Two Blu-Ray packages have been announced that give hope that studios aren’t completely abandoning extra features: a few weeks back, it was the Back to the Future Trilogy, and today we have the Alien Anthology.
The Alien Anthology… my god, this is a comprehensive package. Fox have thrown in everything from all previous releases of the films: the 1999 Legacy DVD set, the 2003 Quadrilogy DVD set, even the 1991 laserdiscs! I have the Quadrilogy and it’s one of the best sets out there, as should be expected from DVD producer extraordinaire Charles de Lauzirika (Blade Runner, Twin Peaks, Gladiator). But there’s a lot of new material on the Blu-Ray. It would take substantial extras to make the upgrade worthwhile, but these look to be a slam dunk. The highlights:
- remastered 1080p transfers of the four films. I mainly love this series for the first two films, although Alien 3 has a lot to offer. I’m not going to re-purchase too many movies I own except in cases where they would truly benefit: Alien and Aliens are two of those. But we must pray that Fox doesn’t enhance them to death, stripping the grain from the transfers and making these wonderfully grimy films look shiny and polished, as seen in their recent Predator Blu-Ray.
- Lauzirika’s 3-hour documentaries on each films are carried over, with one notable addition. Thirty minutes were cut from the Alien 3 doco at the last minute, containing the most sensitive material about this extremely troubled production (director David Fincher has since virtually disowned it). Lauzirika took his name off the documentary in protest. In a wonderful surprise, since the material allegedly criticises the Fox regime at the time, the Alien Anthology will sport the uncut documentary. This should be a juicy and compelling watch. Bravo Fox for letting us see the whole story.
- Also added to the four documentaries are five hours of ‘enhancement pod’ featurettes branching off at various points throughout, presumably in the vein of the classic Follow the White Rabbit feature on the original Matrix DVD.
- Several other docos from over the years in a kitchen-sink effort by the DVD producers, including the Alien Legacy, a British effort called Alien Evolution, AMC’s Alien Saga, and reportedly a Danny Boyle-hosted retrospective on the first film, although this isn’t included in the press release. Hopefully it hasn’t been cancelled.
- A never-before-seen and much sought-after deleted scene from Aliens, presumably recently unearthed, featuring Paul Reiser’s character cocooned, plus other new scenes.
- Dailies from James Remar’s performance in Aliens as Hicks before he was replaced by Michael Biehn.
- A superior audio track for the workprint version of Alien 3, reconstructed for the Quadrilogy without Fincher’s involvement. Several actors returned to re-record lines previously inaudible on the Quadrilogy version.
- Isolated scores for all four films – only Alien‘s has been included before, on the Legacy release.
- Thousands of new stills from the Fox archives.
This promises to rival the Blade Runner 5-disc set as one of the most comprehensive special editions ever released. Hell, the Quadrilogy already was…
The Back to the Future Blu-Ray set won’t be anything to sneeze at either. Like the Anthology, it will carry over the original DVD set’s features, but unlike the Quadrilogy those DVDs didn’t feature an extensive, definitive documentary on the series. The Blu-Ray and the new DVD set both offer a 6-part doco called Tales from the Future, which could be just a do-over, but since the original DVD docos are also included this promises to be something more substantial.
New high-definition transfers are there, naturally, and producer Bob Gale is raving about them to BTTF.com. He also told them that, in a surprise move akin to the Remar Aliens footage but much more significant, they have included some of the legendary Eric Stoltz footage in the new documentary!
Stoltz was infamously cast first as Marty McFly and several weeks of production were completed before director Robert Zemeckis and his team realised they didn’t have the right guy. Universal agreed to fund reshoots so they could work with their first, now-available choice: Michael J. Fox. The footage has never seen the light of day since with only a few photos ever emerging, understandable really since releasing it would be a tad insensitive. Gale explained at length quite recently that it wouldn’t be appropriate to release it. Obviously all parties are now okay with it though, so this promises to be a fascinating glimpse into a Back to the Future that very nearly was.
For the big movies at least, the studios are still willing to fork out for quality extra features. Hopefully these sets sell well and justify the expense to them.