”Close Encounters” of the first kind: the original version of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi blockbuster about an Indiana power company employee (Richard Dreyfuss) who becomes obsessed with UFOs. ”Close Encounters” of the second kind: The ”Special Edition,” released in 1980, added several sequences, including an ending that took Dreyfuss inside the aliens’ spacecraft. ”Close Encounters” of the third kind: This Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Collector’s Edition incorporates elements of both cuts but wisely lops off the underwhelming ”Special” conclusion (it’s one of 11 deleted scenes on the set’s second disc, which also features a 101 minute 1997 making of documentary).
The only feature to date for which Spielberg has taken sole writing credit, ”Close Encounters” is one of his most personal works; he was inspired by a real life childhood incident in which his father woke him in the middle of the night to see a meteor shower. The film’s then novel idea — that aliens might be friendly — prefigured ”E.T.,” but its unsentimental tone is more in line with earlier Spielberg efforts like ”Duel” and ”Jaws.” Nearly 25 years later, the movie’s visual effects may look a bit primitive, but the story’s primal appeal endures.