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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: 20th Anniversary Special Edition (1982)

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: 20th Anniversary Special Edition (1982)

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Released 14-Oct-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Menu Animation & Audio
dts Trailer-Piano
Introduction-Steven Speilberg
Alternate Audio-2002 World Premiere with John Williams/orchestra performance
Featurette-Evolution and Creation of E.T.
Featurette-The Reunion
Featurette-The Music Of John Williams
Featurette-The 20th Anniversary Premiere
Gallery-Designs, Photographis and Marketing (6)
Audio-Only Track-Space Exploration
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Ubisoft E.T. Game; Back To The Future DVD
DVD-ROM Extras-Total Axess
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 115:02
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:19)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Steven Spielberg

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Henry Thomas
Drew Barrymore
Robert MacNaughton
Dee Wallace
Peter Coyote
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music John Williams

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Alternate Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Star Wars references
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I don't know about you, but E.T. (The Extra-Terrestrial) is one of the films I have been waiting for on DVD ever since I bought a DVD player. This film has captivated audiences around the world and will always have a special place in many people's hearts, including mine.

    When it was originally released in 1982, it did very well at the box office and quickly became one of the highest grossing films of all time. It was nominated for a number of Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Screenplay and would probably have won all of them except for the presence of another film called Gandhi which ended up sweeping nine OscarsŪ, with E.T. left to pick up minor awards such as Best Visual Effects, Best Sound and Best Original Score.

    Director Steven Spielberg has chosen to enhance the film for a 20th Anniversary theatrical re-release which is now available on DVD. This is a special edition of the film featuring additional scenes, enhanced visual effects and a remastered audio track.

    The storyline of E.T. is so familiar to many people that it seems hardly worthwhile summarizing it here, but here goes nothing...

    Basically, ugly-but-lovable alien lands on Earth in a big spaceship to collect plants for "back home." Alien gets chased by government scientists (has anyone questioned why this film portrays scientists as the "baddies?") and is left stranded on Earth as spaceship flies away.

    A little boy called Elliot (Henry Thomas) lives with his family, consisting of older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton), younger sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and mother Mary (Dee Wallace). Elliot discovers alien in the garden shed and adopts it as a pet until we discover the alien is not only intelligent but has some rather special powers. The rest of the film deals with how the alien develops a relationship with Elliot, experiences life on Earth and tries to find a way to get back home without being caught by the scientists - led by a man who is always associated with jingling keys hanging from his belt (Peter Coyote).

    On watching the 20th Anniversary Edition, I initially did not notice many differences between this and the original version, apart from one or two added scenes (E.T. takes a bath, and a rowdy Halloween scene). I was surprised to discover that many of the scenes involving E.T. have been subtly enhanced. Thankfully, they have preserved the overall feel of the film which can only be a Good Thing.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    This transfer is presented in widescreen 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, and corresponds to the intended aspect ratio.

    Given the age of the film, the quality of the film print is quite good which is probably not that surprising given that it probably has undergone some touch ups and restorations for the theatrical re-release. Indeed, the film looked like it could have been shot recently, apart from a few minor issues such as slight softness (which could be intentional as I noticed this also in A.I.), occasional mediocre shadow detail and very slight graininess (which is never prominent enough to be annoying).

    Detail levels are generally high (apart from a few scenes which are mostly night shots of the forest) and colour saturation levels are pretty much perfect, apart from a very slight tendency towards yellowing. Some scenes look like they may have been redone or digitally touched up as the contrast ratio improves noticeably, however for the most part the film has a very consistent look throughout (including the new or extended scenes which blend in very nicely with the original film).

    MPEG compression artefacts are also mostly absent and the very slight edge enhancement was not annoying.

    My biggest gripe with the transfer is a tendency towards shimmering or jittering during slow vertical pans. For instance, the opening scene showing a slow pan across the night sky filled with stars (around 1:34-1:53) was very jittery. Shimmering is also noticeable, particularly on the rooftops of houses during slow vertical pans, such as at around 14:54-15:00 and around 37:37-37:51.

    Quite surprisingly, I would have expected shimmering in the window blinds from 26:25 onwards, but fortunately it is rather minor.

    In comparison, the R1 release (I'm assuming both the 2-disc edition and the Gift Set have the same transfer) has a reference quality video transfer. All the annoying factors in the R4 transfer, such as the mediocre shadow detail, aliasing, shimmering and jittery vertical pans are not present in the R1 transfer. There is a residual slight jitter which is attributable to NTSC 3:2 pulldown, but otherwise the R1 transfer is pretty much perfect.

