ALIEN is rightly considered one of the most influential films of all time in both the science fiction and horror genres. Giger’s classic creature design alone has spawned uncountable descendants, and ribbed tubing is now de rigeur on the exoskeleton of any self-respecting monster. The corridors of the space-faring haunted castle Nostromo find their way into STAR TREK’s Borg ships, THE EVENT HORIZON and dozens of other large and small budgeted imitations.
Now twenty-four years on, Ridley Scott has decided the time is right to release a digitally re-mastered ‘Director’s’ cut. For a whole new generation this will be a first chance to view the film on a cinema screen. For others it is a welcome opportunity to revisit it. The digitally enhanced image looks beautiful even though at times the grain is quite noticeable. The picture is in fact so good that it is sometimes hard to be certain which scenes are actually new, and which are simply benefiting from being seen in the unfamiliar light of this new clarity and a big screen. Thankfully, there has been no attempt to modernise the effects, and there are one or two moments when miniatures and rear-projection are noticeable, but they do not detract from the overall atmosphere. The sound is for the most part superb, but there are occasions where speech is slightly less than clear.
The most prominent addition is the insertion of the cocooned crew member sequence. Audiences were first able to see this often-mentioned deleted scene on the 2000 Alien DVD, where it was presented as an extra. It is now seamlessly incorporated into the movie itself, where it adds a further sense of horror to Ripley’s panicked flight. Despite its absence until now from the first film, the cocoon theme features in its sequel (although the original purpose - the unfortunate victims eventually becoming more eggs - becomes redundant in that film with the introduction of the Alien Queen).
Most other changes are relatively small such as a brief moment of Lambert being restrained by the rest of the crew as she expresses her anger at Ripley. A few frames trimmed here and there result in a tighter movie, in which we see slightly less of the titular creature. While the prospect of a less visible creature might disturb die-hard fans, it is the full-body "man in suit" shots that have been shortened. What remains is a more mysterious, more alien entity. We even see some fresh images including a new first glimpse of the adult creature suspended amongst the chains of the cooling duct before its attack on Brett, and later adding to Jones’ misery in his cat-box. The veil of mystery over the creature is surprisingly effective considering its appearance is far from being the closely guarded secret it was during the film’s production and is now an immediately recognisable icon.
There can be few audience members seeing it for the first time, but ALIEN still produces palpable tension, jumps and even the occasional scream. Even those who might consider the upcoming DVD release a cynical marketing move given the relatively recent sell-out box set will enjoy the experience of seeing a true classic on the big screen where it belongs.
Directed by Ridley Scott
A Twentieth Century Fox Theatrical Release
In cinemas nationwide from 31st October, 2003
ALIEN - THE DIRECTOR’S CUT