ALIEN: “After more than three decades, Alien has firmly established itself as a classic. It has barely aged over that span and remains a fine piece of work. While not the best of the series, it continues to startle and delight.”
ALIENS: “My all-time favorite film, Aliens definitely earns my recommendation.”
ALIEN3: “Clearly Alien 3 has more than its fair share of detractors, but I'm not a member of that club. I find it to have some flaws but to offer an interesting and entertaining experience as a whole.”
ALIEN RESURRECTION: “Even if you have already seen Resurrection and disliked it, give it another try. Like me, you may be very pleasantly surprised; I've now seen it six times, and I've enjoyed it more with each successive viewing.”
The Bonus Discs:
With this review, I’ll take an overall look at the six-disc Blu-ray “Alien Anthology”. For full information on the individual movies, please consult my separate reviews of 1979’s Alien, 1986’s Aliens, 1992’s Alien3 and 1997’s Alien Resurrection via the links above. Please note that the picture and sound grades found at the top of this article represent an average for the four movies.
Though this article covers the boxed set as a whole, I want to concentrate mainly on the package’s fifth and sixth discs, as they contain the majority of the supplements. I’ll start with Disc Five and go through movie-specific materials.
The Big Enchilda for Alien comes from a conglomeration of featurettes entitled The Beast Within: Making Alien. First up, we find a featurette called Star Beast: Developing the Story. This runs 18 minutes and 14 seconds as it combines archival materials and interviews with writer Dan O’Bannon, story writer/executive producer Ron Shusett, conceptual artist Ron Cobb, associate producer Ivor Powell, producers Gordon Carroll and David Giler, former 20th Century Fox president Alan Ladd Jr., “Beast” focuses on the evolution of the flick. We learn a little about how O’Bannon and Shusett got into film and came around to the creation of the Alien story. The program then follows the slow path of the tale to the screen and concentrates on all the difficulties along the way, including many unsuccessful rewrites. The piece seems frank and informative as it lets us know the various concerns.
Next we move to another featurette entitled The Visualists: Direction and Design. The 16-minute and 41-second piece includes remarks from O’Bannon, Shusett, Ladd, Giler, Powell, Cobb, director Ridley Scott, alien designer HR Giger, They go through finding a director, Scott’s arrival on the flick and his take on the tale, concerns about the look of the Alien, and development of the Alien creatures and other visual elements. A nice introduction to the film’s look, we get some good information here.
The actors come in during Truckers in Space: Casting. In this 14-minute and 54-second piece, we get comments from Shusett, Carroll, Scott, Powell, Giler, Ladd, casting director (UK) Mary Selway, and actors Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, and Harry Dean Stanton. They cover the decision to make Ripley a woman, how all the leads ended up with their parts, and some information about their takes on the parts. We also see some intriguing clips of the original actor cast as Kane. The absence of Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto here and elsewhere seems unfortunate, but otherwise “Truckers” goes through its topic well and includes positive notes about the actors.
After this we shift to Fear of the Unknown: Shepperton Studios, 1978. It runs 24 minutes and three seconds as it includes the standard roster of archival materials and interviews. We hear from Ron Cobb, Ridley Scott, Dan O’Bannon, David Giler, Alan Ladd Jr., Ivor Powell, art director Roger Christian, Veronica Cartwright, Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton, Ron Shusett, production designer Michael Seymour, and cinematographer Derek Vanlint.
Probably the best of the featurettes so far, “Unknown” covers studio pressures, tensions and issues on the set, the design of the set, character development and Scott’s work with the actors and other elements of their performances, and reactions to the burgeoning work. The actors highlight this one with their stories from the set plus some great outtakes. Informative and entertaining, “Unknown” gives us a nice snapshot of the shoot.
Next we go to The Darkest Reaches: Nostromo and Alien Planet, a 17-minute and 28-second featurette. This uses the normal format and includes comments from Powell, Seymour, O’Bannon, Cobb, Scott, Giger, Cartwright, Shusett, Carroll and Christian. As the title indicates, this program covers the visual design and creation of the two main sets. We learn lots of neat intricacies of the locations and find out some fun notes about them and their integration into the film.
Our next featurette is called The Eighth Passenger: Alien Design. It runs 31 minutes, 35 seconds and presents remarks from Cobb, Giger, Stanton, Shusett, Seymour, Scott, Cartwright, Weaver, Skerritt, Powell, Christian, O’Bannon, Hurt, Vanlint, Giler, alien head effect designer Carlo Rambaldi, and visual effects supervisor Brian Johnson. We get a few notes about people’s perception of Giger and then launch into many details about the various stages of the alien itself. We hear Giger’s thoughts about his designs and find out how the filmmakers brought those concepts to life. The program strongly details the shoot of the chestburster scene and provides the definitive account of the flick’s most famous sequence. Lots of great behind the scenes footage appears here – like outtakes with the chestburster - and the program gives us a terrific examination of these elements.
Called Future Tense: Music and Editing, the next featurette runs 16 minutes and 28 seconds. It includes information from editor Terry Rawlings, composer Jerry Goldsmith, Scott, Shusett, Powell, Skerritt, Giler, and O’Bannon. As one might expect from the title, it concentrates on issues connected to the cutting and scoring of Alien. Actually, we only hear a little about the former topic, and those notes don’t tell us much. Instead, the music dominates the program, probably because this presents a juicier subject. Goldsmith’s music didn’t always go over well with the others, and some friction ensued. We hear about that in this fairly intriguing program.
After this we find Outward Bound: Visual Effects, an 18-minute and 52-second featurette. It gives us notes from Brian Johnson, supervising modelmaker Martin Bower, Ivor Powell, Derek Vanlint, Ridley Scott, and David Giler. They discuss the various visual elements like the ships and how they made them look believable. The show seems somewhat dry but it conveys the information in a reasonably concise manner, and it tosses in some interesting bits.
The final “Beast Within” featurette, A Nightmare Fulfilled: Reaction to the Film fills 19 minutes and 22 seconds. We hear from Scott, Rawlings, Ladd, Hurt, Giler, Christian, Powell, Cartwright, O’Bannon, Shusett, Vanlint, Skerritt, Cobb, Weaver, Selway, and Carroll. They discuss the film’s public reception as well as their own reactions to the flick. They then offer some valedictory statements about its lasting impression. The program gets a little puffy and laudatory at times, but the tales of personal feelings offer some good notes; Skerritt’s tale of a meeting with a clean bathroom obsessed theater owner alone makes the show worth a look.
Note that the Blu-ray lets you watch all of the featurettes together as one long nearly three-hour program. That’s a nice touch, as it essentially turns them into a coherent documentary.
Alongside “Beast Within”, we can view 27 Enhancement Pods. These offer “supplemental video pieces to complement ‘The Beast Within’”. That means a variety of clips, most of which offer more comments from various participants. All together, the 27 “Pods” run a total of one hour, 19 minutes, 43 seconds, and we hear from Dan O’Bannon, Sylvain Despretz, Ridley Scott, Gordon Carroll, Sigourney Weaver, Michael Seymour, Ivor Powell, HR Giger, Richard Edlund, Tom Skerritt, Jerry Goldsmith, Brian Johnson, original castmember Jon Finch, Alien Resurrection writer Joss Whedon, Aliens through Resurrection creature effects creators Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis, Aliens producer Gale Anne Hurd, Aliens actors Carrie Henn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen and Mark Ralston, Alien 3 writer Vincent Ward, Aliens miniature effects supervisor Pat McClung, and Aliens director James Cameron.
