Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Audio problem: Just before Toby closes his bedroom door while Roy and Ronnie are arguing, if you listen carefully you can faintly hear director Steven Spielberg telling him to close the door. (01:05:00)

mightymick

Audio problem: In the scene just as Roy, Gillian, and Larry take off for Devil's Tower, the army officer is on his car phone speaking to his superior. When his superior tells him if they don't get Roy and company off the mountain in one hour, to use EZ4. Lacombe, who was talking to David at the time, looks at the officer and says, "What's EZ4?". Lacombe should not have known what was said over the phone, as only the officer and we, the audience, knew what was being said. It wasn't a speaker-phone. [The army officer was using a VRC(vehicle radio console.) Not a cellular phone. The radio has a speaker mounted on the front of the console in addition to the speaker in the handset. So everyone would be able to hear the conversation on the radio. ].

Factual error: The aliens broadcast a series of pulses which are decoded by the scientists to be a longitude and latitude. In degrees:minutes:seconds, the longitude is 104:44:30 and the latitude is 40:36:10. These numbers are what the computer display shows and are what the scientists say (except for one slip-up in the hallway early in the scene where 104:40:30 is said). The scientists grab a globe and declare these coordinates are in Wyoming. Everybody and his brother (and the aliens) then proceed to show up at Devils Tower, Wyoming. However, Devils Tower is at around longitude 104 deg 44 min and latitude *44* deg 36min, not the *40* deg 36 min pulsed out by the aliens. If everyone had gone to 40 deg 36 min, they would have ended up in Colorado, more than a couple hundred miles south of Devils Tower, Wyoming. (00:46:23)

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David Laughlin: Have you recently had a close encounter?

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Trivia: After this movie, young Cary Guffey got to play the part of an alien himself - in the Italian movies "Uno Sceriffo extraterrestre - poco extra e molto terrestre" (English title: "The Sheriff and the Satellite Kid", 1979) and its sequel "Chissà perché. capitano tutte a me" ("Everything Happens To Me", 1980); both with the Italian actor Bud Spencer.

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Question: I would really like some insight on a burning question I have had since seeing this movie as a child in 1978, when it came back around in theaters in eastern Canada, where I grew up. Not knowing much about American history in school, I didn't know at the time that there even was a Devil's Tower, or that it had been made the first US National Monument in 1906, and as such would have been famous to all American citizens. I still remember loving the psychic element in the film where our heroes agonize internally about the strange mound shape seen only in their heads, to be finally rewarded and deeply relieved with news footage later in the film which solidified their visions into something tangible and concrete (igneous rock actually!) Thus, as a boy knowing nothing about the tower in Wyoming, this part of the film played perfectly into the fantasy for me-it sold me all the way. But why or how did this work for Americans at the time the film was new? In the film, we are to believe that our adult heroes knew nothing of the tower before their initial close encounters, and were shocked to discover that it actually existed. Again, for me, Devil's Tower was an absolutely incredible and awesome choice, and made me love the film all the more for it. But I would like to know how Americans felt about it during the film's 1977 and later 1980 re-release? Was it just as awe-inspiring for them as well, or was it more like: "Duh-you're driving your family crazy making models of a natural rock formation everyone knows is less than 90 miles away from Mount Rushmore?" I would really appreciate an answer, because for me, the tower's news-footage "reveal" was a huge moment in the film, and really does provide the kick-start that launches the entire third act of the film. For American audiences, why was it not the same as if Roy had struggled to attach a garden hose under a hastily-built plywood model with a hole in the middle, because the aliens implanted a vision of "Old Faithful" in his head?

Answer: "Devil's Tower" is, indeed, a national landmark. However, it isn't one of the most famous, nor most iconic. It isn't nearly as widely known as, say, the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River, Niagara Falls, or the landmarks you mentioned - Mount Rushmore and Old Faithful Geyser. But, as you stated, its imposing form does fit so nicely into the aura of the film's alien encounter. Devil's Tower isn't something everyone knows by shape. And for those of us who do, it doesn't require much suspension of disbelief to posit that the characters in the film wouldn't have put it together prior to the news footage.

Michael Albert

Answer: Devil's Tower really is out in the middle of nowhere, and in one of the least populated states (it's "only" 90 miles away from Mt. Rushmore, but it's an incredibly boring 90 miles of mostly empty plains) so it didn't make for a convenient tourist attraction like other landmarks and thus didn't garner as much fame (it's actually much more famous nowadays, thanks to this movie). That said, the movie seems to have cleverly provided two separate "reveals" for this plot turn: those familiar with Devil's Tower will recognize it when Richard Dreyfuss knocks the top off his sculpture, giving it the distinctive "flat top" shape; then, only minutes later the rest of the audience will discover it along with the characters during the news broadcast. It wouldn't surprise me at all if this was set up deliberately keeping in mind the landmark's status of "kind of famous but not really THAT famous."

TonyPH Premium member

Your explanation (and the other answer) helps makes the overall plot more understandable. The French scientist, Lacombe, mentions that there were probably hundreds of people who were implanted with the Devil's Tower image in their minds. As pointed out, it is not a particularly recognizable landmark, which would explain why many never made the connection to it.

raywest Premium member

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