"E.T." touched and influenced a generation of moviegoers 30 years ago today
I'll never forget the sneak preview we went to of "E.T." in Boston a week before it's release on June 11, 1982.
Elliott (Henry Thomas in a truly iconic performance) and the boys had broken E.T. away from the feds and were escaping on their bikes. Faking out a couple of fed cars as they winded through a series of hills and suburban construction, the team smiled broadly as they realized they'd made it.
Suddenly the strong, grasping hands of government officials reached out to snatch the boys! Standing up on their bikes to pump the pedals faster, a car screeched to a halt just up ahead of them as more law authorities ascended. They were caught!
But when all seemed lost as the firm hand of a police officer came into view holding a shotgun (my favorite shot from that scene), E.T., deep in concentration, closed his eyes and the bikes with all the boys on board began to ascend! Over the heads of the surprised feds and on to the safety of the forrest.
When that moment happened on screen for the first time 30 years ago, people in the theatre cheered wildly, throwing their arms in the air as though the winning goal had just been made. It was a lightning rod of the shared moviegoing experience and one that I will always cherish.
E.T. was everywhere in 1982. From T-shirts to buttons to plush dolls to Reese's Pieces. Although the M&M company would forever kick themselves for not wanting their candy associated with 'a scary little creature', the marketing blitz that followed was one of the first and biggest of it's kind, greater than "Star Wars" even.
Director Steven Spielberg would once again be knighted by movie audiences for directing yet another wonderfully crafted and even magical tale for the ages, while Drew Barrymore would come off of her endearing turn as Elliott's adorable younger sister Gertie to become a true movie star and Hollywood mover and shaker...at least after somewhat leaning into Lindsey Lohan country for a short time during the late 80's.
"E.T." was the crown jewel of the Summer of 1982. The movie that crowned the box office that year and quickly became legend.
I think we ended up going to see the movie another 5 times over the course of that summer. And I really appreciated Spielberg's recent denouncement of fiddling with his classic in the 2002 version. After feeling swayed by some conservative groups who felt the 'guns against kids' aspect of the end of the movie was a bit much, his insertion of walkie talkies into the hands of previous gun-totting law enforcement individuals became an alteration that the director himself called an unnecessary change to an iconic movie. This fall's Blu-Ray release will contain only the 1982 version, guns and all. God bless it!!
Even though I thought he and ILM did a skillful job of softening these armament actions, I also seriously appreciated Spielberg calling for the original untouched version of the movie to be given the remastering star treatment as well on the big blue box set released in 2003, which I own. Much more than his good friend George Lucas, Spielberg understands the importance, meaning and gravity of the original above all else.