In 1839, the revolt of Mende captives aboard a Spanish owned ship causes a major controversy in the United States when the ship is captured off the coast of Long Island. The courts must decide whether the Mende are slaves or legally free.
Two parallel stories are told. In the first, a group of research scientists from a variety of backgrounds are investigating the strange appearance of items in remote locations, primarily desert regions. In continuing their investigation, one of the lead scientists, a Frenchman named Claude Lacombe, incorporates the Kodály method of music education as a means of communication in their work. The response, in turn, at first baffles the researchers, until American cartographer David Laughlin deciphers the meaning of the response. In the second, electric company lineman and family man Roy Neary and single mother Jillian Guiler are among some individuals in Muncie, Indiana who experience some paranormal activity before some flashes of bright lights in the sky, which they believe to be a UFO. Roy becomes obsessed with what he saw, unlike some others, especially in some form of authority, who refuse to acknowledge their belief that it was a UFO in not wanting to appear crazy. That obsession ...Written by
The first time the original theatrical version of the film was made available on home video was a Criterion Edition Laserdisc, released in 1991. Before that, the only version available was "The Special Edition". See more »
In one scene, many people are on a hillside watching two bright lights approach them from near the horizon. As the lights get closer a few more lights with lower intensity can be seen trailing behind them. The next shot shows that at least the two brighter lights were military Huey helicopters which are shown hovering near and scattering the people. Huey helicopters have a very distinct and prominent "thump" generated by their rotors. The noise is very clear, especially if the chopper is headed directly towards the observer, and can be heard from a considerable distance from the aircraft. It's very doubtful that two Hueys, possibly followed by more, would be able to approach the observers as quietly as shown in the scene. The "Bell Thump" can be very reassuring if you're stuck in the weeds and need to get out of there fast. But, it doesn't make for a sneaky approach. See more »
[Roy's wife does not believe how he got the burns on his face]
Well they're not moon burns, goddamnit.
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Near the end of the credits it starts to reads as follows: "During the filming of all animal sequences, H.L. EDWARDS, Veterinarian of Gillette, Wyoming, was in attendance at all times to aid the filmmakers and the anesthetist in proper treatment of the animals used, and at no time were the animals harmed or mistreated in any way." See more »
A "Special Edition" version was released in 1980 (3 years after the film's original theatrical release). The original production of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" was plagued with schedule and budget problems. Spielberg originally wanted to release the film in the summer of 1978, however, Columbia Pictures (who were undergoing financial troubles at the time) insisted that Spielberg have it ready by November 1977. Therefore many scenes Spielberg had scripted couldn't be filmed as he originally intended due to time constraints. After the movie's huge success, Spielberg asked Columbia to allow him to re-cut the picture and to shoot additional sequences; the studio agreed at the condition that he included new scenes showing the inside of the alien mothership (to entice audiences into the theater again). Spielberg was given a budget of $1.5 million and seven weeks to shoot the new sequences (some of which were shot while he was also directing 1941 (1979)). He had to use a different director of photography (Allen Daviau) because Vilmos Zsigmond was unavailable, and he was able to convince most of the original cast to re-appear, with the exception of director Francois Truffaut (who played French scientist Lacombe) who was on location shooting a film at the time. For years, Steven Spielberg considered the Special Edition the only "real" version of the movie and dismissed the original as an inferior "work-in-progress". According to Columbia, all prints of the original version have been destroyed (apart from a few copies kept in the studio's vault for historical value only). Only the Special Edition had been the version available on video until Criterion became the first company to release different versions of the film in any video format. The following are the differences between the Original Version (O.V.) and the Special Edition (S.E.):
In the O.V. after Barry runs outside his house and into the night, there's a cut to a music box playing "When You Wish Upon a Star" and then to Roy Neary's house, where he receives a phone call from his boss at the power station. In the S.E. after Barry leaves the house we see a panoramic shot of the city at night instead; the next scene shows Roy playing with a toy train in order to explain to his son what a fraction is. There's an argument between Roy, his wife and his kids (they want to go play Goofy Golf, he wants to go see "Pinocchio" but is outvoted). Then Roy's boss calls. The dialogue spoken by Roy's boss is completely different in the S.E.
After the power outage, the O.V. version shows Roy Neary at the power station where workers are discussing the power failures and his supervisor tells him to go check an area of the city. The Special Edition deletes this scene.
The S.E. adds a new scene, after Roy see's the UFO flyby on the road: a UFO stops in front of a McDonald's sign and flashes its light on it, as if to read it.
