….on a grotty old third or fourth generation Betamax video tape where the film fluctuated between black and white, and colour. While this sounds a terrible way to watch any film, when you are 11 years old and this is the one film that you have been waiting all summer to see, you really don’t care how you see it! The other great thing was that this old beat up video tape copy was a “bootleg” from a friend who lived on the nearby US Air Force base and the film was not even in UK cinemas until December that year. I was getting to see it a full four months before all my friends and that was just great. The film was released in the US in the summer of 1982, but the good old UK was not due to get it in cinemas until December.
I was so in love with the film that I had bought the novelisation of the screenplay by William Kotzwinkle, I’d got the sticker book, made a scrap book full of newspaper and magazine cuttings about the film and I’d even recorded the whole film onto an audio cassette (the days long before CD, mp3 or whatever!) so I could listen to it on my walkman at night in bed. I loved this film that much.
As a kid, I wanted to be Elliot and have E.T. as my friend and have the same adventures that they had together. I was a bit of a loner as a kid and didn’t have a vast array of friends, and suffered a fair bit of bullying through both primary and middle school. So for me, E.T. represented the perfect friend, sure he was some freaky looking alien, but that didn’t matter because he and Elliott had this special bond that friends have. Today this could be read as something very different; it doesn’t matter what your friend’s skin colour, race, ethnic origin, gender or sexuality is – if you are friends with them, then you are friends with them no matter what.
When the film finally got released in cinemas in the UK in December of 1982, I was there at the front of the line waiting to see it and I would go on to see it more than 20 times in the cinema, and again when it was re-released in 1986. I can even remember while on holiday with my parents, begging them to take me to see it because a cinema in the nearby town where we were staying was screening it.
So go see it this weekend with your children, it may be 35 years old but the message is still as real and important today as it was back then.
E.T. screens at The Riverside Kid’s Club on Saturday 23rd September 2017 at 10:30am