    There are two subtitle tracks present: English for the Hearing Impaired and Dutch. I turned on the former briefly and can verify that it includes dialogue attribution and subtitling of non-dialogue sound effects. The accuracy of the subtitle track is better than average - dialogue simplifications are rare and I did not notice any incorrect dialogue transcriptions.

    I received two review discs marked Disc 1 and Disc 2, both of which are single sided and dual layered (RSDL). I am not sure whether the retail package will have two discs or a dual sided dual layered disc. The initial Disc 1 (which contains the film) that I received had an error between 55-57 minutes into the film (around the location of the layer change which means it's at the outer edge of the disc) that seems to cause the player to pause/hang and prevented further playback (unless I skipped to the next chapter). I subsequently received another copy of Disc 1 which worked fine and can confirm that the layer change for Disc 1 occurs at 55:19 in Chapter 10. There is a slight pause, but it is not too annoying. The layer change for Disc 2 happens in between titles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are four audio tracks on Disc 1: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s), and English Alternate Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s). I listened to the dts 5.1 audio track in its entirety, plus sampled the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. I also listened to the alternate audio track in its entirety (my comments regarding this track is in the Extras section of this review).

    Note that none of the Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks have been flagged for "EX", and similarly the dts 5.1 track is not flagged for "ES" - despite the labelling of the tracks on the back cover. There are two possibilities - either the tracks are actually EX/ES encoded and the relevant flags have been accidentally/intentionally unset, or the audio tracks have been re-encoded (from the discrete uncompressed masters) as "vanilla" 5.1 audio tracks (as was the case for some R4 releases). Given that the theatrical re-release features Dolby Digital 6.1 EX, my suspicion is that these tracks are actually EX/ES encoded, but consider yourself warned.

    In general, the film still retains a front focused Dolby Stereo feel about it despite extensive efforts to remix the original music score into surround. Occasionally, Foley effects utilize the rear speakers, such as the spaceship fly-by pan from front to rear speakers around 7:04 and the sound of the car arriving from rear left around 100:38. The subwoofer is used lightly but fairly constantly.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times and there were no issues with audio synchronization.

    The Dolby Digital and dts audio tracks sounded very similar and I don't think there are any huge differences between them.

    There is no doubt about it - E.T. the film would not have as great an impact without the wonderful musical score composed by John Williams. The orchestral score is lush and very melodic with a number of themes that feature very prominently throughout the film. Indeed, I would suspect a scene involving a boy in a bicycle flying across the moon carrying an extra-terrestrial would look downright silly except for the background music which makes it the stirring experience we all remember and love. The last twenty minutes of the film features some of the most beautiful and symphonic music written by John Williams to date and remains one of my favourite pieces of film music (The music to E.T. is the only soundtrack that I own on cassette, LP, CD and I'm waiting for the upcoming Super Audio CD version!).

    Unfortunately, the musical score for E.T. was recorded in the early days of digital recording technology and the strings in particular sound "glazed" and harsh. They've done their best in the 20th anniversary edition to remaster the musical score into surround and clean up the sound but it still sounds somewhat harsh to my ears. Never mind - this is the best I have heard it sound in years so sit back and enjoy the music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    This is a two disc edition that's pretty sardine packed with a number of very worthwhile extras. The first disc contains the film itself (plus a very short featurette and an alternate audio track) plus menus in English and Dutch. The second disc contains all the other extras and menus are available in eight European languages including English. All the featurettes on the second disc include a number of subtitle tracks.

    About the only extras missing on this collection are an audio commentary track or two and perhaps an isolated music track (although the alternate audio track comes close). In comparison to the R1 versions, R4 also excludes the 1982 theatrical release version of the film, which may be of interest to some of you.


    The menus are 16x9 enhanced, extensively animated and come with background audio.

dts Trailer - Piano

    This is the standard widescreen edition of the dts "piano" trailer.

Introduction - Steven Spielberg (1:58)

    This is a very short featurette that is automatically played when you select the "Bonus Materials" menu item in Disc 1 (fortunately, you can skip it using the Chapter Next button if you've seen it before). It includes voiceover and interview excerpts with director Steven Spielberg plus behind the scenes footage and excerpts from the film. The featurette covers the rationale and key highlights/enhancements in the 20th anniversary edition. This featurette is presented in 1.33:1 and with Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) audio.

