In space no one can hear you scream.
The Alien series is unique among film franchises because each of the four entries was directed by an extremely talented filmmaker who would go on to worldwide acclaim. Ridley Scott (Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) had only directed one feature film, The Duellists, prior to helming Alien; when James Cameron brought the series into the mainstream with Aliens, he’d already made The Terminator but blockbusters like The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Titanic still lay ahead; brilliant amalgams of style and substance like Se7en and Fight Club would establish David Fincher as an important voice in filmmaking, but Alien3 was his feature film debut; and the grotesquery of French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s sensibilities was on full display in Delicatessen and City of Lost Children by the time he made Alien Resurrection but his greatest success in Europe and America—2001’s Amélie—was still in the future.
Critical and fan opinion tends to cast the series as wildly inconsistent with the first two entries held in high regard, while the last two are dismissed or vilified. That opinion may be warranted to a degree (like nearly all studios managing major franchises, Fox applied the bigger-and-more-expensive-is-better philosophy until it began to erode the series’ soul), but none of the movies is vacuous fluff. However much the studio and the films’ producers micromanaged themselves into disaster, spoiling the original vision of a couple of the films, we certainly can’t fault their choice of directors. Each film in the series is a fascinating example of the idiosyncrasies and personal fascinations of its maker, more closely related in some ways to the rest of their directors’ works than they are to each other. Viewed in that light, they take on previously unseen depth. And this new Alien Quadrilogy box set from Fox is all about candidly and comprehensively viewing them in that light.
Alien—Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini
The Nostromo is a commercial towing vessel on its way back to Earth with 20,000,000 tons of mineral ore. Its journey is interrupted by a strange signal, and the crew of seven is awakened from cryo-sleep to investigate. When Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt, M*A*S*H), Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt, The Elephant Man), and Navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright, The Birds) go out on the surface of a violent and inhospitable planet to track the source of the signal, they find a ruined alien craft filled with large, leathery eggs. Kane is attacked by the creature in one of the eggs and, against the orders of Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, Ghostbusters), brought back on board the Nostromo for medical care. When Kane births a horrifying creature with acid for blood and the ability to rapidly adapt to any environment, the surviving crew—including engineers Parker (Yaphet Kotto, Homicide: Life on the Streets) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton, Escape from New York), and Science Officer Ash (Ian Holm, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)—must struggle to stay alive in the face of increasingly long odds.
One of the things most mind-blowing about Alien is that it originally hit movie screens only two years after Star Wars. It’s difficult to imagine two science fiction films more disparate in tone and visual style, but Alien (and Scott’s other experiment in science fiction, Blade Runner) has proven nearly as influential as that most massive of space fantasies. Even if one ignores the three sequels Alien spawned, and sub-par ripoffs like Species or Mimic, what would the dystopias of The Terminator or The Matrix have looked like if Scott’s thriller hadn’t provided James Cameron and the Wachowski brothers a visual blueprint? If Star Wars reintroduced the pulp style of Flash Gordon to American movie theaters, Alien was the first science fiction blockbuster to posit a dark, dangerous, and cynical future with characters recognizably modern.
Scott cites three films as having influenced Alien‘s style: Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey for their dueling visions of science fiction’s potential on film, and, most importantly, Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for its startlingly brutal reinvention of the horror film. It’s an odd combination, to be sure, but a fairly obvious one if you think about it. The world of Alien mixes 2001‘s clean corporate order with Star Wars‘ dilapidated universe, creating a stifling, grimy world of corporate pawns more in keeping with the general tone of post-Vietnam American filmmaking (Alien, remember, was released the same year as Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and contains a similar undercurrent of paranoia and distrust of authority). Even the film’s opening shots—the behemoth Nostromo crawling above our heads in dark outer space, a slow dolly down the ship’s cramped corridors, and Kane’s awakening from cryo-sleep in a series of placid dissolves—evoke equal parts Lucas and Kubrick. Hooper’s influence comes in the film’s no-holds-barred brutality. A quarter of a century later it’s easy to forget how bludgeoned audiences felt by Scott’s combining slowly-building dread with the subconscious-tickling quality of H.R. Giger’s phallic, bio-mechanical creature design and graphic payoffs like the explosive arrival of the baby alien. The movie delivered on a Hitchcockian scale: people left the theater feeling as though they’d taken a beating…and wanting to go back for more.
Despite the blood and guts, much of Alien‘s power at the time came from Scott’s deliberate pacing and his clever nurturing of the sense that no one on the Nostromo was safe. His casting of Sigourney Weaver (her first major film role) as the movie’s hero was a masterstroke. In Dan O’Bannon’s and Ronald Shusett’s (Total Recall) script, none of the characters (referred to only by their last names) are necessarily male or female, and the screenwriters noted that a couple of them might be cast as women. No one expected Ripley to be one of those characters. Audiences were no better prepared for a female hero of Ripley’s strength and substance. As a result, they first attached themselves to Kane as the story’s hero, and then to Dallas. By the time those characters met their respective demises, there was the terrifying sense that anything could happen. Scott, meanwhile, had laced the first half of the film with clever hints that Ripley was indeed the hero. Most notable is the scene in which Dallas and Lambert bring the injured Kane back to the Nostromo. Ripley’s refusal to open the airlock because it is both illegal and a danger to the rest of the crew is purely pragmatic. And the heroes of these films, like Kenneth Tobey’s Captain Hendry in The Thing From Another World (1951), are nearly always pragmatists, the middle ground between the emotionalists (Lambert) and cold rationalists (Ash) around them. Ripley is Hendry all over again, made fresh by her gender and our culture’s hesitance to associate pragmatic leadership with a woman. Scott used casting to defy audience expectations much the way Alfred Hitchcock did by killing off Janet Leigh in Psycho. It’s a brilliant manipulation that transcends the monster-movie script, and makes Alien no simple science fiction/horror film. It was so effective that Ripley established a new brand of hard-assed, competent heroine so often copied in the intervening decades that, when watching Alien today, one must look through the lens of historical context to appreciate how ground-breaking both the character and Weaver’s performance were, as well as how crucial both are to the movie’s overall emotional and visceral impact. Ridley Scott thought he was making a B-movie on an A-movie budget, but his meticulous sense of style and the gender twist he wove so cleverly into the movie’s soul have made it one of the most significant and influential genre movies of the 1970s.