Among the subjects discussed, O’Bannon tells us more about what influenced the story and collaboration with Shusett. We also hear about visual influences, how Scott came to Alien, casting, performances and why Finch had to leave the film, design subjects, thoughts about Giger and Cameron’s discussion of Alien, shooting some scenes, character elements and deleted sequences, the score, Oscar night, fights over credits, and the film’s effect on the genre. In addition to the comments, we see some Parker/Brett outtakes and two pieces of test footage.
If you worry that the “Pods” will be forgettable bits and pieces best left on the cutting room floor, don’t fret, as we find tons of good material here. Would I classify any of this as really important or crucial? No, but the “Pods” do help flesh out the subjects well. Much of this will be of most interest to the Alien trainspotters, but it’s not all tertiary details. O’Bannon’s parts prove the juiciest, especially when he discusses his battles to get the appropriate credit for his work.
As was the case with the first movie, Aliens collects a bunch of featurettes under one banner. Superior Firepower: Making Aliens spans 11 featurettes that last a total of about three hours.
First comes 57 Years Later: Continuing the Story. In this 11-minute and five-second program, we get a mix of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from director James Cameron, executive producer David Giler, producer Gale Anne Hurd, and actor Sigourney Weaver. (Note that throughout the featurettes, most of the interviews are from modern sources, but some clips from the Eighties appear.) They cover the sequel’s path to the screen, how Cameron came on board, and how Weaver returned. It’s a fairly rudimentary program, and Cameron covers some of the topics better in his commentary, but “Later” sets the stage reasonably well.
Next we get a featurette entitled Building Better Worlds: From Concept to Construction. It runs 13 minutes and 29 seconds and offers comments from Hurd, conceptual artists Syd Mead and Ron Cobb, and production designer Peter Lamont. They go into the designs for some of the movie’s visual elements like the Sulaco and the drop ship, and they also discuss the execution of those materials. The show seems a little dry at times, but it covers the topic efficiently and gives us an idea what the designers wanted to do.
The final “Pre-Production” featurette, Preparing for Battle: Casting and Characterization fills 17 minutes. It includes statements from Hurd, Lamont, UK casting director Mary Selway, stunt coordinator Paul Weston, and actors Weaver, Jenette Goldstein, Mark Rolston, Carrie and Christopher Henn, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Al Matthews, William Hope, and Paul Reiser. We learn about some elements of casting and hear from the actors how they got their roles and what training they went through before the start of production. The show doesn’t seem scintillating, but it conveys the details in a fairly compelling way.
After this we head to “Production” and start with a featurette entitled This Time It’s War: Pinewood Studios, 1985. It runs 19 minutes, 39 seconds and presents remarks from special effects supervisor John Richardson, Hurd, alien effects creator Stan Winston, Giler, actors Michael Biehn, Henriksen, Weaver, Goldstein, Carrie Henn, Paxton, Jay Benedict and Rolston, miniature effects supervisor Pat McClung, senior special effects technician Joss Williams, makeup supervisor Peter Robb-King, and creature effects coordinators Alec Gillis, John Rosengrant, and Shane Mahan.
While the “Pre-Production” featurettes seemed informative, they lacked much oomph. “War” makes up for that with its juicy tale of issues on the set. We hear about all sorts of problems. First Cameron clashes with the original director of photography and then Biehn replaces the actor initially cast as Hicks. (If you want to find out that performer’s identity, you’ll not get it here. However, that information comes out during the “Power of Real Tech” featurette in “Post-Production”.) Many additional pressures occur on the set, and all this leads to many spats and conflicts between the Americans and the British crew. It’s a tight and lively featurette with lots of great stories and some cool footage as well; of particular interest is the bit when Cameron exhibits his irritation at a prop operator. So far, “War” offers easily the strongest featurette.
The next featurette is called The Risk Always Lives: Weapons and Action and lasts 15 minutes and 12 seconds. It includes information from Hurd, Richardson, armorer Simon Atherton, Weston, Weaver, Paxton, Biehn, Goldstein, Matthews, Rolston and Henriksen. We learn a little about the design of the weapons and get a nice feel for the execution of the action sequences, especially in regard to various dangers. The actors prove especially useful here as they offer many interesting stories about the shoot. It’s a good featurette that illuminates the topic nicely.
Bug Hunt: Creature Design provides a 16-minute and 23-second featurette. It features statements from Stan Winston, James Cameron, Alec Gillis, Jenette Goldstein, John Richardson, Michael Biehn and creature effects coordinators Tom Woodruff Jr., Richard Landon, Shane Mahan, and John Rosengrant. As one might expect, “Hunt” concentrates on the creation of the flick’s critters. We get excellent discussions of the new takes on the chestburster, the facehugger, and the warrior alien. The featurette offers a rich and elaborate examination of these elements.
Up next we get a featurette entitled Beauty and the Bitch: Power Loader Vs. Alien Queen. It goes for 22 minutes, 25 seconds and includes information from Rosengrant, Winston, Landon, Woodruff, Hurd, Mahan, Henriksen, McClung, Joss Williams, Weaver and Richardson. It goes over the design and creation of both the alien queen and the power loader as well as the Bishop puppet attacked by the queen. As with “Bug Hunt”, the featurette presents a nicely full and detailed look at these elements. The program benefits from much great archival video that depicts all the work. It’s a solid program.
The last featurette in “Production”, Two Orphans: Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn takes 13 minutes and 48 seconds. We hear from Weaver, Carrie Henn, Hurd, Peter Robb-King, Biehn and Weston. We learn a little about the relationship between Henn and Weaver as well as some memories from the then-young actress. Weaver covers some of the challenges she encountered, and again, the excellent behind the scenes footage helps make the program more memorable. It seems a little general at times, but it nonetheless includes many useful notes.
Aliens heads to the home stretch with the “Post-Production” domain. Called The Final Countdown: Music, Editing and Sound, the first featurette runs 15 minutes and 31 seconds. It gives us interviews with composer James Horner, Hurd, Cameron and chief dubbing mixer Graham Hartstone. Despite the title, much of the entire program discusses the score. This interacts with the other elements, as the rushed editing affected Horner’s work, but he dominates the piece. It’s a compelling examination of all the pressures on the composer and the interaction of the score with the other bits.
The Power of Real Tech: Visual Effects lasts 27 minutes and 47 seconds. It presents statements from Hurd, visual effects supervisors Robert and Dennis Skotek, Pat McClung, Peter Lamont and John Richardson. This piece gets into the miniatures and other ways used to create the alien planet, the vehicles and various visual elements not discussed elsewhere. It’s an informative program that fleshes out the area nicely.