Alternate Audio - 2002 World Premiere with John Williams/orchestra performance

    This is an interesting extra - an alternate Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track that features a recording of the world premiere of the 20th Anniversary Edition, where the musical score in the audio track was replaced by a live orchestra conducted by John Williams in perfect synchronisation with the film. The blend between the dialogue, the Foley effects and the live orchestra is quite seamless, and we even get to hear the audience cheering during the opening credits and laughing and gasping during the film.

    This track seems to be mastered at a lower level (around -3dB) compared to the normal Dolby Digital or dts 5.1 audio tracks. Low frequency notes seemed more prominent in the music score on this track and the subwoofer seemed to be used more often whilst playing the musical score. The orchestra also sounds "nicer" and less screechy on this track which is not surprising as it was recorded recently.

Featurette - Evolution and Creation of E.T. (50:17)

    This is an extensive retrospective featurette entitled "E.T. - 20th Anniversary Celebration." It is presented full frame (with film excerpts and behind the scenes footage in 1.85:1 letterboxed) and with Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) audio.

    The featurette covers casting, auditions, the design of E.T., the mechanical operation of E.T., differences between 1982 and 2002 scenes, deleted scenes, and lots more.

    Interviews with cast and crew include:

Featurette - The E.T. Reunion (17:57)

    This is a featurette (presented full frame and with Dolby Digital 2.0 192Kb/s audio) showcasing a reunion of some of the cast and crew twenty years after the film was made. It features interviews with:

    Interspersed with the interviews are excerpts from the film and behind the scenes footage (including Steven dressed up as an old woman for Halloween!) presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed. I expected the film excerpts to be presented in widescreen letterboxed but I was surprised to find the behind the scenes footage also presented in widescreen. About the only person missing from this reunion is screenwriter/producer Melissa Mathison.

Featurette - The Music Of "E.T." - A Discussion With John Williams (10:05)

    This is a short featurette containing an interview with composer John Williams and director/producer Steven Spielberg about the music of the film. It is presented full frame and with Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s) audio, although film excerpts and behind the scenes footage are presented at 1.85:1 letterboxed.

    I was intrigued to discover that Steven re-edited the last 15 minutes of the film to fit the best take of the recording of the musical score because he wanted to maximise the dramatic impact of the musical performance. I was also fascinated to learn that John deliberately introduced the audience to fragments of the "Flying" theme over the course of the film so that when the flying scene appears and the melody is played in full the audience is already familiar with it.

Featurette-Live At The Shrine! The 20th Anniversary Premiere (17:49)

    This featurette describes the preparation and shows excerpts from the world premiere screening of the 20th Anniversary Edition, including a live orchestral rendition of the musical score in sync with the film conducted by John Williams. It is presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    Interviews include:

    We also get to see footage of members of the cast and crew arriving at the Shrine Auditorium prior to the screening, an orchestral "overture" prior to the commencement of the film, excerpts from the screening itself, and director Steven introducing the cast and crew to the audience after the screening.

Gallery-Designs, Photographs and Marketing (6)

    This includes stills (containing illustrations and photos) of:

Audio-Only Track-Space Exploration (8:25)

    This consists of a number of sound bites of facts about the sun and planets in the solar system, narrated by a terrible E.T.-like sounding voice. The sound bites are accompanied by some video animation and stills (which are 16x9 enhanced but unfortunately not flagged as such).

Theatrical Trailer (2:05)

    This is the theatrical trailer for the 20th Anniversary Edition, presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed (on a 4x3 frame) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

Trailers - Ubisoft E.T. Game (1:30); Back To The Future DVD (1:34)

    Both trailers are presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    The Ubisoft trailer flicks between excerpts from the film and animated screen shots of the Sony Playstation, Gameboy Advance and Windows PC versions of games based on the film. I noticed that the games are actually different on the various platforms as opposed to the same game ported to multiple systems.

    The Back To the Future trailer promotes the DVD release of the trilogy and the film excerpts shown here look like they are transferred from an open matte version of the print.

DVD-ROM Extras-Total Axess (0:48)

    This consists of a package of the InterActual DVD player linking disc features with web content plus a number of "disc downloadable" items (these items are stored on Disc 2 rather than online) including:

    Selecting this menu item will invoke a 48 second video introducing the concept of Universal Studio's Total Axess (full frame, Dolby Digital 2.0 192Kb/s).


