ET Flashback: 'Poltergeist'

by David Weiner 11:42 AM PDT, June 08, 2012
Playing ET Flashback: 'Poltergeist'

They're herePoltergeist premiered in theaters 30 years ago this week, and in celebration of one of the scariest movies ever made, we've unearthed some great vintage interviews with producer Steven Spielberg from 1982, as well as a sit-down with Zelda Rubinstein, the little person who played eccentric medium Tangina Barrons.

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Asked what he could reveal about Poltergeist four months ahead of its June release, Spielberg told ET, "It's real scary. It's sort of a 'land Jaws' for me. It's a movie about ghosts, but it's not a send-up, it's not a comedy. It's really a movie about a haunting in suburbia." In comparing Poltergeist to his razor-toothed, 1975 blockbuster, Spielberg explained, "The great similarity is that terror is relentless, and the terror is unseen in both movies [until the end]."

Poltergeist was directed by Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame, but Spielberg's fingerprints are all over the film, from the themes of childhood innocence and imagination to the awe-inspiring soundtrack and cookie-cutter suburban setting that mirrors E.T. The Extra-terrestrial.

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"Poltergeist is a scream, and E.T. is a whisper," said Spielberg, who was working on post-production for both films at the time of the interview and noted that both projects were battling for 70mm summer theater space. "Essentially [Poltergeist] is a movie about tightening your stomach muscles and keeping them there for two hours until something gives."

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Poltergeist was initially rated R by the MPAA, then changed to a PG rating after Spielberg challenged the designation. One of the film's stars, Zelda Rubinstein, reflected on the controversy surrounding the film -- that it was too violent for children to watch -- and told ET, "I feel that maybe children would maybe understand it even better than we adults, because it deals a lot with the mythology surrounding the archetypal childhood fears, the fears of having incidents with your toys … [and] the development of the new myth surrounding the electronic media."