Finally, Aliens Unleashed: Reactions to the Film takes 12 minutes and 33 seconds. It offers information from Woodruff, Hurd, Henriksen, Paxton, Biehn, Carrie Henn, Rolston, Cameron, Giler, Richardson, Robb-King, Gillis, and Goldstein. They discuss the film’s public reception as well as their own reactions to the flick. They then offer some valedictory statements about its lasting impression. The program gets a little puffy and laudatory at times, but the tales of personal feelings offer some good notes.
As with Alien, Aliens provides a slew of Enhancement Pods. This time we get 25 of these clips. They fill a total of 58 minutes, 31 seconds, and include notes from David Giler, Gale Anne Hurd, James Cameron, Peter Lamont, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser, Jenette Goldstein, Simon Atherton, Stan Winston, Richard Landon, John Rosengrant, Shane Mahan, and Tom Woodruff, Jr.
Across these components, we learn about the possibility of continuing the franchise without Ripley, the film’s planet design, locations and the creation of its sets, character subjects, cast and performances, props, creature effects, and editing. In addition to the comments, we get shots from the set and some test footage.
While good, the Aliens “Pods” don’t live up to the standards set by those for the first film. I liked them, but I can’t claim that they’re consistently fascinating – or even much more than just generally enjoyable. Still, as a massive Aliens fan, I’m happy to get all the additional information I can find, even when that material is mediocre.
As one might reasonably expect, the third film comes with its own collection of featurettes. These appear under Wreckage and Rage: Making Alien 3 and run a total of about three hours across all 11 pieces.
Entitled Development: Concluding the Story, a 17-minute, 42-second featurette starts the process. As usual, it mixes movie shots, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from writer/producer David Giler, producer Gordon Carroll, almost-director Renny Harlin, actors Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, and Sigourney Weaver, story writer/another almost-director Vincent Ward, production executive Jon Landau, production designer Norman Reynolds, storyboard artist Martin Asbury, and additional special effects supervisor Joss Williams. Here and elsewhere, most of the interviews come from modern sessions, but a moderate amount of early Nineties comments appear as well.
Unquestionably the most troubled of the four productions, “Concluding” sets the stage for the Alien3 problems nicely. We hear about its path to the screen with all the various starts and stops. The inclusion of Harlin and his discussion of what he would have done is valuable, as are the remarks from the actors who didn’t come along for the ride; it’s fascinating to hear Biehn express his disappointment about not appearing in this flick. Ward also goes into the problems he experienced in this tight and compelling program.
Speaking of Ward, we get more of his side in Tales of the Wooden Planet: Vincent Ward’s Vision. The 13-minute and 11-second featurette presents information from Ward, Giler, alien effects creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., Boss Film Studios’ Pat McClung, and model shop supervisor David Jones. Most of this features Ward as he tells us his plans for the story, but we also get some reactions to his ideas from the others. Those elements help balance the piece and ground it in the real world. It’s definitely interesting to get a synopsis of Ward’s concepts so we can compare what he wanted to do with the end result.
Stasis Interrupted: David Fincher’s Vision goes for 14 minutes, 13 seconds and features Gillis, visual effects producer Richard Edlund, Giler, Carroll, matte painter Paul Lasaine, Asbury, makeup supervisor Peter Robb-King, Jones, Reynolds, Woodruff, Biehn, and executive producer Ezra Swerdlow. We learn about Fincher’s arrival on the project and the issues connected to the film’s script – or lack thereof – and other burgeoning problems. As with the first two featurettes, this one also seems intriguing and illuminating as it doesn’t shy away from the negative issues connected to the film.
For the last featurette in the “Pre-Production” area, we greet Xeno-Erotic: HR Giger’s Redesign. This 10-minute, 20-second piece offers statements from Weaver, Gillis, Woodruff, original alien designer Giger, and maquette sculptor Cornelius de Fries. We get looks at Giger’s art and plans and learn about his intentions for the updated creature. It’s an interesting examination of Giger’s work, especially since a lot of it doesn’t end up in the movie.
Now we move to “Production” with the less-than-creatively titled The Color of Blood: Pinewood Studios 1991 featurette. It fills 23 minutes, 42 seconds as it presents comments from Gillis, Weaver, Landau, Robb-King, Swerdlow, Williams, Reynolds, special effects supervisor George Gibbs, cinematographer Alex Thomson, and actors Paul McGann, Charles Dance, Ralph Brown, Charles S. Dutton, and Danny Webb. “Pinewood” goes through a few basics of the shoot like the sets, topics connected the departure of the original cinematographer and visual elements. We also learn a little more about burgeoning conflicts. The best parts of “Pinewood” present shots from the set, so at least we get to see Fincher at work – and see the seeds of problems.
Another featurette comes next with Adaptive Organism: Creature Design. In this 20-minute and 58-second piece, we hear from Gillis, Woodruff, Weaver and Edlund as they delve into various alien issues. Gillis and Woodruff dominate the piece and they offer a lot of great information about their work. They go over items unused in the theatrical cut as well as the execution of bits like the Bishop animatronic and the dog burster. They go into detail about Woodruff’s work in the alien suit as well. The comments are useful and illuminating, and some great behind the scenes footage appears. Of particular interest are the test shots of a dog in a suit almost used for the dog burster; I’ve heard about these images for years, so it’s great to finally see them.
The Downward Spiral: Creative Differences takes 14 minutes, 55 seconds and presents remarks from Reynolds, Rawlings, Landau, Thomson, costume designer Bob Ringwood, Swerdlow, Giler, Weaver, McCAnneand actors Lance Henriskon, Brian Glover, and Ralph Brown. This featurette concentrates on Fincher. It discusses the positives he brought to the film and his disenchantment with the way things went on Alien3, especially as connected to the studio. Not surprisingly, the absence of any remarks from Fincher himself makes this show a little less effective than it could be, but it nonetheless presents a reasonably frank assessment of the issues; the footage from the set lets us see some of Fincher’s prickly nature.
Called Optical Fury: Visual Effects, the next featurette takes 24 minutes, four seconds and includes notes from Landau, Woodruff, Jones, visual effects producer Richard Edlund, matte department supervisor Michelle Moen, and matte painter Paul Lasaine. They discuss the alien puppet and its integration into the film, miniature sets and elements, matte paintings, and other visual pieces. It’s a well-produced featurette that proves informative and interesting.
Where the Sun Burns Cold: Fox Studios LA 1992 goes for 17 minutes, 33 seconds and features Rawlings, Lasaine, Robb-King, Swerdlow, Landau, Giler, Thomson, Gillis, McGann, special makeup effects Greg Cannom, sound editors Gary S. and Gregory M. Gerlich, model shop supervisor David Jones, and composer Elliot Goldenthal. This program follows the production as it leaves England and returns to LA. There Fincher compiled a rough cut and those involved worked through what they still needed for the flick. The show goes through additional shooting, Weaver’s bald cap, issues with the ending, and material unused in the theatrical cut. Some of the details become a bit redundant if you’ve watched the longer edition of the film, but this piece nonetheless offers some good insight about the flick’s problems.
