Comprehensive, non-narrated made-for-LaserDisc documentary about the making of the 1982 blockbuster classic. The story is told through interviews with director Steven Spielberg, co-producer Kathleen Kennedy, sound designer Ben Burtt, composer John Williams, and other key cast and crew members. It also includes rare, behind-the-scenes footage taken at the time of the original production, and deleted scenes not seen in the final cut (including the legendary "Principal Scene" with Harrison Ford).Written by
During the end credits there is even more behind the scenes footage from John Toll including Henry Thomas, E.T. dream, the Halloween group foto, 'Steven Spielberg' talking about crabs and Thomas fooling around while filming E.T.'s death scene. See more »
A condensed and revised version appears on DVD as "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial--A Look Back", featuring more behind-the-scenes material not appearing in the original LaserDisc version. See more »
This retrospective features a great amount of behind the scenes footage shot by John Toll, including the scary sight of Steven Spielberg dressed as a bag lady on Halloween. It's mainly shots of the children being forced to go to school between takes and a young beardless Spiel showing off his enormous collection of baseball hats (and occasionally a stetson). If you collected the bubblegum cards way back when and wondered who this strange cowboy with glasses was, this documentary explains it all. Back in the present (actually the mid nineties) A long haired Spielberg explains that his most personal film is not so much about that 'vegetable from Alpha Centauri' but more about 'the rescue of sadness' he felt in need off during his own childhood, after his parents' divorce.
Kathleen Kennedy reveals it was Close Encounters that made her want to go into producing, while Spiel was looking for a way to turn his childhood frustrations into a 'sequel' to Close. The first draft by John Sayles (then called 'Night Skies') was deemed to violent, so Steven dictated his own version to Melissa Mathison on the set of Raiders. The former Mrs. Ford recollects working things out with the kids and put up little cards with the days work to make things easier for all of them (including Stevie).
Robert Macnaughton still looks normal in this documentary, but Drew Barrymore was caught in her Goth period. Meanwhile deadpan Henry Thomas complains about everything from instant stardom to the anatomical term 'Penis Breath' and most notably about having to kiss Erika Eleniak (who was not invited to participate). Dee Wallace (no Stone) turns out to be the most childlike of them all, even going as far (in 'The Reunion' on disc two) to claim she knows exactly how Drew felt as a 6 year old then, today (huh?).
Technical talk is restricted to one anecdote per person: Ben Burtt explains the difference between Debra Wingers temp track (no examples seem to have been found) and Pat Welsh's eventual E.T. voice. Then we get Denis Muren and Allan Darau to speak about finding the perfect shot of the moon and there is some confusion as to why they decided to bring the hospital set to the house. Finally Ralph McQuarrie shares a few thought on the spaceship design and we see some sketches I'm pretty sure ended up in a Star Wars art book later on.
All of them keep insisting that E.T. was not a special effect laden film, despite having to figure out which version of the Extra Terrestrial to use for each scene (the mechanical one, the suit or the puppet). The fact that this really is a very small, personal film, stopped it from gaining the kind of following as Star Wars or Lord of the Rings has and so the 2002 re-release failed to reach the same broad audience as before. Unless they had children of their own by then, the original fans simply did not want to go back to a 20 year old movie about a bunch of kids.
8 out of 10
P.S. I thought the sight of Spielberg in drag was scary, but the 'Space Exploration' feature on the DVD where somebody pretends to be E.T. talking about our solar system takes the cake!
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