Steven Spielberg's classic film is back now on this never-before-released Ultimate Edition DVD, which includes all three versions of the sci-fi blockbuster. Richard Dreyfuss stars as cable worker Roy Neary, who along with several other stunned bystanders experience a close encounter of the first kind - witnessing UFOs soaring across the sky. After this life-changing event, the inexplicable vision of a strange, mountain-like formation haunts him. He becomes obsessed with discovering what it represents, much to the dismay of his wife and family. Meanwhile, bizarre occurrences are happening around the world. Government agents have close encounters of the second kind - discovering physical evidence of extraterrestrial visitors in the form of a lost fighter aircraft from World War II and a stranded military ship that disappeared decades earlier only to suddenly reappear in unusual places. Roy continues to chase his vision to a remote area where he and the agents follow the clues that have drawn them to reach a site where they will have a close encounter of the third kind - contact.
Anybody who has written him off because of his string of stinkers--or anybody who's too young to remember The Goodbye Girl--may be shocked at the accomplishment and nuance of Richard Dreyfuss's performance in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Here, he plays a man possessed; contacted by aliens, he (along with other members of the "chosen") is drawn toward the site of the incipient landing: Devil's Tower, in rural Wyoming. As in many Spielberg films, there are no personalized enemies; the struggle is between those who have been called and a scientific establishment that seeks to protect them by keeping them away from the arriving spacecraft. The ship, and the special effects in general, are every bit as jaw-dropping on the small screen as they were in the theater (well, almost). Released in 1977 as a cerebral alternative to the swashbuckling science fiction epics then in vogue, Close Encounters now seems almost wholesome in its representation of alien contact and interested less in philosophizing about extraterrestrials than it is in examining the nature of the inner "call." Ultimately a motion picture about the obsession of the driven artist or determined visionary, Close Encounters comes complete with the stock Spielberg wives and girlfriends who seek to tether the dreamy, possessed protagonists to the more mundane concerns of the everyday. So a spectacular, seminal motion picture indeed, but one with gender politics that are all too terrestrial. --Miles Bethany