By Dan Skip Allen
When I was a kid, my family sometimes didn't have enough money to eat, and we struggled to pay our bills. Even for an eight-year-old, I knew we were struggling financially. Every once in a while, we had enough money to do things together as a family. My brother, sister, and I would load into whatever car we had at the time, probably a station wagon, and go to the nearby drive-in theater. This was a big deal for us. Even a bigger deal was back in the summer of 1982; we did just that and got to see a film that helped transform me into the film aficionado I am today: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
E.T. wasn't just any film — it was a film that showed me what movies could really be for a child of eight years old. I remember as a kid that when E.T. and Elliot (Henry Thomas) road that BMX bike into the sky to escape men in black trying to get to them. It felt like they went right through the screen and into the air above the drive-in. It was a bit surreal to me at the time. I have held that memory with me ever since, and I'll never forget it.
That famous line from the film uttered by an animatronic alien, E.T., will also be indelibly stuck in my brain forever. "E.T. Phone Home." Any kid or adult watching that film that didn't cry is just not human because I balled my eyes out when I watched it. Shows like Stranger Things have adopted a little of the nostalgia of what E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is, but nothing will ever replace this film in the annals of history.
I loved the cast, from Dee Wallace as the overprotective mother to Thomas Howell as the big brother and who couldn't forget little, at the time, Drew Barrymore as the sister who dressed E.T. up as a girl and fed him Reese's Pieces. Now Reese's Pieces are synonymous with this film. Peter Coyote played the secret agent trying to capture E.T., and he did as great as this character. He played a good villain at the time.
Many people make a big deal about physical media editions of this film being altered because the guns were taken away, but no DVD, Blu-Ray, or 4K will ever take away what was etched in my memory as a child. At the time, the guns were necessary to help the story. I understand they may have been a bit overkill, but they worked in the context of the story. The producers and filmmakers made a tough choice, but I think it was right.
My second favorite filmmaker is Steven Spielberg. As a kid, I got to see Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but my favorite of his films will always be E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He was able to bring something out in me no movie had ever done before: genuine emotion, from crying sadness to joyful happiness and, at times, anger. This film brought out every emotion in me as a child. That is what great filmmaking should be able to do.
One of Spielberg's frequent collaborators is John Williams. At the time, he was the conductor of the Boston Pops. Another annual gathering for my family would be once again to load all the kids in the car, head to Boston, and get our spot on the grass at the Esplanade, where we would get to hear the Boston Pops perform for free every Fourth of July. And so I was very familiar with this man's work, but the E.T. theme was like magic to my ears, and it's still one of the most iconic themes of John Williams's career, in my opinion.
On the week of the fortieth anniversary of E.T., I implore everyone young and old — if you've seen the film or not — to watch this absolute classic. Maybe it will bring you the emotions it brought me as an eight-year-old little boy looking for magic which I found on the big screen at that drive-in cinema. The cast, the filmmaker, and the composer brought me one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences of my entire life, and I will never forget that moment in time.
The Snake Hole
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