'E.T. the Extra Terrestrial' Blu-ray Review: Spielberg's Classic Phones Home in High Def

'E.T. the Extra Terrestrial' Blu-ray Review: Spielberg's Classic Phones Home in High Def

The initial marketing campaign for 1982’s “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” made sure to keep the space creature a mystery for as long as possible.

We saw a shadow, a spidery hand, and that was about it.

Today, fans of Steven Spielberg’s family classic get to see every wrinkle on the squat fellow’s noggin in high definition.

E.T.,” available today for the first time in Blu-ray, stands up far better than the mechanical puppetry that brought the creature to life. It’s initially distracting to rewatch the film knowing how different it would all look today. We’re spoiled, plain and simple, by the wonders of computer-generated visuals. Just consider the seamless special effects which brought the pot-smoking “Paul” to life, and imagine what a wizard like Spielberg could concoct with similar tools.

Spielberg’s film had heart all the same, plus a fragile boy who makes a once in a lifetime pen pal.

Henry Thomas stars as Elliott, a lad who discovers an alien lurking in his backyard. The two bond over Reese’s Pieces, one of the era’s best product placements, and their intrinsically curious minds.

Keeping E.T. a secret requires the whole family’s attention – save their exasperated Ma (Dee Wallace).

“E.T.” offers a trove of iconic screen moments, from the silhouette of the boy’s bicycle racing past the moon to John Williams’ emotionally open score. Yet it’s the sense of a boy’s childhood coming to an end, with the real world fast on its heels, that still resonates.

Yes, once upon a time we laughed and cried over a puppet, but it was Spielberg’s ability to treat a child’s story with adult reverence that made “E.T.” matter.

The Blu-ray extras include two deleted scenes (including E.T. taking a bath) plus an array of movie-specific features both old and new looking back at the blockbuster family film.

“Steven Spielberg and E.T.” lets the director, who started thinking about a project like “E.T.” while shooting “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” get personal about the film.

“It was almost like my dream of Suburbia,” he says of the film’s bucolic setting.

 “A Look Back” recalls the painstaking detail behind so much of the film, particularly the creature itself and its oversized eyes. Spielberg and crew pored over images of people with honest, open faces to help the artists creating an alien audiences would embrace.

“The E.T. Reunion,” one of several features imported from previous home video releases, catches up with the cast and crew 20 years later.

“The eyes were very kind … and real,” Thomas says of his first reaction to the E.T. puppet.

“I never thought of E.T. as a puppet,” Dee Wallace adds.

She’s hardly alone.

Follow Christian Toto on Twitter @TotoMovies