Requiem for a Scream: Music, Editing and Sound lasts 14 minutes and 53 seconds as it presents comments from composer Elliot Goldenthal and sound editors Gregory M. and Gary S. Gerlich. Goldenthal covers his intentions for his work, while the Gerlichs go over some elements of their audio mix. Goldenthal also relates some intriguing notes about Fincher’s disappearance toward the end of post-production, and the participants discuss problems connected to the integration of effects and music. The program delves into its subjects well and gives us a good examination of the issues that existed on Alien3.
For the final featurette, we get Post-Mortem: Reaction to the Film. An eight-minute, 24-second piece, it offers statements from Gillis, Asbury, Weaver, Thomson, Swerdlow, Dutton, Harlin, Ward, Goldenthal, Giler, Landau, McGann, Woodruff, and Rawlings. They examine the movie’s legacy and their impressions of the final flick. Whereas these parts of the programs for the first two films consisted mostly of praise, “Reactions” is much more downbeat as it gets into the movie’s problems. I’d have liked to hear more detailed thoughts about the flick, but this nonetheless offers a decent glimpse of the subject.
With that, we move to the Enhancement Pods for Alien 3. This time we locate a whopping 29 of these, and they fill a total of one hour, 14 minutes, and three seconds. Across them, we find notes from Renny Harlin, Martin Asbury, Pat McClung, David Giler, Bob Ringwood, Ezra Swerdlow, Danny Webb, Paul McGann, Paul Lasaine, Michael Biehn, Charles S. Dutton, Peter Robb-King,
Gregory M. Gerlich, Lance Henriksen, Richard Edlund, Sigourney Weaver, David Jones, Greg Cannom, Gary S. Gerlich, Vincent Ward, Elliot Goldenthal, Alien Resurrection cinematographer Darius Khondji and Alien Resurrection actor Ron Perlman.
The “Pods” examine Harlin’s departure from the film, the initial concept of the wooden planet, shaved heads and bald caps, storyboards, Biehn’s dissatisfaction with his character’s demise, costumes, working with Fincher, Henriksen’s return, some effects, audio work, and reactions to the film. We also find some footage from the set.
While not as good as the Alien “Pods”, at least these rebound after the mediocre ones for Aliens. As expected, the bits about Fincher-related controversies become the most compelling moments, though some good stuff materializes from unexpected places, such as when Cannom talks about his hatred of bald cap duties. The “Pods” definitely are worth viewing.
Time for another extended collection of featurettes! One Step Beyond: Making Alien Resurrection provides 10 clips with a total running time of a little less than three hours.
The first featurette, From the Ashes: Reviving the Story fills 10 minutes, 10 seconds and offers the usual mix of movie snippets, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from screenwriter Joss Whedon, alien effects creators Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, producers David Giler and Bill Badalato, visual effects supervisor Erik Henry, and actors Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder. Here and elsewhere, most of the interviews come from modern sessions, but a moderate amount of mid-Nineties comments appear as well. (Oddly, though we find recent interviews with Weaver for the first three flicks, only clips shot during the production of Resurrection pop up here.)
”Ashes” offers a decent examination of how Resurrection came into being as an early entity. We get some notes about the studio’s decision to restart the franchise along with some opposition to this plan. Whedon goes into his script and we hear reactions – both positive and negative – to it. This show sets the table for the actual making of the flick and does so well.
Biggest surprise in “Ashes”: the inclusion of a 1997 comment from Weaver in which she expresses her disdain for the concept of an Aliens Vs. Predator flick. Given that movie came out not long after this program’s initial release, I’m surprised the suits at Fox let this one onto the disc.
The next featurette, French Twist: Direction and Design lasts 26 minutes, nine seconds. It includes statements from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Gillis, Woodruff, visual effects cinematographer Conrad W. Hall, Badalato, Weaver, conceptual artist Sylvain Despretz, Whedon, costume designer Bob Ringwood, visual effects supervisor Pitof, and cinematographer Darius Khondji. We learn of Jeunet’s recruitment for the flick as well as his befuddlement about why Fox wanted him. We then get notes about his crew and various concepts related to sets and costumes as well as the decision to shoot in Los Angeles. The program becomes somewhat dry at times, but it nonetheless covers the topics in a fairly thorough and informative manner.
Under the Skin: Casting and Characterization runs 12 minutes, 45 seconds and features notes from Jeunet, actors Ryder, Weaver, J.E. Freeman, Leland Orser, Ron Perlman, Brad Dourif Kim Flowers, Gary Dourdan and Dominique Pinon. As implied by the title, this discusses how some of the actors got their roles, and we also hear about work on the set with the performers. More than a little “we had a lot of fun!” fluff appears, but we find some nice notes, such as how Jeunet worked with Weaver.
Next we shift to “Production” and open with a featurette called Death From Below: Underwater Photography. It takes 31 minutes and 36 seconds as it presents comments from Jeunet, Pitof, Khondji, underwater cinematographer Pete Romano, production supervisor Billy Badalato, Gillis, Woodruff, and actors Freeman, Perlman, Pinon, Orser, Weaver, Ryder, Flowers and Dourdan. “Death” obviously focuses on the flick’s big underwater sequence. We get notes about its execution, with an emphasis on the actors’ training and work. We find lots of interesting shots from the set and learn of the various dangers and issues related to the scene. It’s a rich and fairly interesting examination of the piece’s creation.
After this we find a featurette called In the Zone: The Basketball Scene. It fills six minutes and 43 seconds and offers information from Hall, Weaver, Pitof, Jeunet, Freeman, Perlman, and Orser. They tell us a little about the set-up for the shot, but mostly we hear of Weaver’s basketball training and her big shot. At times, this feels somewhat fluffy as it lavishes praise on Weaver for actually making the tough basket, but it’s such a fun element of the film and so cool that she did it that I liked “Zone” anyway.
The final “Production” featurette, Unnatural Mutation: Creature Design runs 26 minutes and 21 seconds and includes remarks from Gillis, Woodruff, Weaver, Jeunet, and Pitof. As one might expect, Gillis and Woodruff dominate the piece. They discuss their alterations to the various alien designs, the swimming aliens, the “viper pit”, the Ripley clones, and the lil’ baby alien. As usual, Gillis and Woodruff cover their work in a thorough and informative manner. We get lots of good material here related to the creation and design of the elements in this solid program.
As we head to the “Post-Production” area, we launch with a featurette called Genetic Composition: Music. It lasts 13 minutes, 10 seconds and presents statements from Jeunet and composer John Frizzell. We briefly hear how the composer got the gig, and he then goes over his themes and general work on the flick, with some emphasis on unusual instrumentation and the use of electronic elements. “Genetic” gives us a reasonably positive examination of the film’s music.
The next featurette, Virtual Aliens: Computer Generated Imagery takes nine minutes and 53 seconds as it offers information from Hall, Henry, Pitof, Jeunet, Gillis, Woodruff, and visual effects producer Susan Zwerman. They go over the visual planning process and then discuss the different groups that worked on various CG elements and a few specifics about their creations. It doesn’t offer a lot of depth, as we hear from no one at the various effects houses. Still, it touches on some topics in a moderately useful way.
