Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Alien

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, June 26, 1999

It’s got a wonderful defense mechanism. You don’t dare kill it.

Special features

Commentary Track7
Deleted Scenes9
Isolated Score5
Photo Gallery8

A classic space horror film directed by Ridley Scott and featuring a lot of design by H. R. Giger. The original tagline was “In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream”. Giger’s alien did a pretty good job of making sure that in the movie theater, everyone could.

DirectorRidley Scott
WritersDan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Movie Rating6
Transfer Quality8
Overall Rating7
  • Enhanced Widescreen

I’m not normally a big fan of horror movies, and even those horror movies I like I tend not to want to watch repeatedly. Even the best horror movies, once you’ve seen them, that’s it. Alien is different: the combination of the directorial vision of Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) and the visual imagination of H. R. Giger makes this a treat for the eyes as well as a good movie. While we do know the ending after the first time through, I’m thinking this is still going to be a keeper, especially with the plethora of extras.

At the introductory price, this thing is a steal! The menus are impressive, full-graphic, in-motion choices. You make your choice from a pulsating column in the center of the screen, the camera moves and zooms you into an opening space door, down a corridor and into your choice. We are living in the future, and this is what it’s supposed to look like!

A screensaver is included for both Windows and Macintosh. The Macintosh one appears to be a plug-in of some kind, possibly for After Dark or Dark Side of the Mac. I didn’t try too hard to install it; I installed the Windows version and it isn’t that great. It appears to be a slide show of the actors in Alien, but the slide show is confined to a tiny area in the center of the screen; the rest of the screen is used up by the same “interior ship” as used in the cool menus.

The deleted scene listing is very well done: the list of deleted scenes goes down the right side of the screen, and a description of the currently selected scene is on the right.

There are four trailers: two television trailers and two theatrical trailers. I honestly didn’t find them appealing. If I’d seen them back before the movie came out, I might have skipped the movie!

This is the first horror film I’ve seen on DVD. It really shows the limitations of my television speakers. There are a lot of extremely quiet scenes, and then extremely loud scenes, making it somewhat difficult to watch the movie without waking the neighbors. I happened to choose to watch it while my neighbor was out for the weekend so I cranked up the volume. Having a good stereo receiver and speakers would probably help, though. I’ll have to write Santa and see if he can come early this year.

H. R. Giger had a heavy hand in the design of this film. He designed a number of items specifically for the movie, and personally worked on some of the models. There are some good production photos of him standing with the actor wearing the Alien costume. (And another good photo of Sigourney Weaver puckering up for the alien!) The ship and equipment design was a combination of Giger, Moebius, Ron Cobb, and Chris Foss. The Moebius (Airtight Garage) influence is a bit subtle, in the space suits and such, but Giger is everywhere, even down to the doorways!

There were only seven visible people in this movie: Ash, Lambert, Ripley, Dallas, Parker, Brett, and Kane. Bolaji Badejo wore the alien costume, and of course the cat. It is amazing how low-budget Alien was, at least as Ridley Scott tells it in the director’s commentary. “We couldn’t even afford a hole in the floor!” But the final result looks like someone knew what they were doing, budget or not.

The director’s commentary is pretty good. It starts out a bit slow, and I came close to skipping it, but it gets interesting as he gets into it.

The computers in Alien are decidedly non-visionary considering that this is the same director who later on directed Blade Runner. In a future with hyper-sleep, androids, and faster-than-light travel, the computer terminals are still character-oriented green terminals (the planetary analysis terminal was amber), and sound like cheap printers when they print characters on the screen. They were old even for 1978.

Among the photo gallery photos are photos of some toys and novelty items. The “Alien” action figure set from Kenner unfortunately never came to market. They were bendable, and the alien apparently even had an extendable inner mouth! The chest-burster t-shirt, a three-dimensional representation of an alien coming out of the wearer’s stomach, was also an amazing sight. The same gallery also has photos of the posters designed for the movie, some of which weren’t used. It was interesting to see some of the designs that weren’t used. If you’re into advertising, you can practically guess who influenced who in the unchosen posters.

All in all, if you were a fan of Alien, you’re probably going to like this DVD. It is inexpensive, well done, and full of cool extras. I wasn’t particularly a fan of the subsequent Alien movies, but if you liked them, and if those DVDs have half the extras of Alien, you’re probably going to want to pick up the boxed set.

Recommendation: Purchase

DirectorRidley Scott
WritersDan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Spoken languagesEnglish, French
SubtitlesEnglish, Spanish
Special FeaturesCommentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Isolated Score, Photo Gallery, Screensaver, Storyboards, Trailer
More links

If you enjoyed Alien…

For more about Dan O’Bannon, you might also be interested in Dark Star and Heavy Metal.

For more about horror, you might also be interested in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Dead By Dawn, Halloween, Scream, The Evil Dead, and Hell House.

For more about Ridley Scott, you might also be interested in Thelma & Louise.

For more about science fiction, you might also be interested in The Brother From Another Planet, The Best of Omni Science Fiction No. 2, The Best of Henry Kuttner, Optimistic pessimism, or utopian dystopias, and Science fiction’s anti-socialist socialists.