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Blu-ray Review: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: 40th Anniversary Edition

October 31, 2022

By John Corrado

Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and Universal Pictures Home Entertaining is releasing a new Blu-ray edition of the film in honour of this milestone.

I first saw E.T. as a nine-year-old kid in 2002, when the film was released on DVD for the first time for its much-hyped 20th anniversary (I still have that special edition), so my nostalgic connection to it is pretty strong. It had been a few years since I sat down and revisited it, and watching it again I’m pleased to say that the film still works its magic.

Set around Halloween, the family classic tells the story of Elliot (Henry Thomas), a lonely young boy in suburbia who befriends an alien left behind on earth, and works with his siblings Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and Gertie (Drew Barrymore) to try and help him get back home.

This is one of the films most closely associated with Spielberg’s impulses as a filmmaker, from the mix of sci-fi and adventure movie elements, to the incredible amount of heart and the sense of childlike wonder running through the entire thing. It’s also a deeply personal film from him (after watching Spielberg’s new film The Fabelmans, it’s easy to see how much of the early scenes in particular were drawn from his own childhood in a broken home).

Working from a wonderful screenplay by Melissa Mathison, E.T. allowed Spielberg to showcase his genuine gift for directing child actors. The film is carried by exceptional performances from its young cast led by Thomas (it was filmed sequentially so it would be easier for them to get wrapped up in the story), which remain among the best ever committed to screen, with cinematographer Allen Daviau shooting the film from the perspective of a child.

Then there’s E.T. himself, a character who comes alive through an incredible feat of puppeteering and practical effects (the young Barrymore apparently believed he was really alive on-set, an illusion that Spielberg and crew happily went along with). The believability of the title character is what allows the film to so genuinely tug on our heartstrings in the last act. It’s topped off with the iconic music of John Williams, with his theme for the film put to especially magical use as those bikes start to fly.

The film became a massive box office hit in 1982 and is one of the most beloved films of the decade (it won four Oscars against nine nominations, including Best Picture, which it lost to Gandhi). It remains a quintessential ‘80s kids adventure movie, helping launch the kids-on-bikes aesthetic that has come to be so closely associated with the decade and has inspired many homages (including Stranger Things). It’s a magical film, even forty years later.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray includes two new featurettes in honour of the 40th anniversary, as well as a plethora of legacy bonus features ported over from earlier releases. It’s also worth noting this is the original cut, with the guns that were switched to walkie-talkies for the 20th anniversary edition put back in, and the scene of E.T. in the bath and extended Halloween night sequence taken back out.

A regular DVD and code for a digital copy are also included in the package, which ships with an embossed slipcover. A 4K Ultra HD edition is also available, as well as a variety of special editions specific to different retailers.

40 Years of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (20 minutes, 14 seconds): J.J. Abrams, Ernest Cline, Chris Columbus and Leonard Maltin reflect on first seeing E.T. in 1982, as well as their favourite moments from the film, and its enduring legacy forty years later.

TCM Classic Film Festival: An Evening With Steven Spielberg (27 minutes, 7 seconds): Ben Mankiewicz sits down with Spielberg for a discussion of his career, taking us through his first few films from Duel to Jaws and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Recorded at the TCM Classic Film Festival earlier this year.

The E.T. Journals (Play All – 53 minutes, 38 seconds)

Part 1 (24 minutes, 50 seconds)

Part 2 (28 minutes, 48 seconds)

Deleted Scenes (3 minutes, 40 seconds): The two scenes that were inserted back into the 20th anniversary edition (Elliot pretending to be sick at home while E.T. is in the bath, and the extended Halloween night sequence).

Steven Spielberg & E.T. (12 minutes, 31 seconds)

A Look Back (37 minutes, 43 seconds)

The Evolution and Creation of E.T. (50 minutes, 16 seconds)

The E.T. Reunion (17 minutes, 56 seconds)

The Music of E.T.: A Discussion with John Williams (10 minutes, 4 seconds)

The 20th Anniversary Premiere (17 minutes, 49 seconds)

Designs, Photographs and Marketing

E.T. Designs by Production Illustrator Ed Verreaux (7 minutes)

E.T. Designs by Carlo Rambaldi (1 minute, 40 seconds)

Spaceship Designs by Ralph McQuarrie (1 minute, 20 seconds)

Designs by Production Illustrator Ed Verreaux (1 minute, 30 seconds)

Production Photographs (23 minutes, 11 seconds)

Marketing E.T. (10 minutes, 20 seconds)

Theatrical Trailer (1 minute, 57 seconds)

Special Olympics TV Spot (1 minute, 2 seconds)

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: 40th Anniversary Edition is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 115 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: October 18th, 2022

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