After this we go to A Matter of Scale: Miniature Photography. The 22-minute and 50-second featurette offers comments from Henry, Pitof, Despretz, Khondji, Hall, miniature supervisor Matthew Gratzner, miniature fabricator Ian Hunter, and miniature cinematographer Rich Fichter, They cover subjects like the design of the Auriga and the Betty, the lighting and photography of the ships and matching it to first unit shots, the use of the ENR process and its complications, and other areas. Probably the driest of the various featurettes, this one seems a little slow at times. It does include some useful material, however, and it elaborates on its subjects well.
For our final featurette, we discover Critical Juncture: Reactions to the Film. It takes 14 minutes and 28 seconds as it features interviews with Jeunet, Pitof, Orser, Despretz, Romano, Ringwood, Khondji, Gillis, Gratzner, Woodruff, Frizzell, Henry, Giler and Whedon. They go over their personal reactions to Resurrection and speculate where the franchise might go from here. Given the generally negative critical and fan reaction to Resurrection, we don’t hear many criticisms here. Despretz presents some small knocks on it, but most of the participants express their pleasure with it. It seems odd to create a featurette of this sort and mostly ignore the popular consensus. The thoughts about what the participants would like to see from future Alien flicks are fun, though.
That sends us to our final batch of Enhancment Pods. Resurrection boasts 26 of these, and they fill a total of one hour, 15 minutes, 17 seconds. Across them, we hear from Bob Ringwood, Sylvain Despretz, Conrad W. Hall, Alec Gillis, Ron Perlman, Winona Ryder, John Frizzell, Matthew Gratzner, Erik Henry, JE Freeman, Sigourney Weaver, Tom Woodruff, Billy Badalato, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Ian Hunter, Pitof, Stan Winston, Dan O’Bannon, Ridley Scott, Jon Landau, Pat McClung, Brian Johnson, Alex Thomson, Terry Rawlings, Lance Henriksen, Gale Anne Hurd, Richard Edlund, and digital supervisor Antoine Durr.
These “Pods” cover costumes, visual design concepts and budgetary effects, problems related to Jeunet’s lack of English, storyboarding and action choreography, cast and performances, some stresses on the set, some effects topics, the continuing influence of HR Giger on the film, missed opportunities, music, deleted scenes, the original ending, the movie’s premiere, and thoughts about potential future Alien films.
While we get some quality material here, the Resurrection “Pods” prove to be the driest of the bunch. They’re more technical and rarely offer anything especially fascinating. They’re still worth a look for fans, but don’t expect them to soar.
For the first movie, the elements split into different domains. Pre-Production begins with the first draft original screenplay by Dan O’Bannon. It starts with a long and excellent essay by O’Bannon about the project. It repeats some elements heard elsewhere but tosses in much new material like an attempt by another dude to sue O’Bannon for plagiarism. The script itself is a cool read, as it differs considerably from the final product.
The next area offers Ridleygrams: Original Thumbnails and Notes. Over 74 screens, we see images of Scott’s rough sketches to diagram his plans. These offer a cool look at his early concepts, especially since they feature some elements that didn’t make the movie.
More art appears in the Storyboard Archives and the Art of Alien. The former covers five scenes: “Awakening” (58 screens), “Landing” (59), “Expedition” (79), “Breach” (130) and “Narcissus” (45). Of these, “Narcissus” is the most interesting, as it depicts a variation on the existing ending. A “Conceptual Art Portfolio” splits among four artists: Ron Cobb (55 screens), Chris Foss (48), HR Giger (43), and Jean “Moebius” Giraud (10). These present a good look at the designs created for the flick.
Also in “Pre-Production” we discover a Sigourney Weaver Screen Test compilation. These last eight minutes, 13 seconds and comes with optional commentary from Ridley Scott for the first three clips. We see Weaver as she runs through a few scenes. One cool element comes from the fact they shot the tests on actual Alien sets; that makes it easier to compare her audition to elements from the final film, even though the scenes themselves don’t always present exact corollaries in the end product. The commentary from Scott discusses elements of it and gives us some good perspective. Some of the notes appeared elsewhere, but the remarks remain useful and appropriate here.
Finally, “Pre-Production” ends with a Cast Portrait Gallery. 26 screens of material appear here. None of the shots seem terribly interesting.
Under Production, The Chestburster: Multi-Angle Sequence provides three viewing options: camera 1, camera 2, and a composite of the pair. As for audio, we can switch between the production sound and Scott’s remarks. We go through various different takes of the scene and get a great look at the raw material. Scott discusses his intentions, concerns, and solutions in his informative track.
A Video Graphics Gallery lasts five minutes, 31 seconds, though it runs on a loop. It displays the computer imagery seen on monitors throughout the film. It’s not exactly fascinating, but it’s still a nice extra for completists.
”Production” ends with more “Still Photo Galleries”. The Production Image Galleries give us nine sections of photos by Bob Penn: “The Nostromo” (30 shots), “Egg Chamber” (18), “Kane’s Fate” (37), “Brett’s Death and MU-TH-UR” (25), “Ash” (9), “Parker and Lambert’s Deaths” (19), “Cocooned” (10), “The Narcissus” (38) and “Filming In Progress” (16). All together, these create a pretty good look at the work on the set.
Speaking of which, next we go to The Sets of Alien. It includes 151 shots of the Nostromo, the alien planet, and the derelict ship. The elements on the Nostromo are especially good, as we get a thorough tour of the place.
In the Continuity Polaroids, we locate 98 of these photos used to prevent various flubs. These seem more interesting than most in the genre. Usually these present stiffly posed shots to note wardrobe, but the pictures here feel more like candid images from the shoot.
We finish with HR Giger’s Workshop. This presents 21 shots of the building of the alien. It’s a simple area that mostly duplicates pictures we see elsewhere, but it stands as a decent collection.
Alien concludes with Post-Production and Aftermath. This area includes a set of seven Additional Deleted Scenes. Each of these lasts between 74 seconds and three minutes, 30 seconds for a total of 15 minutes, 26 seconds of footage. In a cool touch, three of the clips were redone with full 5.1 audio since they were considered for inclusion in the director’s cut.
Not that any of them should have appeared in a released version of the film. These clips are interesting to see for fans, but none of them come across as anything other than fairly redundant and they would have slowed the pace.
Alien comes with another collection of “Still Photo Galleries”. These include Inside the Model Shop (222 shots), Visual Effects Gallery (150), Poster Exploration (29), Special Promotional Shoot (81), Premiere (30) and After Party (25). The posters seem especially interesting, as they include some rather lame and unappealing concepts; I’m glad the publicists went the direction they did.
Originally a bonus DVD for the 1999 Alien set, The Alien Legacy runs one hour, six minute, 53 seconds. The piece discusses the film in roughly chronological order, starting with the conception of the movie's story and progressing through various aspects of the production itself. It offers no form of external narrator; all of the information comes from key members of the Alien crew through new interviews with them. (We also see a few minutes of archival interviews with director Ridley Scott, but the vast majority of the feature comes from new material.)
Don't let that description make you think that “Legacy” looks like a stiff procession of talking heads. I didn't keep track, but I'd guess that maybe one-fourth to one-third of the visual information consisted of shots of the interview participants. The rest of the time, the program offers a multitude of production shots. We see lots of behind the scenes footage from on the set, plus test reels, storyboards, design sketches, and shots from the movie, both released and unused. At all times, the material on screen corresponds to the issues discussed; ie, documentary footage of the chest burster accompanies conversation about it.
