In your living room, no one can hear you scream. That’s why two of the most nerve-racking space-monster movies ever made, 1979’s Alien and its 1986 sequel, Aliens, aren’t really at home on home video. For maximum adrenaline flow, you need to see them with a theaterful of fellow masochists. Eyes riveted to a huge screen, ears alert to a pounding, what’s-that-behind-you directional soundtrack, you’re primed to emit communal shrieks as Sigourney Weaver’s badass heroine, Ripley, tracks down the acid-blooded beasties that want to use her for an incubator.
With Ripley’s travails set to continue in the new theatrical release Alien3 starting May 22, a whole new colony of viewers will surely be watching or rewatching the first two movies at home. So this is the perfect time for a deluxe video edition of the Alien films. Instead, though, FoxVideo has come up ( with a galling bit of exploitation titled the Alien/Aliens Triple Pack, due in stores by May 14. The boxed set simply repackages the same mediocre cassette versions that have been available for years (which you can buy separately for $20 each), with weak color and awkwardly cropped visuals. The framing is especially cramped in Alien, in which characters sometimes drift off screen while they’re still speaking.
What makes the shoddy technical work unforgivable is that FoxVideo has access to better versions. The company has already released a sensational edition of James Cameron’s Aliens on laserdisc, letterboxed to preserve its wide-screen imagery, adding 17 minutes of cut footage and a making-of program. The original Alien is also slated for deluxe disc treatment by summer’s end, revealing scenes cut by director Ridley Scott to avoid an X rating. Why couldn’t these versions simply be adapted to tape? A FoxVideo rep says there are plans to do exactly that within the next year, but with Alien3 ready now, the company evidently couldn’t pass up such a cross-promotional bonanza.
Rather than showcasing the first two movies, the triple pack seems designed expressly to tout a ”free” third cassette, a cheesy, 23-minute preview of Alien3. It features a lot of fleeting clips from the movie, which promises to play like an interstellar Dirty Dozen: Ripley lands on an abandoned penal-colony planet now run by the inmates and organizes these brutes against the thingy among them. None of the excerpts last long enough to convey much flavor; most simply show off Ripley’s new Sinéad O’Connor buzz cut. The rest of the program, made up of fatuous interview snippets with the cast (Charles Dutton declaims, ”It’s totally unlike the first two”), has little substance and zero repeat value. It’s a glorified commercial, a wheezy pitch for your moviegoing dollars. The package sends the message that to Fox, the video viewer is just another warm body to be corraled into theaters for Alien3 — a pitch so crass it’s sure to alienate all but the most sneak-peek-hungry fans. Alien: B- Aliens: B+ Triple pack: D