Alien: The Director's Cut: Special Edition (1979)

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Released 12-Jan-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Menu Audio
THX Trailer
THX Optimizer
Introduction-2003 Director's Cut Version: Ridley Scott (Director)
Audio Commentary-Theatrical Version : Cast And Crew
Featurette-Making Of-The Beast Within - Star Beast: Developing The Story
Featurette-First Draft Screenplay, The Visualists: Direction And Design
Notes-Ridleygrams: Original Thumbnails And Notes
Storyboards-Archive
Gallery-The Art Of Alien, Cast Portrait Gallery
Featurette-Truckers In Space: Casting, Sigourney Weaver's Screen Test
Featurette-Fear Of The Unknown, The Darkest Reaches
Gallery-Production Gallery, Continuity Polaroids, The Sets Of Alien
Featurette-The Eighth Passenger, Future Tense, Outward Bound
Multiple Angles-The Chestburster
Gallery-H.R. Giger's Workshop, Visual Effects, Poster Explorations
Deleted Scenes-7
Featurette-A Nightmare Fulfilled
Gallery-Special Shoot, Premiere
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 111:05
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:59)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Version Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ridley Scott
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Tom Skerritt
Sigourney Weaver
Veronica Cartwright
Harry Dean Stanton
John Hurt
Ian Holm
Yaphet Kotto
Bolaji Badejo
Helen Horton
Case ?
RPI $31.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Dutch Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

in space no one can hear you scream

    Alien is probably the best horror / science fiction movie ever made. Some people may nominate films like The Blob, or The Body Snatchers, but I don't think they compare for sheer visceral terror.

    A common element in horror movies is having the protagonists trapped, perhaps in a dark house. The problem with this is that the protagonists can get out of a house in lots of ways (even smashing through the walls), so the writers often invoke the supernatural to explain why they cannot escape. That's not necessary here: outside the Nostromo is empty space, vacuum — if the protagonists smash through the walls and get out, they'll have a slight problem with breathing. So there's no escape, far more than in any Earth-bound horror film.

    Ridley Scott is now recognised as a brilliant director — he has made films like Bladerunner, for example. When they were looking for a director for this film, he had made just one film, Duellists, which had won an award at Cannes, but he was mostly known as a director of commercials. He insisted on casting experienced skilled actors for every role (yeah, every one of the seven), but they wanted a relative unknown for the lead female role. He chose Sigourney Weaver, who was an experienced stage actor, but who had never made a film before. It's amusing to hear him say, now, that she was born to play Ripley — certainly I can't imagine another actress in the role. It was also amusing to hear that several of the cast and crew were unimpressed by her performances on-set, but very impressed when they saw the dailies.

    I'm not going to explain the plot. Either you have seen it, or you haven't (where have you been?). If you haven't seen this film, then you should approach it knowing as little as possible, so you can get just as terrified as the rest of us. Just be aware that this is a serious horror film, one that happens to be set in space, and it's very effective. Even 25 years after it was made, this is still a very frightening film.

    Alien has been released on DVD before. They did quite a nice job for the 20th anniversary of the film. So why did they feel a need to do it again? Is it just a cynical grab for your money? I was a bit wary in approaching this version, because I was questioning the need for a new release. It was interesting that they were releasing two versions of the movie (they did two versions of each of the movies for this new release), and using two discs for each movie — the obvious assumption is that they'd put each version on a separate disc, and tucked the extras in around the two versions. It turns out that that is not what they've done: they seem to have made the two versions using seamless branching, so both versions are on the one disc, and the only extra on that disc is the commentary. All the extras (and there are plenty of them) are on the second disc.

    If you have the Alien Legacy version of this film, do you need this new one? That depends. If you are interested in owning both the original theatrical version and the new special version, then this is your only choice. Note that there is very little difference between the two versions (on this film — that's not true of the other Alien films), because Ridley Scott was happy with the original version. He has, however, made a few small changes, and it's fun trying to spot them.

    OK, I've given you all the qualifiers. What do I think? Well, I already own a copy of Alien Legacy (I got the R1, and even had a friend in the US send away for the bonus disc for me), but I will be shelling out the money for this new version — it is worth it.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. That's the expected aspect ratio. On some systems you may get some overscan and see a little clipping on the opening credits. That's not a mastering error — it is just overscan.

    The movie is alone on this disc, except for the commentary. This is close to being a Superbit disc (only the fancy menu and the commentary are exceptions, and the commentary has been held to 96kbps to minimise its impact), and that is reflected in the quality of the transfer.

    The picture is clear, and as sharp as the source material allows — it's a good quality transfer. Shadow detail is very good, where it can be, but there's an awful lot of darkness, and that's both deliberate and appropriate. There's some noticeable film grain, but that is completely unavoidable: Ridley Scott points out that he was running the anamorphic lenses and film at the very edge of their capabilities on some shots, so some grain is inevitable. There is no low-level noise.

