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The Alien Quadrilogy

The Alien Quadrilogy on DVD

Well, if you haven’t already bought one of the Alien DVD presentations already available you’re in luck: this is undoubtedly the ultimate collection.

People who’ve bought the movies singly or in their previous boxed incarnations may be a tad upset that they’ve basically thrown their money into the street - if the extra material and duplicate versions of the films are important to them.

Why Fox chose to dip into the Alien well again is unclear (though we imagine it has something to do with profitability - and Fox is no worse here than is Paramount with its seemingly endless series of Star Trek movie rereleases), but they’ve definitely given value for dollars here. All four movies are presented in two disc incarnations full of special materials. And if that isn’t enough there’s a ninth disc with even more stuff.

Each Alien film is presented in two formats: the original theatrical release and whatever “special edition” they may have for each film. This gives Alien fans the best of all possible worlds as long as you don't pine for Pan&Scan. And you also get feature-length commentaries on each film.

Ridley Scott’s Alien kicked off the franchise and the “director’s cut” that played theatrically in the fall of 2003 is also included in this set. Which version’s better? You may be interested to read Mr. Scott’s thoughts on that in the liner booklet that accompanies the set; it speaks volumes about artistic vision, studio pressure, and the search for extra profits.

The follow up, James Cameron’s Aliens, was a vastly different film, eschewing Scott’s claustrophobic story of terror for a more action-packed "Starship Troopers-like" one. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! We happen to think that Aliens is the best of the series.

In this case, the director’s special edition cut is vastly superior to the original theatrical version. It fleshes out the story, adding much-needed background and even some humanity, without making the movie feel excessively long or disjointed.

Alien 3 was the first of the series to be nearly universally panned, and it’s easy to see why. Director David Fincher was handed a screenplay that wasn’t so much bad as it was disappointing considering the high quality of the first two films. In other words, if this weren't an "Alien" movie, it might seem better.

Alien 3 was slow and emphasized form over substance, but it’s still worth seeing. The special edition here is the “assembly cut version” which includes cutting room floor stuff, some of which has such bad audio that they’ve put subtitles on those sections!

Alien Resurrection was a little better than Alien 3, but not a lot. Here, Ripley is cloned - and she isn't as likable as in the other films - not that she was a real Mary Poppins there. Still, you gotta have it, right? The extra version here is an "Alternate Expanded Cut." The director, according to the liner notes, didn't want to make a "director's cut," but was cajoled into collaborating on this longer version with newly created effects.

Each of the films is presented in a freshened, THX-certified version preserving its original theatrical aspect ratio and features crisp, anamorphic widescreen images and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. A bonus is that the first and fourth movies also offer dts 5.1 surround.

Here’s a breakdown of the set:

Alien (1979 - Discs 1-2):
• Theatrical version (117 min.)
• “director’s cut” (137 min.)
• Commentary by Ridley Scott and technical crew
• 1.85 anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), English 5.1 dts, English 5.1 Dolby Digital
• Preproduction: Star Beast (developing the story), First Draft of Screenplay by Dan O'Bannon, The Visualists (direction and design), Ridleygrams (original thumbnails & notes), storyboard archive, Art of Alien (Cobb, Foss, Giger, Moebius), Truckers in Space (casting), Sigourney Weaver's screen test with optional commentary by Ridley Scott, cast portrait gallery
• Production: Fear of the Unknown (Shepperton Studios, 1978), production gallery, The Darkest Reaches (Nostromo and alien planet), The Sets of Alien, The Eighth Passenger (creature design), The Chestburster (creature design)
• Post-Production: Future Tense (music and editing), 8 deleted scenes, visual effects gallery (photo archive), A Nightmare Fulfilled (reaction to the film), poster explorations, special shoot, premiere

