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Alien Anthology (Blu-ray)

Alien Anthology on Blu-rayReviewed by Andrew Kasch

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, John Hurt (Alien), Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen (Aliens), Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Lance Henriksen, Charles Dance (Alien 3), Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Brad Dourif (Alien: Resurrection)

Directed by Ridley Scott (Alien), James Cameron (Aliens), David Fincher (Alien 3), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Alien: Resurrection)

Distributed by Fox Home Entertainment


The Alien Anthology is the single most impressive release in the history of home video, and I say that without a shred of hyperbole. Over two years in the making, there has never been this much content and archival material assembled for a movie series. Everything a fan could want is here and then some, and considering Alien was my “gateway drug” into horror films, consider me one of the happiest fanboys on the planet.

What can you say about the first two films that haven’t already been said? Ridley Scott’s Alien remains the greatest monster movie ever made while James Cameron’s Aliens is the holy grail of franchise sequels. These are two of the most imitated movies in existence, fusing the very best elements of sci-fi and horror with amazing creatures and memorable characters. Over 30 years later, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley is still the quintessential action heroine and I seriously doubt she’ll be topped by anyone else in our lifetime. Watched back to back, it’s the greatest one-two punch you’ll ever see in genre cinema.

Alien Anthology on Blu-rayA colleague of mine once summed up Alien 3 best: “It’s a rotten sequel, but a stellar movie.” And it’s true! While it wasn’t the sequel anyone asked for, David Fincher’s debut holds up on its own as a beautifully directed humanist film with what is arguably Sigourney Weaver’s best performance. The “Extended Version” in particular restores 30 minutes of much-needed character development and a major subplot that add a lot of weight to Ripley’s swan song. In fact, it’s arguably a far more powerful meditation on mortality than Fincher’s recent The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Initially despised, time has been very kind to Alien 3 – especially with the uncut version that has been lovingly restored and re-mastered. It’s definitely a film worth revisiting.

The same can’t be said of Alien: Resurrection, which remains the odd one out in the franchise. The “genre dream team” of master director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and screenwriter Joss Whedon sounded great at first, but both brought all the wrong sensibilities to this failed rebirth. As a result, it feels more like an episode of “Firefly” with wildly over-the-top acting and cartoonish visuals that rob Alien of its atmosphere and realism. It still has its moments, like a killer underwater sequence and some classic Ripley bits, but on the whole, it’s an incredibly uneven film. And too damn French.

All four features are presented in both their original theatrical and extended versions and all look and sound superb (especially the first Alien). Thankfully, the picture hasn’t been artificially “scrubbed clean” like the fake looking Predator Blu-ray. Each movie contains just the right amount of grain and color to make it look perfect in high-def. And hats off to Fox for not tainting this set with those shitty Alien vs Predator films. Let’s just forget those ever happened and hope that Ridley Scott’s upcoming prequel (which he teases a bit in the Anthology’s booklet) properly continues the legacy.

Alien Anthology on Blu-rayWriting a full description on the bonus content would probably take 50 pages. You could literally spend weeks sifting through everything on this set! Along with multiple commentaries and isolated music tracks for the films you get MU-TH-ER mode, which gives you a giant interactive experience while watching each film. Viewers can select audio, video or text at any time that gives you behind-the-scenes content and factoids across every second of the franchise.

A fifth disc contains Charles de Lauzirika’s documentaries for all four movies that were on the previous set. Years later, these remain the benchmark for making-of docs, covering every detail from pre to post production. The big reason to pick up this new set is “Wreckage and Rage” the uncut Alien 3 documentary, which was heavily censored by Fox on the last set. Restoring over 30 minutes of footage, you get a blow-by-blow account of the infamous Fincher vs Fox debacle that made up one of the most troubled projects in film history. All the interviews are really candid and honest (except for Fox exec and future Avatar producer Jon Landau, the main villain of Alien 3’s production who delivers the kind of canned responses you would expect) and, all in all, this is one of the most intimate looks at a train-wreck you’ll ever see. Comparable to Hearts of Darkness, it’s a testament to Fincher’s talent that he was able to hold it together and deliver a coherent film at the end of the day.

The sixth disc contains the most in-depth archival collection ever assembled. There are deleted scenes, trailers, TV spots, image galleries (containing everything from BTS photos to continuity polaroids), storyboards, scripts, treatments and animatics for every film. They even include loops of all the computer-monitor read-outs you see in the background throughout the series! How’s that for complete? Well, that doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Alien Anthology on Blu-rayAlien includes all five of Sigourney Weaver’s original screen tests, the raw takes from every angle of the chestburster sequence (!) and a 1979 featurette called “Alien: Experience in Terror.” With Aliens, we get a look at a bunch of unused title designs, raw footage from the marine’s camera helmets and the full video for “Aliens: Ride at the Speed of Fright” a simulation ride that played in San Francisco in the mid-90’s which – believe it or not – stars Jeffrey Combs and was directed by Stuart Gordon (!!). I actually attended the ride back in the day and it’s every bit as cheesy today as it was back then. If you’ve ever wanted to see what Aliens would look like if it were made by Full Moon, now is your chance. A great oddity to have on this set!

