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Ridley Scott
Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright
Writing Credits:
Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett

In space no one can hear you scream.

Alien is the first movie of one of the most popular sagas in science fiction history, and introduces Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, the iron-willed woman destined to battle the galaxy's ultimate creature.

The terror begins when the crew of the spaceship Nostromo investigates a transmission from a desolate planet and makes a horrifying discovery - a life form that breeds within a human host. Now the crew must fight not only for its own survival, but for the survival of all mankind.

Box Office:
$11 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby Digital 4.1 (Theatrical Cut Only)
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
German DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $99.98
Release Date: 10/26/2010

Available only as part of “The Alien Anthology”

• Both 1979 Theatrical and 2003 Director’s Cuts of the Film
• 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
• Audio Commentary with Director Ridley Scott (Theatrical Version Only)
• Final Theatrical Isolated Score (Theatrical Version Only)
• Composer’s Original Isolated Score (Theatrical Version Only)
• Interactive “MU-TH-UR Mode”
• Ridley Scott Introduction
• Deleted Footage Marker


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Alien: Alien Anthology [Blu-Ray] (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 8, 2010)

I first saw Alien early on in its theatrical release and it made quite a strong impression on me. No, it didn't freak me out or anything; although Alien can be scary, it's more of a "fun ride" scary than a nightmare-inducing vehicle. It simply offered me an experience unlike anything I'd previously witnessed in a movie.

Granted, I was only twelve at the time, so it probably wasn't all that hard to show me something I hadn't seen, but still, Alien provided a chilling and thrilling kind of science-fiction film unlike the Star Wars rip-offs that then multiplied. Heck, I liked Alien so much that I directed my friends in a Super 8 parody called Alienated; a puppet version of Ernie from Sesame Street played the part of the creature.

The film has held up extremely well over the years. (Alien, that is – I haven’t seen Alienated in quite some time, though I’m sure it’s brilliant.) With the exception of the computer displays it shows, almost nothing in Alien looks dated, and unlike silly movies such as Logan's Run, the vision of the future depicted seems plausible. Admittedly, we have no idea what the future will actually look like, but grittier views such as this one appears more believable these days.

Alien offers an example of a tremendously well-crafted suspense film. It's fairly remarkable to realize that no real action occurs until the film is literally half finished; director Ridley Scott provides all the necessary exposition with such flair and panache that the viewer's interest level remains high. Scott effectively sets the creepy and tense mood of the piece within that time; he creates a convincing world and utterly immerses the viewer into it.

I must admit that while objectively Alien holds up very well, subjectively is a different matter. Maybe it's just my MTV-addled attention span, but the film seems pretty slow at times. To a degree, this occurred as a result of the fact that I've seen the movie at least 15 times since 1979, but there are lots of other movies I've watched that many (or more) times during that span, and I don't get quite so sleepy during their first halves. I guess I feel that while the pacing of Alien is appropriate and effective, it suffers somewhat after repeated viewings.

That's not to say that Alien doesn't sustain multiple screenings. After all, I have seen it an excessive number of times, and while I do sometimes feel somewhat bored while I watch parts of it, it nonetheless offers more than enough to keep me involved. A key reason for this is the alien itself. I think that bar none, it is the greatest movie monster ever created. It's not the scariest or the most powerful - actually, the stereotypical "grays" spook me the most, because they seem the most realistic since stories about them usually involve everyday life here on Earth - but damn if the alien isn't the coolest looking creature ever to sail through space. Don't even restrict it to monsters - I don't think that anything in any movie has ever been as perfectly designed as the alien; it's an amazing piece of work.

As a tangent, HR Giger's stylistic and design influence over the film also strongly contributes to its continued appeal. While Giger's most famous creation is the creature itself, his imprint is all over the alien planet and ship, and these components help make an indelible impression. Visually, Alien offered such a distinctive experience that even almost 25 years later, most other films are still just trying to keep up with it.

Another important factor behind the continued success of Alien is its cast. It's a terrific bunch of actors, all of whom provide solid work. Sigourney Weaver's career really started with this film, and while she'd provide better work in other movies - I think her work as Ripley in all of the sequels tops what she did here - she nonetheless offers a very strong and convincing turn in what was essentially her first film.

