Review: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: the Ultimate Visual History

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: the Ultimate Visual History

Author: Caseen Gaines

Publisher: Insight Editions

Pages: 240

Release: August 30, 2022


40 years ago Star Wars wasn’t the highest grossing movie anymore when a little alien took the number one spot. E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial was a cultural phenomenon back then and although I was only 6 years old back in 1982 I did see the film, which was my introduction to the works of director Steven Spielberg.

Over the last decade many classic films (and even the TV series Fraggle Rock) have gotten the ‘Ultimate Visual History’ treatment; heavy hardcover books covering the making of the film, from (pre)production to the reception and legacy. The latest addition in this series is E.T. from author Caseen Gaines, who is no newcomer to this genre; he wrote The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual Guide in 2017.

Die-hard E.T. fans will say “we already had a similar book called E.T. From Concept to Classic back in 2002”. I have good news: although this new book has several overlaps in information, it ultimately has more to offer regarding information and visuals.

Just like almost every other UVH book this one is over 200 pages and packed with (behind the scenes) photos, sketches and images of the merchandise that has come out. Gaines takes the reader into the history of how the movie was made, from idea to sketch, casting, shooting and ultimately releasing the film.

What I personally liked is the fact that there’s plenty of attention and recognition for Carlo Rambaldi, who is in my opinion the unsung hero of the film. Italian signore Rambaldi was responsible for the physical creation of E.T. (for which he won an Oscar). 15 years ago I had the opportunity to have a private unforgettable chat with him and his wife about his work (he also won Academy Awards for King Kong and Alien) before he eventually passed away in 2012.

Also noteworthy is the attention given to the notorious Atari 2600 game. A lot has been said about this game which had a huge effect on the videogame business in a negative way. I played it (still have the original cartridge) and yes: it was bad. Still, it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked even though it was a low point in the history of the E.T. franchise.

Another trip down memory lane was the mention of the E.T. sequel book: The Green Planet. I read this book in the 80’s and only had a vague memory of it. I don’t have vague memories of the E.T. ride at the Universal Studios though, which is also included, just like several other spin-offs that happened after the film.

With all this positivity you might ask: Are there things that could have been better? In my opinion the inserts don’t add a lot. Several UVH books have paper replica’s of written notes, flyers, sketches and photos inside and this book is no exception. The thing is: what does a loose fold-out with E.T. production drawings add when it can be found between two pages of similar E.T. production drawings? There are about 20 of these inserts and only a handful really add something (the Spielberg stage pass is the winner). It’s only a minor point of criticism though since they’re only little extras and the book itself is what matters the most.

It may not come as a surprise that just like the other UVH’s this book is a winner. If you’re a fan of E.T. or a Spielberg collector then this one gets my recommendation since it’s probably the most complete E.T. publication we will ever get. Hopefully a Mad Max UVH is next? Come on Insight Editions!

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: the Visual History is available in (online) bookstores, including Amazon.

Special thanks to Insight Editions for providing a review copy!