I could go on and on, but half the fun of this set is exploring all the content for yourself. There’s no contest: Alien Anthology has set the ultimate gold standard in home video releases. Already own the previous Quadrilogy set? Ditch it! Don’t own a Blu-ray player? Buy one for this! Producer Charles de Lauzirika and 20th Century Fox have delivered a product that is worth every penny. If you only purchase one Blu-ray in your entire life, make it this one!

Special Features

DISC ONE: ALIEN

  • 1979 Theatrical Version
  • 2003 Director’s Cut with Ridley Scott Introduction
  • Audio Commentary by Director Ridley Scott, Writer Dan O’Bannon, Executive Producer Ronald Shusett, Editor Terry Rawlings, Actors Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and John Hurt
  • Audio Commentary (for Theatrical Cut only) by Ridley Scott
  • Final Theatrical Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Composer’s Original Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream

    DISC TWO: ALIENS

  • 1986 Theatrical Version
  • 1991 Special Edition with James Cameron Introduction
  • Audio Commentary by Director James Cameron, Producer Gale Anne Hurd, Alien Effects Creator Stan Winston, Visual Effects Supervisors Robert Skotak and Dennis Skotak, Miniature Effects Supervisor Pat McClung, Actors Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn and Christopher Henn
  • Final Theatrical Isolated Score by James Horner
  • Composer’s Original Isolated Score by James Horner
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream

    DISC THREE: ALIEN3

  • 1992 Theatrical Version
  • 2003 Special Edition (Restored Workprint Version)
  • Audio Commentary by Cinematographer Alex Thomson, B.S.C., Editor Terry Rawlings, Alien Effects Designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., Visual Effects Producer Richard Edlund, A.S.C., Actors Paul McGann and Lance Henriksen
  • Final Theatrical Isolated Score by Elliot Goldenthal
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream

    DISC FOUR: ALIEN RESURRECTION

  • 1997 Theatrical Version
  • 2003 Special Edition with Jean-Pierre Jeunet Introduction
  • Audio Commentary by Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Editor Hervé Schneid, A.C.E., Alien Effects Creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., Visual Effects Supervisor Pitof, Conceptual Artist Sylvain Despretz, Actors Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon and Leland Orser
  • Final Theatrical Isolated Score by John Frizzell
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream

    DISC FIVE: MAKING THE ANTHOLOGY
    In addition to over 12 hours of candid, in-depth documentaries, you now have the ability to go even deeper into Alien Anthology history with nearly five hours of additional video Enhancement Pods created exclusively for this collection, presenting behind-the-scenes footage, raw dailies and interview outtakes from all four films. At topical points in the documentaries, you may access these pods to enhance your experience, or watch them on their own from the separate Enhancement Pod index.

  • The Beast Within: Making ALIEN
  • o Star Beast: Developing the Story
    o The Visualists: Direction and Design
    o Truckers in Space: Casting
    o Fear of the Unknown: Shepperton Studios, 1978
    o The Darkest Reaches: Nostromo and Alien Planet
    o The Eighth Passenger: Creature Design
    o Future Tense: Editing and Music
    o Outward Bound: Visual Effects
    o A Nightmare Fulfilled: Reaction to the Film
    • Enhancement Pods

  • Superior Firepower: Making ALIENS
  • o 57 Years Later: Continuing the Story
    o Building Better Worlds: From Concept to Construction
    o Preparing for Battle: Casting and Characterization
    o This Time It’s War: Pinewood Studios, 1985
    o The Risk Always Lives: Weapons and Action
    o Bug Hunt: Creature Design
    o Beauty and the Bitch: Power Loader vs. Queen Alien
    o Two Orphans: Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn
    o The Final Countdown: Music, Editing and Sound
    o The Power of Real Tech: Visual Effects
    o Aliens Unleashed: Reaction to the Film
    • Enhancement Pods

  • Wreckage and Rage: Making ALIEN3
  • o Development Hell: Concluding the Story
    o Tales of the Wooden Planet: Vincent Ward’s Vision
    o Stasis Interrupted: David Fincher’s Vision
    o Xeno-Erotic: H.R. Giger’s Redesign
    o The Color of Blood: Pinewood Studios, 1991
    o Adaptive Organism: Creature Design
    o The Downward Spiral: Creative Differences
    o Where the Sun Burns Cold: Fox Studios, L.A. 1992
    o Optical Fury: Visual Effects
    o Requiem for a Scream: Music, Editing and Sound
    o Post-Mortem: Reaction to the Film
    • Enhancement Pods

