Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
7 Deleted scenes - Fully restored
9 Featurette - Various
Production notes - Ridleygrams
13 Photo gallery - Well over 500 pics
Behind the scenes footage
Storyboards - Over 300 images
Multiple angle - 'Birth' sequence
20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 111 mins .
M15+ . PAL
This first disc of the killer nine-disc Quadrilogy collection sets up the series very nicely, with the contents containing two versions of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece. Much has been said about the theatrical version and as it has already been released on DVD for some time, I won’t really go into that here. There’s way too much to get through and I only get so much space (where no one can hear me scream).
Alien - Deleted Scenes
Ridley Scott actually introduces his new version and this is the cut everyone seems to be talking about. Running not much longer than it has previously, the film contains some restored footage that helps buoy up the tale a little. Although, I couldn’t shake the feeling of the Star Wars 'Special Editions' that rocked us all in 1997 with footage just added because it existed. However, when you’ve watched a film as a fan for so long, it’s always nice to get something extra and this adds a little spice as we anticipate what awaits us. (And I’m not going to divulge any of the new stuff for you, so if that’s why you’re reading, you may as well move along).
Alien is, of course, the story of a group of space freighters headed home after a long sojourn mining among the stars. Woken early from hyper-sleep, they put down on an alien world after hearing what sounds like an SOS. Upon exploration, the SOS is figured to be a warning but not before crewmember Kane is brought back to the ship with a decidedly ugly parasite attached to his face. Efforts to dislodge it fail and after a time it falls off itself and dies. However, that is not that, and before long there’s a seriously bloodthirsty alien loose among the labyrinthine corridors of the vast freighter and the crew must use everything they’ve got to combat it.
Alien - Deleted Scenes
In classic fashion, this bug-hunt film is among those that motivated a myriad of knock-off variations and inspired a generation of moviegoers. Using classic devices of subtlety to escalate the tension, Scott asserted himself forever as a master filmmaker and won himself a vast armada of adoring fans. In fact, following shortly on Fox’s success with Star Wars, this film was only greenlighted because it was the only ‘space’ film sitting on the execs’ desks at the time. This seems quite incredible today; particularly when we consider this box set in its entirety of nine feature-packed discs holding three sequels and over 24 hours of bonus materials could never have been without this primary film.
So, the new version, Jules, is it any good? I can offer you a resounding, ‘Yes, my geeky friend, it is’. Fully restored and cleaned up, this film still rocks as hard as it did way back when, and happily with this shit-hot transfer, always will.
Simply stunning. About a year ago I took a friend to see the double bill of Alien and Aliens at the Village Twin in the Valley and the print was faded, scratched, dirty and wobbly. Still, it kicked arse because it was big-screen Alien. Thankfully, there are no such problems here. Lovingly restored and remastered to include some scenes formerly left out and even removing some from the theatrical release, the film looks superb. Contrasts are beautiful, the lighting is perfect and saturation is even. Flesh tones are perfect and the quality is razor sharp and about the only (slim) failing is in the fluctuation of shadow detail. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good – however... is this another Ridley Scott modern device? Hard to say as it doesn’t hurt the film in any way – but by the same token, I don’t think it improves it any either.
What do you think a film’s gonna sound like in a digitally remastered DTS 5.1 or Dolby Surround 5.1 setup? That’s right: killer.
Plenty of eerie sounds finally sound just the way Scott intended with some nice surrounds and a general feeling of disquiet. There’s no junk, no static, no hissing (other than the intended) here to ruin the film and everything plays fairly evenly. The only (again minor) fault is in some dialogue being a little low, particularly from Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton.
Music is fantastic and really immerses us in the claustrophobia of the setting with some nice surround use. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is certainly an awesome tool of Scott’s in promoting the overall feeling of the film and in this digital age it has been cleaned and delivered beautifully. So too the sound effects; these really help the alien nature of the occasion and are well synched and placed to maximum effect.
Two discs here with a shitload of stuff to relate, so get comfortable. On Disc One we are given two versions of the film, as noted. The first is the 2003 Special Edition and is presented superbly, as noted above. The second is the original theatrical release. I didn’t sit myself through the length of this, as I’ve noted already, because much has already been said about it. However, it looked fine and sounded fine and the real thrill of this may be in the audio commentary that accompanies it. With nine principle cast and crew attending it there’s very little info left out here and is well worth the investigation for anyone unfamiliar with the audio commentaries already available. Also included here is the THX Optimizer from George Lucas to make sure our systems are ready for the Alien onslaught. Nice inclusion, but it turns up on most of the discs when one version would probably have sufficed. Oh well, better than blank disc space, right?
Let’s move on to Disc Two. Included herein are three major subheadings of Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production. Most everything is awesome here and a welcome addition, with a majority of featurettes being made recently for this collection.
Alien - Outtakes
Under Pre-Production we have nine inclusions. The first is The Beast Within, an interesting featurette exploring the film concept with Dan O’Bannon, the writer. Next comes the complete first draft of the original screenplay. This is huge with hundreds of pages of text and an interesting 39-page introduction in which Mr O’Bannon explains the differences between the script and the final film. Following is The Visualists, a 16:45 featurette describing how the concepts were to be translated to film, with original artwork from H.R.Giger and Ridley Scott’s storyboards.
