Awakened from hypersleep as they return to Earth after a successful mining
operation, the crew of the spaceship "Nostromo" (including Tom Skerritt, Yaphet
Kotto, Ian Holm, Veronica Cartwright, and Harry Dean Stanton) have learned that
a S.O.S. signal is coming from a nearby planet. Touching down on the volatile
surface, crewmember Kane (John Hurt) returns to the ship with a unknown life
form attached to his face. After several days, the alien dies and Kane returns
to normal. But soon enough, a horrible monster is unleashed on the crew, killing
them one by one, leaving idealistic Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) to battle the
beast on her own.
Released to promote the upcoming 9-disc "Alien Quadrilogy" DVD set coming soon
from Fox Home Entertainment, "Alien" (IMDb listing) is being placed back into select theaters. Taking a cue from the highly successful re-release of "The
Exorcist," "Alien" returns to theaters in a "director cut" form, with Ridley
Scott removing some footage, and adding a couple of new scenes to the mix,
including the infamous "Dallas trapped in a cocoon" sequence. Not having seen
the film for a couple of years, forgive me if I don't have a rundown of the
exact changes, but there is something entirely surprising: Scott hasn't gone all
"Lucas" on his film and touched up some of the more undesirable effects shots.
Yes, the Alien still looks like a guy in a rubber suit at times, and yes, that
one ugly cut from a prosthetic Ian Holm to the real deal in all his milky
android glory still remains.
But how will today's audiences embrace this undisputed classic of
science-fiction horror? The pace of "Alien" is slow and methodical, building
suspense without ever really paying it off in the way viewers expect these days. Scott takes his sweet time photographing the Nostromo ship, and
creating the aura of mystery as the crew slowly learns what is stalking
them. I, for one, find the glacial pace to the picture intoxicating, because it
allows the ability to drink all the details in. Scott is a master at
making sure the littlest feature of the production is seen on screen, and his
absence of malice when it comes to pulverizing the picture with edits and noise
is a welcomed relief from the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake and other
films that assault the senses these days.
This new release of "Alien" also benefits from hindsight. Followed over a long
period of time by three sequels: two of which are misunderstood gems (1992's
"Alien 3" and 1997's "Alien: Resurrection"), and a direct follow-up (1986's
"Aliens") that is a science fiction/horror masterwork in its own right, "Alien"
shows itself off best as a launching pad to the wild journey this franchise
would later take. Each of these films is a unique riff on a central idea, with
Scott's movie serving as the prototype adventure.
Will the trucker-hat-worn-askew crowd dig this almost 25-year-old haunted house
tale? I doubt it. Those weaned on editing blizzards and ear-splitting
soundtracks might not have the relaxed attitude to take in such a layered
filmmaking odyssey. "Alien" is a masterpiece, and I implore all interested or
already inducted into the facehugger world to spend a little more time
participating in this rare opportunity to see a landmark film on the big screen
Filmfodder Grade: A