E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial Special Edition (VCD)

E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial Special Edition
(Original VCD)

Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Robert MacNaughton, Dee Wallace-Stone
Director: Steven Spielberg
MPAA Rating: PG

Movie: * * * * 
Disc(s): * *   

Recently there has been a bit of a backlash against E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial by participants on this site's message board. I will say this again: it is a cold black dark heart that isn't affected by this movie. Cold. Black. Dark.

My wife cries every time she sees the movie. "I know that E.T. isn't really dead," she sobs. "But I can't help myself." Same here. I figured what the movie's success is: the people in it, and by that I mean the kids obviously because this is a kid's movie after all, seem very real. They talk and act like real kids do, not just like what adults (read: Hollywood) think they should be like. Despite the spaceships and aliens at the start of the movie, this is not a special effects movie at all. Instead it is a very human one. Warm and funny, this movie has become hugely influential throughout the years (see the recent Signs for example) and is a definite classic.

Now I have a confession to make: I didn't particularly like E.T. the first time I saw it as a young boy. That is because - damn it! - I also wanted a little alien as a friend! I was jealous and hated that little boy's guts! Seriously! I only warmed to the movie when I saw it again about seven years ago - who can believe that it's been 20 years already! And of course when I saw this much-hyped "special edition" again.

Much has been made of Spielberg's tampering with this "special edition" - of how he digitally replaced handguns wielded by plainclothes policemen pursuing the kids during the movie's climactic chase with walkie-talkies. That is minor, but while this sort of Politically Correct self-censorship isn't too much of a biggie, it does ruin one of the movie's funniest lines. (Hint: it goes "you're not going as a" and was replaced with the September 11 WTC attacks in mind.)

Otherwise it doesn't affect one's enjoyment of the movie as such. Even the scenes involving a computer-generated E.T. doesn't irk as much as Spielberg's pal George Lucas' fiddling around with the Star Wars - Special Edition did a few years back.

THE DISC: This is the official VCD (Video CD), which can be ordered via Malaysian-based Eureka-Movies.Com on the Internet. Unlike a lot of VCDs it has scene access (every ten minutes) and a very basic start-up menu. (You access scenes unlike on DVD by pressing next, or "1", "2", "3", etc.) There are no extra trailers or featurettes. The movie is presented in full-screen mode.

The sound is clear bar one an inexplicable incessant scratching sound (like that on an LP - those big black things with holes in them, kids). But this isn't too distracting really. Otherwise, even though MPEG compression (even that used with DVDs) handle night scenes badly, E.T. which has a lot of them remains quite watchable. These scenes, though not perfect up close, look surprising good for the VCD format. Some daylight and other scenes have a clarity and vibrant colour that belie the movie's age and looks really excellent.

WORTH IT? The two discs come in one of the snazziest packages I've yet seen for VCDs. No standard jewel cases, but a fancy hard carton and plastic fold-open keep case. Very nice. Doesn't look cheap at all, which it is really. At Eureka-Movies it'll cost you half ($10.97) of what the VHS cassette ($22.98) will cost you and about a third of what the standard issue DVD ($29.98) will cost you. (Prices quoted are Amazon.com list prices.)

RECOMMENDATION: With this sort of savings you can buy the kids two or more movies on VCD at Eureka-Movies.com this Christmas (Ice Age? Spider-man?). VCDs should play on your DVD player, but if they don't then you can always play them on your home PC. If you order now I'm sure that they'll be at your doorstep in time for X-mas. Kids always prefer quantity to quality (will they really watch all those "making-of" features on the DVDs?) and these discs will never wear like your standard VHS tape, even though you might secretly wish them to.

NOTE: Do kids still like E.T. or are they that cynical yet? I don't know and should hope not: but now that I have the movie on disc, the only thing remaining is for my two-month old baby daughter to grow old enough to watch it one day. I am sure she will also hate that little boy's guts for having a cute little alien pal . . .

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