Alien, one of the most iconic movies to ever be created, whose influence has been felt heavily throughout cinema, TV, gaming, and literature ever since it’s nightmare-inducing debut 40 years ago. But is it worth taking another plunge into Ridley Scott’s hellish universe for a 4K purchase, let’s take a look.
In 1977, Star Wars set the standard and legitimized Sci-fi as a genre that could appeal to the masses and make money. In 1979, Alien proved Sci-fi could have the same effect in the horror genre. Unleashing terror farts from unsuspecting audiences across the globe with its claustrophobic and atmospheric setting. Alien went for the less is more approach, letting suggestive tones do the work with our imaginations while focusing on a handful of characters thrust into an unenviable situation at the hands of their employers, the greedy corporation, Weyland Yutani.
Most of you will be familiar with the story of Alien by now, but for those of you who haven’t seen it in a while here is a quick refresher.
Awoken from cryosleep to investigate what appears to be an SOS signal from the un-surveyed planet LV-426 the crew of the Nostromo head planetside to investigate. After a tense and foreboding wander through a derelict ship, things take a turn for the worst as the crew member Kane has the bright idea to stick his face near an alien egg thus becoming host to the infamous facehugger.
The blue lighting used to form the laser-like cover for the egg chamber was stage lighting borrowed from The Who, who (no pun intended) were testing their new stage show on the set next to where Alien was being filmed.
After being brought back on board the ship things really go tits up as one more meal before bedtime goes horribly wrong in another infamous scene featuring more pigs blood than the cast was prepared for. It resulted in some genuinely shocked faces as the worlds most pissed off banana bursts from the chest of Kane placing the remaining crew in a battle against a creature that was just as terrifying off-screen as it was during the few glimpses you had of it when it did appear. As this salvage crew fashion together a few makeshift weapons they set off to try and capture Mr. Xenomorph and flush it into outer space, even the ships cat Jones gets involved in the action!
Actress Sigourney Weaver had an allergic reaction after filming her first scene with Jones, fearing she was allergic to the cat she came close to stepping down from the role as it would be quicker to recast her than find another cat. Luckily it turned out she was allergic to the spray used to make her look hot and sweaty on set.
The second half of the movie is pretty much one of hide and seek, hopes and prayers as the crew quickly discover the Xenomorph had something of a growth spurt and is now a 9ft menacing monster who’s structural perfection is matched only by its hostility. Lurking in shadows and taking them down is spine chilling and brutal fashion (in some scenes that had to be re-cut due to being too violent and gore-soaked for the studios liking).
The Xenomorph itself has a mere 4 minutes of screen time throughout the movie, which runs at handsome 1 hr 57 mins on Theatrical Cut. The first cut of the movie was originally cut at a lord of the rings like 3 hrs 12 mins!
I was unsure what to expect from a 4K conversion of such an old movie. The Blu-Ray release had already done such a good job of upscaling that I didn’t think there would be much more to be squeezed out of the movie. I was pleasantly surprised, though not as flashy as more modern titles due to obvious age and having been shot on film, the 4K emphasizes the whites and blacks of the movie perfectly, shadows are now ink black while white details of the sets and lighting stand out with stunning detail making every panel, floor and computer within the Nostromo feel like a real and lived in ship. The Alien itself looks more terrifying than ever with the slick darkness of its body blending even more with the vents and pipes it hides in, the white dome of its head has a more eerie glint about it adding to its already unsettling appearance. HDR add’s little but does highlight certain scenes, flashing lights and fire really pop in this version during the final sequences. The only gripe I do have is the movie’s use of film grain, although about 75% of the movie seemed to have this rendered nicely certain scenes did seem to look slightly over grainy almost like it was dropping back to DVD quality, this didn’t ruin the film but was certainly noticeable and clearly a result of the previously mentioned age and film shooting of the 70’s.
From the beautiful yet unsettling score by Jerry Goldsmith to the stunning sound effects and great dialogue all come through clear but didn’t seem to have been given any noticeable improvements from the Blu-Ray release. Again this didn’t ruin my experience but is slightly odd they would not have run the sound through a new Dolby Atmos given the amount of work that has been put into the picture. Chances are if you played the Blu-Ray and 4K versions side by side the audio levels and quality would be a match.
Extras are much the same as we have seen before in the Blu-Ray release. This again is not a bad thing as those extra’s are in themselves very generous in content, featuring:
- 1979 Theatrical & 2003 Directors Cut
- Audio Commentary by Ridley Scott, Cast & Crew
- Audio Commentary by Ridley Scott
- Final Theatrical Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith
- Composers Original Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith
- Deleted & Extended Scenes
Despite its age, there has been a fantastic job done with the overall quality of this 4K release and truly is the best way to experience such a timeless classic. Seeing the derelict looking more menacing than ever, the Alien more terrifying than ever and the terror more vivid than ever is a must have experience for any self-respecting Xenomorph fan! If you haven’t seen it before I implore you to add it to your bucket list, turn out the lights and crank up the volume! I can’t lie to you about your chances but…you have my sympathies.
TBG Score: 8.5/10