Alien: 20th Anniversary Edition (1979)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Withdrawn from Sale

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

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

    In 1979, director Ridley Scott and surrealist painter H.R. Giger unleashed a movie monster upon the silver screen that audiences still don't fully appreciate the subtle and intricate beauties of. A prime example of this is the manner in which lesser movie buffs refer to Giger's creature as a "double-mouthed" monster. Sorry guys, but that appendage you might mistake for being the Alien's second mouth is actually its tongue, the idea being that the creature Giger had designed for this film is such a danger to all who encounter it that even its tongue is lethal.

    Some may also see faint shades of the sexual-mechanics-based artwork that Giger has made his trademark in the various stages of the Alien life cycle. As Ash (Ian Holm) describes, the Alien is a pure survivor, "unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality".

    The film begins with Ash and his fellow crew members, Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Kane (John Hurt), Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Parker (Yaphet Kotto), and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) being awoken by Mother (Helen Horton), the Nostromo's central computer. Thinking that they are about to return to Earth for a well-deserved vacation and payment, they soon discover that they have been summoned to investigate a transmission from an unknown source on an unsurveyed planet. Of course, they are unable to contact their home base on Earth for clarification, and unable to refuse because doing so would result in forfeiture of the money they have worked so hard for. As a result, they land on the planet and begin investigating the source of the transmission, with Dallas, Kane, and Lambert forming a small search party whilst the others work to repair damage to their own ship sustained in the landing, and to decipher the transmission.

    As Kane happens upon the cargo of the derelict spaceship, he and the other crew members discover a rather nasty organism that breeds by infesting living hosts. It is worth noting that one of the deleted scenes on this DVD reveals what Giger had originally intended to be the breeding method of the Alien: a sort of parasitic cycle in which the eggs absorb a living form and the combination becomes the two-meter tall life form that we see almost halfway into the film.

    According to the Alien FAQ, said Alien was portrayed by two men in suits for this original instalment of the series: Bolaji Badejo, the full-scale Alien, who stands at about six feet and seven inches tall (just over two meters), and Eddy Powell, a stuntman who stood at five feet and ten inches. From the same source, it was only due to problems with materials that the Alien wasn't transparent. Unlike most science fiction/horror stories, this one doesn't rely on special effects and sudden shrill noises to deliver its scares, with the real terror sinking into your pores over the period of the whole film. The photographic and effects techniques used to put together the final film are rather crude by today's standards, but much of the impact of the film is at a psychological level, which has not diminished over time.

    This is a more than worthy addition to your DVD collection just by virtue of the brilliant visual effects used to create the Alien itself, and the inclusion of deleted scenes is a nice icing on the cake.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

    Twenty-one years is a long time in the life of a film, and many films of this age will simply never look this good, although this transfer isn't without the occasional mild problem.

    The transfer is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is generally razor-sharp and clean, but a small number of scenes, particularly those involving computer screens aren't quite so well-defined, owing more to the photographic techniques used in the film's production than anything else. The shadow detail is good for a film shot twenty years ago, and there is a surprising amount of detail lurking in the darkness of some sets, which is important to the film itself. Low-level noise was not a problem at any point where it wasn't meant to be.

    The colours are very nicely rendered, in spite of the rather limited palette on offer, but the general tones are probably the biggest giveaway to the film's age.

    No MPEG artefacts were found at any point in this transfer, and the blurred look of background details in some shots is more the fault of 1978 photographic techniques than anything else. Aliasing was a mild problem at times, but not particularly distracting in most cases, being confined to the edges of objects such as spacecraft models and computer displays, with some fluorescent lights throwing in an occasional contribution for good measure. Film artefacts are where this transfer really excels, as there are far fewer found in this transfer than in more recent ones such as Fortress 2.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change coming in between Chapters 11 and 12, at 60:54. The layer change is only a mild disruption to the flow of the film.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer contains a few more giveaways to the age of the film, and this one was recorded in the days when straight stereo was considered something special for theatrical presentations.

    Four soundtracks are included on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1, an English Audio Commentary by director Ridley Scott in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding, an Isolated Music Score in Dolby Digital 2.0, and an Alternate Music/Sound Effects track in Dolby Digital 2.0, just for good measure. I listened to all four soundtracks, which took me quite a lot of time.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand for most of the presentation, although there were moments when it became slightly distorted and frequency-limited. Sometimes the dialogue would sound exceptional, and at others, it would sound very dated, which is probably the biggest giveaway to the film's age. Audio sync was never a real problem, although it almost became one from time to time.

