Clearly we're not the only people who think Ridley Scott's Alien is "one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made", as 20th Century Fox has really pulled out the stops with this two-disc set (forming part of the Alien Quadrilogy release). It's amazing to see just how much behind-the-scenes material has been unearthed, and then, of course, there's the movie too.
We Can Hear You Scream
On disc one, you can choose to see the original theatrical version or the new, slightly longer, director's cut. Extra material to look out for includes the crew listening to an alien transmission and the cocoon scene. Whichever release you choose, both look much better than the old DVD release, with better contrast on offer from a beautiful print. The Dolby and DTS 5.1 mixes are of the sensational standard you'd expect from a modern blockbuster, with creepy rear speaker effects and immense bass support. The other audio option is a commentary, which includes Ridley Scott, who as ever is informative with what he says and concentrates on deconstructing the visuals for their impact and how they were created.
Pre-Production: Truckers In Space
The Featurettes Star Beast and The Visualists paint a fascinating picture of what Alien could have become: a low budget Roger Corman flick! Writer Dan O'Bannon was used to a lack of cash, having made Dark Star with John Carpenter, and expected the same with Alien. For a while, Walter Hill was attached to direct but dropped out due to not feeling comfortable with making a special effects picture. This is where Ridley Scott came into the frame, and you soon see how astute a guy he was as he gave the project an identity and got the budget doubled. The proof of how he did that is to be found in the massive storyboard archive. As for how Sigourney Weaver got cast, just take a look at her screen test.
This section is the equivalent of stumbling upon a fascinating attic. The amount of behind-the-scenes footage is amazing, with the scale of the set the most impressive discovery. Again you get to discover just how much of a tough operator Ridley Scott is. He remains unrepentant over complaints about the on-set conditions, arguing that he was trying to generate terror and not a cosy atmosphere. One can also guess from the featurettes Fear Of The Unknown and The Darkest Reaches that Ridley was likely passing on some of his fears as he was under immense pressure from Fox.
While some prefer the pace of Aliens to the slower building Alien, you'll see from the seven deleted scenes that the movie could have moved at an even more leisurely pace. You can see why most were left out, although The Derelict and The Airlock do have a sense of brooding tension that's worth seeing. Discovering reactions to the film when it came out in the featurette A Nightmare Fulfilled make for entertaining viewing, while Poster Explorations should fascinate anyone into film marketing.
This DVD was reviewed on a JVC XV-N5 DVD player.