    Colour, what there is of it,  is very good indeed — well-rendered. The production design means that there are lots of grey and black in view, but that's no mistake. And the black is very definitely black — we get lots and lots of solid inky black. There are no colour-related artefacts.

    There are no film artefacts of any consequence, save for a couple instances of what might be very slight judder in the transfer process at 80:29 and 81:46.

    There is some very light aliasing, but you have to look for it. There no significant moiré, and no shimmer. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    There are subtitles in six languages, plus English for the Hearing Impaired. I watched the latter. They are mostly very accurate, with few abbreviations; they are well-timed, and easy to read. I did spot one error: they show the word "initial" instead of "inertial" during the landing, but that's a small slip.

    The movie disc is single sided and dual layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is at 60:59 in the Director's Cut, or 60:55 in the Theatrical Cut, at a cut between scenes — it is close to invisible, and I would not have found it without technical assistance. The extras disc is also single-sided and dual layered, but I didn't see a layer change in any of the pieces.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three audio tracks, all in English, on the movie disc. The first two are the soundtrack, provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps and dts 5.1 at 768kbps. The third is the audio commentary, provided in Dolby Digital 2.0 (surround encoded) at 96kbps. I listened to all three tracks, and I must say that I slightly prefer the Dolby Digital over the dts, although I'm hard-pressed to say why — the difference is small, whatever it is.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand, except where intended — there are spots where multiple actors talk at once. There are no lapses in audio sync.

    The score, from Jerry Goldsmith, is excellent — dark, foreboding and tense, it is perfect horror film stuff. He was annoyed when they chose a different piece of music (something he composed for another film) for one scene, but it's appropriate to the scene.

    The surrounds are used surprisingly well for a film of this vintage, and provide some excellent ambience. The subwoofer comes in and out, but gets some serious use at times.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Oh, boy, do we have extras! The movie disc has only the commentary, with all the other extras on the second disc. That was a smart decision.

Menu

    The menu has good transitions, but it's not animated. There's music behind it. It is simple and easy to use, themed with controls from Weylan Yutani (the unnamed company that owns the Nostromo).

Commentary — Cast and Crew

    This commentary features a lot of people, who introduce themselves one by one:

    The only two missing are Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto.

    This is an excellent commentary, with a lot of information conveyed in an interesting way. I have the feeling that parts of the commentary were recorded with all the people together (they respond to one another occasionally), and parts were taken from interview footage (the words and voices match pieces we see elsewhere). I could be wrong, but it is definitely worth listening to, or reading. That's a nice touch — the commentary is provided in English audio, but is also provided as subtitles in English and Dutch — you can watch the film with the normal soundtrack, and read the commentary.

    It is a shame they didn't also include the commentary that Ridley Scott recorded (alone) for the previous version. A solo director's commentary is usually very good.

Disc 2

    This disc is titled The Beast Within — the making of Alien. An apt title. You can select all the extras individually, from three menus labelled Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production (8 extras in each menu), or you can choose Navigation Options, and play all the featurettes together (the total runs 178:01), or look at all the photos, or all the artwork. These are interesting and useful alternatives.

    Note that none of the extras on this disc are 16x9 enhanced. They are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

PRE-PRODUCTION

Featurette: Star Beast — Developing the Story (18:13)

    A very interesting piece telling the story of the development of this script. They aren't afraid to air some dirty laundry, either — there's quite a bit of discussion of conflict between the original scriptwriters and the production team at Brandywine. Well worth watching if you're contemplating writing a screenplay, as some warning about things that can happen.

First Draft Screenplay

    This is very interesting. There are 40 pages of introduction from Dan O'Bannon, including mention of two different attempts to sue him for plagiarism — I like the one trying to sue him for plagiarizing a script written after this first draft... This is followed by 271 pages of script. It's the first draft that was shown to Brandywine, and it's rather different from what we see on-screen, but it is recognisable as the same story.

Featurette: The Visualists — Direction and Design (16:45)

    This talks about the various contributors to the look of the film, particularly Ridley Scott, Ron Cobb, and H.R. Giger.

Notes: Ridley-grams — Original Thumbnails and Notes

    75 pages of drawings and notes Ridley Scott made whilst preparing to shoot this film.

Gallery: Storyboard Archive

    This is 377 pages of storyboards, an awesome effort by Ridley Scott.

Galleries: The Art of Alien — Conceptual Art Portfolio

    Galleries of art from four contributors to the film:

Featurette: Truckers in Space — Casting (14:58)

    A discussion of all of the casting decisions made in this film, including Ridley Scott's insistence that he wanted seven stars, so he could concentrate on the composition of the shots, rather than on directing the actors. It also talks about Alan Ladd's insistence that they shoot a screen test of Sigourney Weaver before hiring her as Ripley.

Featurette: Sigourney Weaver's Screen Test (4:29)

    This is a very cool inclusion. It is the test they shot to confirm the casting of Ripley.

