Reviewed by Colin Jacobson
Fox, fullscreen 1.33:1, languages: English Digital Stereo, subtitles: English, single side-single layer, no chapters, rated NA, 68 min., $109.98, street date 6/1/99.
Alien Legacy box set contains Alien: 20th Anniverary Edition, Aliens Special Edition, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection.
Nine collector cards and order form for The Alien Legacy: The Making of Alien DVD mail-in offer.
Supplemental Materials (A+)
Many people - myself included - greatly looked forward to the release of the four-film Alien Legacy DVD boxed set at the start of June 1999. For most fans, this was simply because they wanted to have the movies themselves, but that wasn't that great a motivating factor for me. I already owned all four pictures on laserdisc and was generally happy with them. However, the DVD set promised a wealth of new extras, and that's what compelled me to purchase the package.
One of the key features that appealed to me was an original documentary called The Alien Legacy, something that would be exclusive to the boxed set. Since I already owned both the Alien and Aliens laserdisc box sets, I was eager to receive as many new materials as possible, and this piece fit the bill. I and many others greatly anticipated this feature.
Unfortunately, we had to anticipate it for a lot longer than we thought we would. For a number of reasons, the Alien Legacy documentary was not ready to go at the same time as the films themselves. As such, rather than postpone the DVDs themselves, Fox elected to simply include a coupon for this feature along with the box package and it would be sent to those who redeemed that coupon when it was ready to go.
Much ado arose about this decision, but I think it was the right way to go. Yes, I would have preferred that it have come with the rest of the DVDs, but it's better that they offered it this way rather than delay the whole deal.
I sent in my coupon on June 2, and the DVD finally arrived on July 28. I'm quite happy to say that it was definitely worth the wait.
The Alien Legacy is a 68-minute documentary produced by Sharpline Arts that focusses solely on the making of Alien itself. This is an important point to note, because some previous discussions of it believed that it would also offer information about that film's three sequels. It does not; in fact, it never even mentions that any sequels exist! I'd love to see a documentary that covers all of the films - especially since very little "making of" information has been released about Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection - but I'm nonetheless extremely pleased with The Alien Legacy as it stands.
The piece discusses the film in roughly chronological order, starting with the conception of the movie's story and progressing through various aspects of the production itself. It offers no form of external narrator; all of the information comes from key members of the Alien crew through new interviews with them. (We also see a few minutes of archival interviews with director Ridley Scott, but the vast majority of the feature comes from new material.)
Don't let that description make you think that The Alien Legacy looks like a stiff procession of talking heads. I didn't keep track, but I'd guess that maybe one-fourth to one-third of the visual information consisted of shots of the interview participants. The rest of the time, the program offers a multitude of production shots. We see lots of behind the scenes footage from on the set, plus test reels, storyboards, design sketches, and shots from the movie, both released and unused. At all times, the material on screen corresponds to the issues discussed; ie, documentary footage of the chest burster accompanies conversation about it.
Although at an hour plus, The Alien Legacy is fairly long, it doesn't seem like nearly enough. From start to finish, the program is consistently compelling and it flows from topic to topic smoothly. And the information's quite solid as well; I think I know a lot about Alien, but I learned many new things from this. This piece is easily as good as the wonderful documentaries Universal produces for their Collector's Edition series; while it doesn't quite compete with the king of all documentaries - the nearly four and a half hour program on the Frighteners laserdisc - it's definitely one of the best out there.
The Alien Legacy appears on one single-sided, single-layered DVD. This is a real "no frills" effort. It comes in thin cardboard cover - like something a record would be in, except smaller and without anything protecting the DVD from the package itself. The DVD offers no menus and no chapters; it starts with the (unskippable) FBI warnings and then jumps right in to the documentary. If you hit the "menu" button on your remote, it will not react (other than to tell you that you can't do that). For some unknown reason, the program defaults to having the subtitles turned on, but a change made with your remote easily deactivates them. For the record, I watched them for a little while and they seem to be very good; they're not quite verbatim, but they appear much more accurate than many subtitles.
At this point in time, the future availability of the Alien Legacy DVD remains uncertain. It no longer can be obtained via purchase of the DVD box set and Fox have not announced any plans to repress it. The folks at Sharpline Arts indicate that they don't know what may happen with it. Attempted communication with representatives of Fox have not received a response.
I certainly hope that Fox decide to reissue the documentary at some point. It's an excellent program, and it seems to be a waste that some many people performed so much work for something that was available for such a short time. Any additional information about the Alien Legacy DVD will be provided when it becomes available.
Current as of 7/30/99
Official Site--The official site from Fox celebrating the Alien Legacy release on DVD and video. This is not merely a promotional site, but contains a tremendous amount of information on the series.
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