    The score music in this film was written and composed by Jerry Goldsmith, whom I've never been particularly blown away by. However, this is definitely one of Goldsmith's better efforts, a score that is equally effective in its quiet moments as it is when the orchestra is in full bloom and raring to go. Rather unusually for an event-based score, the music weaves its way into the consciousness of the listener and adds the right degree of tension to the proceedings. It certainly makes a nice change from the larger-than-life militaristic themes prevalent in Aliens.

    The surround presence is somewhat variable during this film, which is another giveaway to the age of the film. Early on in the film, there was much use of the surround channels, with all manner of sounds to be heard throughout the soundfield. At other times, the soundtrack collapsed into mono, although most of these moments aren't too noticeable. Special audio effects, most notably the rattling of the chains in the scene where the Alien kills Brett, are rendered with an eerie sort of menace that truly enhances the overall experience of the film.

    The subwoofer wasn't called upon very often except to add a floor to some of the sound effects, and even then it wasn't all that noticeable.

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

Extras

   

Menu

    The menus, particularly the main menu, have extensive audio and animation to set the overall tone for the film, in which they succeed quite admirably for the most part. They are 16x9 Enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Audio Commentary - Ridley Scott (Director)

    Ridley Scott is a very engaging speaker, explaining exactly what motivated each and every artistic decision, and how well each trick turned out as compared to the goals that were in mind when they were to be used. His explanation of why the crew are clothed when waking from hypersleep is quite amusing and fascinating, as is his explanation of why everyone is talking at once during the first conference sequence. Then there's his commentary on such things as the construction of the models used to accomplish the outdoor shots, or how the actors were asked to simulate the vibrations of the landing sequence.

Isolated Music Score

    The cues used in this score, though often recycled-sounding, add to the tense, claustrophobic feel of this film quite nicely. This is even better than having the score music on a CD of its own, as you get to see the scenes that it accompanies in all their ugly glory.

Alternate Music & Production Sound

     This is an alternate edit of the film's soundtrack with different musical cues and sound effects, but nothing to really get excited about. Given the presence of the original dialogue in this soundtrack, it is worth the time to listen to for curiosity purposes as long as you are ready to put up with the ever-present background hiss.

Deleted Scenes

    The aforementioned scene depicting the original breeding method of the Alien is the tenth scene in this section, and it makes the whole section worthwhile. The other scenes aren't quite as compelling, but they do provide some interesting insights into the small plot holes.

Outtakes

    Two outtakes from the first half of the film, with no clear reason why they weren't simply included with the deleted scenes.

Theatrical Trailers

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, these trailers not only give away nothing of the plot, but they also do very little to make the basic premise clear.

TV Spots

    A pair of television commercials for the film, both of them in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Art & Photo Gallery

    This is a rather large collection of various stills, and it is rather irritating to navigate because you have to press the right arrow key an awful number of times to get through this presentation.

Easter Egg - Nostromo Crew Biographies

From the Main Menu, go Left at Special Features and select the highlighted screen. These are nothing particularly exciting, but they do give some interesting insights into the backgrounds of the Nostromo's crew.

Easter Egg - Ash's Alien Lifecycle Report

From the Special Features Menu, go Down until the acid pool is highlighted and select it. This is nothing special, not giving the Alien or Aliens fans any information they didn't already have, but newcomers to the series will find it quite interesting.

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 disc misses out on;     Although it is disappointing to not have any specific data on the production team, there is nothing here that would really tip the scales in either direction. The use of PAL formatting for the local version makes it a good idea to stick with that version in this case.

Summary

    Alien is a great science fiction film that has stood the test of time and bad sequels well, presented on an excellent DVD.

    The video quality is very good for a twenty-year-old film.

    The audio quality varies from excellent to average, but is mostly quite good.

    The extras are quite comprehensive.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, May 25, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersPanasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer

Other Reviews
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - Michael D (read my bio)
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - Michael D (read my bio)
The Fourth Region - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
Dark Horizons - Garth F
The DVD Bits - David E

Comments (Add) NONE