Tuesday, May 5, 2020

VHyesterdayS: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1996)

This past weekend officially marked Halfway to Halloween. I usually go out of my way to try and bring a little spooky into the springtime - maybe take out a decoration or two, drink some expired pumpkin coffee, whatever works - but this year all I could muster was watching an old movie... and that movie was E.T. The Extraterrestrial!

I know, I know. It's not a horror movie, but honestly I've been getting lots of horror in my diet lately, so watching something fun seemed just the ticket.

E.T. is, of course, the classic story of a young boy who befriends a wayward alien lost on Earth and trying to find his way home. The cast includes heavy-hitters like Dee Wallace (the ultimate '80s mom) and Peter Coyote, and has a excellent young cast with Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore, and Henry Thomas as the film's main character, Elliott. Oh, and it was directed by Stephen Spielberg. You might've heard of him?

E.T. is a family movie, but don't let that fool you. This is perfect fare for Halloween.

The film is set in late-Autumn, although if you're not from Northern California it might be difficult to tell. Have no fear, though! There are several scenes set literally on Halloween night that include costumes, jack-o-lanterns, and decorations.

There's one costume in particular that I always wanted as a kid. As E.T., Elliott, and his brother Michael head out trick-or-treating they run into Yoda. It has to be a $200 mask and, when I was as kid, I thought it was the greatest thing, but I was stuck with plastic smocks and masks that made my glasses fog up.

Fan Theory Friday: Wait … is E.T. a Jedi?!?!

For all its window dressings as a kids' movie, E.T. is damn scary. I might be a bit biased in this (E.T. scarred me as a child - something that took me a very long time to get over), but just watch the opening sequence of the film and tell me if you don't get a little creeped out. Also, I think every kid can remember being traumatized by E.T. lying half-dead in a creek with a raccoon literally waiting to feast on his soon-to-be dead body.

Search your feelings, you know it to be true (sorry for all the Star Wars references).

Now, onto the tape!

The original release of E.T. was in 1988 and it has an iconic tape with a black cassette shell and green tape guard. I don't, however, have that version of the movie. I have the 1996 re-release, which comes in a swanky clamshell (to further masquerade the movie as something for children) and has its audio remastered in THX.

This release also includes 10 minutes of special interviews with the cast and crew appended to the end of the tape. It plays out like a vignette. There are snippets of the film with commentary from some of the cast and crew, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and - of course - Stephen Spielberg himself.

These interviews are great and all, but they're actually a small sampling of an hour and a half long documentary directed by Laurent Bouzereau. His documentary about the making of E.T. was included on the Laserdisc, which released beside the 1996 VHS.

Bouzereau actually did several of these documentaries for Laserdisc releases of Spielberg films, most notably Jaws, and although many of the others have managed to find their way onto DVD and even Blu-ray, the documentary for E.T. has never escaped the '96 LD.

In 2002 the Special Edition DVD was released, which was infamously retouched with digital effects and included some deleted scenes. Everyone recalls those "walkie-talkies". Later for the film's 30th anniversary it was released on Blu-ray - in the original theatrical cut - and again on UHD in 2017 to coincide with the 35th anniversary.

Regarding the '96 VHS, the video quality isn't anything to write home about. I have definitely seen better VHS transfers of other movies, which surprises me considering this a Spielberg film. I mean, considering their was a widescreen Laserdisc release right there, it might've been neat to sell this as a widescreen VHS, but I digress. The audio is definitely crisp. The THX digital transfer here is on-point. As a result, this VHS is definitely serviceable and probably the best way to enjoy the film on tape.

So, if you're looking to scare yourself just a little on the road to Halloween this year, consider taking in the classic E.T. The Extraterrestrial. It's a fun (and freaky) stroll down memory lane and there's no better way to get those nostalgic vibes then on an old dusty tape you probably have tucked away on a shelf at your parents' house. Oh, and don't forget the Reese's Pieces!

Happy Halfway to Halloween!

I hope you enjoyed,