Alien: 20th Anniversary Edition (1979)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Menu Animation & Audio
THX Trailer
Audio Commentary-Ridley Scott (Director)
Deleted Scenes-10
Theatrical Trailer-4
Gallery-Concept Art/Storyboards/Photo/Poster
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Isolated Musical Score
Alternate Music/Sound Score
Outtakes-2
Easter Egg-2
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 111:52
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:54) Cast & Crew
Start Up 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
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Alternate Music/Sound Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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 Czech
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    "Don't go there!". "Don't touch that!". "Don't look in there!". You really feel like screaming at the screen when you are watching this movie, especially knowing what is about to happen. Unfortunately, they do go there, they do touch that, and they do look in there.

    Alien is a classic horror movie set within a science fiction setting. Unlike the drivel that is served up as horror these days which is reliant on special effects and loud noises for its scares, Alien relies on tapping in to the darkest inner recesses of your mind for its horror. Your imagination conjures up far worse images and generates far more dread than can the best graphics designers, and by golly it does during this movie. The director, Ridley Scott, sums it up nicely by pointing out that nothing happens for over 30 minutes. All the while, the tension is quietly building. Menace is in the shadows and in the subtle noises you can just barely discern. In some cases, there is more menace in the eerie silence.

    The Nostromo is a space freighter, returning from an unspecified mining mission. Its crew of seven is awoken from their hypersleep when a signal of unknown origin is received by the ship's computer. They trace this signal to a large asteroid, and land to investigate. They discover, much to their detriment, an alien life-form that breeds by infesting other living hosts. The rest is classic movie history.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This movie was filmed over 20 years ago, in 1978 and released in 1979. Considering the age of the movie, it looks very impressive indeed, with only minor flaws giving away its age.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is generally very sharp, clear and clean. A small number of scenes are less well defined. In particular, any scene involving computer graphics was quite indistinct, a problem that can be fairly and squarely put down to limitations in the way these scenes were filmed. Shadow detail is good for a movie shot in 1978. It cannot be compared to a top-notch contemporary transfer, but nonetheless it is remarkably good, with a reasonable amount of detail present in the image. Given the very dark nature of this movie, the quality of the shadow detail is critical in making it the frightening experience that it is. Non-deliberate low level noise is absent from the transfer, which is also critical in making this movie all the more frightening. Blacks are well and truly black.

    The colours are nicely rendered, despite the quite limited colour palette in use. Drab blues, greens and grays predominate, though other hues make an appearance from time to time. The only minor criticism I will make of the colour is that the colours have a certain dated appearance about them at times, giving away the film's 20 year vintage.

    There were no MPEG artefacts noted in this transfer. Aliasing was mildly problematic at times, with aliasing apparent on the sharp edges of some of the spacecraft models and on many of the computer displays. Having said that, I felt that the correct balance was struck with this transfer between sharpness and aliasing. Film artefacts are pleasantly few and far between, but are certainly present more frequently than in a contemporary transfer.

    This is an RSDL disc with the layer change coming between Chapter 11 and 12, at 60:54. The layer change is minimally disruptive.

Audio

    This is as good a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix as we should expect for a movie which was originally created in stereo.

    There are four audio tracks on this DVD, all Dolby Digital; the default English 5.1 soundtrack, an English Audio Commentary 2.0 surround-encoded, an Isolated Music Score in 2.0, and an alternate Music/Sound Effects track in 2.0. I listened to the 5.1 soundtrack and to the audio commentary whilst briefly sampling the other two soundtracks.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand for most of the time, though it did get a little distorted and frequency-limited at times. Some scenes sounded very dated in their audio, and others sounded excellent. This was probably the low point of the transfer, as the aural quality of the dialogue was the most noticeable giveaway to the film's 20-year old vintage, and contrasted with the excellent quality of the music and the foley effects.

    The audio was never definitely out of sync, but did border on it on a number of occasions.

    The score by Jerry Goldsmith was simply brilliant, more by what it didn't do than by what it did. Silence, in particular, was nicely utilized by this score to add to the on-screen tension.

    The surround channels were used somewhat variably by this soundtrack. Early on, there was a lot of surround presence, with nicely-placed ambient sounds spread throughout the soundfield, but at other times the soundtrack collapsed into mono. The special audio effects are worth a mention here - they are downright eerie and nicely rendered in this soundtrack. Subtle hums, wails, creaks and groans are all nicely rendered in the soundtrack, and all make the eerieness of this movie all the more palpable.

    The subwoofer was not often called upon other than to add a small amount of bottom end onto some of the sound effects.

Extras

    There is an excellent set of extras on this DVD.

Menu

    This has extensive and complex audio and animation which sets the tone for the entire movie.

THX Trailer

Audio Commentary - Ridley Scott (Director)

    Ridley Scott knows how to engage his audience, and this is an excellent commentary track filled with a great number of insights into the making of this movie. A nifty feature of this audio commentary is that there are chapter selections of sorts.

Deleted Scenes (10)

    There is a lot of aliasing present in these scenes, but nonetheless these are an excellent inclusion.

Theatrical Trailer

    Two theatrical trailers and two TV spots make up this extra.

Art & Photo Gallery

    This rather innocuous entry leads to a huge number of still photos of Concept Art, Storyboards, Production Photos, Promotional Art & Cast/Crew Biographies. It is a pity that they don't automatically advance, since you need to press the right arrow key many many times to get through this lot.

Isolated Music Score

Alternate Music & Production Sound

Outtakes (2)

    It is not clear why these scenes were not simply included under the deleted scenes above.

Easter Eggs (2)

    Nostromo Crew Biographies: From the Main Menu, go Left at Special Features and select the highlighted screen.

    Alien Lifecycle Transmission: From the Special Features Menu, go Down until the acid pool is highlighted and select it.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on;     There is nothing compelling here which would lead me to favour one version over the other.

Summary

    Alien is a brilliant, classic science fiction horror film that holds up very well indeed today, and still managed to scare me silly even though I knew what was coming.

    The video transfer is generally very good.

    The audio transfer is reasonable, varying from excellent to average.

    The extras are very good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
Saturday, May 13, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109/Start SD-2010VNK, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe Art-95 (95cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Amplification2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
SpeakersPhilips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO subwoofer

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