4K UHD Blu-ray Set Review: ‘E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – 35th Anniversary Limited Edition’ (2017)

Photo Credit and (C) 2017 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (A Comcast Company)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“You’re not supposed to fall in love with your own movie but I fell in love with E.T.– Steven Spielberg

On September 12, 2017, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – 35th Anniversary Limited Edition, a three-disc (4K UHD, 1080p HD Blu-ray, and audio CD) box set which, along with the digital code for Movies Anywhere and a remastered edition of the soundtrack album, includes a slim collectible book with photos, production art, an introduction by actor Drew Barrymore, and behind-the-scenes information about the cast, crew, and the production of E.T.

Released on the same day as the “basic” multi-format set with director Steven Spielberg’s beloved film about an alien botanist stranded on Earth “300 million light-years from home” and the young boy (Henry Thomas) who befriends him, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – 35th Anniversary Limited Edition came 35 years, three months, and one day after the movie’s theatrical release on June 11, 1982.

Photo Credit and (C) 2017 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

I watched E.T. with my late mother (who, like me, was a fan of Steven Spielberg’s films) when it reached theaters in Miami 39 years ago, and I saw it five more times with different companions (my older half-sister went with me once, as I recall with some bittersweet fondness, and I also watched it with several sets of friends, some of whom have since passed away or I’ve lost touch with over the intervening decades.)

“Home” is the theme of this film. “E.T. phone home.” What we humans crave is to find our own little satellite station in the universe that is simply called “home.” – Drew Barrymore

As is the case with many of my favorite Spielberg films – including Jaws, the Indiana Jones series, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Saving Private Ryan – I have endeavored to own E.T. in every home video format I’ve owned playback equipment for, starting with the VHS videocassette in October of 1988,[1] and continuing with the 20th Anniversary DVD and the 100th Anniversary of Universal Pictures Edition Blu-ray of 2012.

Photo Credit and (C) 2017 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Relive the adventure and magic in one of the most beloved motion pictures of all-time, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, from Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg. Captivating audiences of all ages, this timeless story follows the unforgettable journey of a lost alien and the 10-year-old boy he befriends. Join Elliot (Henry Thomas), Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and Michael (Robert MacNaughton) as they come together to help E.T. find his way back home, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is “one of the great American films” (Leonard Maltin) that forever belongs in the hearts and minds of audiences everywhere. – Back cover blurb on the E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – 35th Anniversary Limited Edition Blu-ray packaging

Photo Credit and (C) 2017 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Now, almost five years after its release, I own the E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – 35th Anniversary Limited Edition box set, which comes with:

  • Slipcover with a lenticular slipcover that features the famous “Over the Moon” shot of Elliott and E.T. flying across a huge silvery full moon
  • A black plastic “jewel box” case with the 4K UHD and 1080p Blu-ray discs and an insert with the code for the digital copy
  • The aforementioned collectible booklet
  • The remastered Original Motion Picture Soundtrack album featuring John Williams’ Academy Award-winning score[2]

My Take

As I mentioned on Thursday’s blog post, I spent some of my Amazon Visa credit card’s rewards points to buy this for my small but growing 4K UHD Blu-ray collection. I could have saved some of my Shop with Points balance and chosen the two-disc (and digital code) set, but I went for the slightly more expensive[3] E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – 35th Anniversary Limited Edition because I wanted the CD with the soundtrack; the booklet and slipcover with the lenticular cover art weren’t huge factors in my decision, but they are nice extras, if you like that sort of thing.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has done a good job on the 4K releases of Steven Spielberg-helmed (either as director or executive producer) that I’ve bought so far, including last year’s 40th Anniversary Jaws reissue, which has a similar packaging setup (slipcover box and booklet, but no CD). I love box sets – don’t ask me why, but I do – and I appreciate the thought that went into the design of the E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – 35th Anniversary Limited Edition set.