From start to finish, the program is consistently compelling and it flows from topic to topic smoothly. But is it necessary in this package? It was a real winner in 1999, but the existence of so much additional material – including the much longer “Beast Within” on Disc Five – makes “Legacy” less vital. Still, it’s a very good documentary; redundancy aside, I welcome its inclusion.
Next we get a 1979 promotional featurette entitled Experiment in Terror. This short seven-minute and eight-second piece includes some movie snippets, some behind the scenes shots, and sound bites from Ridley Scott about the project. Mostly he just reiterates the plot, though he also discusses his aims for the film some elements of its creation, and audience reactions. As far as promotional featurettes go, “Terror” seems decent, but it’s no better than that and it merits inclusion only as a historical curiosity.
After this we discover a 15-minute and 39-second Ridley Scott Q&A. Filmed on September 14 2001 after a Hollywood screening of the film, the director gets into his recruitment for the movie, cast rehearsal and character development, sets and models, working with Jerry Goldsmith and Lionel Newman, marketing the flick, and a few other topics. Some moderately new information pops up here, but the “Q&A” seems somewhat lackluster, probably because of bad timing. Given the national state of shock in the days after 9/11, it comes as little surprise that the proceedings appear a bit somber and low-key.
In the Special Edition Laserdisc Archive, the disc presents virtually all of the elements that first appeared on the 1992 boxed set release. That sucker packed a great level of information, and we find that material reproduced here. Most of this comes via stillframe text and art, but a smattering of video elements appear as well, such as a then-contemporary interview with Scott, test material, and deleted footage. However, it’s the text that creates the biggest attraction here, as those elements allow a depth that the video supplements elsewhere can’t match. The “Archive” gets into its topics in a rich and full way that makes this a valuable addition.
The Alien domain ends with both the film’s theatrical trailer and its teaser plus two TV spots.
Once again, the different components split into three areas. Pre-Production starts these. The original treatment by James Cameron basically offers a first draft script. It’s very interesting to read the text and see the similarities and differences between this version and the final product.
Also in “Pre-Production” we get a section called Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Videomatics. This provides two viewing options: videomatic and videomatic/final shot comparion. As for audio, we can switch between the final film sound and commentary with miniature effects supervisor Pat McClung. The videomatics offer visual storyboards created to help pace and develop the effects scenes. We see a little of them elsewhere, but this program depicts them in more complete manner. McClung explains them and lets us know about their use in the process.
In addition to a collection of 56 Cast Portraits, we find The Art of Aliens Conceptual Art Portfolio. Composed of art by Ron Cobb, Syd Mead and James Cameron, this splits into three areas: “Gateway Station and Colony” (three images), “Vehicles and Weapons” (26), and “Aliens” (three).
Under Production, more “Still Photo Galleries” appear here. All shot by Bob Penn, Production Image Galleries divides into nine subdomains: “Preparation for Filming” (19 shots), “The Narcissus” (7), “Gateway Station” (18), “Colony Life” (8), “The Sulaco” (103), “Arrival on Acheron” (124), “Main Colony Complex” (64), “Ripley Rescues Newt” (76), and “Final Battle and Epilogue” (74). Plenty of nice photos appear here.
After we traipse through 251 Continuity Polaroids, we move to the Weapons and Vehicles collection. It presents 61 detailed images of those elements. In a similar vein, Stan Winston’s Workshop offers 57 shots of the various critters on which those folks worked. Once again, plenty of useful shots can be found.
Footage gives us bits similar to the Alien computer displays that run a total of . We find “Colonial Marine Helmet Cameras” (5:01), “Video Graphics Gallery” (4:04) and “Weyland Yutani Inquest: Nostromo Dossiers” (3:35). All are interesting for fans to see, but I especially like the closeup views of the “Dossiers”, as they better allow us to read the details about the crewmembers.
Under Post-Production and Aftermath, by far the most interesting element stems from Deleted Scenes. We see “Burke Cocooned” (1:31) and “Deleted Scenes Montage” (4:07). After sitting through so much material in this set, I’m a little bleary, but I think this is the first time the Burke scene – much known among fans – has seen the light of day. It would’ve been unnecessary in the final film – and a distraction as Ripley hunts for Newt – but it’s cool to finally see the stinking thing.
As for the “Montage”, it just gives us quick little tidbits. The running time is padded by the inclusion of elements found in the released flick; those appear to help set up the snippets, and I’d guess the actual fresh footage only adds about one minute or so. None of these are remotely essential, but they’re fun to check out.
We also get the Special Edition Laserdisc Archive. All my comments about the similar feature for Alien apply here, as the section faithfully all the goodies found on the 1991 Aliens laserdisc boxed set. It’s a fabulous collection that provides scads of excellent information.
A few more “Image Galleries” appear. Visual Effects Gallery gives us 226 detailed shots of ships, creatures, and other elements. The set then finishes with pictures from the Music Recordings (8 shots), the Premiere (5), and a Special Shoot (26).
Main Title Exploration shows title designs created for the film but discarded. The reel lasts two minutes, 55 seconds, as it displays these alternate concepts. None of them look particularly good, but they’re a nice addition.
For a look at a theme park attraction, we go to Aliens: Ride At the Speed of Fright. Back in 1996, this simulator appeared on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco; the eight-minute, 16-second video lets us see the ride’s intro as well as the attraction itself. Even with Jeffrey Combs as the lead, the acting’s terrible. Still, it’s fun to check out the ride; the video loses something in translation, of course, but at least it gives us a taste.
Finally, the Aliens section presents four trailers and a TV spot.
The expected subdomains appear here. Pre-Production digs into some galleries. The Art of Arceon: Conceptual Art Portfolio divides into three smaller sections: “EEV” (10 images), “Arceon: The Wooden Planet” (42), and “Alien Mutations” (19). The “Mutations” are the coolest to see since they expand into different kinds of aliens. Actually, they remind me a little of the Kenner action figures from 1993; those featured aliens that came from various creatures like wild boars.
Next in the “Galleries” we find Storyboards for 10 different scenes. These include “The Crash” (87 images), “Burning the Dead” (109), “An Inmate Gets Diced” (49), “Bishop’s Revelation” (120), “Clemens and Andrews Killed” (64), “The Plan Fails” (99), “Human Bait” (169), “The Leadworks” (29), “Finale (Theatrical Version)” (136), and “Alternate Ending” (210). Finally, The Art of Fiorina spreads into two areas: “Exterior: Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161” (five sketches) and “Interior: Mineral Ore Refinery” (29). All are interesting to see.
Within Production, “Footage” contains two pieces. Furnace Construction Time-Lapse Sequence lasts four minutes and 34 seconds. It presents exactly what the title implies: a time-lapse depiction of the building of the furnace. It’s a moderately fun way to check out the creation of an enormous set.
Another video piece comes via the EEV Scan Multi-Angle Study. This provides six viewing options: skin surface, musculature, organs, skeleton, final shot, and five-angle composite. We can watch these choices with commentary from Alec Gillis. We see some of these shots elsewhere, but this is an interesting way to look at them more closely. Gillis provides some fairly basic notes about the images.
