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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Drama > Fantasy > Comedy > Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (Blu-ray + DVD-Video Deluxe Edition Sets)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Blu-ray + DVD-Video Deluxe Edition Sets)


Picture: A-/B+††† Sound: A-/B+ ††††Extras: A- ††††Film: B-



Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) represents in my opinion what would be called or considered Steven Spielbergís first full throttle production.What I mean by that is that this is his film film in which he went all out in just about all aspects: production, camera, lighting, story, and it really showed the world what a young filmmaker with a budget could do.Of course two years prior Spielberg became successful with Jaws, but the scope of this film is far superior and its ambition shows off.For this film Spielberg would write and direct the film and in many respects this film serves as his first film that is uniquely Ďhisí. The other major player involved is getting cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who was just coming off shooting with Brian DePalma on Obsession.Zsigmond would deliver some unforgettable images here and create a memorable film, plus go on the following year to do Michael Ciminoís The Deer Hunter.There is no doubt that he is one of the best in the business and his work here truly demonstrates why.


Other important factors are enlisting Richard Dreyfuss, who of course worked with Spielberg on Jaws and this time around Dreyfuss really gets to demonstrate his acting chops instead of competing with veteran actor Robert Shaw.These two would go on to make only one more film together to date and that came with 1989ís Always.Other talents include Teri Garr, French director Francois Truffaut, and Lance Henriksen.


Of course in many respects Close Encounters of the Third Kind acts as a near-sequel to Stanley Kubrickís masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey in that the ďthird kindĒ represents contact.Of course a few years later MGM/UA did a really dumb thing and made 2010: The Year We Make Contact, which was a failed attempt to answer the questions posed by 2001.Even director Peter Hyams could not make that work.I am certainly not implying that Close Encounters answers those questions either, but itís simply engaging its audience with the possibility of what if we were not alone and more importantly what if something landed here.Unlike many of the Science Fiction films before this one, the idea of ĎMartiansí or extra-terrestrial life coming to Earth was not uncommon, but the treatment of it here in a very ambiguous and mystery way is what separates it from the films prior, besides the fact that most space films involved Ďaliensí coming to do harm.


Spielberg would visit this idea again in 1981 with E.T. and would do so through the eyes of a child, but here we are given a very adult-like view into the situation and that is certainly why this film is taken more serious than E.T.Although I have to say that the film tends to wear off itís effectiveness in the latter portion after it explores the mystery a bit too far it becomes more clichťd and loses itís impact, but that doesnít stop Close Encounters from being a classic in many respects, although it is commonly not referred to when people are discussing important Science Fiction works and this is no doubt due to the fact that the same year another important film arrived: Star Wars.††


So could this new DVD and Blu-ray set change peoples minds?


Close Encounters arrived a bit late on DVD and was a highly anticipated release and arrived in the Spring of 2001 in a 2-disc collectors edition, which would feature the directors cut of the film and would be available in DTS 5.1 as well, which was a plus.Now the film is re-issued here in a 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition DVD set as well as a Blu-ray 2-disc set, both contain 3 cuts of the film: theatrical, special edition, and directors cut.More importantly though is the new transfer of the film and the Blu-ray also contains Dolby TrueHD as well as DTS-HD Master audio.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 scope image on the 1080p Blu-ray is nothing short of amazing.I do mean Öamazing!I was not that impressed with the 2001 DVD release of the film, which had a softness to the image that make it look dated on arrival.Here the colors are vibrant and lively and contain a huge sense of depth as well.Having never seen the film in theaters I was only exposed to poor broadcasts and VHS-like quality offerings, but this new transfer is just staggering.Even the new DVD looks incredibly good even given the limitations of DVD in comparison to the Blu-ray.Just when you think that the DVD looks about as good as it gets you simply pop in the Blu-ray disc and all is forgotten.Now itís like a different experience all together.The crispness, the lifelike images, the deep dark blacks and the glowing whites put the DVD to shame.What is even more amazing is the depth of the color, which has incredible fidelity that I have not seen very much of in a film of this age.Video red for example is still limited on the DVDís transfer, but the Blu-ray manages in several scenes to give bright vibrant red set against dark black in amazing detail without any bleed or distortion.There is a bit of grain evident throughout both transfers, but the Blu-ray has far superior sharpness and resolution as can be expected and the grain gives the film its character anyway.


