for its day.Previous Sci-Fi outings involving aliens in the 1950s and onward usually pitted weird looking ray-using creatures bent on earths' destruction against its' frightened and trigger happy occupants.All of these shows derived their themes from the then current UFO phenom in the papers and exaggerated it(to sometimes bizarre proportions!)as Hollywood often does.Some could be quite sophisticated like "The Day the Earth Stood Still",some might even mention actual UFO cases like the interval at the observatory in"Invasion from Mars"to give itself a further jolt of "realism" to the audience.Still others would take on a documentary form like "UFO" which showed actual film footage and told stories of real UFO incidents(now that is a film I would like to see released!).
But not until Close Encounters did Sc-Fi see a film which took its' subject matter so seriously and thoughtfully and showed that in reality these things were indeed real and not as malevolent as previously described in other films that had come before.We were shown not only were these aliens as curious about us as we were of them and their appearance was not as horrifying as we might have thought but it also left us with the wonderment and untold and exciting possibilities ahead of humanity should we one day make actual contact with them.It was the attention to Ufology detail that made and still makes this film so unique and which still holds up extremely well over 30 years later.
In conclusion I highly recommmend this set to everyone.It is a joy to finally see the original theatrical version out there for all to enjoy and in such a glorious transfer.It is to me the definitive and best version of the three.Buy this set and see which version YOU like!