Buyers beware

I recently shelled out more than $60 for the Ultimate Gift Set Edition DVD of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. I should’ve read the trades more carefully.

It was my understanding that the only way I could get the original 1982 version of this boy-meets-alien film, without all the invasive changes made by Spielberg for E.T.‘s 2002 reissue, was to buy the big boxed set. Turns out that the less expensive, two-disc Limited Collector’s edition contains both versions of the film. I was duped.

This is the first time that the film is available on DVD, and Universal plans to discontinue production by Dec. 31, 2002. The package, whether you spring for the Ultimate or settle for Limited Collector, is a pure delight. E.T. still stands as one of the more emotionally satisfying films ever produced, and the DVD does it supreme justice.

The two-disc Limited Edition has enough to keep fans satisfied. Apart from a lousy feature that has a croaky E.T. talking about the planets in our solar system, the extras are excellent. Behind-the-scenes features include the making of E.T., a fun reunion interview with the cast and Spielberg, and a featurette discussing John Williams’ music.

Until watching these features, I wasn’t aware that Debra Winger, the original but replaced voice of E.T., made a cameo during the Halloween sequence. There is also a glimpse of Harrison Ford playing Elliot’s (Henry Thomas) principal in a deleted scene.

The 2002 version of the film boasts a feature that allows you to view the movie accompanied by Williams’ live symphonic accompaniment to its premiere at the Shrine Auditorium. It’s fun to watch the film in this mode, which includes audience reactions.

It is my belief that Spielberg’s tampering with the film for its reissue was unnecessary, even reckless at times. He replaces shots of E.T. he considered too “fake” with smooth CGI. The 1982 movie, as it stands, is a treasure, and the revisions are jarring to those who memorized the original. That said, somebody watching the film for the first time will probably be far less bothered than the longtime fans.

The Ultimate Gift Set contains the above-mentioned features, plus a beautiful hardbound book, John Williams’ soundtrack, a collector’s art graphic and some fancy packaging.

Consumer beware: The two-disc Limited Collector’s edition makes no mention of containing the 1982 version of the film on its packaging. Don’t be duped.

Movie: A (1982 version), B (2002 version)

Features: A for both Limited and Ultimate Gift Set editions.