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Alien: 40th Anniversary Edition
It’s about time Fox got off their butts and gave us one of the original Alien films in 4k! There’s not a whole lot that can be said as this is a film that’s been reviewed a million times, but Alien is probably one of THE best sci-fi/horror movies in existence, and probably Ridley Scott’s magnum opus in terms of directing. The man has one of those “50% hits, 50% fails” type of records, but when he succeeds, he really succeeds and there is a reason Alien is hailed as a must watch for sci-fi fans everywhere. For this 40th Anniversary (has it really been 40 years?) Fox and Ridley Scott have gone back to the film’s original elements and done a full 4K remaster, using the film negative (done by Efilm in 2018) and remastered over at Fox, which was supervised by Ridley Scott and Pam Dery. The end result is an incredible upgrade that blows the 2010 release, that has been repackaged and resold in various editions over the last 9 years, straight out of the water.
I know, I know. We would have loved to have seen a full boxset for the Alien Quadrilogy. It seems Fox has a weird habit of releasing the first movie in a franchise on the 4K format and hopefully releasing the rest later (ala Die Hard), with the only outlier being the Predator trilogy, which got a single release for the first film, and a box set of the three originals to coincide with the new predator film late last year. So while I would have loved to have seen an 8-10 disc set of all 4 films, this new 40th anniversary edition of the one that started it all is quite a treat. The extras ported over are the same ones from the Quadrilogy Blu-ray set, albeit the extra 2 discs of special features on that boxset are naturally absent, and the same 5.1 and 4.1 DTS-HD MA tracks are ported over as well. The real treat is that 4K remastering of the film, as it was a mildly problematic transfer some 9 years ago on Blu-ray, and Ridley Scott personally supervising this one makes for a much more accurate presentation.
There are very few films that have disturbed me as a young boy as much as Alien did. It was a terrifying film that relied on what was NOT seen and suspense to build up tension rather than showing all of the blood and gore. Sure, there’s a few bloody moments in the film, but due to the technology at the time the Alien was best as a “heard but not seen a lot” prop rather than later films, which went overboard in terms of exposing the beast. I still remember my brothers (who were 11 and 13 years older than I) showing me this on late night television and it literally scaring the bejeebies about of a 9 year old boy. The sense of pure terror still resonates as an adult as well, and while I’m not terrified like I was as a child, that sense of claustrophobic anxiety still rings true as the mysterious Alien hunts down the crew of the “Nostromos” one by one.
One can not deny the impact that this simple film had on history. The movie’s premise has been copied ad nauseum and has spawned 7 sequels (if you include the AvP movies), and Scott’s simple dynamics have influenced countless directors over the years. The movie is just shy of perfect, and while the effects are a bit dated being that it was made 40 years ago, the amount of pure joy that is taken from a watch is incredibly refreshing in a world of generic sci-fi movies that fail to evoke half the emotion that Alien does. While some may put Aliens as the best of the original 4 films, many viewers still stake their lives on Alien as being cream of the crop (I like both equally, with the slightest of slight edges for Aliens), but this is the movie that put Sigourney Weaver on the map as the biggest female “tough guy” out there, Ellen Ripley. Honestly, when you list off your favorite tough female heroines, who is at the top of your list? I can almost guarantee that Ripley is in your top 3 at the very least. She become a female icon as the tough as nails ships operator, who still managed to be and feminine. She was the anchor for the entire crew with her performance, and along with the ship’s cat Jones (Ridley did an awesome job at using Jones as a sympathetic element to bond the audience with Ripley, much like the puppy in John Wick did to humanize the assassin) makes for a heroine that you really root for.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the alien being itself. Cold, relentless, and so horrifically “alien” from us that we can’t even comprehend what is going on it’s head. Nothing is more terrifying than an enemy that you can’t reason with, can’t understand, and is infinitely more powerful than you are. Like Jaws or The Thing. Jerry Goldsmith’s cerebral score does a great job at setting the mood for the alien’s attack on the ship, and Dan O’Bannon’s script is so very naturalistic and raw that the all-star cast just feels so intimately human (supposedly there was a lot of unscripted conversations in the film that were just ad libbed by the cast). It’s a true masterpiece and one of my all time favorite sci-fi movies of all time.
Rated R for sci-fi violence/gore and language (Theatrical) / Unrated (Directors Cut)
4K Video: Video:
The use of HDR is more subtle due to the bleak color grading, and really is used to accentuate the really sharp primary colors (such as when Ripley is speaking to mother and her burnished orange emergency lights are flickering all around), and the black levels. The detail levels in the dark film are night and day better than the 1080p Blu-ray disc by a long shot. The scene where Ripley comes out of the pod is jaw droppingly sharp, as is then end of the film where we’re focusing on Ripley’s sweaty face as she races against time to set the ship’s detonation sequences. Textures are more deeply refined and noticeable, and the shadow detail is incredible.
However, there is a is flaw to the disc, and it stems from the director’s cut (which is really more of an extended cut, as Ridley Scott really doesn’t like the director’s cut, and only did it for contractual obligations. His preferred version, and mine, is the theatrical). The director’s cut wasn’t given a new 4K master but was rather taken from the same 2003 2K master that was used for the Blu-ray release. Luckily there’s only a few minutes of changed material, as the film uses the new 4K master for 95% of the movie, and splices in the director’s cut scenes via seamless branching. These scenes are not nearly as sharp as the new remaster, and there’s some wonky artifacting that shows up due to overlaying HDR on top of the old release. There’s some strange ringing around Ripley as she comes out of hibernation near the beginning, and some of the night time sky shots used appear blurry as well. Due to how the DC scenes seem to look o different from the new 4K remaster, it’s almost more homogenous to watch the DC on Blu-ray if you watch that version of the film. Still, no matter the minor flaws, this is a stunning looking encode and simply isn’t in the same ballpark as the old Blu-ray at the end of the day.
• Theatrical Version (1979)
• Director's Cut (2003)
• 2003 Audio Commentary by Ridley Scott and the Cast & Crew
• 1999 Audio Commentary by Ridley Scott (1979 Theatrical Version Only)
• Final Theatrical Isolated Score – Dolby Digital 5.1 (1979 Theatrical Version Only)
• Composer's Original Isolated Score – Dolby Digital 5.1 (1979 Theatrical Version Only)
• Deleted Scenes
Alien is a 100% bonafide classic, and one of the most seminal films in all of sci-fi/horror history. The irony is that it’s so hard to pigeonhole it as well. Is it more of a sci-fi film? Or more of a horror film? That particular “chicken and the egg” question has been discussed for 4 decades and no one can ever seen to really pinpoint which genre is more prevalent in Ridley Scott’s masterpiece. This 4K UHD disc is well worth the price of admission due to the stunning 4K remaster from the film’s negative. The audio and extras are the same from the Blu-ray release (and the Blu-ray release inside the set isn’t remastered, it’s the same “disc 1” from the Quadrilogy set from 2010), but that remaster blows the doors off of the old 1080p Blu-ray and had this nerd giggling with glee. Yes, I most certainly would have loved to have seen a boxset of the original 4 films, but with the amount of loving detail Ridley Scott put into this remaster, I’m hoping the subsequent films are given that level of TLC, as a quick boxset might leave us with subpar mastering for the rest of the franchise. Highly recommended.
Starring: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Dan O'Bannon
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 4.1 (Theatrical Only), English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Surround, French, Castilian Spanish, German, Italian DTS 5.1, Spanish, Czech, Thai DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Castilian Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Chinese, Czech, Korean, Polish, Thai.
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Runtime: 117 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 23rd, 2019
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
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