Media

Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - November, 2010

ARTICLE INDEX

"Alien" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

Alien

Synopsis

The crew of the starship Nostromo is awakened during their return to Earth to investigate a mysterious signal emanating from a nearby planet.  After landing, they discover the source to be a derelict alien ship wrecked hundreds of years earlier.  Suddenly one of the crew is attacked by a spider-like creature that attaches itself to his face.  All efforts to remove the entity fail but it soon dies and falls off on its own.  All seems well until Cain (Hurt) has a violent seizure followed by silver-toothed creature that bursts from his chest.  The remaining crew searches the ship for the alien which quickly grows to huge proportions and becomes as deadly as it is unstoppable.

The decision is made to destroy the ship and escape in the shuttle.  Soon only Ripley and her cat Jones remain as she jettisons from the Nostromo and watches it explode through the window.  Just as she prepares for 10 months in hibernation, the alien slides out from behind a console and Ripley just manages to force it out the airlock.

Specifications

  • 20th Century Fox
  • 1979, Color, Rated R, 1 Hr 56 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec:  AVC @ 25 Mbps
  • English:  DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Starring:  Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Ian Holm, John Hurt
  • Directed by Ridley Scott
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes

Commentary

This was the first film to successfully combine horror and science fiction.  Previous attempts are firmly in the campy B-movie genre.  Alien was a true blockbuster with fantastic production quality and the feel of a psychological thriller.  The crew is just a bunch of hard-working space jocks looking forward to their return home and their payoff.  Things aren’t what they seem of course and they soon find themselves struggling to survive a ruthless deadly monster.  The tension builds through numerous dark and damp scenes as the crew members encounter the alien one by one.  I have seen this film many times and it never fails to make me jump.

Technical

This disc is part of the just-released Alien Anthology box set which I will be reviewing in its entirety, movie by movie, for this month’s guide.  Before I talk about video and audio quality, I must mention an issue I had at my initial viewing.  When the disc loads, it offers the choice of viewing the 1979 Theatrical Version or the 2003 Director’s Cut.  I chose the Director’s cut which begins with a short into by Ridley Scott.  When the film began, the screen zoomed in to only the top left quadrant of the image.  After fumbling with the remote I found that pressing Top Menu then Play solved the problem.  This happened in my Oppo BDP-83 with the latest firmware.  From my Internet research I learned this issue does not occur on other players.

Video quality is superb in all respects.  I can’t imagine this 31-year old film looking better.  Grain is scrubbed but not to the point of softness.  In fact, most of the movie has the look of a recent release, not something from 1979.  The detail in faces and other close-ups is stunning with every pore, bead of sweat, and bit of dirt plainly visible.  Color is depicted naturally with hues appropriate to the gritty lived-in interior of the Nostromo.  Contrast is excellent with deep detailed blacks and bright un-crushed whites.  The image is film-like at all times.  This is one of the finest restorations I’ve seen to date; true reference quality.

Audio is restored to a very high standard.  I only docked one star because I thought the surrounds and sub could have been used more.  Most of the sound is at low volume and detail is excellent.  My favorite example was a scene in the cargo bay with lots of dripping water and clinking chains; very spooky.  The sense of space was fantastic and the soft sounds were rendered with the utmost clarity.  Dialog was clear at all times but occasionally sounded compressed.  I believe this is more due to the technology of 1979 than any weakness in this Blu-ray release.  The musical score by Jerry Goldsmith doesn’t play a huge part but when it’s needed to create tension or highlight action, it delivers with aplomb.  Goldsmith has earned his reputation as a Hollywood legend.

Extras

First I have to mention the packaging.  The four movies and two bonus discs come bound in a book with the discs slotted sideways on every other leaf.  Surrounding them are scenes from the films and the whole thing has a stiff cardboard cover protected by a sturdy slipcase.  It’s very elegant and well-designed.

The Alien Anthology has the largest set of bonus features I’ve ever seen.  There are over 60 hours of documentaries and featurettes, all contained on two extra discs in the box.  Each movie disc contains the original theatrical release and a director’s cut of the film.  You can also turn on commentary from directors, actors and writers.  Deleted and extended scenes are also available.  The extra discs contain so much material; I just can’t list it all here.  If you are a fan of this series, the information presented here is truly exhaustive.