PictureUnfortunately, the picture quality on this disc comes as rather a shock - although this is most certainly down to the original process used to make the film, rather than any deficiencies in the coding process.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind comes to Blu ray in the UK in a 1080P transfer presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio - but whilst it looks better than it has ever looked before, it is not a transfer that will be used as demo material.
Grain is a big problem in this transfer. Whilst this is certainly something that can be tolerated, it certainly is something that takes a little getting used to. This is, to be fair, something that has always been visible through all the multiple presentations of the film, so it is certainly not something that will surprise the fans. However, if you are coming to the film from a new perspective it may take you a few minutes to become accustomed to it.
Less of a problem is the damage that is apparent in the original film stock. The film has not undergone the extensive remastering process as seen, for example, in the new Star Trek release - so occasionally it is possible to spot blemishes and marks. These occurrences are brief, and should not spoil the enjoyment of the film.
Black levels are deep and the contrast between the night sky and the bright lights of the alien craft are beautifully realised in this transfer - far more so than in previous SD releases. This is important because a lot of the film is shot at night, and the clarity of the image is superb.
The increased resolution of the transfer does not reveal any problems with the effects shots apart from one very brief shot of the mothership at the end, when you can clearly see the overlay between the effects plate and the background image. Apart from this very minor imperfection the effects look clearer, brighter, and better than they have ever done before.
The level of detail present in this transfer, and the sense of depth, exhibits a vast improvement over SD releases. This is apparent throughout the whole film, but notice in particular the interior of Neary's cab when he first experiences contact.
Overall, then, despite the grain this is easily the best that the film has ever looked on home formats and is likely to be the best it will ever look.
SoundThe sound is presented in DTS HD and TrueHD varieties. I chose the DTS mix - and I have to say that I was not that impressed. However, when you consider that the film was originally mixed in stereo I would probably rather have what is presented here, than a full on nasty “remix”.
What we are presented with, then, is an expansive front sound stage with a singularly impressive amount of sub action. This is perfectly illustrated in the outdoor desert scenes, with the whipping around - and in the first contact scene where the bass is absolutely breathtaking.
What we don't get is a great deal of rear action from our speakers. The occasional helicopter flies by with some rear placement but overall this aspect of the mix is not of the quality I was expecting.
I did have a listen to the TrueHD mix for comparison and to be honest there did not seem a huge amount of difference between the two.
Dialogue is always clear and easy to hear, even during the desert storm sequences and the music sounds excellent, even if it only really fills the front speakers.
ExtrasClose Encounters of the Third Kind is beautifully presented in a slipcase within an outer box. The three different versions of the film are presented on disc one, with the extras on disc two. A flyer is attached to the back of the box with the details of the set, and this can easily be removed. Within the set we are also presented with a beautiful full colour paper back book. This is easily the best presented Blu ray I have yet seen.
The extras in this package are extensive. We start with a twenty minute documentary Steven Spielberg : 30 Years of Close Encounters, a fascinating documentary in which Spielberg looks back 30 years and compares the filmmaker he was then with the one he is now. A very interesting insight from the master.
We then get the definitive documentary on the film, which was originally included on the DVD Special edition. This is the constantly engrossing, 1 hr 41 minute long Making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind which looks at the making of the film in great detail, including interviews with all the main players.
We are then given nine deleted scenes and a five minute extended trailer entitled Watch the Skies. Finally, we get Galleries, Storyboard Comparisons and Trailers
On the first disc, we are also presented with an interactive feature which when turned on will tell you the differences between the version you are watching, and the other three versions of the film. This will pop up every time you are watching either an exclusive scene, or one which differs from the other version. There is also a poster which has this information included in a chart on one side, and the original poster are on the other.
This is certainly an extensive Blu ray package - and is certainly the definitive release of the film so far.
VerdictSpielberg's debut on Hi Def is a superb release that shows genuine respect and love for the film being presented. Although the film hasn't been extensively remastered, it still sounds and looks better than it ever has. Add to this a beautifully presented package, extensive extras, and all three versions of the film - this is a release that deserves to be in everyone's collection. Stunning.
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