Close Encounters of the Third Kind
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On the final cut privilege, Spielberg was dissatisfied with the film. "Columbia Pictures was experiencing financial problems, and they were depending on this film to save their company. "I wanted to have another six months to finish off this film, and release it in summer 1978. They told me they needed this film out immediately," Spielberg explained. "Anyway, Close Encounters was a huge financial success and I told them I wanted to make my own director's cut. They agreed on the condition that I show the inside of the mother ship so they could have something to hang a [reissue marketing] campaign on. I never should have shown the inside of the mother ship." In 1979, Columbia gave Spielberg $1.5 million to produce what became the "Special Edition" of the film. Spielberg added seven minutes of new footage, but also deleted or shortened various existing scenes by a total of ten minutes, so that the Special Edition was three minutes shorter than the original 1977 release. The 1980 revision was the version officially available on video for years, until The Criterion Collection offered both versions on LaserDisc in 1990.
The Special Edition featured several new character development scenes, the discovery of the SS Cotopaxi in the Gobi Desert, and a view of the inside of the mothership. Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Special Edition was released in August 1980, making a further $15.7 million, accumulating a final $303.7 million box office gross. Roger Ebert "thought the original film was an astonishing achievement, capturing the feeling of awe and wonder we have when considering the likelihood of life beyond the Earth. ... This new version ... is, quite simply, a better film ... Why didn't Spielberg make it this good the first time?"
In 1998, Spielberg recut Close Encounters again for what would become the "Collector's Edition," to be released on home video and laserdisc. This version of the film is something of a re-edit of the original 1977 release with some elements of the 1980 Special Edition, but omits the mothership interior scenes which Spielberg felt should have remained a mystery. The laserdisc edition also includes a new 101-minute documentary, The Making of Close Encounters, which was produced in 1997 and features interviews with Spielberg, the main cast and notable crew members. There have also been many other alternate versions of the film for network and syndicated television, as well as a previous LaserDisc version. Some of these even combined all released material from the 1977 and 1980 versions, but none of these versions were edited by Spielberg, who regards the "Collector's Edition" as his definitive version of Close Encounters. The Collector's Edition was given a limited release as part of a roadshow featuring select films to celebrate Columbia Pictures' 75th anniversary in 1999. It was the first and only time this version of the film has been shown theatrically.
The film was released on DVD in June 2001 as a two-disc set that contained the "Collector's Edition". The second disc contained a wealth of extra features including the 101-minute "Making Of" documentary from 1997, a featurette from 1977, trailers and deleted scenes that included, among other things, the mothership interiors from the 1980 Special Edition. James Berardinelli felt "Close Encounters is still unquestionably a great movie. Its universal appeal gave movie-goers something to be excited about during 1977–78 as the first in a wave of post-Star Wars science fiction films broke. Today, the movie stands up remarkably well. The story is fresh and compelling, the special effects are as remarkable as anything that CGI can do, and the music represents some of John Williams' best work." Emanuel Levy also gave a highly-positive review. "Spielberg's greatest achievement is to make a warm, likable sci-fi feature, deviating in spirit, tone and ideology from the dark, noirish sci-fi films that dominated the 1950s and Cold War mentality. He ultimately succeeded."
Close Encounters was given a second DVD release and a Blu-ray Disc release in November 2007. Released for the film's 30th anniversary, the set contained all three official versions of the film from 1977, 1980 and 1998, and a new interview with Spielberg, who talks about the film's impact 30 years after its release. The set also includes the 1977 featurette, various trailers and the 1997 "Making Of" documentary – though this is now split over three discs rather than as a single feature as with the 2001 DVD release. In addition to these features, the 2-disc Blu-ray set also included storyboard-to-scene comparisons, an extensive photo gallery, and a "View from Above: Editor's Fact Track" highlighting the different scenes in each version of the movie.
Steven Spielberg followed Jaws (1975), his first major box-office success, with this epic science fiction adventure about a disparate group of people who attempt to contact alien intelligence. Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) is an electrical lineman who, while sent out on emergency repairs, witnesses an unidentified flying object, and even has a "sunburn" from its bright lights to prove it. Neary's wife and children are at first skeptical, then concerned, and eventually fearful, as Roy refuses to accept a "logical" explanation for what he saw and is prepared to give up his job, his home, and his family to pursue the "truth" about UFOs. Neary's obsession eventually puts him in contact with others who've had close encounters with alien spacecraft, including Jillian (Melinda Dillon), a single mother whose son disappeared during her UFO experience, and Claude Lacombe (celebrated French filmmaker François Truffaut), a French researcher who believes that we can use a musical language to communicate with alien visitors. Lacombe's theory is put to the test when a band of government researchers and underground UFO enthusiasts (including Neary) join for an exchange with alien visitors near Devil's Tower, Wyoming. In 1980, a "Special Edition" was released. While its primary selling point was the addition of scenes inside the alien spaceship, Spielberg claimed that he also cleaned up some choppy editing in the second act.