Thirty years ago(1977)marked the debut of a "big" sci-fi film, "CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND." It offered all of the things that made great Spielberg films, great! An ordinary "Joe," (Richard Dreyfuss)thrown into extraordinary situations, the magic of childhood(a young boy has an unusual encounter at the beginning of the film, plenty of humor, great acting, (famed director Francois Truffaut is featured here), tension, epic imagery(from the opening shot!)and of course a great score from John Williams. The film was close to perfect as it was, but, after taking in a huge box-office, Spielberg felt the need to dip in the well again, offering a "Special Edition," in which he cut various scenes, extended others, and added(by studio demand)a completely wasteful, dull sequence taking place "inside" the mother ship. While a couple of scenes that have been added, are fantastic(A giant ship found in the middle of the desert), others, including the horrid segment inside the ship, are just annoying. It's almost impossible to watch the "Special Edition" and not feel taken advantage of!
In 1997, Spielberg tried to recut the film again, offering his "Director's Cut," with some new scenes added, others edited, and the inane "inside the ship" sequence, re-fashioned. It's actually the best of the three versions!
Thankfully, SONY has opted to include all "three" versions of the film on the new blu-ray disc presentation! SONY has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio for this release, with 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoding. The cinematography by one of the greats(Vilmos Zsigmond-"Deer Hunter")is often stunning, and well complimented here. However, as Zsigmond has always experimented with natural lighting and filters(HEAVEN'S GATE), grain and softness are inevitably present throughout.
"CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND" is a dark film! Its unusual color design is often spectacular, as presented on blu-ray. While filled with extremely dark moments, there's stunning detail in scene after scene. Colors are typically rich and vibrant. While there are moments that appear flat, the majority of the film presents great depth and "jump off the screen" imagery! An extremely good, almost great transfer!
SONY has provided options for both Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio! It's a mix that varies between solid and dazzling, depending on a given scene. During the earlier part of the film, surrounds and separation are restrained for the most part, save for the impact of the wonderful John Williams score! There are some great bass effects sporadically, but most of the early section is dialogue-driven. As soon as the sci-fi/action elements begin to increase, the soundstage opens up, offering plenty of surround/discrete effects, but somewhat limited by the limitations of the original elements. It's often engaging, but dynamic range isn't nearly as sharp as newer soundmixes. It's a good mix, just not demonstration quality. The "DTS-HD" mix offers slightly deeper bass.
All three versions of the film are presented on the first disc of this 2 disc presentation. The 2nd disc offers three terrific documentaries, with the best, "The Making of Close Encounters," from 1997, offering great reflections from Zsigmond and others. Unfortunately, the 10 minutes of deleted scenes, are in less than pristine condition.
SONY has outdone themselves with the HD material offered here! There are storyboard comparisons, photos, trailers and more, all presented in either 1080i or 1080p! BRAVO!!!