The worst casualty of the 'Aliens' Blu-ray transfer
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One of the strongest images in the Alien films fades to black under Blu-ray...
The late shipping of the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set has meant a lot of reviewers (and particularly those not familiar with the previous Alien DVD anthology releases from the early noughties, the excellent extras of which are duplicated on the new Blu-ray) have either had to take a day or so off work in order to watch the many hours of content on the set to join the rush for net interest in reviews - or put up staged, partial or otherwise incomplete reviews. On the plus side, we actually got the swanky packaged version instead of a bunch of raw check-discs shipped in snap-prone clear plastic disc cases.
Me, I'll do a thorough review after the rush - let it get lost in the crowd if it must. I love the Alien franchise, and this release represents something significant both for it and perhaps for the future of Blu-ray as a consumer format.
But I have one complaint that will not wait.
The death of Cpl. Ferro (Colette Hiller) in James Cameron's Aliens (1986) contains one startling image that is one of the most horrifying of the whole franchise, and the very dark transfer of Aliens in the Blu-ray has made it incomprehensible.
On the way to collect Ripley, Hicks and the others in the first attempt to vamoose and nuke the infested colony from orbit, Cpl. Hiller finds herself with an unwelcome guest in the cockpit. This is from the DVD version...
The image of Ferro frantically smearing her own blood on the canopy of the drop-ship in her final death-throes is alarming, a bit disgusting, but also one of the signal images both from Aliens and the Alien film series, perhaps the best visual metaphor for the ineffectiveness of human sophistication against the savage force of the xenomorphs.
On the Blu-ray, I just couldn't make that shot out. I took it to a friend's Blu-ray player, and he couldn't make it out either.
A far better job in general has been done on the Aliens transfer than I would have thought possible, given that the film was shot on the final batch of some of Kodak's grainiest but most light-sensitive film-stock (a fact which helped enormously in hiding the Skotak Brothers' extensive miniature wire-work in that pre-digital era). The Blu-ray transfer seems generally to have paid attention to the requirements for level-adjustment of individual shots and scenes; so quite how they blew this one, I can't imagine, unless the shot was intended to be 'toned down' in the same manner that Scorsese was forced by the MPAA to recolour the extensive blood in the apocalyptic ending of Taxi Driver (1976). But since the Alien Blu-ray anthology is 18-rated, that makes little sense.
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