Tag Archives: E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

The Seedy Adult Underworld of 80s Family Entertainment

I know every generation says this about the decades when they came of age, but growing up in the 80s was seriously a whole different world; like living on another planet at times.  There was a lot more going on when it came to entertainment aimed at kids in terms of adult themes and material that surely went over the head of most of the viewing audience.  Looking back I love this and really appreciate that the creators and writers didn’t dumb down the content, even if some of it might stray a little further towards “adult” than many people might realize. You definitely saw this in a cartoon like Ren & Stimpy (which granted was the early 90s, but was the culmination of the freedom the previous decade expressed), which constantly toed the line of what was considered decent for a kid’s show.  Heck, I’ve mentioned before that I think John Kricfalusi is very probably the guy responsible for animating anthropomorphic penis aliens into the background sequences in the Saturday morning cartoon Galaxy High (particularly in the first and second episodes)…

Galaxy High penis creature 2

I was having a conversation with a co-worker the other day about catching up with some 80s flicks that they hadn’t seen in over 20 years, in particular Ghostbusters and the Goonies.  The topic turned to the awkward dream sequence featuring a sex scene between Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stanz and spectral “presence”.  I guess you could call it oral innuendo, but the background behind that sequence is pretty plain.  Ray banged a ghost.  It’s one of the interesting aspects of reading the original Richard Mueller novelization

Ghostbusters Novelization

In the book (which is based on the Aykroyd/Ramis screenplay) we learn that, that dream sequence was actually from a real sequence planned for later in the film.  Right after Ray and Winston are driving through the city talking about the end of the world, when the two go to Fort Detmerring looking for a spook. They split up and Ray stumbles upon a room that is a replica of a revolutionary war officer’s barracks. He finds a uniform and puts it on, lays on a bed and promptly falls asleep. When he wakes, the ghost they were looking for is about to go to town on his junk. Apparently this sequence was largely cut, but I’m betting none of them wanted to ditch the blowjob joke, so they sandwiched it into the montage (and it also explains the old war uniform Ray is wearing beyond the fact that they morphed the scene into a dream.)  What’s even weirder is that this is actually the culmination of a plot thread in the book where Ray is both lonely and changing his feelings about catching the ghosts. Since Peter is courting Dana and (in the book) Egon and Janine are becoming an item, Ray is looking to blow off some steam, and the experience with the ghost is just what he was looking for. Also, there’s a bit with Ray thinking about how it might be wrong to catch these ghosts just to jail them in the containment unit, and when he awakes to his spectral date-night he wonders if maybe some ghosts are good.

The author, Mueller, actually expands the sexuality in the novel here and there. For instance, everyone thinks about sex to one degree or another, but if I’m used to dealing with a character where this is never brought up, say the Librarian in the opening sequence of Ghostbusters, then when she starts “thinking” about how she feels guilty for seeking out all kinds of ancient kinky woodcuts featuring taboo sexual practices in the library’s non-public collection, well, I get a little weirded out. As far as I can tell, the librarian character in the script is slightly different; she’s written to be rotund and in her mid to late twenties, but for all intents and purposes the scene in the script is almost shot for shot what we’ve come to know and love in the final film. Mueller, though, felt the need to paint her as a bit more sad and depraved, which for an incidental character is pretty weird. This sort of thing pops up here and there in the novel, including in the scene where we’re first introduced to Dana as she gets out of a cab and goes into her building. The narrative is fractured into a bunch of perspectives as a handful of people on the street take notice of her and give their two cents. One of these includes an elderly man walking his dog who glances at her and thinks, “…how long (has) it been since it’s been long…

This is actually a trend in 80s era novelizations, and for some movies that might be surprising, like say, the Goonies book

Goonies Novelization

Now you may be asking what could possibly be sexualized in the Goonies, I mean it’s not like there’s a secret love scene between Chunk and Sloth right?!?  Well, Sloth love Chunk, but that’s actually (and thankfully) not explored in the novel, but that didn’t stop author James Kahn from evoking electricity-induced orgasms.  Say what?!  Um yeah.  So in the wishing well sequence, at the end, after Andy has sent up the bucket empty, all the kids realize that they’re covered in leeches. Data has a bright idea and end up strapping two wires to a 20-volt battery. He sticks the wires in the water by his feet sending a light electrical charge through his body that’s lethal enough to kill the leeches. He does this for the rest of them, and afterwards, James Kahn tags on a small scene that is, well, almost obscene. After getting the shock, Andy and Stef are standing off to the side, and Kahn describes them as having “…limp smile(s) and small sigh(s)…” Then Stef says to Andy, “I got all tingly – just my luck, I’m in love with a pond!” After which the following passage appears: ‘It annoyed Andy, for some reason, I don’t know, like someone had made her feel good and she didn’t want to…’ Then Andy hauls off and slaps Data saying “Don’t-you-ever-try-that-again-with-me-Buster!” What the hell! Did Kahn actually suggest that Andy and Stef had orgasms from the electric shock!?!  Yeah, yeas he did.

