Two weeks ago, CBT brought you the darker side of Steven Spielberg’s filmmaking with our 30 year tribute to the Toby Hooper Ghost fight legend, POLTERGEIST. This week, we continue the lookback of Spielberg/Universal film epics with another 1982 classic of his… this time a very heartwarming story… of a boy and a friend from afar, a film that stands the test of time and has become the greatest and most endearing child meets alien adventure drama EVER, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial.
On June 11th, 1982, the entertainment world, still enthralled with the magic that the STAR WARS films A NEW HOPE, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and also of course, Spielberg’s own classic CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND had brought to science fiction, E.T. was to have people’s imaginations and visions of alien encounters to be taken up another notch. Spielberg produced and directed the endearing alien epic, and was written by Melissa Mathison and starred Henry Thomas, Robert McNaughton, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and a very young Drew Barrymore.
The movie was shot on a budget of about $10.5 Million (about the same as Lucas’s STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE, only by $500,000 more.) The film completed shooting within 3-4 months (September to December 1981). What resulted was a worldwide sensation for young and old, became 1982′s biggest box office grossing film, and had the potential to unseat Lucas’s STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE as the greatest box office grossing film of ALL TIME. Comic Book Therapy Presents the 30 year look-back on E.T. with DocBBanner and local comics industry artist Ross Demma.
E.T. The Extraterrestrial Trailer – 1982
DocBBanner’s own look-back:
E.T. …The hype was all there as I remember, late May, 1982, it started with looking at silently wondrous movie trailer scenes on TV. Deep dark blue/black evening clouded skies in a secluded forest park, suddenly a bright yet hazy and mysterious light broke through, fade on to scenes of a boy and a mysterious limb of an alien creature reaching to his own hand, and other silent, intriguing moments detailing a wonderful new film by Steven Spielberg, the director for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. I, just a fifth grader then, finally seeing the film in the theater two months later in high anticipation brought me closer to what all the excitement was about. A fantastic down to earth story about a boy and his new found friend from the stars. Needless to say, the wondrous scenes of Elliot racing his alien flight powered bike across and moonlit sky to the big escape from G-men and the authorities by the same means, all along with John William’s thrilling score, amazed me to no end.
The final tear-jerking farewell between friends as E.T. embarked on his ship once more left no man, woman, and/or child safe from grabbing a hanky, tissue, or concession stand napkin either (GUILTY AS CHARGED). Heheh.. It was a friendship movie beyond most others and a film never to be soon forgotten.
E. T. ‘s legacy on pop culture was something unique and phenomenal, not just establishing the idea of one boy’s unexpected fantasy encounter with an alien being from afar, but so much more. It gave pushes and examination in most of the major areas of light family drama and comedy, social conscience on family life, youth lifestyles, a new burst to alien pop culture, and oh yes, it was a true pusher of commercial product placement. To start, it brought to more light the trials and tribulations of latch-key children living their day-to-day lives as kids under a family divorced single parent household, the interaction of the siblings to one another, often with some light colorful language added in…*Clears throat* Heheh… Continuing on, E.T. boosted the typical child and teen trended life of suburban Los Angeles with some of the fun 80s fads at the time, bike riding the hills like BMX pros, wearing legionnaire baseball caps with the flaps in the back, VANS slip-on shoes, light night gaming binges with friends playing Dungeons and Dragons..with all that to note, this leads to another heavy point of E.T.’s influence: PRODUCT PLACEMENT. VANS shoes, Dungeons and Dragons were just the tip of the iceberg yet on what this film promoted in its scenes. Elliot, his older brother, and friends, for instance, downed copious amounts of Pepsi Cola with their pizza and gaming nights. And let’s not forget the almighty mouth melting bite size candy food of champions, Reese’s Pieces…
E.T.’s immense love of the peanut buttery filed shell candy gave a promotion and sales boost to the product so strong, it gave similar product, the original and previously more popular shell candy rival M n M’s, some serious market competition for at least two years on. Finally, and on a lighter noted, but more amusing note, E.T.’s much urgent mission to call back home to GET home coined his famous English phrase “Phone home!” and the telecommunications and telephone service industry jumped on this famous movie line to slogan Local and Long Distance calling plan campaigns on their services for years to come. And I would also like to finally note that E.T.’s influence stayed strong onto today with recent Scifi parody in the Simon Peg/Nick Frost/Seth Rogen alien comedy PAUL with some of its scenes the same. E.T. was a phenomenon in the movie pop culture to society, family and friendship values, commercialism, and any of above and below TO become so beyond any other film at the time, enough said!
Summing it all up, and to note alongside the phenomenon, E.T. The Extraterrestrial was an alien family drama like no other, save CLOSE ENCOUNTERS../ to a degree. While most other alien drama films only picked the worse case scenario of imminent destruction and invasion of a hostile force like classics INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and the original movie adaptation of H.G. WELLS’S WAR OF THE WORLDS, E.T. sought to take the comforting ideal that we may have a loving, caring friend among the stars. I think life can be made to feel much more filled with happiness and hope knowing that there may be one…and one that will visit us or we visit them someday.
E.T. The Extraterrestrial – Ride Across the Moon
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial: A Retrospective From a Geek You’ve Never Heard Of.
Almost everyone has a fond memory of the first time they saw E.T. I am no exception. As a kid, my family and I didn’t go out to the movies very often. Of course, I was 2 when E.T. hit theaters so even if we *did* go, I mostly likely wouldn’t have remembered it. Like most children of the 80s, my recollection of E.T. was gathered around a TV and VCR after having rented the movie. I was nervously waiting on the edge of my seat immediately before the reveal of E.T. That scene had a particularly ominous tone for me (moreso than it probably should have), but once that creature hit the screen, my tension eased up a bit: there’s no way this could hurt me. Sure, I was drawn in by the fast pace, waiting for the other shoe to drop and a big scary creature to jump out or for E.T. to die before being able to get back home, but like a pseudo-parent, Steven Spielberg stayed with me, encouraging me to trust him. This was my first foray into Spielberg’s movies.
I didn’t know what to expect, but after the movie was over, he had my trust from then on. It took years (into my 20s) not to tear up in the third act. I still have a difficult time. Bravo, Henry Thomas. We watched the movie as a family many times after that (more times than I can count) and even now, if it comes on TV, I’m transported back to my childhood: warm and safe and making plans in my head as to how *I* would handle first contact.
Not only did E.T. thrill millions of Americans, it succeeded in launching the careers of Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore. The cultural aspects alone are staggering: with the famous “bike ride past the moon” being lampooned by countless magazines, TV and even other movies. Whereas most movies involved aliens that either wanted to warn us or eradicate us, E.T. just wanted to go home, a universal sentiment if there ever was one. The film has gone down in cinema history as an American classic and it did all of this without fancy CG, innumerable sequels, or talking down to its audience. It’s a movie kids can grow up with and show to their own kids. E.T. is nothing short of wholesome entertainment that has proven itself against the rigors of time. This national treasure still captures America’s heart, even 30 years later. It encourages us to keep moving forward and to never discount a true friendship, no matter how out of place it might seem.
There you have it.. E.T. The Extraterrestrial, the down to earth childhood alien encounter and friendship beyond all others….and a masterpiece of the heart.
Next time, catch Ross Demma, along with fellow local comic artist celebs Mike Moran and Henry Barajas, and myself on the 30 year lookback of Ridley Scott’s Sci-fi dystopian masterpiece, the cyberpunk classic BLADE RUNNER!