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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Alien Quadrilogy: Bonus Disc (2003)

"I can't speak for your chances, but... you have my sympathies."
- Ash (Ian Holm)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: November 30, 2003

Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannion, Ronald Shushett, Terry Rawlings
Other Stars: Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Skerritt, David Giler
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains language and scenes of violence)
Release Date: December 02, 2003
UPC: 024543098478
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+BB A

DVD Review

[Access the entire Quadrilogy here.]

Stretching across nine extensive discs and packed in a silly fold-out set, the Alien Quadrilogy represents one of the most ambitious DVD collections ever released. Considering the numerous past releases of the films, including 2001's four-disc Alien Legacy set, 20th Century Fox is counting on the fans' need for extra features. I'm guessing their gamble will pay off in a big way. Even though viewers will rightfully grumble about doubling up on releases, they won't be able to resist discovering considerable background about the series.

The Alien segments provided the most interest for me and really delved into the story's origins. It was definitely not an easy shoot, but everyone appeared more idealistic because they failed to realize that huge success was around the corner. Dan O'Bannion and Ronald Shushett are very odd fellows, but their excitement is infectious and sorely missed in subsequent pictures. I also enjoyed the straight talk from executive producer David Giler, who basically hated the original script except for one scene. Throughout the set, he does reflect the less-attractive business side of things, but his comments are always very straightforward. His down-to-earth candor nicely counters the creators' idealism to provide an entertaining vision.

This Time It's War definitely summarizes the production stories from Aliens, where the stubborn James Cameron angered many crew members. These documentaries provide a compelling look at the difficulties faced with a limited budget and huge expectations. Unfortunately, Cameron is not as involved as I would have hoped, but he does provide some informative elements during the commentary. This film remains more popular than the original and delivers a tense, action-packed experience. One thing it lacks is the sense of impending dread that occupied Ridley Scott's tale. When Ripley saves Newt and escapes from the queen, it seems like everything will be okay for the human race.

David Fincher quickly removed our hope in Alien 3 by killing off two of the past film's survivors. He also provides a dour picture, but it lacked the same originality of the first movie. The numerous bald guys hardly register as individuals and miss the unique nature of the original seven crew members. The lengthy final chases are tedious and rarely generate the tension needed to really grip an audience. Apparently this entry killed the series, but creative minds found a way to bring Ripley back for Alien: Resurrection. Detractors criticized this method as a simple money-grabbing enterprise, but the film actually provides a unique experience. Jean-Pierre Jeunet brings his French outlook and dark humor to this tale and basically creates a satisfying picture. It fails to generate the bone-chilling results of the earlier movies, but does not denigrate the series as a whole. I'm guessing that Alien vs. Predator may accomplish that feat next summer.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Considering the bonus nature of this disc, the image transfers will vary based on each individual element. The Alien Evolution documentary utilizes a decent full-frame transfer for the numerous interviews, while the laserdisc sections aren't as clear. The preview trailers also vary considerably between older full-frame and sharper widescreen images. The overall effect is decent and lacks and notable defects that would hinder your enjoyment.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: As I mentioned above with the image transfers, the audio varies considerably for each included supplement. The laserdisc videos are much quieter than the other featurettes, which is understandable given the format. The preview trailers once again offer a mixed bag of less clear, centralized sounds and newer, more impressive audio. The solid presentations should allow you to navigate through the features without any significant problems.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
13 Original Trailer(s)
14 TV Spots/Teasers
Production Notes
2 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Ridley Scott Q&A
  2. Special Edition Laserdisc Archives (Alien and Aliens)
  3. Dark Horse Cover Gallery
  4. DVD-Rom (Script-to-Screen Comparison)
Extras Review: After four huge bonus discs, you might be wondering why it's even necessary to include a ninth disc of supplemental features. Separated by each film, these extras cover familiar ground but also provide some different material, including promotional trailers. A large amount of space is used up by the two laser disc archives for Alien and Aliens, which contain all their supplemental materials. A few other items also appear, including an intriguing look at collector Bob Burns' stash of goodies.

Alien

Alien Evolution
This comprehensive 64-minute British documentary from 2001 starts at the beginning and covers the entire production. Viewers who delved through all the features on Disc Two will hear familiar items, but it is worthwhile to see everything presented in a single show. Dan O'Bannion, Ron Shushett, David Giler, Ridley Scott, Terry Rawlings, and all the other key players appear and provide a quick one-hour overview. Artist H.R. Giger looks older and even scarier here while extensively discussing his inventive creations. It's interesting to note that Giger and others speak in their native tongue with subtitles, which differs from the new documentaries. Once again, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto do not appear, which perhaps indicates less satisfaction with the movie.