The Alien Quadrilogy box set presents two versions of Alien. The first is the 117-minute cut that was seen in theaters in 1979; the second is a 116-minute director’s cut, assembled by Ridley Scott in 2003. Scott provides an insert essay explaining that he’s always been happy with the original theatrical cut, and has never had a desire to produce an alternate version. The 2003 cut is basically a sop to fans and Fox, created by Scott out of the kindness of his heart. He began by inserting previously deleted scenes into the original theatrical cut but found it too great a disruption to the film’s pacing, so other scenes were removed to make room for the new material. Hence the shorter running time. The 1979 version is, as Scott asserts, still the version to see (one particular scene in the 2003 cut slows the film’s finale terribly), but the minute differences in the new cut make a decent study in the effects of precise editing.
The restoration of all source elements that took place in advance of this DVD release and the construction of the new version of the film paid off in spades, though. The 2.35:1 anamorphic image is magnificent. There’s no sign of dirt or damage, colors are perfectly rendered, blacks solid, shadow detail suitably deep and nuanced. And just try and find the slightest bit of haloing from edge enhancement…go on, I dare you. The overall look of the transfer is gorgeous, pristine celluloid. If only all films could look this way on DVD (and, remember, we’re talking about a movie released in 1979).
Audio options for Alien are Dolby 5.1 and DTS Surround, both in English, as well as 2-channel mono in Spanish. Both surround tracks are only limited by the age of the source material. They’re excessively clean and detailed with a natural soundscape. There’s even some strong use of directional panning. The track doesn’t have quite the low-end punch we’ve become accustomed to in modern action filmmaking, but leveling that observation as a complaint would be entirely unreasonable. When assessed as a soundtrack for a 25-year-old film, both the Dolby and DTS offerings exceed expectations.
The majority of supplements for Alien are on the set’s second disc, but Disc One has an impressive array, too. There’s a commentary by Scott and a variety of the cast and crew that’s playable on both the 1979 and 2003 versions of the film since the two cuts are delivered via seamless branching. It’s an edited track with Scott having been recorded in two different sessions: one by himself, and one paired with Sigourney Weaver. Actors Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, and Tom Skerritt were recorded together, while John Hurt, editor Terry Rawlings, and writers Dan O’Bannon and Ron Shusett were each recorded individually. The track, which gives Scott the lion’s share of talking time, is fast-paced and informative, providing both screen-specific and behind-the-scenes information. Scott’s track with Weaver is the warmest, while Cartwright, Stanton, and Skerritt turn in the most raucous (and sometimes racy) session. I’m not normally a fan of commentaries pieced together from a variety of recordings, but this is a good one. It’s well-balanced and informative. Particularly interesting are O’Bannon’s discussions of the changes made to his script.
The scenes Scott worked back into the 2003 cut of the film have also been indexed on Disc One so they can be viewed separately. One can also access the portions of the feature commentary that cover these scenes from the index. In other words, if you don’t care for the new cut of the film, you can still check out the added scenes via a standard DVD deleted scenes menu. A deleted scenes marker is also available when watching the 2003 cut. It indicates in the bottom right corner of the frame when you’re viewing a scene not in the theatrical cut. Subtitle options are disabled when the deleted scenes marker is being played.
Finally, Ridley Scott introduces the new cut of the film, explaining its genesis and how he views it in relation to the 1979 cut. It’s brief, blunt, and much appreciated.
The extras on the second disc are divided into three sections for easy access: Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production. The centerpiece of the whole affair is a comprehensive three-hour making-of documentary called The Beast Within: The Making of Alien. The documentary is organized in nine chapters, three in each of the disc’s Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production sections. The chapters cover the development of the script, the hiring of Ridley Scott and his vision for the look of the film, casting, H.R. Giger’s creature design, Ron Cobb’s and Chris Foss’ conceptual designs, the shoot, editing the film, the visual effects, and audience and critical reaction to the film upon its release. Each chapter can be played individually, or the The Beast Within can be played in its entirety via a Play All feature. The excellent thing about this piece is, not only does it cover the film’s production in more detail than the numerous Alien making-of documentaries and featurettes made in years past, but it’s incredibly candid. Dan O’Bannon is still bitter about changes producers Walter Hill and David Giler made to his script, and Giler’s still insistent O’Bannon’s draft screenplay was basically crap (you can judge for yourself, as O’Bannon’s entire original screenplay is among the extras on this disc). For his part, Ridley Scott seems to appreciate what all the feuding parties brought to the table and couldn’t care less about their squabbling over details like pieces of dialogue and characters’ names. Similarly, composer Jerry Goldsmith is still palpably angry over changes made to his score by Ridley Scott and editor Terry Rawlings. Feeling his first pass was too lush, Scott made him rewrite the main title score, and Rawlings used a piece from Goldsmith’s score for Freud (1962) for Alien‘s finale instead of the piece written specifically for that part of the film. That these folks are still angry after so many years says a lot about their passion as creative people, and the candidness with which the documentary handles these tensions, editing parties in conflict so they are essentially rebutting one another, makes the piece more dynamic than your average making-of.
Disc Two also contains Sigourney Weaver’s screen test, with an optional commentary by Ridley Scott. It’s entertaining as Weaver smokes throughout and plays Ripley like a true hard-ass, a take she toned down considerable when actually shooting the film. There are a wealth of photo galleries in each of the disc’s three main sections, covering everything from O’Bannon’s screenplay, Ridley Scott’s detailed storyboards, Giger’s creature designs, promotional materials, and much more. Like the documentary, the photo galleries can be accessed individually from the menu, or there’s an option to view them all. Nearly as amazing as the wealth of supplemental material here is how well-organized it is, allowing the viewer to get to it in a variety of ways.
Chestburster: Creature Design is a multi-angle featurette that presents the raw, two-camera coverage of the infamous scene in which the baby alien makes its first appearance. You can toggle between the two camera angles, or watch them simultaneously, as well as selecting whether you want to listen to the production audio or a commentary by Scott. The piece is a study in how practically Scott shot these key sequences, giving them life and energy with precise editing later on. It’s also fascinating to watch Ian Holm, on whom one of the cameras is nearly always trained: he plays the entire scene as though Ash is waiting expectantly for the creature to burst out of Kane.
Finally, there are seven deleted and extended scenes that differ from those presented on Disc One. Scott had rejected these for inclusion in the 2003 director’s cut. They vary significantly in quality, some being raw production footage with live mono sound, some fully remastered with 5.1 surround audio. All were rightly left out of the new cut of the film, but it’s cool they’re included here.