What I’m really curious about is how much of this was in the original shooting script.  I know the leech sequence was in the script (as it made it’s way into both version of the book, including the leaner kid’s version) and was shot and deleted (and has sadly been lost to time), but how much of the subtly was in the actual film versus something that Kahn added for the book.  On the one hand, looking back this is so weird and out of place in the story, yet I have to remind myself that I was reading about pre-teen and teen orgasms in Judy Blume books when I was 7 years old!

There had to be flicks that were completely pure and free from blowjobs and sexual innuendo though right?  I mean you’d never see any of that in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial right?!  Wrong.  Again, taking a look at the novelization by William Kotzwinkle we get a much darker depiction of the story than what would eventually end up on film (well, I’m assuming the following sequences weren’t shot…)

ET Novelization

There’s a sequence in the novel where Elliot, Steve and Gertie’s mother Mary (played by an exasperated Dee Wallace in the film) is so lonely and lost in her own mind that she fantasizes about disappearing from life and, believe it or not, masturbation. (See page 17; the innuendo is there.) She’s also simultaneously dreading the world her children have to face, wondering if they’ll succumb to overdosing on drugs, all while listening in on them playing a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons in the kitchen.  There’s also portions of the book where E.T. becomes weirdly stalker-ish and longs to bond with Mary, starring at her from the closet, thinking about how he could fulfill her needs.  E.T. even gets pretty downright creepy in the sequel novel, E.T. The Book of the Green Planet, where he reaches out to his long lost friend from Earth, melding with the now older Elliot’s mind from across the cosmos.  It comes across very peeping Tom-like, and sort of disturbing.  Experiencing love and yearning “through” Elliot.

ET sequel

All in all, though all of this adult stuff might seem really questionable on the surface of things, again, I’m really glad that these authors and creators took the chance to expose kids to the real world.  Some of it is for the sake of comedy, some of it is important info that awkward pre-teens probably need, and some of it is just exploring deeper adult themes.  Weird, interesting and kind of neat…

Awesome 80s Bedrooms: E.T. Edition…

It’s been a few weeks since I sat down and got all OCD combing through a DVD looking for an awesome 80s bedroom.  Last night I popped my special edition of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial into the computer and spent a couple hours staring at Ellitot’s room looking for some fun stuff to talk about.  At first I was a little disappointed because so many of the scenes were in silhouette, but with a quick finger on the pause button I managed to find some nice shots with a lot of fun junk lying around, in particular I realized that Elliott has a favorite comic book hero that I never noticed before!

ET One Sheet

So, with any Spielberg flick from this period there is always going to nods to Star Wars, and E.T. is no exception, but there are a lot of other interesting things lying around Elliott’s room…

ET 1

1). Star Worlds Planetarium playset

Star-Worlds-Planetarium

2). Coors Beer baseball cap (because you know, drunk E.T. and Coors is totally the official beer of earnest sci-fi flicks…)

3). Viewmaster Theater projector by GAF

Viewmaster-Theater-Projector-GAF

4). Star Wars Hoth Turret and Imperial Probe Droid playset

Turret and Probot

5). Han Solo’s Blaster

Han Solo Laser Pistol

One of the things I love about Elliott’s room is all of the little items that represent space travel, be it the plethora of Star Wars toys, the space shuttle hanging from his ceiling (in a later screen shot) or his planetarium play set.  It’s subtle for sure, but still welcome for a movie about meeting an alien.

ET 2

6). Star Wars Greedo action figure

Star Wars Greedo

7). Captain America Pez dispenser

Captain America Pez

8). Frozen Moments fake spilled can of Coke

9). “Jaws” shark pincher/grabber wand

Shark Pincher

10). Star Wars 2-1B Medic Droid (in the football helmet)

Star Wars 2-1B

So, I have to assume that the shark pincher wand was an in-joke/reference to Jaws right?  There are a lot of Star Wars figures scattered around on Elliott’s desk, but these are the only two we get to see clearly and not just in silhouette.  Also, the Pez dispenser was a bitch to identify.  Even though Elliott holds it up to E.T. to show him how to fill and eat the candy there’s only a split second or two where there’s enough light to identify it.  Also, this is not the favorite super hero I alluded to before.  That’s still to come…

ET 3

11). Star Wars X-Wing Fighter

Star Wars X-Wing

12). Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter

Star Wars Darth Vader Tie Fighter

13). Incredible Hulk Poster

So, as I started to pay closer attention to the set dressing in E.T. I started to notice a lot of Incredible Hulk items hanging around.  Granted, this was smack in the middle of the character’s popularity thanks to the Bixby/Ferrigno TV show, but I like to image Elliott being a huge fan of the Hulk because he was a middle child and always seemed like he was being put down by his brother and all his friends.  Like maybe he identified with that inner rage or something.  Anyway, there are a couple of other toys in the above screenshot, the aforementioned space shuttle and another toy hanging from the ceiling at the top right of the frame that I can’t identify…

