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Close Encounters Of The Third Kind: 40th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Many highly touted classic films are celebrating their 40th anniversaries this year. While Star Wars is the poster child for cinema in the year 1977, it was an amazing year for film. Even some that were overlooked that year (Cough, Sorcerer) have been rediscovered and reexamined as classics. Director Steven Spielberg had a contribution to that year, his highly anticipated follow up to his phenomenon Jaws; Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A more straightforward science fiction film compared to Star Wars sweeping space fantasy. Close Encounters would up being another smashing success for Spielberg and it has seen numerous rereleases over the years, including a one-week theatrical run not too long ago. It also continues its journey in cinematic immortality by getting a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-release on September 19th. You can pre-order it below using the Amazon link.

Film 

A group of people attempt to contact alien intelligence. Roy Neary witnesses an unidentified flying object, and even has a “sunburn” from its bright lights to prove it. Roy refuses to accept an explanation for what he saw and is prepared to give up his life to pursue the truth about UFOs.

Steven Spielberg’s second masterpiece in a row was yet another phenomenon.  Impressively, it managed to be on in a time of both Star Wars and Annie Hall. The film was a major success both critically and at the box office, taking in over one hundred million dollars on its initial run. Its “sound” as well as many other images and lines from the film because as iconic as “Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” and “Well, La Di Dah!” It even had a Special Edition that added something that would piss people off and they’d bitch about, beating Star Wars to the punch by about seventeen years.

With a film that you love a lot, sometimes it can be hard to write about without drooling or just reiterating the same blabbery that has already been said for forty years now. With this new restoration, one thing I did take note of that I really noticed, but DIDN’T notice before was how much of a piece of art this film’s photography is. Many of the images just pause or in their one shot form are beautiful. There is such a wonderful use of color and framing combined to just have one zoned out and tranced to what is on the screen. Much of this lies in not the ships, but the skies and many of the scenes at the end around the mountain. Hell, this movie would be easily lend itself to a good isolated score viewing even if some of the scenes don’t contain score (It was some great sound design as well, which almost comes off as musical at times in its own right).

Aside from the visuals, the film gets outstanding performances across the board from all of its players. Richard Dreyfuss and Melinda Dillon have a terrific time playing both driven and crazy. Dillon was even nominated for Best Supporting Actress for this turn. Teri Garr gives almost an anti-Teri Garr performance as she’s normally sweet, but she’s driven to anger by her husband’s unexplained obsession. In a true film geek moment, Spielberg casts iconic French director Francois Truffat who really actually gives a nice spin here as the head investigator of disappearances and UFOs.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind remains just as intriguing and beautiful today as it was back in 1977. Heck, for us with this 4K restoration, the best its looked since 1977. The film is thrilling, iconic, suspenseful and most of very human. What I think helps keep it together in the modern era, and especially now through this 4K Ultra-HD release, is how much the film looks like a work of art. It may be one of the, if not the, most wonderful cinematographical experience of any Spielberg film on a purely visual level. Hopefully audiences continue to discover or revisit one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: This 4K Ultra-HD of Close Encounters is the real deal. I’m loving seeing the likes of Blade Runner, E.T. and not his getting some wonderful restoration and home video upgrades. This is going to sound super silly, but one of the biggest highlights of this film was looking at the skies. Regular skies, fiery lit ones due to UFO activity, a clear starry night…you name it, it shows the strengths of the HDR applied to this movie. No to mention the film is insanely more detailed than ever, more crisp and more sharp. The effects, regarding the ships, take on a different look to me in this in that they are more art driven than I’ve ever noticed before. Its like you’re looking at a lot of paintings come to life.

Depth:  Close Encounters gets a nice multi-dimensional looking improvement in this transfer. Spacing between characters/foreground feel even more released from one another. The camera and characters move much more confidently and cinematically. The scenes around the big mound when Richard Dreyfuss and Melinda Dillon escape are pretty breathtaking to look upon at times.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and rich, with a natural appeal. Some of the grain shows up just a hair more in darker moments. No detail is disguised or hidden and things are quite discernible. People and objects get a nicer defined look with the way the blacks come across in this. No crushing was witnessed during this viewing for the review.