An old man sees the UFOs fly by on the road and says "They can fly rings around the moon, but we're years ahead of them on the highway". This scene is missing from the S.E.
The S.E. adds a scene in which U.S. soldiers and scientists discover the ship, the "Cotopaxi" in the Gobi desert. This scene is inserted right after the one where Roy and his wife watch the sky in the spot where he first saw the UFOs.
A scene where Roy and his wife argue right after he's fired from his job. Roy lies on his bed and looks at a pillow (whose shape resembles the Devil's Tower mountain) The pillow segment was removed in the S.E.
The S.E. version changes the chronology of sequences from the mid-section of the O.V. In the O.V. the scene where Roy is fired is followed by the scene where he goes back to the road with his camera, which is followed by The India sequence and then Lacombe's auditorium speech. In the S.E. these scenes are flip-flopped. The scene where Roy is fired is followed by the India sequence, which is followed by Lacombe's auditorium speech, followed by the scene where Roy goes back to the road with his camera.
In the S.E. Lacombe's auditorium speech is slightly longer containing the applause of the dignitaries.
The S.E. deletes a scene at an Air Force base after Lacombe and the military argue about the best way to scare the population away from the alien's landing area. In the original Jillian is interviewed by reporters about her son's kidnapping, and Roy and Ronnie arrive at the base to attend a press conference about UFOs. Roy draws the shape of the Devil's Tower on a newspaper over the photo of Jillian and the headline "Cosmic Kidnapping". However, the headline is misspelled as 'kidnaping'.
In the O.V., the dinner/mashed potato sequence begins with the kids arguing at the table. As soon as Roy walks into the room they immediately stop shouting. In the S.E. this portion is deleted and the scene begins with Ronnie handing Toby the mashed potatoes.
The S.E. adds a sequence where Roy breaks down and he locks himself in the bathroom and goes under the running shower. Ronnie breaks the door open and yells at him, holding him responsible for their family falling apart.
The scene where Roy tosses bricks and bushes into his house so he can make the Devil's tower replica was almost entirely removed in the S.E. version. The S.E. only includes the portion of the scene where Ronnie actually leaves with the kids.
When Ronnie leaves Roy and almost runs him over with her car, the O.V. shows him getting back inside the house from a window. This scene is missing from the S.E.
In the scene where Roy makes his giant model, he briefly stops and glances to see children playing outside. This portion is slightly shortened in the S.E.
The sequence when Roy arrives in Wyoming and meets Jillian at the train station while the population is being evacuated by the army is shorter in the S.E.: in the original we saw Roy trying to convince a soldier (played by Carl Weathers) to let him go look for his "sister": the guard says he has orders to shoot anyone that trespasses.
The S.E. adds a new ending that shows what happens after Roy enters the mothership, with light/sound special effects by Douglas Trumbull.
In the S.E. the end title music is different. Instead of the closing "overture" music originally commissioned for the credits, we hear an arrangement of "When You Wish Upon A Star".
The version of Close Encounters that you've seen on TV or video may not be the best version. For years I had watched a TV version of the film that combined parts of the theatrical cut and the special edition and I felt like it was decent, but somehow it seemed edited by an amateur. I chalked it up to a 70s approach towards special effects movies that lingered too much on visuals without having a plot. Decades later I finally watched the 1977 version on Blu Ray and realized it really was a much better film. Apparently, Mr. Spielberg was pressured to finish the film quickly and he wanted to spend more time on some scenes but it looks like the studio pressure was a gift. The 77 version of the film is more coherent and enjoyable. If you read the reviews that say the Richard Dreyfus character is obnoxious and unlikable, chances are that the reviewer saw the special edition (or a TV version that adds footage from that version into a poorly edited version of the film). Whichever version you watch, the character does have family problems but in the 77 version, you have scenes of Dreyfus on the job, some shorter scenes of him having a meltdown at home, and the pace isn't as slow because of Spielberg (or someone?) reshuffling other scenes to add the pointless Gobi Dessert sequence. Basically, it isn't just the fact that some scenes are a little shorter or longer, its the placement of those scenes. Brian De Palma once got a complaint that the pool hall scene in Carlito's Way was too long. But he said if felt longer because it was missing some shots that would make it more suspenseful. He added those shots, showed it to the studio, and they thought it was a shorter scene. Spielberg is usually great at creating suspense, but sometimes he messes it up. His original cut of Close Encounters got it right. It's the only version that I think really qualifies the film as a classic.
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