The first installment of one of the most popular science fiction sagas, "Alien" stars Sigorney Weaver as Ripley, a member of the spaceship Nostromo, who investigates a mysterious transmission from a desolate planet, ending in a struggle against a horrific Alien. (Tricia Spears)
Housed inside the Alien Anthology Six-Disc Ultimate Collection box, and slipped part way inside a picture book, "Alien" is available to view either as the 1979 theatrical version (01:56:37) or the 2003 Director's Cut (01:55:49). Special features include the 2003 commentary by Ridley Scott and The Cast And Crew; the 1999 commentary by Scott (1979 version only); the final theatrical isolated score (1979 version only); composer's original isolated score (1979 version only); seven deleted scenes; and MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience With Weyland-Yutani Datastream. Disc Five in the set is "Making The Alien Anthology," and it features over 12 hours of documentaries, including "The Beast Within: Making Alien" (SD 18:14) and Enhancement Pods" (SD 01:19:43) for the film "Alien." Disc Six is "The Alien Anthology Archives," and it includes Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production And Aftermath for the film "Alien." Featured are screen tests, storyboard archives, portrait galleries, deleted scenes, poster galleries, trailers, and TV spots. On the "Anthology" section of Disc Six there is the Alien Evolution (2001 Original TV Version), Alien Evolution (2003 Alien Re-Edit), The Alien Saga, Aliens 3D Attraction, Aliens In The Basement: The Bob Burns Collection, Parodies, Dark Horse Still Gallery, and Patches And Logos Gallery. Also included is a MU-TH-UR Mode Viewer's Guide booklet.
Reviewed as a LaserDisc in Issue 1, the picture exhibited noise and artifacts, but still, at the time the presentation was the best to be had. Then in Issue 33, an anamorphically enhanced THX® digital mastered version was released, which exhibited increased vertical and horizontal resolution, refined contrast and shadow delineation, improved color fidelity, and superior visual information in the darkest scenes. The aspect ratio was precisely framed at 2.35:1. This became the new reference. Now this remastered Blu-ray Disc™ is in all aspects of visual quality the best that "Alien" has ever looked. Compared to the "Alien Director's Cut," the original appears to exhibit a bit more grain structure, and thus, the imagery is less clear and precise. The 2003 version has benefited from a digital restoration. The "Alien Director's Cut" was reviewed in Issue 81 as an anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1-framed DVD as part of the "Alien Quadrilogy." The picture quality was judged incredible. The planet's atmosphere appeared as a fine mist that did not break up in the slightest way with pixilation. Being extremely nit picky, there were a few shots that seemed a bit edgier than the previously released DVD edition that we reviewed in Issue 33 (for example, the shots of one of the waiting astronauts, as the other three are exploring the Alien's planet), but could be attributed, in part, to the higher contrast on the new DVD. Only the slightest film grain was revealed from the source element, and there were no obvious scratches or dirt. It seemed the only reminder of how old this film is comes in the way of the spaceship's controls and computers. While the DVD looked fantastic, the D-VHS D-Theater picture offered an astounding amount of detail that bettered the DVD with even greater depth and clarity. Minute details were much more apparent and revealing of textures on the Nostromo, facial features, and other textures. Details in the shadows were also better revealed. Color saturation was also more true on the D-VHS, while appearing slightly faded on the DVD by comparison. The occasional scenes with minor edge enhancement on the DVD appeared to be completely clean on the D-VHS. This all-new 4K master and 1080p AVC Blu-ray Disc version has resulted in a finely grained pristine picture with exceptional clarity compared to the previous DVD. Resolution is finely rendered, exhibiting structural details of the Nostromo in both interior set shots and exterior miniature model shots. The Alien creature is fabulously detailed in texture and density. Contrast is superb, with revealing shadow delineation, which enhances the darkly lit claustrophobic tight spaces and hallways on the Nostromo. Blacks are solid and nicely defined, with satisfying dimensionality. Fleshtones hues are naturally rendered and provide life-infused color into the otherwise stark, grayish-blue interiors and exterior cinematography. A few moments here and there reveal vivid colors, such as blood red during John Hurt's chest-bursting scene, lighting and instrument effects, and orange fire from incinerator units. No doubt, this is the definitive reference-quality version that fans have always hoped to experience. (Gary Reber)
The "Alien" soundtrack, while encoded in the DTS-HD Master Audio™ 5.1-channel format, still is dramatically less dynamic and sounds dated. The previous DVD's Dolby® Digital soundtrack had no split surrounds and very weak .1 LFE enhancement, making it a 4.1 mix. Our reference Dorrough meter bridge showed aggressive split surround signals on the discrete LaserDisc version reviewed in Issue 18, but monaural surround on the DVD version. Both were THX digitally mastered for "optimum performance," but the THX standard of quality was not heard on the previous DVD. This new encoding has electronically enhanced split surrounds, but they still are at subtle, inconsequential levels. The DVD Dolby Digital 5.1 audio on the Alien Director's Cut reviewed in Issue 81 was a new remastering effort, sounding a bit louder in overall level than the previous DVD. There was also some more low-end content and refinement in spatial articulation, but the .1 LFE presence was inconsequential. Otherwise, the general characteristics of the audio were similar to the previous soundtrack remastering. The fidelity is certainly dated, and some distortion is to be expected. The soundstage tends to be conservative in nature, with an adequately compelling sense of holosonic® spaciousness throughout. The low end is inherently reserved and weak. The Dolby Digital version seemed to have just a bit more to offer in the low end, but the DTS® Digital Surround™ audio (new to that release) sounded a little more "open" in the midrange and articulated in dimension. Dialogue sounded natural and spatially integrated, with a spread across the three front channels, with emphasis on the center channel. On D-VHS® D-Theater™, the Dolby Digital soundtrack sounded just slightly smoother in the midrange than the DVD "Alien" Quadrilogy version reviewed in Issue 81. Like the DTS version for the DVD, the DTS audio for the D-VHS D-Theater (encoded at the full 1509 kbps) sounds a little more "open" in the midrange and articulated in dimension. The Blu-ray Disc version is that remastered soundtrack encoded in the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel format. The enhanced refinement in fidelity, clarity, low-level resolution, and spatiality are evident, but .1 LFE impact is virtually nonexistent and distortion is heard throughout. The sound is inferior to the subsequent three films sonics, always sounding dimensionaly and dynamically reserved. (Gary Reber)