I suspect that regular readers of this blog will probably think that my stock phrase for 4K UHD releases is “X movie has never looked better on TV than in this ultrahigh definition release,” but it’s true. Even on my smaller than desired 4K UHD set[4], the quality of the video is, to use a cliché, “out of this world.” (It sounds good, too, but since it’s not hooked up to a wall mount or the soundbar that’s already on the wall, I can’t make an informed opinion on how the audio is on anything but the TV speakers.

The removable promo card that is lightly attached to the slipbox. (C) 2017 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

I’m not an A/V expert, so I’ll just quote Blu-ray.com’s Martin Liebman’s summary of his 2017 review here:

The UHD presentation is certainly exceptional, but the question is, and always will be for any UHD — particularly if the film in question has already earned a top-flight Blu-ray — “is it worth it?” The answer is a resounding “yes.” The UHD does right by the film. It’s not necessarily a revelation, particularly not over the Blu-ray, but it offers a wonderful refinement, enhancement, and textural boost, capable of adding sharpness and a greater filmic quality to the picture that’s certainly there on Blu-ray, but not to this extent of uniform cinematic excellence. 

I don’t watch E.T. as much as I used to before 2012; it’s one of my favorite 1980s films still, and it’s also one of Spielberg’s most personal productions; he based the story –crafted so well by the late Melinda Mathison – in part on his childhood experiences after his parents’ divorce and added the science fiction elements while pondering a possible sequel to his earlier aliens-on-Earth film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But I tend to associate E.T. with my mom – we watched it in 1982 when it hit theaters in Miami, and she liked it so much that she used to hang an E.T. figure from her car’s rearview mirror.

Nevertheless, I think that 4K UHD is the best home media format – yes, even better than streaming, because it is immune to bandwith issues – and this release does not have the ill-conceived “no guns” cut that was included with the 20th Anniversary DVD back in 2002. Purists (and maybe the NRA) will be happy to know that Spielberg didn’t remove the government agents’ guns and turn them into walkie talkies for either the Blu-ray release from 2012 (which, if you don’t have it, you’ll get in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – 35th Anniversary Limited Edition set) or this wonderful box set.

By the by, the Movies Anywhere code in the insert expired in 2019, but if you have a free account with that digital copy supplier, you might want to try redeeming it anyway. I redeemed my code last night in the belief that if it worked, great, and if it didn’t, well, that’s the way it went.

Well, the first three times I typed my code, Movies Anywhere rejected it  with a “We don’t recognize this code” prompt. I then thought, Okay. There are two possible reasons. Either I’m typing an O instead of a 0, or the code expired. So, still thinking there was a 50-50 chance it might work, I retyped the code, this time substituting an 0 where I had been typing an O.

It worked! Even though the insert said the code was “subject to expiration,” it didn’t say when it would no longer be active. And lo! It’s one of the titles I can watch on my Amazon Prime Video account without having to use the disc.

So if you have a UHD 4K TV set and a fully-compatible player, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – 35th Anniversary Limited Edition is a must-own set, but if you prefer the less expensive set, that’s okay, too.  E.T. is one of the great films, not just of the 1980s or of the Spielberg canon, but of all time. It deserved – and received – a top notch 4K reissue, and it earns my highest recommendation.   

Source: Martin Liebman’s September 11, 2017 review, Blu-ray.com 

[1] Technically. I didn’t get my VHS copy until Christmas of 1988; I was studying Spanish, Spanish government, and Spanish history in Sevilla, Spain at the time of E.T.’s first home media release. Still….

[2] This is a digitally remastered reissue of the 1982 album, which (at only eight tracks) is the briefest album I’ve ever owned of a score by Maestro Williams.

[3] $25.72 vs. $15.90, not including Florida state sales tax.

[4] I bought a bigger set in 2017 when I got my check from the sale of my old townhouse in Miami, the only “splurge” I made from that transaction, but even though the Caregiver installed it in the master bedroom, it’s highly doubtful that I’ll ever watch anything there since we are no longer a couple. I could technically ask for its return, but my room is far too small to accommodate a 50” set. (I  am sure that she’d let me use it, but since I have the appropriate player in my room and she doesn’t have one, that is a moot point.)

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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