Close Encounters of the Third Kind

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?

Chosen 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

Question: A couple of questions that I hope someone can answer. First, what was the name of the ship that was found in the Mongolian desert? And second, was it a real-life vessel or something created for the movie? I've heard about the 5 real-life planes that were uncovered in Mexico, but the ship is a mystery to me. If so, where can I find info on it?

Chosen answer: The ship that was found in the Gobi desert is called the "Cotopaxi." It was a real tramp steamer, named after a stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains. The ship and its entire crew disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle sometime in December, 1925 while en route to Havana, Cuba. You can find more information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Cotopaxi

raywest

Question: Why wasn't this movie titled 'Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind'? It involved abduction of humans by aliens.

Chosen answer: At the time the film was made a close encounter of the third kind covered all contact between humans and aliens. The terminology has changed and it was only in the early eighties that it was decided to introduce a new level and abduction was the fourth kind.

pierpp

Question: Did anyone else see the reflection of an alien's face in the window of the pickup truck as Dreyfus puts up a map against the window right before all the electrical stuff goes out in the car?

KINGOFNY

Chosen answer: I own the original (not special edition) DVD and I can always freeze the film and point out to people where the alien is and they see it too, but I can never see it when it's on TV or on my friends VHS copy, maybe it's just a 'gift' for the DVD owners?

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