Like Blade Runner and the Evil Dead movies, Close Encounters has been tarted up and trotted out in so many different DVD incarnations there’s hardly any need for another. There?s been the theatrical version, the widescreen collector’s edition, the two-disc collector’s edition, the director’s cut, even a version packaged with Jeff Bridges’ Starman. It’s a great movie and all, but enough’s enough, right? Not so fast. Apparently, Steven Spielberg is convinced that there are still enough fans out there with ample spending money and shelf space. They’re no doubt a bit like Richard Dreyfuss’ Roy Neary — obsessives who stay up late sculpting mashed potatoes. And to them I say, Godspeed. As for the rest of us, well, we have questions: Namely, is the three-disc 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition a significant upgrade? Does it come with chewy new nuggets of inside dope and trivia? And will we get to see that adorable little 3-year-old Barry as a grown-up? The answers are, Not really, kind of, and yes!
I’ll come right out and say it: I think Close Encounters is a pop masterpiece. The UFOs may look like something from an old ELO album cover nowadays, but they hold up better than Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon. Meanwhile, Dreyfuss, an actor never known for subtlety, reins in his knee-jerk hamminess enough to be touching as a man ridiculed because he knows the truth is out there. (Chewy nugget: Spielberg offered the part to Steve McQueen, but the tough-guy actor passed because he refused to cry on screen.) As for the script, it’s one of the few that Spielberg actually wrote from scratch, and it doesn’t take a single wrong turn. And let’s face it, a movie in which François Truffaut teaches aliens sign language is lousy with potential wrong turns.
Spielberg apparently thought so too. As the new DVD’s extras point out, he was so nervous about the film that he jumped at George Lucas’ offer to trade profit points between Close Encounters and Star Wars. Needless to say, they both wound up hip-deep in dough. As for whether to spend yours, I’ll just say this: I’m buying it. But if they come knocking with a 35th Anniversary Super-Duper Mashed Potato Edition, I?m not answering the door. B+