ET 4

14). Elvis Costello poster (so Elliott has good taste in music)

15). Weird dart board cabinet.  Artful Dodger Dartboard Cabinet (see update below)

16). Mighty Marvel Incredible Hulk Glowplate light switch cover

Might Marvel Glowplate

17). Star Wars Tie Fighter

Star Wars Tie Fighter

Alright, the dart board cabinet.  The main reason I pointed to this is that I’d love to find out what that weird Jack the Ripper-looking design is on the cabinet (MYSTERY SOLVED!)  Also, there’s an weird amount of dart boards in Elliott’s room!  Not only does he have this cabinet on the wall but there’s an additional dart board to the left.  Also, that other dart board?  It changes through out the film.  There’s another design that’s strictly black and white that’s hanging in other scenes (which you can see in the screenshot with items 6-10 above.)

ET 5

18). Star Wars Hammerhead Action figure (as well as Snaggletooth, Walrusman, Lando Calrissian, and Boba Fett.)

Star Wars Hammerhead

I didn’t want to clutter this will all of the screenshots detailing the various Star Wars figures Elliott shows E.T. in silhouette, but they’re all listed above.

ET 6

19). Star Wars Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer Playset

Star Wars Darth Vaders Star Destroyer Playset

20). Stratego and Chutes & Ladders board games (as well as a Lego set to the right of those)

In the screenshot above there is a weird looking clown/egg head toy that I can’t identify.  The nose lights up and there’s a tuft of hair that pops up and down as well, but I’ve never seen it before and couldn’t figure it out from google.  Anyone know what this freakish thing is?  Also, there’s one additional Star Wars item, a Tauntaun up high on a shelf with some wooden dinosaur puzzle toys…

Okay, one last cool item that’s not technically in Elliott’s room, but goes to proving his love for the Incredible Hulk…

ET 7

21). Incredible Hulk Sleeping Bag

Hulk Sleeping Bag

I think part of the reason that discovering all of this Hulk merchandise in Elliott’s room made me so happy is that I was a pretty big fan of the character at the time too.  That TV show had a huge impact on me and I remember begging my mom for the Ben Cooper costume for Halloween around this time as well as having my own Hulk Sleeping bag and Hulk plush toy (that had velcro hands so you could make him hug your arm…)

While I’m talking about E.T. and stuff I noticed in the background, there’s another little thing that I noticed during the opening scenes with all the kids in the house playing Dungeons & Dragons.  It’s just a little thing but I noticed that C. Thomas Howell is smoking while they’re playing, but it’s only in a quick shot and the cigarette and ashtray disappear pretty quickly…

ET Smoke

I wonder if that was a mistake, like Spielberg didn’t intent for it to end up in the film, or was it placed to show the kids being a little rebellious?

**UPDATE**

I recently had the opportunity to catch E.T. on the big screen so I took extra special care to keep an eye out for details in Elliot’s room since I’d been having so much fun analyzing the bedrooms in 80s kid’s flicks recently. First of all, when I originally dissected the room there was a weird dart board cabinet that I couldn’t identify (number 15 in the above screen shot…) Well, it was as plain as day on the big screen. #15 is in fact an Artful Dodger dart board cabinet from Oliver Twist!

artful dodger

Now that I’ve identified that it doesn’t do much to explain why the Artful Dodger is on a dart board cabinet, but still, mystery solved. In addition to this I also noticed some more toys in Elliot’s room, as well as in their living room!

ET 1

1). Chutes and Ladders boardgame

2). Magic 8 Ball

Magic-8-Ball-Fortune-Teller-Alabe-Late-1960s

3). Lego Universal Building Set

4). Empire Strikes Back Twin-Pod Cloud Car

cloud car

5). Super Simon Electronic Game

super simon

Though the Super Simon box is in the screen shot above (in Elliot’s room), the game itself is actually on a shelf in the living room…

ET 2

But for the first time I noticed that there are also some other fun things in the living room like…

6). An Atari 2600

7). Big Trak from Milton Bradley

big trax

There were also a bunch of other small, fun things I noticed throughout the film. Little details, like how John Williams drops into Yoda’s Theme for a could of beats during the Halloween scene when E.T. sees a kid dressed up in a Don Post Yoda mask…

ET 3

…or the fact that Dee Wallace is wearing a really weird handgun pin on her vest in one sequence…

ET 4

Sure, these things haven’t radically changed my outlook on the film, but any time I have the opportunity to learn something new about a film I thought I knew everything about, well that’s worth a full-priced movie ticket if you ask me.

So, anything I missed?

Other Awesome Bedrooms I’ve covered…

Sara’s Room from Adventures in Babysitting

Eugene’s Room from The Monster Squad

Mikey’s room from the Goonies

David’s room from Flight of the Navigator

Robbie’s room from Poltergeist

Ben’s room from The Explorers

Pee Wee’s room from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Fred Savage’s room from The Princess Bride

Josh’s room from Big