"Hey, I just realized how little I'm in this!" - Lance "Bishop"
Henriksen, from the "Aliens" commentary track.
I know one of the golden rules of reviewing is that you should shy away from
hyperbolic statements like "This is the best DVD boxed set ever" and
"I don't think I've ever seen anything as cool as this in my entire life!"
Well, Alien Quadrilogy
is the best DVD boxed set ever, and I don't think I've ever seen anything as
cool as this in my entire life.
All four "Alien" movies. Two separate versions of each film. A separate
disc for each installment packed with interviews, behind-the-scenes footage,
concept art, and all sorts of making-of goodies. Full commentary tracks for
all versions, done by the directors, stars, and even the production staff of
each film. An entire ninth DVD containing yet another documentary, archives
of old laserdisc version extras, and pretty much every trailer and TV spot ever
made for an "Alien" picture. This box oozes fanboy goodness like an
alien warrior dripping with slime.
The extras themselves are pretty much the definition of "exhaustive".
There were times while watching this that I realized I had just sat through an
hour of actor interviews about the characters they played and paging through production
art galleries and footage of the set design and construction, and realized that
I was barely a third of the way through the features focusing on just ONE of the
four movies. These aren't cheap little puff-pieces, either; while the joys
and brilliance of this movie series is made explicitly plain, no punches are pulled
when it comes to the pain and dissatisfaction that sometime accompanied the production
of these films.
This is made blatantly clear in the extras for "Alien 3" (not a
shocking revelation, I know). Every wart and speedbump in the production is
laid bare for the audience to see, from the initial, failed (but way cool and
intriguingly gothic) concept of Ripley landing on a wooden space station and
having to deal with repressed monks as well as the alien creature, to the struggle
of neophyte director David Fincher to bring his unique vision to the screen
despite studio interference and the utter lack of a finished script, to the
unhappy reaction of everyone from the fans to James Cameron himself. And the
"special edition," which adds a half hour of new footage to the film,
including an extended opening and a COMPLETELY different chestburster scene,
goes a long way towards redeeming "Alien 3" in my eyes (even if it
doesn't quite manage it completely).
That brings us to the inclusion of the "alternate" versions of each
movie contained in this set. Sometimes the "alternate" take works,
like in the vastly superior expanded edition of "Aliens" and the aforementioned
"Alien 3". But for the original "Alien" and "Alien
Resurrection," it just seems pointless and unnecessary. Still, the fact
that the original theatrical versions were included alongside the "enhanced"
versions makes up for that. George Lucas, take note. And there's a full-length
commentary for each version of all the films.
And with a single exception, these are brilliant commentaries. Unlike the
lame "two production guys and a second-tier costar" type of commentary
track found on discs like "The Matrix," the audio tracks found here
feature people you want to hear from. Especially the one for "Aliens",
which not only has James Cameron himself talking about the making of his film,
but Lance "Bishop" Henriksen, Jeannette "Vasquez" Goldstein,
Michael "Hicks" Biehn, and the inimical Bill "Hudson" Paxton
reminiscing together over a few beers. It's the sort of commentary track that
makes you wish you were there in the room while they recorded it, it's that
The other tracks have equally big guns doing them, with Ridley Scott and Sigourney
Weaver accompanying the actors for Kane, Lambert, Brett, and Dallas for the
first movie, and the very French and very amusing director of "Resurrection"
offering his comments alongside Ron Perlman and the two guys who created the
alien effects (and even wore the alien suit) for the last three films. The only
misstep is the commentary for "Alien 3": apparently Fincher is too
good now to do a commentary for his very first feature film, so we're left with
the cinematographer and Lance Henriksen again, who was in the movie for all
of five minutes and whose comments seem to consist of little more than "That
iron staircase in the set background? I bought that from the movie and shipped
Still, the other goodies for "Alien 3" make up for the anemic commentary,
and it's really the only misstep in this entire nine-disc set. I did experience
some problems with the alternate versions, since the discs don't contain two
separate films, but rather use the "alternate camera angle" mode of
your DVD player to simply insert the new footage or remove it, depending on
what version you're watching. My crappy imported Taiwanese knockoff player couldn't
quite handle the transitions right, but it was still fully watchable. Just a
warning to all of you with Wal-Mart DVD players, that's all. And hey, it's all
digitally mastered in THX, so I can live with a few scene repeats.
The "Alien Quadrilogy" boxed set is an Absolute Must Buy for anyone
with even a marginal interest in the "Alien" films. There's never
been a better presentation of these movies, nor a more COMPLETE look at all
things "Alien". The effects, the scripts, the story concepts, the
production, the actors, the trials, the tribulations, and a hell of a lot more
than I can describe in a single review are crammed on these DVDs. It'll leave
you feeling like your heart is pounding right out of your chest with thrilled
At least, I HOPE that's just my heart....