Cinema: Creating a Creature

All extraterrestrial beings are "bug-eyed monsters," or BEMs, to science-fiction buffs. And, sure enough, the eyes of the alien creature in Steven Spielberg's E. T. are very large and prominent. At first startled glance—and he takes some getting used to—you could call him a BEM.

The fact is that E.T. gazes benignly at his young friend Elliott with eyes constructed in Hollywood by a craftsman who makes glass eyes for the blind. Innocence was the quality that Spielberg had in mind, but it is hard to blame Little Sister Gertie when she takes her...