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title has been released in Region 1 in at least three different versions;

    The R1 Limited 2-disc Collector's Edition was originally announced to have similar extras to the R4 release. However, at the last minute (apparently at the request of Steven Spielberg himself) the decision was made to include the original theatrical release edition of the film into Disc 2, at the expense of sacrificing most of the featurettes.

    The R1 Ultimate Gift Set has 3 DVDs containing all the extras found on the R4 release, plus the theatrical release version of the film, but wait... there's more! (no steak knives though!). The 3 DVDs and 1 CD (containing a remastered/remixed 20th anniversary CD of the soundtrack music) are contained in a 4-disc digipack surrounded by foam in a cardboard box. In addition, we get:

    Here is a detailed breakdown of the differences between the various discs and the R4 equivalent:
Disc Additions (compared to R4 equivalent) What's Missing (compared to R4 equivalent)
R1 Limited 2-disc Collector's Edition (Disc 1)
  • Space Exploration (audio accompanied by brief animation) - this the same extra found on R4 Disc 2
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track
  • Spanish subtitle track
  • Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, subtitle track and menus
R1 Limited 2-disc Collector's Edition (Disc 2)
  • Original 1982 Theatrical Edition, in widescreen 1.85:1, 16x9 Enhanced, with English Dolby Digital 5.1, English dts 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital 2.0, English and Spanish subtitles
  • Spotlight on Location: The Making of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 20th Anniversary featurette
  • 1982 Special Olympics commercial
  • Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption commercial
  • promo for Universal Studios Theme Parks
  • Cast and filmmakers biographies and filmographies
  • Production notes
  • "E.T. - 20th Anniversary Celebration." featurette
  • The Music Of "E.T." - A Discussion With John Williams featurette
  • Live At The Shrine! The 20th Anniversary Premiere featurette
  • Ubisoft E.T. Game trailer
  • Space Exploration (this has been moved to R1 Disc 1)
R1 Ultimate Gift Set (Disc 1) Identical to R1 Limited 2-disc Collector's Edition (Disc 1) Identical to R1 Limited 2-disc Collector's Edition (Disc 1)
R1 Ultimate Gift Set (Disc 2)
  • Original 1982 Theatrical Edition, in widescreen 1.85:1, 16x9 Enhanced, with English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English and Spanish subtitles
  • "A Look Back" featurette
  • Original (1982) theatrical trailer
  • DVD-ROM featuring Total Axess (this is in R4 Disc 2)
No equivalent disc in R4
R1 Ultimate Gift Set (Disc 3)
  • Cast and filmmakers biographies and filmographies
  • Production notes
  • 1982 Special Olympics commercial
  • Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption commercial
  • promo for Universal Studios Theme Parks
  • DVD-ROM featuring Total Axess (this is in R4 Disc 2)
None (all the extras on R4 Disc 2 are included here) - although R1 does not have as many subtitle tracks.

    Decisions, decisions, decisions ... which version to get?

    If you want a noticeably superior video transfer quality, get the R1 editions (either 2-disc or Gift Set). The R1 video transfer does not suffer from jittery vertical pans, aliasing, or shimmering, and is reference quality.

    If you are a completist, there is no debate - just get the R1 Ultimate Gift Set. It is actually very good value for the money: the hardcover book looks and feels as if it is worth about A$50, plus the CD soundtrack is another A$30 and worth it even if you own the original soundtrack. Even though the CD booklet implies this is "mostly" a remixed/remastered edition with a few extra tracks, it is noticeably superior in sound quality from my 1982 release CD. Also, I felt the music sounds quite different - every track has been "enhanced" with additional musical lines (presumably corresponding to additional scenes in the 20th anniversary edition).

    If you MUST have the original 1982 theatrical release and don't want to buy the Ultimate Gift Set, get the R1 Limited 2-disc Collector's Edition.

    Finally, if you don't really care for the 1982 version, but want the most extras for the least amount of money, get the R4 release.

    Personally, I am a completist, and I care a lot about video quality, so I would choose the R1 Ultimate Gift Set. A close second would be the R4 given that it is good value for money.


    E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: 20th Anniversary Special Edition is a must-have if you like the film -'nuff said. The extra scenes and additional special effects in this "enhanced" version are fairly subtle and consistent with the original film, so don't worry that it has been "spoiled." The video and audio transfers are acceptable though not of reference quality. Extras on this two disc edition are extensive.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-A1, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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