Two “Still Photo Galleries” round out the “Production” area. Production Image Galleries breaks into eight smaller sections: “Preparing to Film” (18 shots), “Crash Landing” (80), “Honoring the Dead” (83), “The Alien Strikes” (13), “The Death of Clemens and Andrews” (77), “Capture and Escape” (37), “Leadworks Trap” (85), and “Final Confrontation” (30). Within ADI’s Workshop, we find 171 shots of their creations for the film.
Over in Post-Production and Aftermath, more photos appear. Visual Effects Gallery includes 120 shots of various elements. Special Promotional Shoot gives us 56 pictures from both the posed sessions and the premiere.
Found on the 1999 DVD but not its 2003 counterpart, Making Alien 3 runs 23 minutes, 24 seconds. This is a decent little puff piece that exists primarily to promote the film, but it provides a fairly nice look behind the scenes. It even manages to offer some historical background on the first two films and it includes then-new interviews with some of the actors from Alien and Aliens, a factor that makes it more useful than otherwise expected.
We also get five trailers, seven TV spots, and an advance featurette. The latter runs a mere 175 seconds as it shows movie clips and features sound bites, mostly from Sigourney Weaver. These tell us little and the piece exists solely to promote the flick.
Within Pre-Production, we launch with the First Draft Screenplay by Joss Whedon. Much of this text appears in the final film, but a few important exceptions occur, especially during the third act. It offers an interesting read.
After this we get Test Footage: Creatures and Costumes. This fills nine minutes, 51 seconds and includes remarks from Alec Gillis. We see early shots of alien eggs, facehuggers, a spitting alien head, Call’s damaged torso, the li’l alien baby’s facial skin, skull and body for the end of the film, and some other nasty-looking elements. It’s an interesting reel of development material. Gillis offers some notes that narrate what we see and what they attempted to do with the elements.
Test Footage Part 2: Hair and Makeup runs four minutes, 40seconds. We see shots taken of Sigourney Weaver in different looks for Ripley. Most of these focus on her as an almost-developed clone. This provides another nice glimpse of early footage.
Up next we locate Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Rehearsals. This presents an early rendition of via three angles: Storyboard, video rehearsal, and composite screen with final film. It also offers two audio choices: rehearsal audio and final film audio. We check out a few different sequences such as the one where a newly cloned Ripley attacks Wren and the piece in which the facehuggers latch onto their kidnapped victims. These offer some cool views of practice material. A fight scene shot with toy guns seems especially entertaining.
“Pre-Production” concludes with some “Still Photo Galleries”. Most intriguing is The Mark Caro Portfolio presents 21 of the artist’s early sketches for various characters. The Art of Resurrection breaks into seven areas: “Title Designs” (31), “Ship Designs” (84), “Prop Designs” (52), “Clone Designs” (27), “Costume Designs” (38), “Alien Designs” (27), and “Earth Designs” (five). Finally, Storyboards splits into eight domains: “Experiment on the Auriga” (91), “The Betty Arrives” (69), “Aliens Escape” (196), “Survivors Regroup” (164), “Underwater Ambush” (140), “Ladder Fight” (154), “Queen’s Hive” (78) and “The Newborn” (130).
Within Production, we get two more “Still Photo Galleries”. Production Gallery divides into nine areas: “Production Props: Weapons” (seven shots), “Extracting the Queen” (32), “The Betty Arrives” (35), “Aliens Escape” (53), “The Clone Horrors” (12), “Underwater Attack” (34), “The Queen’s Nest” (17), “Falling to Earth” (52), and “On Earth” (five). Within ADI’s Workshop, we find 156 shots of their creations for the film.
Finally, Post-Production and Aftermath includes a few more components. Visual Effects Gallery gives us 122 shots, most of which show the miniatures created for the flick. The Special Promotional Shoot offers 31 publicity pictures.
Promotional materials follow. HBO First Look: The Making of Alien Resurrection goes for 25 minutes, 40 seconds. Hosted by actor Ron Perlman, we also hear from writer Joss Whedon, producer Bill Badalato, Aliens director James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly’s Pat Broeske, Cedars Sinai Hospital Psychiatry Department chairman Dr. Peter J. Panzarino, Alien actor John Hurt, psychotherapist Steve Zucker, Fangoria editor Tony Timpone, USC Film Studies’ Dr. Drew Casper, Alien 3 actor Charles S. Dutton, Alien composer Jerry Goldsmith, Alien 3 composer Elliot Goldenthal, composer John Frizzell, co-production supervisor Billy Badalato, stunt coordinator Ernie Orsatti, alien effects designer/creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., and actors Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Brad Dourif, JE Freeman, and Kim Flowers.
“First Look” offers a promotional view but it still has merit. It covers a variety of expected subjects but also throws in historical perspective about the franchise as well as thoughts about why viewers seek out horror flicks. Nothing crucial emerges here, but the show’s worth a look.
We also get a teaser, two trailers, and four TV spots. The disc throws in a Promotional Featurette as well; the three-minute, 56-second clip acts as little more than a glorified trailer.
The final category on Disc Six offers a “catch-all” for additional materials. These open with a documentary called Alien Evolution. This comes in two versions: a 48-minute, 58-second edition aired on TV in 2001, and a one-hour, four-minute, 33-second re-edit prepared for the 2003 Quadrilogy set.
Both present a mix of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from co-writer Dan O’Bannon, co-writer Ronald Shusett, producer David Giler, line producer Ivor Powell, director Ridley Scott, editor Terry Rawlings, alien creature designer HR Giger, alien head effects creator Carlo Rambaldi, visual designer Ron Cobb, and actors Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Sigourney Weaver, and Tom Skerritt.
In “Evolution”, we get a decent coverage of the creation of Alien. The participants go over the story’s genesis and the writing of its script, the recruitment of its director, the visual design of the creatures, its filming and its legacy. We find a particular emphasis on the shooting of the chestburster sequence and find a lot of good anecdotes and notes.
On its own, “Evolution” works quite well and provides an entertaining and informative documentary. However, I must admit I don’t understand its purpose as part of the Quadrilogy. Almost no new information appears in “Evolution”, as almost every fact shows up on the set’s other Alien-related supplements. Sure, some of the stories are a little different and we get some mildly different perspectives, but “Evolution” doesn’t present new participants – we still get nothing from AWOL actors Yaphet Kotto and Ian Holm – and many of the tales remain the same. How many times do we have to hear that they used Nottingham lace for the alien egg?
That makes the program rather redundant and pointless. It’s an enjoyable documentary that works well, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Still, it’s there as another option if you care to watch it.
Produced in 2001 for the AMC cable channel and narrated by actor John Hurt, The Alien Saga offers a one-hour, 49-minute, two-second look at all four flicks. However, don’t expect equal time for the quartet, as Alien remains the king of the hill.
