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Alien: The Director's Cut

  Alien: The Director Cut
John Hurt lets his tapeworm go just a bit too long.

© 1979, Twentieth Century Fox
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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 again.

Filmfodder Grade: A

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