Aliens—Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau
In space, they may not be able to hear you scream, but you can sure hear the bullets fly.
A lone ship flies through the empty expanses of space. A salvage crew finds only a solitary survivor, and they bring her back to Earth. The woman awakens in a hospital bed, confused and disoriented, suffering nightmares of alien creatures bursting from chests.
Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the only survivor of the Nostromo, is back on Earth, but 57 years have passed since Ripley took to an escape pod, suspended in cryogenic sleep, floating in deep space. Understandably, The Company has serious questions for her, but she is unwilling to co-operate. All of her friends are dead, her crew is long-abandoned, and her family has grown old and died without her. She has nothing left.
A Company man named Burke (Paul Reiser) approaches Ripley with a problem. Horrified, Ripley learns that the planet where her crew discovered the alien wreckage has long since been charted and explored, and worse, humans have set up a colony there. Even more suspiciously, they have lost all contact with the colony, and are preparing to send a squad of Space Marines to investigate.
When Burke tries to persuade Ripley to accompany the team as an “advisor,” she vehemently refuses. But the nightmares persist for Ripley. When she realizes she will find no peace on Earth, she joins up with the rough-and-tumble team of hardy military men to return to a planet she has not seen in 57 years.
When the team arrives on the planet, they find no sign of life, no survivors. The colonists are all missing. The fate of the colonists is a mystery…to everyone but Ripley.
Aliens, as Cameron would keep insisting, was not going to be a remake—it was going to be a new film entirely, moving in a totally new direction. Cameron single-handedly changed the entire direction of the Alien mythos from brooding, atmospheric, claustrophobic thriller and converted it into possibly the finest glorious, bloodthirsty, chaotic combat movie ever made. It is a magnificent film, and these two discs represent the finest treatment the film has ever seen.
Two separate versions of the film are presented here in all their glory: the first is the original theatrical cut of the film, and the second is the extended director’s cut version that appeared on the previous Aliens special edition DVD, approved by Cameron himself as the definitive version.
In fact, this is a slight misnomer—there is a single version of the film (the original theatrical cut); for the extended edition, the additional footage and deleted scenes are merely integrated through seamless branching into the appropriate place. It is a clever way indeed to offer two unique cinematic experiences while saving disc space.
Visually, the film is almost identical to its previous DVD release (Cameron apparently was satisfied with the previous transfer), and therefore it remains largely untouched, save for a few touch-ups to remove blemishes and scratches. Suffice it to say, the film looks fantastic. There is not a spot, or a scratch, or a visual defect to be seen.
Like all previous versions of the film, Aliens really has a tough time with graininess and murkiness, which is a result of the film stock and low-level lighting conditions used while shooting. This DVD, however, is as close to perfection as one could reasonably hope to achieve, and I have never seen the film looking sharper. The anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer looks fantastic, and captures every shadow, every flickering neon light, and every scuttery movement with fantastic detail. Almost too much detail, even! Having grown up watching this film over and over on dark, dim, ugly VHS tapes, when I finally saw the remastered DVD transfer, I was surprised to notice things I never noticed before—tiny set details, different shadows cast, and so on. In my opinion, Aliens is a film that benefits from having a well-adjusted television with strong black levels. The film is ridiculously grainy at times (no fault of the DVD, of course), and in terms of viewing enjoyment, any black level enhancements made go an incredibly long way in smoothing things over.
In terms of sound, the English Dolby Surround 5.1 is a fascinating jumble of water drips, shell casings, creaking metal, absolute silence, heavy breathing, and monstrous high-pitched alien screams. The mix is similar from its previous DVD incarnation, and it sounds fantastic. While some feel the mix could use more distribution across the channels, I think it sounds incredible the way it is. Every gun is where it should be, every scream and thud blares out of the speakers, and the bass levels are delightfully atmospheric and punchy.
The animated menus simulate the medical computers used to analyze the “facehugger” aliens in the Med Lab, and are rather pleasant to navigate, balancing the enjoyment of a slick animated menu with the inconvenience of having to wait for the animated menu to stop being slick, and play the darn movie.
But by far, the star of the first disc is the commentary track, which is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the best commentary track I have ever heard on any DVD ever. Featuring a staggering amount of participants, the track includes commentary from writer/director James Cameron; cast members Michael Biehn, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn, Bill Paxton, Terry Henn, and Lance Henriksen; producer (and Cameron’s ex-wife) Gale Anne Hurd; miniature technical supervisor Pat McClung; alien effects leader Stan Winston; and visual effects supervisors Dennis and Robert Skotak. Whew! The commentary track is a crash course on all things Aliens—from the pre-production excitement of negotiating Cameron to direct after his Terminator success, to the technical details of lenses and cameras used from shot to shot, from inside jokes and gags shared by cast and crew, to the intricate details of monster creation and special effects, this commentary track has it all. It is funny, fascinating, casual, and technical at the same time. And the cleverest part of all is, the track is carefully edited to be present on both version of the film—if you choose to watch the original theatrical cut, the track simply omits the audio from the scenes that are not included. Ingenious!
Even if you were just to watch the featurettes, the supplementary material included for Aliens would still clock over three hours in length. Of course, you would have to skip the hundreds of photographs, production pictures, press photos, and behind the scene glimpses of the cast and crew, not to mention the entire Cameron-scribed film treatment present on the disc.
All the featurettes feature a hybrid of newly-recorded material and interviews (with just about every person of worthy note associated with the project) combined with older interviews from the production of the film, as well as behind-the-scene takes and numerous other goodies too many to name. These represent the most comprehensive and diverse supplementary materials ever associated with Aliens.
Before we begin, a small note: one has the option of viewing all the photographs, and watching all the featurettes at once, which is a timesaver, but if you plan on doing any backtracking, be warned. You can skip forward through the commentary tracks, but for some reason, you cannot backtrack—you have to go back to the menu, and manually select the featurette you wish to see again (or start the entire “play all” process over again). This is a strange little glitch, but hardly problematic.
