Is it OK for directors to change their films?

E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial is coming out on Blu Ray this year. It's a special film to me. I've seen it twice at the cinema - once when I was five years old in 1982, and again when I was 25 years old in 2002 for the 20th anniversary reissue.

Both were great experiences. I remember first seeing ET with my mum and my sister in one of those decaying old fleapits I wrote about a couple of weeks back.

I remember leaning forward at the climax of the film to hide the fact I was crying from my mum and sister.

It was a mind-blowing experience and a film that I carried around in my head for a long time. From then on, whenever street lights shone through fog I would think of it as "ET light". Even today, if I see fir trees sillhouetted against the moon I can only think of one film.

I must have talked about the film a lot because I remember months later being given an ET jigsaw and a clockwork ET spaceship toy for my birthday.

Then, 20 years later, I saw the film at the cinema again with an old friend. It marked the end of an incredibly intense period of work and was an amazing experience. It was literally the first time I had sat down to relax in 10 days.

At one point during the film, my friend turned to me and said: "This is amazing." He was right. It was.

But that 20th anniversary reissue caused a controversy that the Blu Ray release is only now putting to rest a decade later.

Check out this trailer for the Blu Ray release and see if you spot anything interesting:

 

Did you spot it? In a clear message to the geeky fans like me, they have included a shot in the trailer where the Feds are carrying rifles when the bikes become airborne.

In the 20th anniversary edition the guns had been digitally replaced with walkie talkies. Steven Spielberg felt queasy about the Feds pointing guns at children and so had it changed for the re-release.

It was a small, subtle change, along with a few other CGI tweaks that were even less noticeable, but it caused a bit of a backlash at the time.

It was Speilberg's "Han Shot First" debacle. But, unlike George Lucas, Spielberg listened to the fans. The Blu Ray edition has been restored to the original release.

In a lovely mea culpa, Spielberg recently told Aint It Cool News this:

"There's going to be no more digital enhancements or digital additions to anything based on any film I direct. I'm not going to do any corrections digitally to even wires that show."

"If 1941 comes on Blu-Ray I'm not going to go back and take the wires out because the Blu-Ray will bring the wires out that are guiding the airplane down Hollywood Blvd. At this point right now I think letting movies exist in the era, with all the flaws and all of the flourishes, is a wonderful way to mark time and mark history."

And this:

"When people ask me which E.T. they should look at, I always tell them to look at the original 1982 E.T. If you notice, when we did put out E.T. we put out two E.T.s. We put out the digitally enhanced version with the additional scenes and for no extra money, in the same package, we put out the original '82 version. I always tell people to go back to the '82 version."

Amen to that.

I completely agree with Spielberg. I don't think classic movies should be messed about with. A director may feel he could do things better now with new technology, but a film is rooted in its era and should remain so. Once a film is released, it should remain as it is.

I am in favour of digital restorations, but that is all they should be - restoration. They should not seek to radically improve or transform. They need to be true to the original film.

A perfect example of restoration rather than needless tinkering is Blade Runner: The Final Cut. That was a classic film with many problems that was restored and healed to the form its original director wanted.

Ridley Scott didn't make Han shoot first or indulge in revisionism, he just made his film shine.

So, what do you think? Did it annoy you when George Lucas messed with Star Wars? Do you agree with Spielberg? Or do you think a director has the right to alter their own work as they see fit?

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