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Friday, 13 July 2018

Retro Review: E.T & Friends: Magical Movie Visitors (1982)

E.T & Friends: Magical Movie Visitors
Airdate: 24 December, 1982
Runtime: 47 min

Plot: Documentary hosted by Robin Williams about the history of aliens in the movies, made to coincide with the theatrical release of ET, the Extra-Terrestrial

'Informative But Not That Engaging, Yet Worth Seeing For Robin Williams'

Airing in the fall of 1982, this TV special documentary charts various science fiction A & B-movies from the obscure to populist works in ET, Star Wars and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

But for the appearance of the titular alien right at the end, it's much less about E.T and a behind-the-scenes making of the box office hit and that this was titled to capitalise on the release of the hit Steven Spielberg movie that came out in cinemas and theaters, worldwide.

There is a scene of a man in an ET mask who picks up a drink that is called ET and he drinks it. But of course, this is not really ET and he or it doesn't exist in real life. It's just some actor in an ET costume, pretending to be that alien thing.

Robin entertained as the host and was aptly chosen and at times, he went into his silly voices routine and riffed a few lines. And some of it was nice to see. But even when Robin was his normal self without going, well, nuts, it was welcoming. As we first see him on screen, Robin mentions as a child, he never saw that many science fiction films, as he was too scared.

He even donned his red Mork outfit in one scene and it was one of a number of roles as a presenter, but the information and the rest of the documentary left a lot to be desired. But the manner in which Robin Williams delivered the information was very informative and professional-like and he went about it in an exemplary fashion. He is not just a great actor and comedian, but he proves he can make for an entertaining presenter and host who can engage audiences. Yet despite liking & enjoying some sci-fi movies, this just didn't engage me to the fullest. I just drifted off, not really paying attention to what was being said and covered. The movie clips that they picked but for ET, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, would not have drawn in wider audiences.

As well produced in some way or other, ET & Friends would have made for a better documentary had it been released during the mid-1990s. I couldn't help but feel uninterested as I sat through this. 

Notable film clips that were cobbled together included Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars A New Hope and ET: Extra-Terrestrial. There is also a scene featuring Dan Ackroyd of Ghostbusters as one-third of the Coneheads alongside Garrett Morris (The Jamie Foxx Show), as well as footage featuring Woody Allen. Yet had this been made and released in the mid-1990s with more familiar and well-known sci-fi movies, even action sci-fi based movies that audiences could recognise — Aliens, Metropolis, Blade Runner, Tron, Back To The Future, Independence Day, Total Recall, Star Trek to name — this would have made it far more engaging, & not just entertaining. Being released in 1982 meant that most of the films referenced are of the B-movie variety. It concludes with Robin Williams accompanying a guy in an ET costume and they walk off, which some may find amusing. Yet also there is almost an endearing quality to it. 

Still, if you are a sci-fi buff or fan, ET & Friends Magical Movie Visitors has enough to keep you invested and interested. & for Robin Williams fanatics, with his easy-going charm & funny antics kept to a minimum, he makes a good and pleasant presenter. 


Pros +

- Robin Williams made for an entertaining and informative host

- Well-produced

- Nice to see E.T in there 

Cons -

- Wouldn't appeal that much to non-sci-fi fans & buffs

- Would have worked better in the 1990s with Robin as host

- Could do with a few more interviews with the likes of Spielberg, George Lucas, actors who appeared in notable sci-fi movies 

Would I Watch It Again?  Yes


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