Alien appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This became a strong representation of the film.
Sharpness appeared consistently positive. At almost all times, the picture remained crisp and well defined.
Despite many wide shots, I saw only a couple of minor signs of softness or fuzziness, and these tended to stem from the source. For instance, a blurry shot of Ripley cropped up at about the 50:30 mark, but that was in the original photography. For the most part, the image remained distinct and concise from start to finish.
Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no concerns, and I detected no issues related to edge enhancement. Print flaws seemed absent, as the movie stayed crisp and clean at all times.
Alien offered a suitably restricted palette, and the disc reproduced this well. The colors looked clear and accurate at all times.
Very few bright tones appeared, as Parker’s bandana was pretty much the only consistent example of anything somewhat bold and vibrant. Nonetheless, the tones seemed clean and distinct at all times, and the HDR gave the hues a little more oomph.
Black levels appeared nicely deep and rich, and shadow detail seemed appropriately heavy but not excessively dim. This remained a strong image virtually all of the time.
Note that these comments reflected the 1979 theatrical version of Alien, and the few minutes of “new” shots in the 2003 Director’s Cut displayed minor degradation of quality. Those got finished at 2K and looked a little worse than the rest of the film
Overall, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Alien seemed positive but showed its age at times. The soundfield demonstrated reasonably good breadth, and the forward spectrum dominated the presentation.
From the front, music showed reasonable stereo imaging, but the effects were the strongest aspect of the project. The front environment showed nice spread and atmosphere, as it created a creepy and eerie environment.
Surround usage seemed more limited. For the most part, the rears offered general reinforcement of music and effects. They became more active during some of the louder scenes.
For example, those that involved the landing of the ship showed broad and enveloping audio. Still, the forward domain dominated the package, where it offered reasonably vivid atmospherics.
Audio quality also appeared fairly good for its era. Dialogue varied, especially due to a lot of obvious looping. Much of the speech seemed natural and distinct, but some lines came across as flat and a little muddy, and some edginess occasionally affected those segments.
Additional distortion cropped up with a few effects, and those elements often sounded somewhat thin and shrill. Bass response for the effects seemed limited for the most part, but those landing sequences offered some loud use of the low-end.
Music also showed somewhat tinny tones, as the score occasionally sounded a little harsh. For the most part, I thought the track worked well given its age, but it did demonstrate a mix of concerns.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray release? Audio remained identical, as both offered the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix.
Visuals showed a nice tick upward for the 4K UHD. It boasted superior clarity along with stronger colors, blacks, and contrast. The 4K became a nice upgrade.
We can watch either the 1979 theatrical version (1:56:36) of Alien or the 2003 Director’s Cut (1:55:49). For the 2003 edition, Ridley Scott added a few short segments but also trimmed some bits and pieces. Despite multiple screenings of the original version, I couldn’t tell you what snippets got the boot, so I presume we didn’t lose much.
Scott didn’t add much either, and the most notable extra comes from the legendary “cocoon” sequence. It remains interesting to see but not a vital addition to the film.
A few other short bits pop up as well. None of these do much to alter the movie, and I can’t say that they improve it.
Because the alterations are so minor, it’s a toss-up between which version of the flick I’ll watch in the future. While the changes don’t improve Alien, they don’t hurt it either, so both cuts work well.
Next we find a 2003 audio commentary with director Ridley Scott, writer Dan O’Bannon, executive producer Ronald Shusett, editor Terry Rawlings, and actors Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright and Harry Dean Stanton. A complex compilation of sources, Hurt, O’Bannon, Shusett and Rawlings all clearly sit alone for their discussions.
Weaver chats with Scott, but many of the director’s remarks also come from separate solo sessions. Skerritt, Cartwright and Stanton all are together for their remarks.
Unsurprisingly, the ever-chatty Scott dominates the piece, but he doesn’t exist in a vacuum. He goes over a mix of elements connected to story, casting, visuals, music, and quite a lot else.
The others play less significant roles, and Weaver comes across as the track’s biggest disappointment. She reveals very little about her work and mostly defers to the director.
O’Bannon and Cartwright prove to be the most engaging of the other speakers. The writer provides some contrasts with his original script, and we get intriguing notes about his disdain for the Ash subplot.
Cartwright offers fine comments about her work and gives us a revealing look at the process and her character. Stanton doesn’t tell us much, but he adds a fun sense of comic relief at times, and it’s entertaining to hear him interact with his co-stars after all these years. In the end, the commentary seems generally positive, though not quite the slam-dunk I expected.
Originally from the 1999 DVD, we find another track with director Ridley Scott. He sits alone for this running, screen-specific affair. It's a decent but unexceptional piece.
Scott spends most of his time discussing technical aspects of the production, though he occasionally talks about other issues about the movie. Scott gets into both visual and practical effects and he also relates some of the backstory he created for the characters and circumstances.
A bit too much praise appears, and Scott also just narrates the movie somewhat too frequently. Nonetheless, this remains a generally solid and informative effort.
Seven sequences appear in the Deleted Scenes index, and these fill a total of six minutes, 39 seconds. Note that these simply show the alternate sequences from the Director’s Cut, so if you watch that version, you’ll see the same footage.
Also alongside the theatrical version, two Isolated Score options appear. You can examine the “Final Theatrical Isolated Score” or the “Composer’s Original Isolated Score”. Both seem like nice options for fans of movie music.
On the included Blu-ray copy, we also get the MU-TH-UR Interactive Mode. This allows you to flip among the disc’s four audio features and view a trivia track. Called the “Weyland-Yutani Datastream”, this offers info about the flick’s origins, development and creation. We find much of this material elsewhere as well, but the “Datastream” provides a clear, informative overview.
I’m not wild about the format, though. Most “trivia tracks” are pretty unobtrusive, so you can follow them and watch the movie at the same time. This become more awkward here because of the amount of territory “MU-TH-UR” fills. Little branches pop up all over the screen, so we get visual distractions. This means you can’t easily check out the flick and the Datastream at the same time.
Alien is a killer. The movie earned its status as an innovative classic, and despite some slow spots, it holds up well after all these years. The Blu-ray presents excellent picture with dated but generally positive audio and some interesting supplements. This becomes the best Alien to date.
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