Alien Quadrilogy: Bonus Disc Review
There are so many extras on the individual films in the Alien Quadrilogy boxset that the idea of a ‘bonus disc’ seems a little redundant. However, fans of the series will be pleased to see that the ninth DVD contains a few things of note which are collector’s items, even though anyone less enamoured with the films might begin to wonder at the point of them.
The first item is an hour long documentary on the making of Alien entitled “Alien Evolution”. Hosted by the estimable Mark Kermode, this Channel 4 production charts the production of Ridley Scott’s film from Dan O’Bannon’s initial ideas through to the release in May 1979. Your reaction to this will depend on how much material about the making of the film you can personally take. Myself, I love hearing the stories – even for the hundredth time – and this is a well organised, entertaining retelling. Kermode isn’t much in evidence, relying on the interviewees to tell the story. This works well, largely because people like O’Bannon, Ridley Scott, H.R.Giger and Sigourney Weaver don’t need any encouragement to speak.
“Experience In Terror” is a brief TV documentary about the making of the film which contains some interesting interview clips with Ridley Scott. It’s too short to be memorable but is an interesting throwback to a time when this was about the full extent of information about the making of a film which we had access to.
The Q and A with Ridley Scott is taken from a discussion held after a screening of Alien held in LA. It’s a brief but friendly trip around ground which will by now be more than familiar.
The most substantial feature relating to Alien and Aliens is the generous inclusion of the Laser Disc Archives, originally released in 1992. These are lengthy, largely text-based histories of the films which are very interesting, if somewhat exhausting to read. Long sections of informative text are accompanied by an assortment of photographs – some not available elsewhere, some of which can be seen on the Quadrilogy special features discs – and occasional snippets of video material.
There are two ways to access these archives. In the normal manner, you can go to a table of contents and choose which bits you want to look at. However, if you ache for the days of laserdiscs or just want to browse through all the information at your leisure, you can also go screen by screen, using the chapter skip button to move forward. I chose the latter method, which I found hugely enjoyable but also time consuming and you do run the risk of RSI in whichever finger you use. However, the rewards are several. The text is very well written and authoritative with some useful quotes and incisive analysis. The stills are a joy to look at – some lovely off-the-cuff moments from the actors - and some of the video material, including 1991 interviews with Ridley Scott and James Cameron, is pretty rare. Neither of them say much that you wouldn’t expect but it’s always nice to see something of a different vintage to the norm.
Fans of the series will be interested in the tour round Bob Burns’ Alien Collection but personally I found him a little scarily obsessive and I can’t imagine anything worse than living in a shrine to a series of films.
There’s also a Dark Horse Still Gallery consisting of images from the popular Alien comic books.
The only other extra feature of note, apart from the trailers, is a 3 minute EPK clip for Alien 3 which manages to be of no use whatsoever – either as entertainment or information - and you wonder why they bothered making it in the first place.
Otherwise, the rest of the disc is trailer heaven for series fans. Alien is represented by two trailers – the somewhat cryptic first trailer and the more explicit second one – and two TV spots. For Aliens, we get the teaser trailer, the theatrical trailer, domestic and international trailers and a TV spot. Alien 3 is represented by seven TV spots and five trailers, including the totally misleading early one which suggests that the film would take place on earth. Alien Resurrection, for which no other material is included, gets a teaser, the theatrical trailer and four TV spots.
Video throughout is in 4:3 with film clips presented in non-anamorphic 2.35:1. The quality of the image varies according to the material. The 1979 featurette is in pretty poor shape but the 2001 documentary looks fine. The trailers are generally in surprisingly good condition. The sound throughout is Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and subtitles are included for all video material.