[wpaudio url=”http://www.thedimensionzone.com/ufo/xmp3Player-mini/24_Wild_Signals.mp3″ text=”The Conversation in Close Encounters of the Third Kind” dl=”0″]

Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) is a landmark flying saucer movie. It echoes the themes, images and ideas of the flying saucer movies of the 1950s, but Spielberg is able to use a far bigger budget and better special effects to really make the viewer believe they are seeing UFOs on the screen. Here he takes the B-movies of his youth and polishes them into a gem. In a similar way, and in the same year, George Lucas did the same for the space operas of his youth and created Star Wars.

CE3K has its cake and eats it by portraying the UFO activity as equally frightening, awe inspiring and moving. The early sequences have the UFOs playing cat and mouse with police cars, causing power cuts and electrical disturbances, abducting people, burning witnesses, inserting weird images in people’s heads and causing family and social disruption. It is only at the end of the movie that we learn that they have peaceful intentions: it’s just that their means of contact are non-verbal and literally alien to us.

They contact selected individuals through their dreams, while they contact the Government through radio signals from outer space and by using light and music. Made in the long shadow of the Watergate affair, it shows the Government hiding the truth about flying saucers from the public. The military even causes an anthrax panic to keep the public away from the aliens’ proposed landing site. Yet, like Watergate the Government cannot keep these events totally secret.

CE3K takes the old and often laughable B-movies seriously, and it also takes the derided subject of UFOs seriously. Spielberg has always been interested in UFOs and he wanted CE3K to promote the subject. In his endeavor to make it credible for ufologists as well as the public, he got the title of the film from the 1972 book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry by top UFO expert Dr J. Allen Hynek. He also employed Hynek as a technical advisor for the film and gave him a small cameo part.

Fair enough. Some of CE3K does include elements from ‘real’ UFO cases: the balls of light, the beams of light that can burn, the sightings by airline pilots that go unreported for fear of ridicule, the power cuts and disruptions. More contentious are the spindly aliens seen at the end of the film. They were not based on any real cases but on what Spielberg and designer Carlo Rimbaldi imagined. In the production stage, an alien design with an ‘S’ neck, eyes that projected laser beams and a visible brain was put forward for consideration! Significantly, people have reported seeing aliens that conform to those in CE3K, so we are lucky they didn’t pick the earlier design.

Since the film was released, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, has been released multiple times since it first went to DVD. Including the 1980 Special Edition (no longer available) the releases include The Director’s Cut, The Collector’s Editions (widescreen and television formats), Blu-Ray, and most recently the 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition (in both normal and Blu-Ray formats). This takes out some of the comic, almost hysterical, reactions to the images being projected in to the mind of Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss,) and has a longer special effects sequence at the end where he is seen actually inside the alien spaceship.

CE3K is a magical and almost religious experience that also views middle-America as being bland, thoughtless, materialistic and soul-destroying. Like Neary, who sculpts his mashed potato into a mountain and proclaims to his worried family “this means something”, CE3K shows that there are things that lurk just outside the blinkers of our normal existence.

A National Icon

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (as you may have noticed is sometimes abbreviated as CE3K or often referred to as just ‘Close Encounters‘) is a 1977 science fiction film written and directed by Steven Spielberg. The film stars Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, Bob Balaban, and Cary Guffey. It tells the story of Roy Neary, a lineman in Indiana, whose life changes after he has an encounter with an unidentified flying object (UFO). The United States government and an international team of scientific researchers are also aware of the UFOs.

Close Encounters was a long-cherished project for Spielberg. In late 1973, he developed a deal with Columbia Pictures for a science fiction film. Though Spielberg receives sole credit for the script, he was assisted by Paul Schrader, John Hill, David Giler, Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins, and Jerry Belson, all of whom contributed to the screenplay in varying degrees. The title is derived from ufologist J. Allen Hynek’s classification of close encounters with aliens, in which the third kind denotes human observations of actual aliens or “animate beings”.

Filming began in May 1976. Douglas Trumbull served as the visual effects supervisor, while Carlo Rambaldi designed the aliens. Close Encounters was released in November 1977 and was a critical and financial success. The film was reissued in 1980 as Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Special Edition, which featured additional scenes. A third cut of the film was released to home video (and later DVD) in 1998. The film received numerous awards and nominations at the 50th Academy Awards, 32nd British Academy Film Awards, the 35th Golden Globe Awards, the Saturn Awards and has been widely acclaimed by the American Film Institute. In December 2007, it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.