No fault can be found with any of the cast. John Hurt's Kane leaves the least impression of the crew, but that's due to the fact that he receives by far the smallest amount of screentime. It's really a credit to Hurt that Kane makes any impression at all; despite his brief time in the film, Hurt manages to transmit enough information about the character that I feel as if I have some understanding of him.

Each of the other five actors could justifiably be called the best of the bunch. While I prefer the cast of Aliens because I thought most of those actors really transcended the material, the crew in Alien surpasses their counterparts in the sequel from the point of view that there are no weak links; each and every cast member provides grade "A" work.

Personally, if I had to pick my favorites, I'd go with Veronica Cartwright as Lambert and Ian Holm as Ash, both for fairly different reasons. Cartwright provides a fascinating performance because Lambert is the only crewmember who really approaches a mental breakdown. Most of the others manage to largely stay in control. Not Lambert; she got voted "Most Likely to Freak Out Under Pressure" in high school. Unlike the broad, comic work that Bill Paxton offered as Hudson in Aliens, Cartwright doesn't go for the extremes; she keeps Lambert's meltdown within realistic limits. It's simply fascinating to watch as she slowly deteriorates).

While the first half of Alien can move a little slowly at times, I must admit I really like the sequences during which the ship’s crew interacts. Though some bond exists, they’re a cranky crew who display believable dynamics. You spend that much time canned up together, you’re going to get on each others’ nerves, and that dynamic comes through here. It’s fascinating to watch the performers interact.

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.

The comments above address the original theatrical cut of Alien. This disc release also includes a “director’s cut” version of the film. Unusually, this one actually sports a shorter running time than the theatrical edition; the director’s cut lasts a minute less. 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. 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. Both cuts work well.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus NA

Alien appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. It seemed hard to believe that this film came out more than 30 years ago, for despite a few minor flaws, it looked like it was filmed yesterday.

Sharpness appeared consistently positive. At almost all times, the picture remained crisp and well defined. Despite many very wide shots, I saw only a couple of minor signs of softness or fuzziness; 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 remarkably 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; 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 they lacked any form of bleeding, noise, or distortion. 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, so I thought it merited an “A” rating.

Overall, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Alien seemed positive but showed its age at times. The soundfield demonstrated reasonably good breadth. 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; the bass seemed powerful but somewhat boomy. 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 Blu-ray compare to the 2003 DVD release? Audio seemed pretty similar, as the old disc offered similar sound, but the visuals got a good upgrade. While the 2003 DVD looked very good, the Blu-ray offered greater clarity and definition. It created the best-looking version of the flick to date.

Virtually all of the 2003 package’s extras repeat here – or elsewhere in the 6-disc “Alien Anthology” set, where the last two discs include tons of pieces. Because there are so many components on the fifth and sixth platters, I didn’t think it was fair to assign a “bonus features” grade for this disc on its own; I’ll rate the whole shebang when I get to the final two discs.

First of all, we can watch either the 1979 theatrical version of Alien or the 2003 director’s cut. I already discussed this in the body of the review, but I figured I should mention it as a supplement too. The disc uses seamless branching to cut between them. In a nice touch, if you watch the alternate version, you’ll find a deleted footage marker that notes all the originally excised material.

If you select the “Director’s Cut”, the movie opens with a Ridley Scott introduction. In this 55-second clip, the director gives us quick notes about why he created the new version of the film. It’s inconsequential but it helps set the stage for the flick.

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 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.

If you select the theatrical edition of Alien, you’ll get access to deleted scenes. Note that these simply show the alternate sequences from the director’s cut; nothing different than what we find in that version appears in this section.

New to the Blu-ray, we find the MU-TH-UR Interactive Mode. This allows you to flip among the disc’s four audio features, save “data points” to reference when you watch Discs Five and Six, 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, though most of those will be reviewed elsewhere/later. In terms of basic movie presentation, Alien has never been better.

Note that as of November 2010, you can only purchase the Blu-ray of Alien as part of “The Alien Anthology”. This includes Alien, its three sequels and two discs of bonus materials. I’m sure the films will be available individually at some point, but that date is currently unknown.

To rate this film, visit the original review of ALIEN

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main