Next is a quick bit entitled Ridleygrams which features 76 original thumbnails and notes in Ridley’s own hand. This could have been included with the storyboard archive that follows, which is 382 pieces of the total puzzle. And awesome. Ridley Scott can also draw, ladies and gentlemen. Is there nothing the man can’t do?
Still more follows with The Art of Alien, which features an art gallery from the four exceptional artists who designed the film. Ron Cobb, H.R.Giger, Chris Foss and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud all feature in over 160 concept artworks from the film (this was my highlight of the Pre-Production part, along with Ridley’s storyboards). Anyhow, after that comes Truckers in Space, the casting of the film. This is a 14:58 long piece featuring discussion from various individuals regarding the cast decisions. Interesting in that having a cast of only seven players (sans alien) each was very carefully selected and scrutinised. On that theme comes our next bit in Sigourney Weaver’s screen test. This has an optional director’s commentary and runs for 4:29. What’s interesting is Scott seems to go off on a tangent here and really doesn’t say all that much about the screen test itself. Finally, comes another photo gallery featuring 28 shots of the cast used for promotional purposes. Now, that’s a hefty bunch of extras for a regular DVD, but we’re only a third of the way through disc two!
Production contains eight more features of different variety with the first being Fear of the Unknown, a documentary running for 24:06. This features recent interviews with cast and crew speaking about the film and this bizarre new idea for a film and is just great. Very informative and very entertaining. Next we have a photo gallery featuring over 230 shots under numerous subheadings. Interestingly, there are two shots featuring John Finch, the original actor playing the ill-fated Kane who pulled out due to poor health early in the shoot. Over 100 continuity Polaroids follow along the same vein. Next comes an awesome featurette entitled The Darkest Reaches – Nostromo and the Alien Planet, which includes interviews with the reclusive H.R. Giger himself! This runs for 17:27 and is my pick for highlight amidst this section.
Another gallery follows with over 160 shots from the sets during the shoot. A close second for highlight of this bit comes in afterward entitled The Eighth Passenger and features recent interviews about the alien design with Ron Cobb, Harry Dean Stanton and producer Ron Shusett. They discuss Giger the man, and there are also some funny facts about Ridley Scott appearing in the film. Exceptional stuff.
A short multi-angle sequence follows with the birth sequence run along parallel tracks for us to shift between streams. The third angle contains both of the others and this has an optional commentary that is well worth the listen. Scott is a fan of including this in DVD material and with a film of this age we should be truly thankful. Finally (for this second section) there is a 25 shot gallery of Giger’s workshop. That guy sees stuff very differently than the rest of us, there’s no doubt about that...
Okay, let’s press on with the final section of this disc, Post-Production. Again, we have eight subheaders with the first being Future Tense, a 16:32 featurette discussion of the sound effects and score for the film. Mostly this is interviews with editor Terry Rawlings and composer Jerry Goldsmith and is fairly interesting. An expectant hush falls as I announce the next section; deleted scenes. Only seven (with a ‘play all’ function) but they’ve been fully restored and remastered for Scott’s consideration in this new release version of the film. These are the shots that were rejected a second time and include those removed from the original theatrical version. Oddly, aspect ratios vary here.
Another great featurette comes next entitled Outward Bound, which is about the visual effects of the film. Includes recent interviews with the visual effects supervisor Brian Johnson, supervising modelmaker Martin Bower and Derek Vanlint the cinematographer. Pretty amazing stuff. I wonder if my memory will be this good 25 years on? On that track (visual effects, not my memory) another gallery of 34 images follow from the visual effects department.
This next bit is incredible. A Nightmare Fulfilled – Reaction to the Film clocks in at 19:24 and contains footage from the original release plus photos of cinema queues going around the block in 1979. Some of the stories are quite unbelievable too. Usherettes fainting, people puking... those were the days! That just doesn’t happen enough today. Poster explorations show 26 concepts for poster artwork of the time and are pretty interesting. Some are unlike anything else that came out regarding the film and are therefore well worth the look. Another gallery follows from the special shoot - that promo thing they do after a film has finished shooting to (today) stick on DVD covers or whatever. 54 pics are included here. Finally (for the actual final time here) there is the premiere photo archive. This features some of those shots of long, long queues taken at the time. There are 30 included in this bit in colour and black and white.
So, if that isn’t enough to hold you for a week or two, I don’t know what could. Awesome extras and real attention to detail have treated this classic film in the manner in which it deserves.
Well, as a film, I’d always recommend Alien. In this form, treated this well and lavished with so much extra material you’ll need a space freighter to carry it home, I have no hesitation in recommending it. There is no way any fan could be disappointed with this treatment of Ridley Scott’s classic masterpiece, nor the true devotion granted the extras. No true fan can be without at least this film of all in the series.
And this is just the first two discs of nine! Stay tuned to DVDnet, your Alien experts, for reviews on the following seven discs in the Quadrilogy box set.