John Williams's score for E.T. has always been one of his most popular and
in one of the bonus features 'The Music of John Williams' there is 'home video'
material showing Williams and Spielberg collaborating over the development of
the score. The most interesting facet, though, is Williams's commentary on the
terracing of the orchestral perorations and climaxes in the final sequences
as the boys, on their bicycles, elude their pursuers to the woods so that E.T.
can be reunited with his kind and go home. Williams relates that after a number
of thwarted attempts Spielberg decided to cut the film to the most heartfelt
performance of the music to maximise the cumulative emotional effect of these
The bonus material is generous with much about the film's production. It is
fascinating to see those kids twenty years on and now grown up. (Drew Barrymore
the wee precocious girl famously saying of E.T. – "I don't like his
feet!", has of course gone on to considerable movie fame since).
For this Special Edition, Spielberg has rung a few changes. Some of the visual
images have been enhanced by computer generated graphics making E.T. and his
surroundings (especially in the opening scenes where we see the spacecraft in
the woods) appear more realistic. And, in deference to post 9/11 fears, any
feeling of threat is minimised by taking away E.T.s pursuers' guns and eliminating
any mention of the word terrorists. This is, in a way, a pity, aside from any
argument of over-cosseting, it seems to me to have affected the music for I
seem to remember that the music for the opening scenes, where E.T. is being
chased through the woods, was more urgent, more exciting. But these are minor
quibbles when viewing the film for it has not lost any of its considerable enchantment.
I must take the packaging to task however, first there is no chapters-listing
and I could not access an enigmatically labelled, "John Williams Live
at the Shrine Auditorium 2002 premiere". And this problem persevered
when I took my copy for a replacement back to the retailer. No folks we do not
get free review DVD copies!
We reviewed the 20th Anniversary reissue album of John Williams
E.T. score on Film Music on the Web in May this year.