Inside the packet for 20th Century Fox’s Alien 2-Disc Collector’s Edition, there’s a little fold-out inset. It’s the usual thing for director’s cut anything, with the chapter list on the back and a little introductory commentary from the director in the middle designed to let you know what’s different, some of the story of why the movie merits a director’s cut, details of the bonus features… the usual standard fare.
However, in this introduction, director Ridley Scott throws us an immediate curveball. The first words below his greeting are, basically, that the 1979 cut of Alien was the best he could possibly make it, and it’s still his favorite version of the film. He wasn’t interfered with while making it, he didn’t have anything he wanted to put back into the film, and it needs nothing added back to it.
Yet this is the director’s cut release, and on the same DVD as the original cut is a director’s cut version that, surprisingly, is a minute shorter than the original release. For the 25th anniversary of the film, Fox completely restored the movie and all the cut scenes, and Scott, in an effort to give fans something new, reedited the film with some of the deleted scenes restored and other scenes cut, basically making a second version of the film. Scott even says, flat out, “This is for marketing purposes.” Refreshing honesty, but I suppose when you’re Ridley Scott you can do that.
The Nostromo is a commercial towing vessel, carrying a shipment of ore and a refinery back to earth from a distant planet. The crew, awakened from hypersleep by a distress beacon, lands on a desolate planet to investigate the ship of unknown origin on orders of The Company, the nameless, faceless corporation later called Weyland-Yutani. There is, shall we say, a little accident involving an alien life form and John Hurt, some protocol is breeched, and then everyone is screwed as the universe’s most efficient and ruthless killing machine is set loose on a damaged space ship. I really don’t want to say anything more, because if you haven’t seen it by now it needs to be at the top of your rental list ASAP.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Alien, so I decided to stick with the original version. The transfer is a beautiful widescreen. Everything is crisp and clean, and the sound, even on my 3.1 computer gaming speakers, sounds great. Fox put a year’s worth of work into restoring the film, and unlike some restored movies, they actually took the time to completely restore the cut footage, too, so everything looks good.
The Nostromo is a gorgeous space-Gothic nightmare. Everything is either dark or stark white, with a combination of sweeping hallways, cavernous gigantic rooms, and cramped passageways. H.R. Giger’s xenomorph is a creepy collection of points and angles, all slickly shiny carapace. Both the alien and Ellen Ripley have become iconic characters, and the Alien film is influenced by classic science fiction and continues to influence films to this day.
Simply put, Alien is a defining movie in the science fiction genre. The world created by screenwriter Dan O’Bannon is a rich, full environment, which went on to support three more Alien films, two AVP films, 17 comic books, and roughly 30 video games.
This film could not deserve any more geek love and affection, and Fox dutifully trotted out all the extras you could possibly want: two cuts of the film, a gorgeous gatefold box, photo galleries, nine hours worth of extra features, awesome new animated menu screens and transitions, Sigourney Weaver’s original screen test, deleted and extended scenes, and audio commentary from the director, screenwriter, producer, editor, and principal cast members Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, and John Hurt on both editions of the movie.
This DVD is going to keep me busy for days.