Close Encounters of the Third Kind

It's hardly the kind of story that drives a classic Steven Spielberg adventure: boy meets spaceship, boy struggles to make a second date, boy lives happily ever after in space. No sharks, no dinosaurs, no Nazis to subdue. But Close Encounters of the Third Kind has endured thanks to its irresistible portrayal of human-alien contact and the sheer spectacle of its special effects. Despite the phenomenal success of the original 1977 release, Spielberg has never stopped tinkering with his film. The version on this DVD is known as the Collector's Edition. Compared with the widely seen Special Edition, it restores some scenes from the original, deletes some Special Edition scenes, and ends up running five minutes longer. Confused? Don't be. The Collector's Edition is the finest version Spielberg has ever assembled. Let's just hope it's also the last - especially since all that re-editing still can't stop the movie's first half from dragging as our hero, Roy (Richard Dreyfuss), edges toward his third-kind encounter.

The movie seems a greater spectacle than ever on DVD. Image quality is limited by the film stock and lighting techniques of the mid-1970s - especially compared with the sumptuous, state-of-the-art visuals Spielberg offhandedly generates today - but the THX-certified transfer makes the best of it. Douglas Trumbull's old-fashioned optical special effects remain the movie's biggest attraction, and they shimmer enticingly on disc. With its restrained mix (the emphasis is on the center channel), the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack won't blow anyone away, but it is noticeably sharper and cleaner than the soundtracks of all previous versions.

A second disc serves up a fairly large package of extras. Included are a 102-minute documentary, a brief 1977 featurette that spotlights a hilariously youthful and goofy Spielberg, and 11 deleted scenes. The new material will please the diehards but won't make any new fans. At least the famous final scene inside the mothership, first seen in the Special Edition, is also included here.

English, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, and Dolby Surround; French and Spanish, Dolby Surround; letterboxed (2.35:1) and anamorphic widescreen; two dual-layer discs.

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