The content is separated into three main categories, which I shall outline:
Three featurettes are included in this segment; the first, entitled “57 Years Later: Continuing the Story,” starts the ball rolling, describing the coming-to-be of the Aliens project. Cameron, an inexperienced, Canadian born, Roger Corman-trained director, had written the script for Aliens in 1983, and had pitched the idea to Fox, who were wary of letting him behind the camera for such an expensive project. However, they were interested in another project he had going, and decided to hinge the decision-making process solely upon the success or failure of a little film called The Terminator…Next, “Building Better Worlds: From Concept to Construction” outlines the involvement of designers Ron Cobb and Syd Mead and the arduous task of taking the old H.R. Geiger designs and converting them into something auspiciously new. Some of the behind-the-scene glimpses into old storyboards, designs, and vehicle concepts are downright fascinating. The “Preparing for Battle: Casting and Characterization” featurette outlines the casting problems encountered during Aliens, such as the last-minute replacement of James Remar with Michael Biehn, as well as the exhausting rigors of casting the film overseas, in London, where the principal photography was shot, and some intriguing cast and crew confessions, recorded in full costume from the set back in 1985.
The original treatment (entitled Aliens II) is included, and is a rare treat for die-hard fans, and can be read through in its entirety. As well, a multi-angle pre-visualization segment is included, which offers a three-minute breakdown of a space sequence, complete with audio commentary by miniature effects supervisor Pat McClung. Last, both cast portrait and artwork galleries are included, which offer some incredible glimpses into the early stages of planning for the film.
“This Time It’s War: Pinewood Studios, 1985” is a glorious look inside the early days of shooting, from behind-the-scene glimpses and alternate takes, the back story behind the departure (okay, firing) of the original director of photography and the ultimate replacement with Adrian Biddle, the brutal tension between Cameron and the British crew, and how they almost mutinied, narrowly avoiding full-scale walkouts by his British crew, as well as numerous other fascinating insights into Pinewood Studios, the London set, where the film was cobbled together in blazing speed. Next, “The Risky Always Lives: Weapons and Action” featurette offers astonishing vintage footage into the actual weapons tests conducted to determine which guns would be suitable to produce the best-looking “flame” effects on-screen, which would cast the most amount of ambient light, etcetera, as well as the rigorous weapons training necessary to prep the cast to operate such firepower. Numerous technical details are divulged from the fascinating to the amusing, and sometimes, both at the same time; for example, the chest-mounted machine guns (AKA smart guns) were actually old German machine guns mounted on a Steadicam harness with Kawasaki motorcycle handlebars fixed at the side. The “Bug Hunt: Creature Design” featurette is pretty self-explanatory, but it offers some exceptional glimpses into the process of creating some creepy-looking aliens, by technicians Stan Wilson and Alec Gillis and others. “Less on horror, more on terror” was Cameron’s credo for the film, and the designs of the aliens changed subtly from Alien, allowing the suits to be more mobile, more maneuverable, and more flexible. There is a shot-by-shot breakdown of a reverse-photography trick that is fascinating to watch. Similarly, the “Beauty and the Bitch: Power Loader vs. Queen Alien” featurette does the same thing, in regards to the extraordinarily complicated task of animating a giant queen alien, as well as a power loader suit that took over three months to complete. The original test footage of the queen alien is included here, as well as an explanation into the cutting-edge combination of animatronics, cables, hydraulics, cranes, puppeteers, and sheer manpower utilized to bring the monster to life. The last featurette in this section, entitled “Two Orphans: Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn,” focuses on the blooming relationship that developed between (you guessed it) the two main female actors. It is the most whimsical content on the disc, and sweet, if you need a break from all the alien carnage.
The section also contains a production photo gallery, as well as a weapons and vehicle gallery, giving some amazing glimpses into the sets and weapons utilized to bring the film to life. Perhaps the most interesting is the Stan Winston’s Workshop gallery, which provide some amazing visual images, and the continuity Polaroid gallery, an esoteric treat that allows the hardcore fan to see how the continuity of the film was protected during the intense shooting.
“The Final Countdown: Music, Editing, and Sound” is one of the most interesting featurettes, delving into the world of sound in Aliens. Composer James Horner flew to London, ready to craft a score in his allotted six-week period, only to find that Cameron was still shooting photography and editing. The signature score from Aliens, one of the most recycled and well-known pieces of dramatic music, was composed literally overnight, as the frantic composer tried his best to keep up with Cameron and his constant perfectionist re-tooling and re-editing. “The Power of Real Tech: Visual Effects” focuses primarily on the nitpicking details of miniature models, set recycling, and the like. Very detailed information for those interested in such things. The final featurette, “Aliens Unleashed: Reaction to the Film,” relays the ecstatic joy experienced by all cast members and crew when, yes, they were going to get the film done in time (and on budget!). Each crewmember reflects on their initial impressions of seeing the film for the first time, and the hoopla surrounding Sigourney Weaver’s surprise Oscar nod is documented in this section. Finally, two photo galleries close up the disc, a visual effects and a “finish and release” gallery highlights the North American premiere of the film as well as during numerous technical settings, such as editing, special effects, composing the final score, press shoots, etcetera.
Now I need a glass of water.
The cumulative effect of these supplementary materials, ultimately, leaves the viewer staggering under the all-encompassing realization of the massive effort involved to get Aliens to the big screen. From the start, it seemed like a project doomed to self-destruct at any moment. From the foreign location to the near-mutiny of the crew, the ridiculously tight budget (a miniscule $18 million), to the brutal time constraints, the last-second desperate score by James Horner, and the poison gas and the collapsing ceilings, the film’s often-overlooked major cinematic achievement is its very existence.
As a matter of personal preference, I prefer the theatrical version of Aliens to its special edition counterpart. I have listened to James Cameron going into lush detail all the reasons why he thinks he knows more about this movie than I do (as if!), but I remain unconvinced. Sure, the additional footage cut back into Aliens makes for a lush backdrop of character development and tone, but combat movies need not such things.
The only stand-out footage that always got me the most jazzed up is the sentry gun sequence, which I remember seeing on television broadcasts of Aliens and numerous incarnations of the film in the past. A shame it never made the theatrical cut.
Perhaps I would have even settled for losing the entire sequence about Newt’s family and the fate of the colonists, the one scene that has consistently annoyed me. The rest of the additions make for interesting filmmaking, but this scene has always felt pedantic and completely useless to me. Though admittedly, listening to Cameron’s explanations about the homage intentions of the sequence helped me to appreciate the scene in a slightly less critical light.
Alien3—Reviewed by Chief Justice Mike Jackson
First she witnessed her crew be picked off one by one by an acid-blooded, drooling killing machine. Then she slept for over 50 years, only to have to wake up not just to a host of the vicious aliens, but to their queen. Now Ellen Ripley wakes up to find that her companions are dead and she’s crash-landed on an inhospitable world that serves as a prison colony. Oh, and of course, she’s brought the alien with her. In more ways than one. The bitch is back, indeed!
