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Old 06-19-2004, 01:40 PM
 
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Default Alien: Special Edition




Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: January 13, 2000

Released by: Fox
Release date: 6/1/1999
MSRP: $29.98 (OOP)
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes



Probably one of my most eagerly awaited DVDs in my history with the format. When the film was finally announced last January for a DVD release in June of 99 it was a godsend. The DVD format wasn't always bursting at the seams with all these exciting Horror/Sci-Fi releases you know. There was a time when you could count the number of truly great special edition DVD Horror/Sci-Fi releases on two hands. At any rate Alien was a huge release and its announcement on DVD was a celebration for me. Six months later the release still holds up very well. 20th Century Fox is one of the most bashed supporters of DVD and for good reason.

Their stance on anamorphic DVDs has always been a bad one and the studio was once a strong supporter of the now defunct DIVX. Even worse, Fox stated time and again their feelings that DVD wasn't the future of home video and that Digital VHS was an alternative. Of course now that's ridiculous since DVD has become an amazing success and Fox's corporate face is once again in the mud. Regardless of that Alien and the rest of the series are the few things the studio has done right on DVD so lets take a look.

The Story

inline Image The crew of the commercial towing vessel "The Nostromo", on its way home from a mining expedition in deep space, is abruptly awakened by the ship's computer "Mother". The crew, Captain Dallas (Tom Skerrit), Lieutenant Ripley (Sigourny Weaver), Science Officer Ash (Ian Holm), Kane (John Hurt), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), believing they are close to Earth awaken from their hypersleep only to discover they are still several months from their destination. Mother, the Nostromo's computer, intercepted a transmission of unknown origin and under "Company" orders they must investigate or forfeit their earnings.


inline Image Reluctant to go the crew sets course for the source of the transmission - a nearby planet. After landing on the planet Dallas, Kane and Lambert traverse the hostile terrain to investigate the source of the transmission. They discover a derelict ship that apparently crashed on the planet. So what's a weaponless- inexperienced crew in first contact to do? Investigate of course! Back on the Nostromo Ripley works to decipher the transmission's message and discovers that the transmission may be a warning and not a SOS as originally thought. Back in the derelict ship Captain Dallas, Kane and Lambert discover one of the crew of the derelict ship decrypted and melded into its chair.

inline Image On closer inspection the ribs of this poor fellow are broken and bent outward as if something burst out of its chest. Kane makes an even better discovery in a lower section of the ship; he finds thousands of eggs. Kane startles one of them and is soon brought face to face (snort) with this new terror. Captain Dallas and Lambert rush him back to the Nostromo where they attempt to remove the "face hugger" which has attached itself to Kane's face. They are unsuccessful but eventually the face hugger comes off and dies. Kane seems to recover and the crew thinking the worst is over prepares to go back into hypersleep. Little did they know their nightmare has just begun as a new terror emerges and begins to kill the crew one by one, who are not prepared to deal with this new menace. Somehow they must survive while being hunted by the "perfect" species.

inline Image What can I say about this film? It's one of the greatest Science Fiction-Horror films of all time and the original is still the best. Yes, the original Alien the one where the creature has six fingers not three (the more the merrier, eh?) is still tops in my book despite the rather good James Cameron sequel, Aliens. Alien is the perfect melding of science fiction and thriller elements creating a pulse pounding film that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole last 60 minutes of the film. Together with Jerry Goldsmith's score the drama builds during the first half of the film establishing the extremely well written characters and the time and place they live in. The acting is excellent and a well-written script no doubt helps this.

inline Image You know the actors have done their job when you can not look at the actors and see Sigourny Weaver or Yaphet Kotto, but instead see the characters they portray. Alien is loaded with special effects and designs that truly bring life to this strange universe. Most amazing is how these effects and designs have stood the test of time in light of today's CGI. H.R Giger's designs, especially the alien, are ingenious. The alien is probably one of the most memorable, non-Universal monster ever conceived. Ridley Scott's direction is impeccable and the "chestbursting" scene is, in my opinion, one of the greatest moments ever filmed.

Like a "Last Supper" in space, Ridley Scott directs the action around this futuristic table documenting the last peaceful moments between the characters before everything comes crashing down and a new threat literally comes out of nowhere. What's left is an amazing scene that must have made audiences in 1979 freak out and still holds up very well viewed today. I also love the way Ridley Scott framed some shots having three characters faces visible across the frame giving the composition a great feeling of depth. You can also watch and re-watch scenes like that catching each actor/actresses reactions and expressions as the dialogue and story unfold. If you're looking for a great Sci-Fi/Horror film they don't get much better than Alien, except for maybe John Carpenter's The Thing, but that's highly debatable.

