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"Alien (Special Edition)" Blu-ray Review

For all it's "classic" status, I've never been overly enthused about Alien. Yes, it had that wild H.R. Giger bio-mechanical design; some all-time iconic moments like the chest-burster and knocking Ash's block off; and what 12-year-old didn't thril at the sight of Sigourney Weaver's coin slot at the end? (Though looking at it now, all I see is that she has no booty to speak of. It's a little unnerving.)

Perhaps it's because I'm more attuned to the heavy metal action of James Cameron's stellar Aliens (which I watched last night), but the deliberate pacing (my polite way of saying sloooooooow), while allowing plenty of time to soak up the details, allowed me to start getting distracted by the logical gaps as well as noticing how suspicious Ash looks all along at what's happening. (It's like when you watch The Usual Suspects the second time and realize that when they show Verbal looking around the room at the beginning, he's not killing time as much as gathering his story elements.) The damp bowels of the ship, cluttered with gear, lend a gritty authenticity as long as you don't start wondering why all that stuff is there for what is principally a big interstellar freighter with a crew of seven.

I can't remember who the big name science fiction author was with whom I read an interview in which he hated on Alien as little more than a "haunted house" picture and how stupidly the characters behaved when he wanted to yell out, "Just get in the space suits and blow the airlocks to suck it out." Given the size of the ship, that would probably have been impractical, but the way they wander off and get picked off makes them seem like teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake.

On the new Alien Anthology Blu-ray, the visuals are just about as perfect as you could hope, accurately reflecting the cinematography and look of the film. I was startled at how piercingly blue Veronica Cartwright's eyes were in the scene after Dallas gets nabbed. The audio end is frustrating, with all sorts of muffled dialog and unbalanced levels, but they're more a product of the limitations of late-Seventies technology. I popped in Alien Resurrection and watched a little and the difference between the 1997 movie's surround mix and the one made in 1979 was apparent. Yay progress.

In the intro to the Special Edition cut, Ridley Scott talks about how after a quarter-century, he's seen things that he wishes he could've tweaked. The major noticeable addition is Ripley stumbling over Dallas in a cocoon and granting his death wish, but there are a few other scene extensions that add some flavor without padding thing too badly, unlike how some of the additions to Aliens do slow things detrimentally. There is an option to have new footage indicated by an icon that pops up.

While I'm not in love with Alien, I'm glad to have a very slick copy of the film in the collection. If you're a big fan, it's a must-get.

Score: 7/10. Buy the Blu-ray.


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