As much as we film nuts wish it were otherwise, Hollywood is ruled by the dollar. And as much as we’d like to deny it, if it were our $50 million above the line investment, not to mention millions more in marketing costs, we’d be praying to the cinema gods that our movie at least recouped its investment, and doing everything in our power to make damn sure that it did.
In a sense, Fox’s interference with the making of Alien3 is at least understandable, if not completely forgivable. Alien had been a resounding hit, as had its first sequel, Aliens. Their directors, Ridley Scott and James Cameron, respectively, were not freshman, but each film propelled their careers high into the stratosphere. For the third installment, they courted another up-and-coming director, Renny Harlin, who at the time of Alien3‘s preproduction had directed only a handful of films, most notably A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. Despite the two years difference in release dates, he had not yet directed his star-making Die Hard 2. Writer/producer Walter Hill flirted with directing, as he had with the first film, but ultimately the job went to neophyte director David Fincher.
“Neophyte” perhaps is the wrong word. David Fincher was an accomplished director, but in fields other than motion pictures: commercials and music videos. He made stunning, memorable TV spots for AT&T, Coca-Cola, and Nike, and videos for the likes of Sting (“Englishman in New York”), Paula Abdul (“Straight Up”), and Madonna (“Vogue,” picked the second-best video ever by TV Guide in 1999). He had some film experience, but it was all as a low-rung effects person at Industrial Lights and Magic; look really closely, and you’ll find his name in the credits of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Return of the Jedi. Being his first feature film as the guy in the big chair, and an important, expensive film at that, Fox was, as I said, understandably concerned.
What they could not possibly know was the as-yet untapped potential as a filmmaker that Fincher possessed. Commercials and videos are all about capturing the eye as quickly as possible, and then giving the eye something memorable to watch in the scant seconds or minutes you have the viewer’s attention. Like films, most of them are directed by journeyman with average skills. But also like films, it takes a lot to be acknowledged as one of the best of the trade, and indeed, in the early 1990s David Fincher was one of the best video directors around—his video for Madonna’s “Vogue” is minimalist, cryptic images composed and edited into the most arresting five minutes of film you will likely ever see. Once he got over the experience of taking his lumps with his first film, he made two of the most compelling and disturbing films of the 1990s—Se7en and Fight Club—as well as two more mainstream films, The Game and Panic Room. He’s the sort of filmmaker, like David Cronenberg or David Lynch, who makes a brand of film most moviegoers find dark and unsettling; unlike Cronenberg and Lynch, he’s found commercial success because his films are emotionally compelling, not repelling. (One could also argue that his films have starred Brad Pitt, Michael Douglas, and Jodie Foster, which couldn’t have hurt the box office receipts.)
Alien3 has long been my favorite entry in the series. See, Alien3 was the first film in the series that I saw. True story. The first film came out when I was only four. The second one slipped under my radar. I caught Alien3 on video, and was instantly hooked. Alien is effectively creepy, Aliens works very well as an action film, and I even like Alien Resurrection for its European filmmaking sensibilities and quirky cast of fringe character actors—Ron Perlman? Michael Wincott? Brad Dourif? Leland Orser? Too cool. But David Fincher’s dark vision connected with me, even in its bastardized-by-the-studio theatrical cut, that none of the rest of the series has accomplished. Seeing it prior to the first two in the series gave me a perspective different from other fans, since I didn’t have the emotional attachment to Ripley and was not as upset by her demise. (Oh, did I spoil that? So now you know. Watch the damn movie.) However, I could see the movie’s obvious flaws. The original theatrical cut does a poor job introducing the prisoners on Fury 161, so upon first viewing you have a difficult time differentiating these bald guys running about, cussing and falling victim to the drooling meanie. Missing scenes make for jarring transitions, plot threads that seem to go nowhere or hang unfinished, and “characters” (as ill-defined as they are) that appear from nowhere or disappear without a trace of arterial spray. If one didn’t know the mixed-up production, one would think Fincher really screwed the pooch.
One would be wrong.
The film Alien fans got on May 22, 1992 was a far cry from what David Fincher wanted you to see. He disavowed the film and left during the editing process. For years, it was rumored that his cut of the film existed somewhere, and would even show up in bootleg form at science fiction conventions. Sadly, the original DVD release contained neither the excised footage nor a director’s cut. We’ve had to wait until this Quadrilogy release to see an official representation of his vision—or at least as close as we’ll ever get. Fincher was not involved in the production of this DVD set, so the extended version is labeled the “Assembly Cut.” (According to another site, even though Fincher was not directly involved, the remix did have his blessing.)
No matter what you call it, the extended version is remarkable. This isn’t like the longer version of Aliens, just the same film with a couple new scenes added in for additional color. Most of the additions, and there are many, are short bits that don’t add much to the plotline but that flesh out the characters. The difference is as plain as day from night. What’s most remarkable is that the prisoners are no longer Star Trek “redshirts,” introduced only to be offed with no definition to their characters. I’ve watched Alien3 many, many times (the original disc is one of the most-watched in my collection), but I’ve never been able to identify more than a few of the characters by name. For the first time ever, I found myself remembering these blokes’ names, who they were, and when we had “met” them in the film. Dillon, the minister-type character played by Charles Dutton, benefits the most from these additions, not just from a characterization perspective but from the richness Dillon adds to the film’s thematic tapestry. While the original gives us the basic idea that he’s a spiritual leader, most of his spiritual dialogue was cut. Here, he doesn’t just pray at the funeral for Hicks and Newt; we get quiet moments where he leads the prisoners in prayer. (More on this in a bit.) Golic, played by Paul McGann, becomes integral to the plot, not just a guy driven nutters by the alien and confined to the infirmary before disappearing entirely. We discover that the other inmates already thought he was crazy and really did think he killed the two prisoners who the alien ate before his eyes. The brief scenes wherein they find him post-attack sitting alone in the mess hall muttering and eating ravenously are among the most effective new scenes in the extended cut. I’ll get to his additional screen time in a moment. Clemens, played by Charles Dance, becomes more of a loner (he discovers Ripley’s escape pod while on a private walk), and has more moments with Ripley, but since he was already the film’s most fleshed-out character, we don’t learn much more about him. As for the plot changes, the first we encounter is after Clemens discovers the EEV. The prisoners use a team of oxen to bring the EEV back to the prison, and it’s one of the oxen that become host to the alien instead of the Rottweiler. (Personally, this is the one change I didn’t like. As distasteful as I usually find violence to dogs in movies, the dog made more sense. Also, this introduces a continuity problem later on. Before Murphy is sucked into the fan, he still calls to the dog in the hole, but we never saw the dog in this cut and calling “Spike, is that you?” just doesn’t make much sense.) Later, when the prisoners try to burn the alien out of the vent shafts, they trap it in the toxic waste dump. You heard me—they trapped it. Golic escapes from the infirmary and goes looking for the alien. He finds it, kills the guy guarding it, releases it, and becomes second breakfast for the effort. I’ve only outlined the major changes; there’s smaller bits and pieces elsewhere that make the other prisoners feel more human and that give more gravity to the fact that Ripley isn’t just infected, that she’s host to a queen.
