Alien Quadrilogy

Alien Quadrilogy

*****

Reviewed by: Andrea Mullaney

In space no one can hear you scream ... but they can certainly watch it over and over again. This nine-disc set is exhaustive: even the most avid Alien devotee will surely be sated at the end (if they weren't already by the previously released Legacy set). The basic plot of the series - evil space-beasts try to kill everyone; Ripley escapes; The End - is not that deep. It's surprising, actually, that it maintains interest throughout. Most horror films wouldn't come close: can you imagine a Nightmare On Elm Street Octology?

While many of the talking heads make great claims for the series as a metaphor for motherhood, capitalism or xenophobia, it's the amazing look of the films, with their Giger-inspired monsters, like amorphous fears made dripping flesh, that has brought them cult status. With that in mind, the great picture quality on this DVD is the definitive way to see them.

Copy picture

Even though numbers 3 and 4 are generally - and rather unfairly - liked less, the sheer unexplained terror of the Aliens, coupled with Sigourney Weaver's heart-rending portrayal of Ripley, an ordinary woman traumatised beyond belief by her repeated torture, is more than enough to make them watchable.

First there are new Special Edition versions of each film. Alien - the Ridley Scott original - is supposedly quicker and slicker, but it's hard to notice the difference: the film didn't have a lot of fat on it in the first place. The main addition is a scene of Dallas, stuck in a cocoon: it's fine, but doesn't really add anything.

Aliens - the James Cameron sequel - is a rare example of an attempt to "soften", or humanise the main character, giving her a tasty love interest and cute child, which actually works and doesn't make you feel sickly. There are more changes in its new version, increasing the tension somewhat and adding a little more atmosphere.

David Fincher's Alien3, which went through a troubled shoot, is the most radically altered, with an extra half hour of footage helping to make more sense of the prison planet's inhabitants. It clears up issues, like whether Bishop is another android, Ripley's death and the Queen's, well, motivation, for want of a better word to describe the alien hive-mother's actions. Overall, it's a better version.

Alien Resurrection is slightly disappointing, much like the film, as the special edition might have been a chance to fix some of the problems which muddied up a basically good idea and some brilliant scenes - Ripley confronting the earlier, "failed" versions of her reincarnation is still chilling, heart-rending stuff. The changes here aren't fundamental, though it's nice to see a reference to Newt, but more explanation of the smugglers might have been good.

Reviewed on: 15 Dec 2003
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Nine-disc DVD offers two versions of each of the four Alien sc-fi fright flicks, with bonus extras.
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Director: Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Writer: Dan O'Bannon, James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson, Joss Whedon

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Al Matthews, Charles S Dutton, Charles Dance, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Dan Hedaya

Year: 1979

Runtime: 461 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US/UK

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If you like this, try:

Dark Star: HR Giger's World