Gallery: Cast Portrait Gallery — Photo Archive

    A total of 27 photos of the cast.

PRODUCTION

Featurette: Fear of the Unknown — Shepperton Studios 1978 (24:06)

    This is about as close as we get to a classic making of, but this is no standard fluff piece. This has a number of anecdotes of how principal photography proceeded — it went surprisingly well, for the most part.

Gallery: Production Gallery — Photo Archive

    These are photos taken by set photographer Bob Penn, divided into nine sections:

    Now here's an interesting glitch — the Cocooned section is not a photo gallery, but points instead at a section of the script.

Gallery: Continuity Polaroids

    Kay Fenton, the script supervisor, took a large number of Polaroid photos of the production as part of ensuring continuity. This is a gallery of 101 of them.

Featurette: The Darkest Reaches — Nostromo and Alien Planet (17:27)

    A featurette about the set design issues, including discussion of (amongst other things) the conflicts between the crew and the producers over the number and complexity of sets that they used. Quite interesting stuff.

Gallery: The Sets of Alien — Photo Archive

    163 photos of the large and complex sets they built to film this movie.

Featurette: The Eighth Passenger — Creature Design (31:38)

    A detailed look at the designing of the various stages of the alien life-cycle. The footage of H.R. Giger is not particularly good quality, but what he is saying is quite clear.

Multi-Angle Sequence: The Chestburster (5:14)

    The two main camera angles, plus a composite of both, shooting the main takes of the chest burster sequence. You can watch it with original sound, or with commentary from Ridley Scott.

Gallery: H.R. Giger's Workshop — Photo Archive

    24 photos of H.R. Giger at work.

POST-PRODUCTION

Featurette: Future Tense — Editing and Music (16:32)

    Discusses some of the conflicts that arose during the editing process, including Jerry Goldsmith's disappointments.

Deleted Scenes

    These scenes are not all deleted. Some are expanded versions of scenes still in the movie.

Featurette: Outward Bound — Visual Effects (18:55)

    Mostly talking about the miniatures work (which was very impressive).

Gallery: Visual Effects Gallery — Photo Archive

    33 photos, mostly of the miniatures.

Featurette: A Nightmare Fulfilled — Reaction to the Film (19:24)

    An interesting recounting of initial reactions to the film, including the fact that people were leaving the cinema to throw up — this film had a profound impact.

Gallery: Poster Explorations

    A wide variety of poster concepts, most of which were not used. There are 53 shots in this collection.

Gallery: Special Shoot — Promotional Photo Archive

    Another 53 photos that are not a whole lot different from those in the cast portrait gallery — I suspect these were separated to ensure they had 8 items on each menu...

Gallery: Premiere — Photo Archive

    29 photos of cinemas with various displays promoting the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this has just been released.

    You will be able to buy this 2-disc edition either separately, or as part of the Alien Quadrilogy, and you'll get the same thing — the only difference is that the Quadrilogy includes an exclusive ninth disc.

    The Region 1 version gets a few features that ours does not, and unfortunately some of the additional features are rather nice to have. These are:

    The other interesting comparison is between the 2 disc Alien Quadrilogy version and the 1-disc Alien Legacy version of this film:

    The 2-disc Region 4 edition is missing:

    The 1-disc Region 4 edition is missing:

    I don't have the Region 4 version of the Alien Legacy set, so I can't tell you which of the two has the greater number of photos and artwork, but I rather suspect that the 2-disc version wins on this count; certainly the 2-disc version is much better organised, with the stills grouped into (lots of) related galleries.

    All in all, I'd say this new version has the better extras (although I'm hanging onto my R1 Legacy disc for the commentary...), and it does offer the two versions, both with very good transfers (slightly better, in my opinion, than the Legacy version).

Summary

    The best horror / science fiction film ever made, presented extremely well on DVD.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are close to overwhelming.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
AllZone4DVD - RobertW

Comments (Add)
Region 1 Director's Cut commentary? - REPLY POSTED
No. -
R1 has more commentary - Jace
Alien Quadrilogy - REPLY POSTED
Can you give us a hint? -
Isolated music -
RE: Isolated score - MickJT (Have a look at my biography)
what, no commentary participation from the best actor in the film? - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio) REPLY POSTED
Director's cut - ins and outs (Warning plot spoilers) - wolfgirv
R4 missing animated menus, seperate deleted scenes & deleted scene markers =( -
Thanks a lot FOX for screwing us over again! - Paul B
Directors cut -
Quadrilogy out now -
RE Fox screwing us - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
Subtitles on extra features? -
Is my copy of Ace Ventura Pet Detective considered Superbit?? :-D - REPLY POSTED
Dts Soundtrack...not on cover? - REPLY POSTED
region coding -
Amusing... - REPLY POSTED
DTS problems on R1 "Alien" ? - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)