Fox // 1979 // 116 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // June 5th, 1999
In space no one can hear you scream.
This is the new reference Sci Fi disc. Period. End of statement.
I have to begin with some personal background about this movie. At 33 years old, I was 12 in 1979, the year Alien was released upon the world. It was the very first R rated film my dad allowed us to see. I remember jumping out of the seat in Carpentersville, Illinois and nearly taking the seat with me during the chestburster scene. This movie has never left me since. It is easily my favorite science fiction film of all time, and one of my favorite "scary" movies, along with The Exorcist.
Generally speaking this disc is one of THE significant, quintessential science fiction movies of all time, along with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and Ridley Scott's own Blade Runner. Essentially, this film took the clean and optimistic view of the future set forth by 2001 and Star Wars and turned it on its head, offering us a, some might say, more realistic view of what the future might hold. Not necessarily in terms of having to face off against such a menacing creature, but at least in terms of space being a dirty, grungy place where a lot of hard work is done, even if at a very slow pace.
I can't tell you how incredibly happy I am that Fox stepped up to the plate and really delivered with this disc. The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is absolutely splendid. This is easily the best this film has ever looked in any home video release. It is simply THE definitive version of Alien. Kudos to the team at Fox who decided to hand this film over to the good folks at Sony pictures to handle the Hi Def transfer. The colors are deep and rich. Blacks are so solid, they look like a vacuum in space. The disc is THX certifies for those of you that care. I cannot imagine a twenty-year-old film ever looking better than this one does. The hard work put into restoring this film has really paid off.
The sound of this disc almost equals the video quality. The musical score by Jerry Goldsmith is engrossing and absolutely brings you into the film. It is suspenseful, scary, dramatic and uplifting all when it counts. Since hardly anything happens for the first forty-five minutes of the film, the score carries it a long way toward building your trust as a viewer. Experiencing this film as a viewer, one gets the sense that one is in the hands of a master of his craft. Ridley Scott takes us on one of the wildest and scariest rides of all time.
This disc, in case you haven't heard, is LOADED with supplemental materials. It includes an audio commentary by director Ridley Scott, which I have not yet found the time to listen to. There are ten deleted scenes, which were originally part of the film, but cut prior to general release. There are two scenes, which were partly shot, but never included in the film. There are original storyboards and artwork from several designers involved in the film including H.R. Giger. The disc includes an isolated musical score, which essentially plays the film without dialogue and effects. There is an alternate music track, which play the entire film with a different musical score. There are theatrical trailers and TV spots, most in widescreen. The disc even includes web links and a screen saver for those of you with DVD-ROM drives. Last but not least, the discs menus and interfaces are top notch. This disc was produced with tender loving care, the way every movie of this quality ought to be handled.
The disc includes a few easter eggs as well, those little hidden menu items which are there for those of us with inquisitive minds. They are not too hard to find, so I will not spoil the fun by giving anything away here. Just play around a bit, or check the bulletin boards and forums for exacting directions if you are impatient.
Frankly, I will not even waste my time rating or explaining the story and acting here. If you don't know the story by now, then I will not tell you. I will only say that you must watch this disc. It is a masterpiece of the science fiction genre and deserves to be watched and re-watched on a regular basis. Since I bought this disc as part of the Alien Legacy pack, I cannot wait to get my hands on the fifth disc, which should be coming in the mail shortly. I will update this review if necessary when I have had a chance to view that disc.
My only complaint about this film is that the isolated musical score is not an additional track, which plays the score in succession much the way a CD would play it. Rather, it includes a score which tracks along with the film. Where there is no music in the film, we are left with dead air over the picture so to speak. While the effort is admirable (I am glad they did something), the track is really quite useless because who among us will throw this disc in and sit through dead spaces just to get to the music. We fans of Mr. Goldsmith's score will just go out and buy the CD at this point, which is probably Fox's intention anyway -- to whet our appetite and get us to spend some more money on their product.
This is my new favorite science fiction disc, clearly surpassing Contact, The Fifth Element or anything else you would care to name. Congratulations Fox, for a job well done. Here's to hoping this becomes the first in a series of terrific releases. Especially when you get around to releasing all the other blockbuster films we have been waiting so patiently for.
Acquitted on all counts. I find the prosecutor in contempt of court for even bringing this case. Case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean McGinnis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailers
* Audio Commentary by Ridley Scott
* Deleted Scenes
* Artwork And Photo Galleries
* Original Storyboards
* Isolated Original Score
* Alternate Music Track
* DVD-ROM Screensaver
* Web Links