Experience in Terror: Promotional Featurette '79
Video quality was not so hot in 1979. This seven-minute promotional featurette comes from the original release and provides many clips from the movie. Ridley Scott also summarizes the basic plot around the scenes. Following the gargantuan amount of material presented earlier, this production video is not too exciting. However, it still is worthwhile to view the original marketing approach, which does not show the fully grown alien.

Ridley Scott Q & A
Recorded following a screening of Alien at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles on September 14, 2001, this 15-minute interview provides more comments from Ridley Scott. Certain statements are very similar to ones from the commentary and Disc Two supplements, but the discussion still provides some unique items. Scott can be a bit dry at times, but he's definitely very open and has proven to be an extremely talented director.

Laser Disc Archive
Unbelievable. This complete archive of the original Alien laserdisc contains a wealth of information concerning virtually every aspect of its creation. Much of the material is text-based and crude, but there are some videos and photos contained within the menus. Navigation will require some time, but devout fans should enjoy this feature. I'll avoid going into specific detail about each section and will let you discover the material on your own.

Alien Trailers and TV Spots
The original theatrical teaser is wonderfully brief and includes only some silly narration warning the characters. Luckily, even the theatrical trailer wonderfully creates interest without giving away the major scares. Along with the two odd television spots, these trailers represent one of the great advertising campaigns in film history.


Aliens

Laser Disc Archive
This massive section covers the special edition and includes 31 chapters of information. Text, still photos, and videos provide a cruder, yet still very effective inspection of the popular sequel.

Trailers and TV Spot
The four trailers and television spot all appear separately in the menu, but I've combined them since they all relate to the original marketing. The teaser follows a method similar to that on Alien and includes no dialogue or actual movie sound effects. The original theatrical trailer injects dialogue and reveals a bit too much of the plot. The other two trailers and TV spot are quick and contain the usual promotion narration.


Alien 3

Advance Featurette
Running for about three minutes, this promotional featurette is basically a throwaway and provides little information of value. Sigourney Weaver discusses the movie's depressing nature and the expected scares for audiences. Along with a few quick clips, that's about it.

Trailers (A-E) and TV Spots
The first preview here includes the infamous "On Earth, everyone can hear you scream" tagline that excited fans. Unfortunately, the others present the actual picture, even using the silly "in a world" beginning in one and "the bitch is back" in several of them. The trailers do appear with impressive widescreen transfers (except the first one), which is a nice bonus. The seven very short TV spots generally highlight the initial Alien/Ripley confrontation and include similar commentary.


Alien:Resurrection

Theatrical Teaser, Theatrical Trailer, and TV Spots
I remember the anticipation caused by seeing the teaser and full-length trailer back in 1997. The shorter one spotlights the action elements, while the theatrical trailer presents many of the key plot aspects. The television spots contain silly narration and don't generate any real terror. Three of the four commercials actually are for pay-for-view outlets, which makes their inclusion a bit odd.


General Supplements

We've nearly reached the end of our nine-disc odyssey through the Alien universe. Before retiring for the evening, I would suggest viewing the 17-minute "Aliens in the Basement" Bob Burns Featurette. Bob Burns is far from your typical collector of small Hollywood trinkets. His 3,000-square-foot extension to the house includes many large miniature ships and big alien designs. This silly guy is a bit odd, but he seems genuinely enthusiastic about the films. His presentation of the props is surprisingly interesting and reveals some great tidbits.

The Dark Horse Still Gallery presents images from the comics published in 1988 that followed the events of Aliens. Cover pictures appear with descriptions alongside them about the stories. The first few entries seem to use worthwhile premises, but they eventually get worse as we progress through the gallery. Originally, some comics included Hicks and Newt, but the names had to be changed following their deaths in Alien 3. Their story was initially written by Mark Verheiden and is included in this gallery. Ripley even returns to the fold for a few issues, and some marines get their mini-series.

This boxed set also includes a full-color booklet that summarizes each film, its special edition, and the included extra features. Ridley Scott writes a page to explain his "director's cut," which is a nice inclusion. This hopefully last release of the four Alien pictures has few flaws and is one of the definitive DVD releases in the format's brief history.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

The Alien Quadrilogy should provide an excellent holiday gift for the series' many fans. However, viewers who only want to see the first picture or two should probably wait. Fox is almost certainly going to release each movie individually in the near future. This complete set gives us the comprehensive vision of each film, but could be a bit much for those not totally enthralled with all four entries.

 


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