With the additions, it’s easier to see how Alien3 fits into David Fincher’s oeuvre. Besides being dark and beautiful and moody, the fleshing out of Dillon brings a common theme closer to the surface: faith. More appropriately, the futility of faith. Se7en shows faith on a variety of levels. The John Doe killer’s conceit is that he is doing the will of God by enforcing His commandments, but that’s only a twisted parallel to the real character of faith, David Mills (played by Brad Pitt). Mills has faith in the innate goodness of humanity, that good will triumph and evil will be vanquished. His faith is proven false as goodness is destroyed (personified by…well, you know if you’ve seen the movie, and I won’t spoil it if you haven’t) and he becomes complicit in fulfilling the evil killer’s grand scheme. You would think that Fight Club, seemingly the champion of nihilism, would be absent of faith, but the misplaced faith here is in Tyler Durden and his cracked philosophies. People need to believe in something or someone, but that ultimately it will be proven a waste. Panic Room puts faith in security, which ultimately becomes an illusion and a trap of our own making. In Alien3, their belief in God—an areligious one, though Christian iconography is scattered throughout the set design—does not save the prisoners who put the most faith in it. The only prisoner who lives through to the end seems to do so on random luck, not because of his trust in anything or anyone. Fincher’s overriding message: Faith, the belief in what we believe to be the truth, gains nothing.
Faith may be misplaced in Fincher’s films, but what you can put your faith in lock, stock, and barrel is Fox. When they promise the goods, they deliver the goods. The Quadrilogy edition of Alien3 is all you could possibly ask of a two-disc set. Disc Five contains both versions of the film—the theatrical cut and the so-called “assembly cut”—and the results are remarkable. Video is the original aspect of 2.35:1, presented anamorphically. As near as I can tell, it looks exactly like the original DVD release. Colors are accurate and shadow detail is excellent. It’s incredibly sharp and film-like, veritably popping off the screen. The added footage in the assembly cut is nearly indistinguishable; I only noticed a slightly blurry shot in one of the added scenes. Film grain is noticeable from time to time, but it was shot with anamorphic lenses so that is normal and acceptable. I only noted one scene that appeared to be edge enhanced, but since it was a model shot of the alien, that may have been a stray matte line. Regardless of my requisite DVD reviewer niggling, video is top drawer. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 (with alternate 2.0 surround in Spanish), and is mostly good. Surrounds and LFE add appreciably to the atmosphere, and it does right by Elliot Goldenthal’s score, full of abstract sounds and ambient texture. What’s slightly disappointing, but understandable, is the assembly cut’s occasional problems during the added footage. Since most of the scenes were cut early in post-production, dialogue was not re-recorded in the studio; therefore, on-set dialogue recordings had to be used, and they’re thin at best, unintelligible at worst. Thankfully, Fox subtitled these scenes so that you can understand what’s being said. This only happens with a handful of scenes, so it’s not really a big deal.
Like David Letterman says, you came for the entertainment, you stayed for the canned ham giveaway. The reason to invest in the Quadrilogy set may be for the extended cut of the film, but what will get you to stay is the wealth of extras. Disc Five only has one real extra—a commentary track. It’s what this site used to call a “Criterion-style” track, with many participants recorded separately and cobbled together. The participants include cinematographer Alex Thomson; editor Terry Rawlings; special effects artists Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr., and Richard Edlund; and actors Lance Henriksen and Paul McGann. The comments are not necessarily scene-specific, and at times seem to be taken from interviews rather than commentary recording sessions, particularly for Thomson and McGann. However, it’s all quite illuminating and a good listen. If you select to view the theatrical version, you can visit a menu option to view the deleted and extended scenes; if you select the special edition cut, this option becomes a marker that can be displayed during the film to denote what’s been added or changed. It’s not entirely accurate; it occasionally displays a bit too long and marks original footage as new, but only someone like me who has seen the movie too many times will be able to tell the difference.
On Disc Six, the main menu greets you with four options: Navigation Options, Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production. Being the curious sort, I checked out the Navigation Options section first. It’s essentially a “play all” option that lets you view the featurettes, photos, or artwork in one fell swoop. I’d recommend going with this, because the documentary footage flows too well to be broken up.
The making-of documentary clocks in just shy of three hours. Created by master DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika, it is one of the most brutally honest looks at the making of a film I have ever seen. It is comprised mostly of interviews (both dating to the production in 1990-92 and original to the DVD release) with nearly anyone involved with the making of the film—with the notable and regrettable absence of David Fincher, except in on-set video. Even Renny Harlin, who backed out before the film even started production, gets considerable screen time talking about his role in the making and his impression of the completed film. Everyone is unanimous in their praise of Fincher’s creative vision and their criticism of Fox’s handling of the project. Some of the best moments:
• You get to see test footage of a dog in costume to play the freshly oxen-chest-burst alien. Incredibly comical. (For the DVD, the shot was completed with CGI.)
• The interview footage with H.R. Giger. If you’ve never explored his work outside what’s on-screen in the Alien movies, you owe it to yourself to at least visit his website. He’s one sick mofo. Cool.
• I think Elliot Goldenthal is Benicio Del Toro’s clone.
I’m not too keen on artwork and photos on DVD, so I didn’t spend much time with these portions of the disc. What I can tell you is that the pre-production sketches include work done for the early concepts that were thrown out, and have text intro cards so you know what you’re seeing. I learned from this section that conceptual artist Doug Chiang (notable for his work on the Star Wars prequels) did some early sketches, and that at one point ILM was approached to do the special effects. There’s also storyboards for very nearly the entire movie.
