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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 5, 2000 | E-mail the Author
Director Ridley Scott's phenomenal 1979 sci-fi actioner starring Sigorney Weaver as Lt. Ellen Ripley, one of the first real female heros of our time. The movie was a pioneer in a lot of ways, and still today, it doesn't seem that dated; it's still just as scary as it ever was, a masterpiece of eerie tones that raised the tension to an almost unbearable level. Production design is also excellent for the time, with phenomenal design of all of the ship's interiors as well as, of course, the alien itself.

It may not be a fast movie, but it doesn't need to be. It's all in the details; scene after scene that are positioned to build up the tension, a lot of soft, quiet moments added into the middle of the film to keep us wondering just when something will happen, and it certainly does. It's a sci-fi classic, certainly still as terrifying 20 years later after it's been released.

VIDEO QUALITY: Quite an excellent transfer and a major improvement over any other version of this film that has ever been released. The anamorphic widescreen picture looks wonderful, capturing all of the greens, browns and other full colors that make up the color palette. Some of the scenes in the outside in space look slightly grainy at times, but when we're in the ship, I was suprised exactly how good some of the scenes looked, really quite impressively sharp at times for a movie that's now 20 years old. This new THX approved anamorphic transfer is certainly excellent; it's not quite perfect and that's certainly still good considering the age. There seems to be some slight artifacts here and there along with the previously mentioned grain, but nothing that will distract you from the movie. I think what will impress people most is the detail that is now available to be seen in the picture, all of the details of the ship and backgrounds that were probably not visible or blurred in previous editions can easily be seen here. This is a very, very enjoyable presentation and I'm sure that fans of the film will be very pleased with the high quality of this anamorphic transfer. Layer change is nicely placed at about 1:03:20.

SOUND: An excellently remastered soundtrack that may not be as forceful as one would expect, but it certainly doesn't have any problems in the way of distortion or similar elements that would distract from the presentation. Surrounds aren't used that heavily; they're used during some of the chase scenes, but otherwise occasionally used to create mood. Dialogue sounds clear, but slightly soft at times. Bass is present, but not really that deep or heavy.

MENUS: Wonderfully done menus that rival any previous menus I've seen; as you make your selections, you spin through the ship's halls. Easy, stunning menus to navigate and great animation.

EXTRAS: Where to begin? Fox has done an incredible job, at least with this first disc, to provide a wonderfully packed disc full of great extra features.

Commentary: An absolutely detailed and fascinating commentary by director Ridley Scott("Thelma and Louise") that goes into many of the layers of filmmaking that went into making this film, from working with the actors to producing the sets to doing the technical work to bring this film to life without spending tons of money. Interesting as well is how Scott talks about the way that the models were made and integrated into the picture. It's a commentary that's right in the middle for me; it's not a "story-based" commentary where the commentator talks about things that happened from the set only or it's not a "technical" commentary where the commentator talks about the technical processes of filmmaking, it's between that; a mix of both. Scott easily moves between talking about the technical aspects to the storyline to working with the actors without becoming confusing and frequently, he's absolutely fascinating, rarely stopping his talk. It's one of the best commentaries I've heard. Thankfully, it's not a "screen-based" commentary where the commentator just tells us what's on-screen. The commentary has a commentary index of its own where you can skip to a certain area of the presentation. I think fans of the film will be very, very pleased with the Ridley Scott commentary; he goes into incredible details on the making of "Alien". Some of the funniest moments during the commentary are of Scott revisiting his film and going, "Wow, that was pretty good!" at times.

Isolated Audio:: Not only one, but two isolated audio tracks. The first one is Jerry Goldsmith's score. The other audio track is the score that you heard with the film with the production audio. That means you can hear exactly what went on during filming. It's very, very cool to listen to and it's something that I wish more discs would include.

Deleted Scenes:10 Deleted scenes, accessable from their own menu. Some of them are really pretty cool, scenes like when the aliens send a radio transmission. The menus are really great: when you select a scene, a picture from the scene comes up on one side of the screen, along with an explanation of what the scene is all about. Some of the deleted scenes aren't of the same high quality as the film itself looks, but as deleted scenes go, they certainly aren't the worst looking deleted scenes I've ever seen. Most of them are fairly long, going for a minute or two. Some of the scenes were really enjoyable to watch and certainly were very interesting. Some of the other scenes were just alright and were rightly left out of the film.

Trailers/TV Spots:2 Trailers and 2 TV Spots.

Art/Photo Gallery: Really, the most incredible thing on the disc: A collection of hundreds upon hundreds of photos: promotional artwork, storyboards, concepts, etc. There are even pictures of the film's premiere and original merchandise. This is something that will take fans hours to go through in detail and I'm sure fans of the series will be thrilled at the inclusion of this incredible, incredible section that must have taken an enormous amount of time for the disc's designers to build. It's amazing to look through, just an ton of information. Thankfully, the designers have also made it easy to navigate.

DVD-Rom: Web links&A Screen Saver.

Overall: As pleased as most were with the amount of supplimental material on Criterion's recent edition of "Armageddon", I really think that you're getting more for your money here with this edition of "Alien". Lower price, classic film and an incredible amount of extras(I'm still amazed by the sheer amount of photos and pictures that the gallery contains), along with two additional isolated audio tracks....if you haven't gotten it, what are you waiting for? I really think this is the most impressive disc I've ever seen in terms of content.

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