I haven’t experienced 20th Century Fox’s gigantic Alien Quadrilogy 9-disc set yet, so I don’t know how much of Image Entertainment’s The Alien Saga documentary, which originally aired on AMC, overlaps the extras offered there. I can tell you, however, that it’s a must-have for serious Alien fans as I’m sure there are some materials included in here that won’t be in Quadrilogy.
The meat of this disc is a solid 110-minute film that covers the entire Alien film series, although it spends much more time telling us how the first one came about than it does talking about the other three movies. It also whitewashes much of the controversy surrounding the much-maligned and seriously underappreciated Alien 3 (supposedly the Quadrilogy extras do the same thing), and it pretends that Alien Resurrection wasn’t as much of a disaster as it was (I thought I had gotten the image of that ridiculous newborn alien out of my head, only to have it return in all its idiotic glory), but it does provide piles of behind-the-scenes shots, rare screen tests, and interesting commentary delivered smoothly by John Hurt.
Image also threw extras in this release: vintage featurettes from the release of Alien and Aliens, the “Grunts in Space” featurette, profiles of James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver, the trailers for all four movies, and Weaver’s screen tests from the first film. The featurettes and the profiles are all brief EPK materials that show their age, especially the one for Alien, which includes film clips of horrible quality and plenty of grainy footage. The content is interesting, although much of it is fluffy; the Aliens material in particular seems to be more concerned with giving journalists angles for their articles than imparting intriguing trivia.
I thought Weaver’s screen tests were the highlight of the extras. You can see why Ridley Scott wanted her for the role despite the fact that she had no prior experience playing that type of part, which was actually written as a man and then turned into a female without any dialogue changes (a stroke of genius, really, when you consider that Ripley is a tough-as-nails survivor). I’m not sure why, though, the producer of this disc felt the need to show the same screen tests three or four times. Okay, Ripley is running down a hallway looking scared. Now she’s doing it again. And again. And again. I got the point the first time.
Bottom line: Die-hard fans will want to scoop this up, especially considering that you can buy it for around $15, and consider it a nice complement to Quadrilogy. Not-so-diehard fans, however, should rent this and then decide if it’s worth purchasing.
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