Saturday, March 21, 2015

Alien, 1979 Theatrical Version (live action movie), on DVD

Alien is a sci-fi horror film. It's part of the dauntingly large Alien Quadrilogy box set I won in an auction at my workplace. I decided I'd review it one movie at a time, and do separate posts for the extras as I got around to watching them.

This box set includes a theatrical version and director's cut or special edition of each of the movies, which created additional problems for me. This was not a re-watch on my part – I've never seen any of the Alien movies – so I wasn't sure which version to start with. I did a quickie Internet search, and the general consensus for Alien seemed to be “watch the theatrical version.”

In this first movie, the commercial spaceship Nostromo receives something that may be a distress signal while on its way back to Earth, which triggers a premature awakening of its seven-member crew. A few members of the crew go out an investigate, and one person is attacked. They unwisely bring him and the creature attached to his face back onto the ship. Things get worse from that point on.

I had to pause this movie a quarter of the way in, because I couldn't relax and enjoy it until I found out whether Jonesy, the cat, survived. A quick Internet search told me that he did, but sadly also spoiled the details about how much of the crew would survive. I already knew Ripley was going to make it, but it would have been nice to find out the rest for myself. FYI, after I finished the movie I stumbled across this site, which just gives info about movie animals and nothing else: Does the Dog Die?

So, what to say about this... One thing that surprised me: I was expecting far more gore. Yes, there was blood, and the chestburster, but most of the deaths weren't onscreen, were partially onscreen, or were obscured in some way. As far as the special effects and sound effects go, I think it would have been better if I had seen it many years earlier. The various forms of the alien weren't so bad, but some other things, like the final explosion, made me wince. There were also a few dated details, like the computer screens (although I could rewrite that in my head as “their company is cheap and hasn't updated their equipment in a while”) and crew members smoking on the ship.

I never felt very attached to the crew members (except maybe Ripley, via some kind of cultural osmosis, and Jonesy, because he was a cat), but the little signs of tension were interesting: a couple of them muttering about their pay, Ripley's anger after Ash undermined her authority and put them all in danger, and the way certain people reacted to (or opted to ignore) each other.

Despite already knowing some of what was going to happen, this was a very suspenseful movie. Unfortunately, parts of it confused me. Why did Ripley change her mind about turning on the self-destruct sequence? Why was the alien so slow to respond at the end? I don't remember seeing it get hurt.

Also, why did Ash try to stuff a rolled up magazine in Ripley's mouth? At first I thought he was under the alien's control somehow, and preparing to force something down her throat. I turned out to be wrong, and quick checks online bring up "he was trying to choke her" (I don't buy that, because there would have been easier ways for him to do that) and analyses of sexual imagery. The latter rings truer than the former, but...eww. Which leads me to the underwear scene. I rolled my eyes hard at that one. How many people would opt to strip down to their underwear mere minutes after barely escaping death by either alien attack or exploding spaceship? And then her choice of underwear was so tiny and low cut that it was impossible for it to cover her whole butt.

So, yay, I've finally watched this. It was decent, but I don't know that I enjoyed it enough to want to try the director's cut as well.

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