Alien Resurrection—Reviewed by Judge Bryan Byun
It could be said of the Alien films that they’re not so much chapters in a continuing storyline as different interpretations of the same basic haunted house story: foolish humans introduce monsters into their midst; monsters run amok. Lather, rinse, and repeat. Alien Resurrection follows the Alien formula faithfully while also incorporating bits and pieces of the other films’ individual spins. In that sense, it’s sort of a genetic combination of all of its predecessors, an appropriate metaphor given its premise: 200 years after Ripley’s sacrificial fall into a vat of molten lead in Alien3, she—and her Alien Queen “child”—have been brought back from the dead, courtesy of genetic manipulation and cloning.
Ridiculous? Sure, but no more so than any of the other films’ leaps of logic. At any rate, it’s as good a device as any to bring back the redoubtable Lt. Ellen Ripley, who’s now sort of a “Ripley Plus,” that “plus” being a dollop of alien DNA, enough to give Ripley acidic blood, enhanced strength, and the ability to take a knife through the hand the way most of us take paper cuts. The bad guys this time around aren’t the long-gone Weyland-Yutani Corporation but the good old Terran armed forces, who have brought the alien back for “urban pacification” purposes, among other military applications.
The military have taken every precaution to ensure against the disasters that occurred the last three times. An army of scientists has been employed to create a completely controlled environment in which to grow and study the aliens.
What could possibly go wrong?
When Alien Resurrection was unleashed in 1997, audiences and fans of the Alien franchise were, to put it mildly, disappointed. They didn’t so much reject the film as recoil from it, as if they’d accidentally touched something cold and slimy. Resurrection simply wasn’t the rousing thrill ride fans had been hoping for ever since Aliens—what they got instead was just…unpleasant. A film that director Jean-Pierre Jeunet describes as “a French film made by an American studio,” Resurrection is indeed distinctly European in its sensibilities (a fact that might explain its more favorable reception overseas), and plays like an arthouse film with action movie trappings. Little wonder, then, that American audiences hated it; too arty for the action crowd, too loud for the arthouse crowd, Resurrection had something to displease everybody.
As a result of its critical and financial failure, Alien Resurrection is doomed to be remembered forever as the ugly stepsister of the Alien franchise. That’s too bad, because in some ways this fourth installment is the most disturbing and thematically rich of the entire series. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why Fox and co-producer Sigourney Weaver considered Jeunet the ideal director for Joss Whedon’s script; not only had Jeunet proven himself a master visual stylist with Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children, but those films (as would his later Amélie) showed in Jeunet an affinity for and preoccupation with the inner workings of the human body, a sensibility that would—in theory—mesh well with Resurrection‘s storyline, centering as it did around biological mutation and the corruption (and evolution) of the flesh.
What Alien Resurrection adds to the Alien series is to take the element of psychosexual horror that exists in all of the films and elevate it to an unprecedented level. If Aliens is the most phallic of the Alien films, Resurrection is the most vaginal; from the moist, pulsing eggs to the slimy “viper pit” that Ripley disappears into at a climactic point, the film is rife with orifices, labia, and mucus. The theme of motherhood in Aliens becomes, in Jeunet’s vision, much more about pregnancy and birth. When you look at a newborn baby, there’s delight, certainly, and joy…but there’s also a certain queasy “eww” factor in the blood-streaked Winston Churchill clone that emerges from the mother’s birth canal, and the ambivalent anxiety that stems from that birth canal itself, the vagina doing double-duty as an image simultaneously chaste and erotic. It’s no wonder, then, that women tend to respond to Resurrection far better than men, as famously uncomfortable with the vagina as we Y-chromosome types are.
Jeunet dives headfirst into this murky Freudian stew, and emerges with what may just be the most intensely, gleefully human Alien film of all. In its exploration of the state of humanity some 300+ years in the future (which is to say, as with all science fiction, right now) through the more-human-than-human android Call, the human-alien hybrid Ripley, and the dehumanized humans who surround them, Resurrection is both a critique of the human condition and a vision of its evolutionary destiny. This being a horror film, that vision is particularly bleak; it’s not saying much about humans as a species when its finest specimens turn out to be a robot and a part-alien clone.
Resurrection features some lovely moments that hold their own against anything from the previous three films. The new incarnation of Ripley is perhaps the finest yet; this Ripley is one with nothing to lose, having already lost it all, and the alien part of her DNA amps up her original self’s wry sardonicism and no-nonsense toughness to a new, feral intensity that’s a joy to watch. The scene in which this eighth Ripley clone confronts her malformed predecessors is heartbreaking, possibly the most emotionally intense of the whole series. Brad Dourif does his usual unbalanced nutcase routine as the twitchy scientist Gediman, and frankly, I love it more every damn time I see it. And as much as the alien-human Newborn gets harped upon, I find it incredibly creepy and, most surprisingly, sympathetic; if you don’t feel the pathos in the final scene between Ripley and the childlike Newborn, you’ve obviously never had either a child or a puppy.
Sporting a brand spanking new high-def transfer, Alien Resurrection has never looked better. Cinematographer Darius Khondji’s painterly, high-contrast visuals are a celebration of the color black, and they are extremely well-represented here, with depth and texture to the shadows. With minimal grain and a practically flawless print, this disc is as visually perfect as anyone could ask, and a noticeable improvement over the previous DVD release of Resurrection, which was pretty good to begin with. Both the Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 tracks are fantastic, with crisp highs and deep lows and an active use of the surround fields. There’s a lot of ambient sound in this film, and it’s very well presented in both mixes. In terms of audiovisual quality, all five fans of Alien Resurrection out there should be well-pleased by this deluxe presentation.
It’s always a little depressing to peek into the making-of process of a critical and popular failure like Alien Resurrection. Seeing all the painstaking effort, ingenuity, and dedication that goes into the film, knowing that it’ll all be essentially for naught, is absolutely heartbreaking. Fox deserves a good deal of credit for allowing the cast and crew to be as candid as they are, acknowledging the film’s failure, and in at least one case—producer David Giler, whose contempt for the film is undisguised—damning the entire production.
That said, for the most part the participants in these extras tend not to dwell much (if at all—Jeunet himself remains solidly pleased with his work, and claims to have avoided all of the film’s negative press) on Resurrection‘s flaws or bomb-tastic box office performance, and focus on the technical challenges and achievements of the film.