Image Quality

inline Image 20th Century Fox Home Video presents Alien in it's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, is enhanced for 16:9 TVs and has been THX mastered. Alien looks fantastic and Fox did a good job mastering and restoring this film. This transfer is as impressive now as it was in June when the DVD debuted. The colors, while muted (as is the tone of the film) are still strong. The detail is excellent, especially in the cockpit scenes and the scenes that take place in the mess and living quarters, which are brightly lit with solid colors. I didn't notice any oversaturation or bleeding between color fields.

The blacks are solid and shadow details are wonderful. The smoke that also pops up in the film every now and then flows like silk with no grain or artifacting present. The print used for the transfer was restored and the folks behind the scenes of the DVDs production removed many scratches and imperfections giving the film a very clean look. Overall it's very hard to believe this film is 20 years old. While I wouldn't say it's as crisp as newer films released in the 90s on the format it's still an excellent transfer of one of the greatest Sci-Fi thrillers ever made. Needless to say, it torches the old widescreen VHS version of the film I have with the least bit of effort.

Sound

The sound is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is pretty good. Jerry Goldsmith's score has a great amount of depth and the remix is very good. This DVD contains the original score isolated, which is really awesome. There's also an alternate score and effects track isolated as well.

Supplemental Material

inline Image The extras included on this disc are great. There are a total of 10 deleted scenes for your viewing pleasure. The deleted scenes are great and next to the commentary are the most significant supplements on the DVD. Some of the deleted scenes are extensions of existing scenes with extra bits of dialogue. For example, there's a much more emotional and tense version of the scene where Kane is lying on the table with the face Hugger attached to his head, and outside the med. lab the crew discusses what happened in the derelict ship. Lambert has "a go" at Ripley because she wouldn't let the landing party inside the ship, demanding they be quarantined.

inline Image I wish that this scene had remained intact because it really builds tension between Ripley and Lambert, which for the most part goes, unexplained throughout the film. Probably the most significant deleted scene is the cocoon scene where Ripley discovers the bodies of the crew and Captain Dallas cocooned. It's a powerful scene but was let go due to pacing. Also on the roster of supplements are two outakes, one of them, "Alien Attacks Lambert", gives you a really good look at the alien in full view. The disc also features an audio commentary by director Ridley Scott. The commentary is pretty good. Ridley Scott gives some behind the scenes info and explains how the surprisingly simple effects were done. He also gives his own personal interpretation about many of the scenes and the relationship between the characters.

It's a one-man commentary and most of those have some dry spots (except for Bruce Campbell commentaries, Bruce you rock!) but Ridley Scott does a good job with it. Fox has also given us TWO Isolated musical scores, the original and an alternate soundtrack. Rounding out the supplements are TV spots, two theatrical trailers, extensive photo galleries (...zzzzzzz...) and a nice 4 page insert with an intro from Ridley Scott praising the DVD as well as bios of the actors and pics. Holding it all together is a really nicely designed animated menu screens which is cool in itself. Really this DVD has a terrific set of supplements and is every Alien fans dream.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately this review is not without a complaint. The documentary for the film is not on the Alien DVD - rather you have to mail in a card (which comes with the Alien box set, NOT the individual Alien DVD) along with your receipt to get the 5th disc containing the new 60 minute documentary. This is all well and good, but suppose someone didn't want to buy the complete box set? It doesn't seem very fair that they would be excluded from something that should have been on the DVD in the first place. Additionally, this offer is no longer available so fans that have just invested in DVD or hesitated in buying the box set are left out in the cold.

Additionally, I wouldn't be so quick to praise Fox entirely for the Alien DVD. Don't be fooled, the real heroes here are the fine folks at Sharpline Arts and the other fine men and women (if I knew their names I'd list them here...sorry) who handled the content of the DVD and made sure Fox didn't screw it up. Also, it was Fox's idea to split up the documentary (which is so aggravating now that they have released TWO disc sets like "Patton") - Sharpline Arts wanted it to be a part of the Alien disc and not the whole box set. So, even in light of this great disc Fox still screwed something up. Even with that shortcoming this disc is still a fans dream and should not be missed.

Rating

Image Quality - A
Sound - B+
Supplements - A+

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • 20 Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1

Supplements
  • Audio Commentary by Director Ridley Scott
  • Deleted Scenes (10)
  • Outtakes (2)
  • Isolated Original Score
  • Alternate Music Track
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Original Storyboards
  • Artwork and Photo Galleries
  • 4 Page Insert Featuring a Message From Ridley Scott and Cast info

Other Pictures

 

 

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