  • One Step Beyond: Making ALIEN RESURRECTION
  • o From the Ashes: Reviving the Story
    o French Twist: Direction and Design
    o Under the Skin: Casting and Characterization
    o Death from Below: Fox Studios, Los Angeles, 1996
    o In the Zone: The Basketball Scene
    o Unnatural Mutation: Creature Design
    o Genetic Composition: Music
    o Virtual Aliens: Computer Generated Imagery
    o A Matter of Scale: Miniature Photography
    o Critical Juncture: Reaction to the Film
    • Enhancement Pods
    • MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience to Access and Control Enhancement Pods

    DISC SIX: THE ANTHOLOGY ARCHIVES

  • ALIEN
  • • Pre-Production
    o First Draft Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon
    o Ridleygrams: Original Thumbnails and Notes
    o Storyboard Archive
    o The Art of Alien: Conceptual Art Portfolio
    o Sigourney Weaver Screen Tests with Select Director Commentary
    o Cast Portrait Gallery
    • Production
    o The Chestbuster: Multi-Angle Sequence with Commentary
    o Video Graphics Gallery
    o Production Image Galleries
    o Continuity Polaroids
    o The Sets of Alien
    o H.R. Giger’s Workshop Gallery
    • Post-Production and Aftermath
    o Additional Deleted Scenes
    o Image & Poster Galleries
    • Experience in Terror
    • Special Collector’s Edition LaserDisc Archive
    • The Alien Legacy
    • American Cinematheque: Ridley Scott Q&A
    • Trailers & TV Spots

  • ALIENS
  • • Pre-Production
    o Original Treatment by James Cameron
    o Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Videomatics with Commentary
    o Storyboard Archive
    o The Art of Aliens: Image Galleries
    o Cast Portrait Gallery
    • Production
    o Production Image Galleries
    o Continuity Polaroids
    o Weapons and Vehicles
    o Stan Winston’s Workshop
    o Colonial Marine Helmet Cameras
    o Video Graphics Gallery
    o Weyland-Yutani Inquest: Nostromo Dossiers
    • Post-Production and Aftermath
    o Deleted Scene: Burke Cocooned
    o Deleted Scene Montage
    o Image Galleries
    o Special Collector’s Edition LaserDisc Archive
    o Main Title Exploration
    o Aliens: Ride at the Speed of Fright
    o Trailers & TV Spots

  • ALIEN3
  • • Pre-Production
    o Storyboard Archive
    o The Art of Arceon
    o The Art of Fiorina
    • Production
    o Furnace Construction: Time-Lapse Sequence
    o EEV Bioscan: Multi-Angle Vignette with Commentary
    o Production Image Galleries
    o A.D.I.’s Workshop
    • Post-Production and Aftermath
    o Visual Effects Gallery
    o Special Shoot: Promotional Photo Archive
    • Alien3 Advance Featurette
    • The Making of Alien3 Promotional Featurette
    • Trailers & TV Spots

  • ALIEN RESURRECTION
  • • Pre-Production
    o First Draft Screenplay by Joss Whedon
    o Test Footage: A.D.I. Creature Shop with Commentary
    o Test Footage: Costumes, Hair and Makeup
    o Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Rehearsals
    o Storyboard Archive
    o The Marc Caro Portfolio: Character Designs
    o The Art of Resurrection: Image Galleries
    • Production
    o Production Image Galleries
    o A.D.I.’s Workshop
    • Post-Production and Aftermath
    o Visual Effects Gallery
    o Special Shoot: Promotional Photo Archive
    • HBO First Look: The Making of Alien Resurrection
    • Alien Resurrection Promotional Featurette
    • Trailers & TV Spots

  • ANTHOLOGY
  • • Two Versions of Alien Evolution
    • The Alien Saga
    • Patches and Logos Gallery
    • Aliens 3D Attraction Scripts and Gallery
    • Aliens in the Basement: The Bob Burns Collection
    • Parodies
    • Dark Horse Cover Gallery
    • Patches and Logos Gallery
    • MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience

    Films Combined

    5 out of 5

    Special Features

    5 out of 5

    Discuss Alien Anthology in the comments section below!

    Steve Barton

    You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

    3 Comments

    1. Watching Alien on bluray literally was like watching it for the first time. I’m stunned.

      Best Blu-Ray out on the market, and will probably stay that way for a long time.

      My only complaint is that all the making of’s and special features they have are in Stand Def. Oh well, still great docs.

    2. My only complaint is that they didn’t remaster all four films with state-of-the-art 4k scans. As a result, ALIEN and ALIENS look stunning, while parts 3 and 4 are only slight improvements over their DVD counterparts. I could understand ALIEN 3 not looking as good since Fincher disowns the film and wouldn’t supervise a new transfer if you held a gun to his head. However, there really is no excuse for REUSRRECTION, the most recent film, to have the worst looking transfer in the bunch. I’m not a huge fan of the film but I do like bits and pieces of it and wanted a great looking transfer of it out of principle.

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