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Alien

It is hard to believe that this incredibly scary and riveting movie is 22 years old. Its settings and style are so well crafted that it is timeless and will never ‘date’ like others in this genre. Director Ridley Scott’s fantastic attention to characters, story, and detail makes this movie a real classic. I saw it the first time in high school, and jokes about chest bursters being served in the cafeteria made the last few weeks of my senior year particularly hilarious.

Of course, it was remastered for DVD, and the presentation is brilliant. Everything that was lost on the edges because of ‘pan-and-scan’ has been restored, and the surround sound makes the doomed Nostromo come alive in a way only seen at the original cinema.

I decided to watch this film with Ridley Scott’s commentary on the soundtrack instead of the regular dialogue track. Listening to a director dissect the movie and tell you all the little background stories makes it even more interesting. Lately, I have noticed that I now look at movies in two ways: one with the original story seen at the cinema or home theater, and the ‘inside’ version- the background and creation of the film. For me, this enriches the whole experience- and I have learned a lot about how films are made. On this commentary track, Scott tells us all sorts of interesting details between audible puffs on his ever- present cigar. My favorites were how they got the cat Jones to hiss on cue (they used a German Shepherd behind Plexiglas) and how Sigourney Weaver ran down the halls of the doomed ship to the pounding strains of Tomita’s "The Planets". (I have this album- it is suitably atmospheric enough to work- especially "Mars: The God of War".)

The attention to detail on the DVD goes way beyond Scott’s commentary- there is also a behind the scenes documentary, comparison (and Scott’s admiration) of this film to "2001", which before this movie was the only ‘near future’ movie that had any believable elements. There are also some interesting galleries of the art of H.R. Giger, who designed the derelict ship and the Alien itself. His biomechanoid drawings were what interested Scott in asking Giger to work with him. Giger was closely associated with this film, and his touch has made it unforgettable.

So, I visited with an old friend of a movie- beautifully re-mastered and transferred to DVD in an expert manner- clear sound and picture. And I also learned a lot about this ‘old friend’ of mine, enough to make this movie even more interesting than it already was. Its underlying commentary on the willing ruthlessness of corporations to exploit people and machinery to further profits isn’t very far from the state of things today. Ripley’s horrid treatment by the company in the four-film story arc is the tragic story of the little guy being sacrificed to the altar of exploitation and profit, and her final (?) appearance in "Alien: Resurrection" speaks volumes about the possible lengths such soulless corporations will go to so they can get what they want. I can only hope that we will awaken to this slow slide to hell before we, too get caught in such a corporate maw.

2001 by Lorie A. Johnson

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