Color Reproduction: Colors look quite gorgeous in this mix. Regular blue skies and green in grass and leaves pop right up off the screen. The HDR has things looking very strong and natural. Most lovely to note is the lights on the UFOs and the colors they affect the sky with are just a amazing as you’re probably hoping they are. Colors are a large part of what makes this new transfer so amazing. Any sort of lights, like the blue ones on the ground at the military outpost or just little ones on a helicopter, fire off pretty well.

Flesh Tones: Skin looks quite full and has a natural appearance that stays consistent from the beginning to the end of the film. Facial details like sunburn, make-up, wrinkles, stubble, blemishes, dirt and anything look good from almost any given distance.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a little layer of grain present that works quite well with the image.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese Dolby Surround, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin American) 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Thai, Turkish

Dynamics: Kind of a bummer, but this new edition doesn’t contain a brand new Atmos track or 7.1 There was a lot of fun that could have been had with this movie experiencing some extra channels and clarity. Instead you are treated to the same 5.1 DTS-HD MA that was on the previous release. Still a fine performer itself, one would have thought with E.T. getting a bit of an upgrade that this would have too.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Sure, we know the sub gets things going in specific areas. Lets just talk about how damn deep and thunderous it is when the alien ships come into the picture. You almost feel like stuff is going to start falling off your walls.

Surround Sound Presentation: This 5.1 mix realizes the room and the happenings in the film and articulates it through all five channels. One thing I really enjoy was how the score was sweeping through the mix to play even bigger.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogues is crisp and clear with just a hint of its analogue source showing up in a couple spots.

Extras 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 40th Anniversary Edition contains 3 cuts of the film (Theatrical, Special Edition, Director’s Cut) and comes with a 2-Disc Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet digital copy. The bonus features are on the Blu-ray edition. All the previous bonus features are ported over.

A View From Above – This mode creates a pop up that signifies scenes exclusive to the particular version of the film you are watching. A really awesome feature, I hope it is incorporated more on future director’s/extended cuts.

Moments

  • Roy (4K, 13:41)
  • Strange Occurences (4K, 13:00) 
  • Close Encounters (4K, 12:06)
  • Jillian (4K, 12:05)

Blu-ray Disc 2: Special Features

Three Kinds Of Close Encounters (HD, 22:02) – Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams and Denis Villenueve go over, in detail, the legacy of the film and over all the key elements that make the film what it is (Drama, technique, score, scares, etc).

Steven’s Home Videos & Outtakes (HD, 5:25) – Personal footage Spielberg shot behind the scenes when making the film. He talks in between some of the scenes.

Steven Spielberg: 30 Years of Close Encounters (HD, 21:21)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Making of Documentary (SD, 1:41:41)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Watch The Skies (HD, 5:54)

Deleted Scenes (SD, 18:23)

Storyboard Comparisons (HD, 22:10)

Extensive Photo Gallery (HD) – Storyboard Galleries, Location Scouting Pictures, Mothership Drawings by Ralph McQuarrie, Behind the Scenes, Production Team, Portrait Gallery, Marketing: Original Theatrical Release, Special Edition

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 6:01)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Special Edition Trailer (HD, 1:57)

Summary 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind still remains one of my favorite Steven Spielberg films, and one I truly think is one of his best in a catalog that features many “bests”. This 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray is hard to beat. I wish it had an Atmos track, but the 5.1 is more than effective and the image is stunning. Almost like watching it for the first time. This one already had plenty of extras exploring everything, but they were kind enough to do some new ones for this release. Its Spielberg. Its Close Encounters. Its 4K Ultra-HD. Its no question that it should be in your collection as soon as possible.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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