(1977)5Lucia BozzolaSeveral years in the making and, like Jaws, millions over budget, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) became Steven Spielberg's second blockbuster, confirming his skills at creating visually spectacular popular entertainment. Blending his reverence for the power of movies with a science fiction UFO tale, Spielberg turns an average man's "close encounter" with an extra-terrestrial into an uplifting excursion into fantastic sights. Unlike in Cold War 1950s UFO stories that posit a threat from outside, Spielberg turns the unknown from an initially menacing force that imperils normality into a universal ambassador of transcendent goodwill, providing an escapist note of cinematic hope during the late '70s cultural malaise. Still, 2001 F/X master Douglas Trumbull's pre-digital age visual effects were an even stronger draw, as Close Encounters moves from initial appearances of space pod lights towards the climactic appearance of the enormous and stunningly rendered "mother ship." Praised for Spielberg and company's dazzling craft, amid reservations over the cardboard characters, Close Encounters became one of the biggest hits of the 1970s, helping financially teetering Columbia Pictures and strengthening the late '70s turn towards youth-oriented blockbusters. Beginning with a 1980 "Special Edition," Spielberg re-edited Close Encounters several times after 1977.