Columbia Tri-Star's recently released "Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Collector's Edition" ($14) is being described as the "definitive" version of Steven Spiel-berg's 1977 sci-fi blockbuster starring Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr and Cary Guffey.
Of course, a lot of the fans of the movie thought there was nothing wrong with the original version. But three years after its release, the "Special Edition" hit theaters. Spielberg had deleted some scenes from the 1977 version and added a few new sequences, including a disappointingly hokey ending set inside the alien spaceship."The Collector's Edition," digitally remastered from newly restored film elements, retains the original ending of Dreyfuss walking into the space ship. An added bonus is a 15-minute "making of" feature written and directed by Laurent Bouzereau.
"To me, it's definitely a really good choice on Steven's part to take out the inside of the ship, which I think was a disappointment, not only to himself but to everybody else," Bouzereau says.
After its initial release, Bouzereau relates, Spielberg wanted to make a few changes in the film. "Columbia told him to show inside the mother ship," he says. "So he compromised, so he could do the other changes. This new edition is a combination of the two versions, which I think is quite wonderful."
Vilmos Zsigmond, who won an Oscar for his spectacular cinematography, was also involved in this new edition. Making "Close Encounters," Zsigmond says, was difficult because "we were breaking new ground. Before `Close Encounters,' there were some space movies about spaceships, but nothing really that great technically we could follow. So we had to invent."
The only way to do this movie, he says, was through optical effects. "We had a special-effects genius wizard, Douglas Trumbull, who did a great job."
Spielberg, Zsigmond explains, "came up with many of the visual effects himself. We were testing things out a year before we started to shoot. It was extremely difficult to create those lighting effects.
"We (were shooting in) a big hangar and when we wanted to create an effect, we would turn on the biggest lighting unit available in those days, and when that didn't do, we had to combine them. Steven wanted to make it bigger. He kept always telling me, `I want to see an incredible amount of light coming out of the spaceship.' So we had to figure out a way to do that."
But "Close Encounters" isn't just about special effects. The film also boasts some wonderful performances, including an endearing one from Guffey, the then-3-year-old boy with the turned-up nose who played Melinda Dillon's son.
Now 25, Guffey is married and works as a consultant for Designer Checks in his hometown of Gadsden, Ala.
Though he was just a tyke when the movie was made, Guffey has wonderful memories of the experience. "It comes in flashes," he says. "It was such an extraordinary thing to have going on. I was a very, very small child and I was carried around a lot (on set). I remember the grips picking me up and putting me on their shoulders. It was great fun because I was the center point. I was the focus."
During the filming, Guffey says, Spielberg "never treated me like I wouldn't understand. I was sort of a priority (to him)."
After "Close Encounters," Guffey says, he was "offered everything under the sun," including "The Shining." "My parents rated me `PG' and said he can't be in anything he can't see. I have great parents, and we always downplayed (`Close Encounters'). Acting wasn't the center of my life."
Guffey, though, hasn't abandoned acting. This month he's appearing in a community theater production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."
"The director said, `Do you mind if we exploit you?' I said, `No, as long as no one in the cast minds. If it sells tickets, I'm happy to do it.' "