Aliens (1986, Discs 3-4)
• Theatrical version (137 min.)
• Extended version (154 min.)
• Commentary by Michael Biehn, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn, Terry Henn, Lance Henriksen, Gale Anne Hurd, Pat McClung, Bill Paxton, Dennis Skotak, Robert Skotak and Stan Winston
• 2.35 anamorphic (16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital5.1,
• Pre-Production: 57 Years Later (continuing the story), Original Treatment: by James Cameron, Building Better Worlds (from concept to construction), The Art of Aliens (conceptual art portfolio), Pre-Vis Anamatics,
• Preparing for Battle (casting & characterization), Cast Portait (still gallery)
• Production: This Time It's War (Pinewood Studios, 1985),
• Production Gallery (photo archive), Continuity Polaroids, The Risk Always Lives (weapons and action), Weapons and Vehicles (photo archive), Bug Hunt (creature design), Beauty and the Bitch (Power Loader vs. Queen Alien), Stan Winston's Workshop (photo archive), Two Orphans (Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn)
• Post-Production: The Final Countdown (music, editing and sound), The Power of Real Tech (visual effects), Visual Effects Gallery (photo archive), Aliens Unleashed (reaction to the film), Film Finish & Release, Easter egg (A Boy and His Power Loader)

Alien 3 (1992, Discs 5-7)
• Theatrical version (114 min.)
• Restored work print version (155 min.)
• Commentary by Terry Rawlings and crew
• 2.35 anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
• Pre-Production: Development (concluding the story), Tales of the Wooden Planet (Vincent Ward's vision), The Art of Aceron (conceptual art portfolio), pre-production part III featurette, storyboards, Art of Fiorina, Xeno-Erotic (H.R. Geiger's redesign featurette)
• Production: Production part I featurette, Production Gallery (photo archive), Furnace Construction (time-lapse sequence), Adaptive Organism (creature design), ADI Workshop, E.E.V. Scan Multi-Angle Vignette, Production part II
• Post-Production: Post-Production part I, Optical Fury (visual effects), Music, Editing and Sound, Visual Effects (photo archive), Post-Mortem (reaction to the film), Special Shoot

Alien Resurrection (1997, Discs 7-8)
• Theatrical version (109 min.)
• Extended cut (119 min.)
• Commentary by Jean Pierre Junet and crew
• Intro (extended cut only)
• 2.35 anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), dts and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
• Pre-Production: From the Ashes (reviving the story), First Draft Screenplay by Joss Whedon, French Twist (direction and design), Under the Skin (casting and characterization), Test Footage #1 (hair/makeup), ADI Effects, Mark Carro Photo Gallery, The Art of Resurrection (conceptual art gallery), storyboards, Pre-Visualizations (multi-angle rehearsals)
• Production: Death from Below (underwater photography), In the Zone (the basketball scene), production gallery (photo archive), Unnatural Mutation (creature design), ADI Workshop, ADI Test Footage
• Post-Production: Genetic Composition (music), Virtual Aliens (computer generated imagery), A Matter of Scale (miniature photography), Visual Effects Gallery (photo archive), Critical Juncture (reaction to the film), Special Shoot (promotional photo archive), Easter egg (Alien extra)

Disc 9: Bonus disc
• Alien Legacy , Alien Evolution, Experience in Terror (promotional featurette '79), Ridley Scott Q&A
Alien Laser Disc Archive: Part I (pre-production), Part II (production), Part III (post-production), theatrical trailer A, theatrical trailer B, TV spot (Egg), TV spot (Now Playing)
Aliens Laser Disc Archive: Part I (pre-production), Part II (production), Part III (post-production), theatrical trailer A, teaser trailer, domestic trailer, international trailer, TV spot (Now Playing)
• 6 trailers, 7 TV spots
• Theatrical teaser, 2 theatrical trailers, 4 TV spots, Bob Burns Alien Collection
• Dark Horse Still Gallery
• DVD-ROM (script to screen comparison)

We were disappointed that you couldn’t easily switch from original to “special” editions of the movie part way through: you choose the version at the top level menu and from there you’re stuck with it unless you bail right out of the disc to the top menu and start again.

Still, that’s a pretty minor complaint. On the whole, this is an excellent set featuring excellent video and audio quality and about as much Alien stuff as one could want.

Now when's Alien 5 coming out?


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