Since the film utilized Ďlightí in several key scenes and Zsigmondís cinematography is always engaging itís necessary for detail to be there and the DVD suffers in several of the special effects scenes making them look a bit dated, but the Blu-ray truly shines in this particular area giving it a huge advantage over the DVD.Then there are the desert scenes, which are more orange and yellow in nature and again the Blu-ray looks superb, especially in the way it handles a wide gamut of color ranges with movement in several scenes without any problems.The DVD almost seems fatigued at moments with the color balance and it shows.I really canít say enough good things about both transfers, but the Blu-ray is in a league of its own and makes you wonder if itís not from ďThe Third KindĒ as well.††


I did not notice much difference when switching between the 3 various cuts of the film, although I think the directorís cut might be my favorite if I had to choose.The various cuts are nearly the same, but run at different lengths.The Special Edition cut runs 132-minutes, the Theatrical Cut runs 135-minutes, and the directors cut runs 137-minutes.All of them are a bit long if you ask me and the film tends to suffer at times by being a bit too long.You can choose DTS Audio on all three cuts of the film on the DVDís, but the Blu-ray again offers some great things in the audio department.All three cuts of the film offer DTS-HD master audio as well as Dolby Digital TrueHD, which are both superior in all aspects to the really well mixed DTS 5.1 on the DVD.I suppose the easiest way to describe it though is that the Blu-ray audio tracks are fuller, thicker, and sound more realistic overall in comparison.The DVD audio tracks sound pretty good with some nice .1 LFE action happening at times, but this does not come close to the power and depth that the Blu-ray manages to muster.The fidelity is greatly approved in all aspects with voices coming through much cleaner and sharper, plus the John Williams score, including the annoying little synthesizer sound, is richer and gives a much more 3-dimensional soundstage.


He sound was originally available at its best in a 4.1 70mm blow-up mix with Dolby magnetic noise reduction, but Spielberg and Columbia had upgraded the filmís sound over the years and the efforts to restore and preserve the original stems has paid off here in a big way.


What I became aware of very quickly with the Blu-ray is just how much I was able to appreciate this film far more than ever before.I had seen the film several times, never really cared for it all that much, but this Blu-ray disc can easily turn anyone into a fan of the film as it certainly brings the film to life and into the home in ways like never before.Itís titles like this that are being released that are enabling people to embrace the HD formats and their abilities as well as appreciate the film medium in a much broader, more insightful, and more meaningful way.


The supplements are also quite good and are the same on both Deluxe sets and the include Spielbergís 30th Anniversary retrospective, which is very good and a nice addition this time around, plus there is a making of documentary, which was on the previous DVD as well as the 1977 Featurette ďWatch the SkiesĒ, so some of this material is recycled, but thatís not a bad thing by any means.One thing that I do like about the DVD set though is that itís a slightly bigger package, which contains a poster and booklet, the poster shows the differences in the various cuts of the film via timeline, but the booklet is a bit larger in the DVD set, which is key because it has pictures inside.


If this Blu-ray set is any indication of how the format can deliver older films and do things right, then we are looking at a very bright future with HD material and I can only hope that more key titles are released to really help ramp up peoples expectations and anticipation to important films.Not only that, but this also raises the bar on just how good a transfer needs to be in order to meet the new standards of HD and that is exciting and should excite any film enthusiast to know that films 30+ years in age can indeed be restored to pristine condition again, especially if the original elements are preserved and this also puts a new awareness out there to maintain the preservation of these older films in order to give them HD treatment the way that they should be, and finally this gives new audiences reasons to celebrate seeing and hearing films in amazing detail, which can only add to the experience.Thanks to Blu-ray these indeed seem like possibilities!



-†† Nate Goss


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