After a quick introduction, Saga launches into its discussion of Alien. Like most documentaries, Saga uses a standard format that alternates movie clips, archival materials and interviews. For the 50-minute Alien segment, we hear from writers Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, producer David Giler, studio executive Alan Ladd Jr., director Ridley Scott (shot in 1991), artists HR Giger and Ron Cobb, model maker supervisor Martin Bower, toy collector Harry Harris, and actors Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, and Veronica Cartwright. (Oddly, Hurt presents no comments about the movie and even speaks of himself in the third person as part of his narration!) These portions of the documentary go through the origins of the flick, its development and production route, casting, filming, visual and creature design, editing, special effects, and studio and public reactions.
As we move to Aliens, we get 23 minutes of material. The interviews feature producer David Giler, director James Cameron (from 1997), artist Ron Cobb, creature effects creator Alec Gillis, and actors Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, and Carrie Henn. These cover the sequel’s path to the screen, getting Weaver back into the fray, problems with the British crew, visual design, stunts and shooting, the design and creation of the alien queen, creating the climactic sequence, editing and deletions, and the flick’s fan and critical reception.
Next we examine Alien3 in a 15-minute segment. We find notes from creature effects creators Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, producer David Giler, artist HR Giger, and actors Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, and Lance Henriksen. They go through ideas for the third flick, difficulties getting Weaver back, various production and script woes, story evolution, problems with Giger’s designs, creature creation and execution, character decisions, marketing choices, and the reception to the film.
The look at Alien Resurrection takes 14 minutes. It offers remarks from writer Joss Whedon (in 1997), creature effects creators Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, and actors Sigourney Weaver and Brad Dourif. They chat about bringing back Ripley, working with a non-English speaking director, the use of storyboards instead of a script, Weaver’s acting approach to clone Ripley, shooting basketball sequence, creature design, shooting the underwater scenes, visual effects, the lil’ alien baby, and the flick’s reception.
Lastly, “The Future” rounds out the program. This includes statements from James Cameron (in 1997), producer David Giler, actor Sigourney Weaver, and creature effects creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. They speculate about Alien 5 and other future projects, but this area acts mostly as a valedictory section.
On its own, Saga offers a very good documentary, especially in regard to the first film. It covers the evolution and creation of Alien in a fairly concise and compelling manner. Inevitably, it leaves out some details, but it hits the highlights well and provides a nice “Cliff’s Notes” look at the production.
Matters become choppier for the three sequels, though some of this feeling comes from hindsight. After all the information found in this set, I know tons about the making of these films, so omissions will seem prominent.
Does Saga suffer for those omissions? Sometimes. Aliens functions the best on its own of the three sequels. Saga goes through it too quickly, but we still get a decent synopsis of the production and other elements. The elements for Alien3 and Resurrection simply fly by too quickly for them to offer a lot of value, unfortunately. We get a very general feel for those productions but not much more.
Alien3 suffers from the biggest omissions, as we learn absolutely nothing over the film’s key controversy: all the problems encountered by director David Fincher. We learn nothing about these, and Saga never even hints at them. I didn’t expect Fincher to participate in the documentary, but someone else could mention these concerns.
Still, I find it nearly impossible to say how well these sequences would work for someone with no foreknowledge of the Alien productions, so some of these complaints clearly come from my viewpoint. On a positive note, we hear more from Weaver in the Saga than we do much of the time elsewhere, and she presents a good perspective largely absent in other places.
Most of the information not heard elsewhere comes from Weaver, though some other apparent exclusives also appear. We see some Giger drawings for an abandoned version of Dune, and we also learn of other actors considered to play Ripley. Some of the outtakes and auditions also don’t appear elsewhere here.
Objectively, The Alien Saga does present an enjoyable and informative documentary. It’s not exactly crucial given the hours of goodies found elsewhere in this package, but it’s a fairly solid program.
However, those who already watched the other elements in this set probably won’t find a lot they need here. The amount of previously unaired material seems thin. I can’t say I learned anything new about any of the sequels, for example, and only a few revelations about Alien appear. We do find some nice behind the scenes elements, though, and they add to the package. As an Alien obsessive, I’m glad to have this program; it includes enough useful and unique material to keep me interested. Those fans without similar levels of fascination will likely find it to be superfluous, though.
All about a never-made theme park attraction, Aliens 3D Attraction breaks into two areas. “Script” shows the text for ride, and “Conceptual Art” (31 screens) lets us view how the visuals would have worked. Apparently “Aliens 3D” would’ve followed the same template as the excellent T2 attraction at Universal, so it’s too bad it never came to fruition.
After this we get a featurette called Alone in the Basement. In this 16-minute and 57-second program, we meet Bob Burns, a collector tells us how he developed his interest in the field and how he started. Burns then goes through how he got into the Alien flicks and takes us on a tour of some of his treasures. Burns remains enthusiastic and gleeful about his hobby, and his enjoyment becomes infectious. (Of course, this is affected by some jealousy – I’d kill for a collection one-tenth the size of Burns’!) It’s a fun story and this program conveys it nicely.
Two pieces show up under Parodies. From Family Guy, “Peter’s Daughter” (0:30) alludes to the climax of Aliens, while Spaceballs (1:47) boasts a cameo from an actor who starred in the original flick. Neither of them seems especially funny, but at least Spaceballs has the fun factor of the cameo.
Next we find a Dark Horse Cover Gallery. This includes 110 shots of comic book covers along with synopses of the stories and a few other notes. It seems like a good collection that gives us a solid glimpse of the series.
The disc ends with a Patches Gallery. In this 15-screen compilation, we see drawings of crew patches as well as some of the actual props. I like this close-up view of them.
Finally, the package includes a 14-page booklet. It comes with a note from Ridley Scott as well as a guide to all the discs’ contents. It helps sort things out well.
One comment about the packaging: “Alien Anthology” eschews standard plastic cases. Instead, it offers a book-like package in which the discs come in different “pages”. Some have complained about this, but I don’t mind it. Sure, I’d prefer standard plastic cases, but this presentation works fine, and it’s a lot better than the awkward fold-out packaging that came with the “Alien Quadrilogy”.
As I noted at the start of this review, my grades for the “Anthology” represent averages of those for individual films’ discs. That goes only for picture/sound, though. Because so much of the supplemental content appears on Discs Five and Six, I didn’t provide “extras” grades for the movie platters.
When I needed to rate the supplements, an “A+” was the only option – unless I went crazy and decided to go with “A+++” or something stupid. After all, I gave the 2003 “Quadrilogy” an “A+”, and the “Anthology” includes many hours of additional materials not found on that set. It’s almost frighteningly exhaustive; there must be 50 hours or more of information to be found here.
Maybe I’m just a big old fanboy, but I love the Alien series. The first two are justly recognized as classics, and I think the third is also excellent. The fourth installation isn’t as good, but it’s still an enjoyable ride. In terms of quality, the “Anthology” usually succeeds. Audio is always terrific, and as I noted, the supplemental content is genuinely stunning in its depth and breadth. I have some criticisms about the picture quality for all the films except Alien, but even so, Aliens and Alien 3 look good; only the softness of Alien Resurrection really disappoints.
Despite these misgivings, I remain happy with the “Anthology”. It includes some of my all-time favorite movies and brings them to Blu-ray in generally good style. It’s certainly a dream for folks who want to know more about the series’ creation, as it comes packed with more supplements than I’d have dreamed possible. All of this makes me pretty pleased with this massive set.