The film itself, on Disc Seven, is offered in both its original theatrical version and, through the magic of seamless branching, a special extended cut (don’t say “director’s cut”—Jeunet appears in a taped introduction to the film to emphasize that the theatrical cut is his preferred version) adding in an alternate opening and closing and a few minutes’ worth of extra bits scattered throughout (most notable of these being an amusing joke at the expense of a certain Alien-like mega-department store chain). I have to agree with Jeunet—while the extra material is interesting, they don’t add much to the film, and in fact the original opening and closing scenes are far more effective. As with the other films in the set, Resurrection‘s extended cut comes with a deleted footage marker to indicate the additions.
There’s also an audio commentary, featuring director Jeunet, editor Hervè Schneid, alien effects creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr.; visual effects supervisor Pitof; conceptual artist Sylvain Despretz; and actors Ron Perlman (Johner), Dominique Pinon (Vreiss), and Leland Orser (Purvis). As commentaries go, this is a lively and informative one, with few dead spots, but it mostly repeats information from the featurettes. Some kind of indicator to let us know who’s talking at any given moment would have been welcome, but it’s not as confusing as some commentaries I’ve heard. Jeunet himself isn’t the dominant voice here; on the whole, I got the feeling that he was happy enough with this film, but it wasn’t exactly a personal labor of love for him. While he’s not dismissive, and appears to look back on Resurrection with affection, he’s far more detached from this project than he appears, say, on the Amélie commentary. The overall impression he conveys is that Alien Resurrection was just a job for him—which may be the film’s greatest flaw.
Disc Eight contains the rest of Resurrection‘s supplements, and it’s certainly much more attention than I ever expected to see lavished on what most consider the least of the Alien films. Divided into Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production sections, each section contains featurettes and artwork/photo galleries. In addition, a special navigation feature allows the viewer to divide the features into a continuous sequence of either all featurettes, artwork, or photos. It’s a neat option for those who, like myself, are more interested in live-action documentaries than photo galleries.
What emerges from this set of extras is a sense that Fox and everyone connected with this film went into it with the best of intentions. It’s particularly tragic that Resurrection flopped at the box office, considering how far the studio went in trying to do something different with the franchise, seeking out a visionary like Jeunet instead of just handing the film over to some commercial hack. Whatever else you want to say about Resurrection, you have to admit that they didn’t play it safe with this film. In hiring a relatively unknown (in this country) French director, who spoke nary a word of English at the time, and giving him a surprising amount of creative freedom, Fox really went out on a limb, and even if it was a gamble that ultimately didn’t pay off, they deserve credit for the effort.
Easter Egg Alert: There are two Easter eggs featured on Disc Eight. For the first one, go to the Navigation Options page and enter 11-26-97 (the film’s American theatrical release date). The second can be found in the Post-Production section of the extras; go to the second page in that section, navigate to the Back menu item and then navigate down until an icon at the top of the screen is highlighted, then select. The second one is the one that’s actually worth the effort, a little extra featurette that gives one man’s amusing perspective on life in the rubber suit.
As rich as Alien Resurrection is in its creative vision, it never quite comes together into a coherent whole. Whatever your opinions of the first three films, each is undeniably the creation of a passionate artistic hand. Resurrection, while very much a Jeunet film in its quirky humor, preoccupation with bodily functions, and the presence of Jeunet fixture Dominique Pinon, nevertheless feels halfhearted and oddly disconnected. The visual style is there, as is the psychosexual symbolism and vaguely erotic sense of horror that pervades every frame, but as a glance at Joss Whedon’s original script shows, the film was clearly intended to convey the gung-ho team camaraderie and sense of adventure that enlivened Aliens, and those elements just aren’t there in the final product. There’s some funny banter between the characters, who are, individually, extremely cool, but they never gel into one of those trademark Whedon families.
As a result, there’s really no one here for the audience to fully connect with and root for; even Ripley, the one connecting thread (aside from the aliens themselves) in the series, isn’t the Ripley we know and love. What we end up with is a nightmarish experience that’s also emotionally discordant, giving the audience little reason to overlook the film’s numerous plot holes. There’s a lot of feeling in this film, and it comes through in some powerful individual scenes and characters, but they come across as isolated, disconnected moments. Like the slime that covers every inch of the film, Resurrection is appropriately creepy and nasty, but it’s also a little cold.
Bonus Disc—Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini
Oh, no, we’re not done yet. As if all that weren’t enough, the set comes with a ninth disc devoted entirely to bonus materials. The final disc is a marketing archive, for the most part, housing stuff like trailers and TV spots. The content is divided by film. Let’s take a look…
Ridley Scott’s opening salvo in the Alien franchise is given lusher treatment than the other films. First up is a 64-minute documentary called Alien Evolution that doesn’t offer anything not covered in The Beast Within on Disc Two, but is a decent, quick overview of the film’s genesis and production.
Experience in Terror is a 1979 electronic press kit piece that runs seven minutes. Video is soft and grainy full screen, audio is two-channel mono, and the content is every bit as fluffy as one would expect. But the piece is worth archiving.
Recorded at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on September 14, 2001, Ridley Scott Q&A is a 15-minute Alien-specific portion of a longer talk conducted by Dennis Bartok of American Cinemateque. Again, you’ll find nothing in the way of information not previously covered in greater detail on Disc Two, but Scott is charming and funny and the piece is enjoyable.
Special Edition Laserdisc Archive is all of the supplemental material on the Alien laserdisc ported over and archived on the DVD. The material is a combination of text, photos, and video clips. You can dive straight in and work your way through the extensive material from beginning to end, or its all indexed in three parts (Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production, just like the organization of the material on the supplemental DVDs) and 22 chapters.
Finally, the Alien portion of Disc Nine houses the theatrical teaser and trailer, and two TV spots.
For James Cameron’s film, we again have a Special Edition Laserdisc Archive, organized in three parts and 31 chapters with the same navigational options as the Alien archive. This is great, comprehensive stuff, worth preserving as the laserdisc format fades into oblivion.
Trailers include a teaser, theatrical trailer, domestic and international trailers, and one TV spot.
Supplements for David Fincher’s film include an Advance Featurette, which runs just under three minutes and is pure electronic press kit, designed to whet our appetites for the looming release of the film, as well as five theatrical trailers and seven TV spots.
The only additional extras for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s entry in the Alien franchise are the theatrical teaser and trailer and four TV spots.
We don’t know squat about space, but your neighbors will be able hear you scream—with joy—from your home theater if you take the plunge and pick up this set. With reference quality transfers of two cuts of each film in the series, and a dizzying array of substantive extras, The Alien Quadrilogy represents a new benchmark in DVD releases. It has to be experienced to be believed.
Need we say it? Not guilty.