Posted: 12/02/2010

 

Alien 2: On Earth

(1980)

by Jef Burnham



Returning to Blu-ray and DVD on March 22, 2011 from Midnight Legacy!


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The premiere title in Midnight Legacy’s niche library, Alien 2: On Earth, is one of the most surprising Blu-ray releases I have encountered since turning to the format. The film itself is an unofficial Italian sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 film, which pre-dates James Cameron’s official sequel, Aliens, by 6 years. Of course, it has absolutely nothing to do with Alien, and unlike Aliens, is not actually a good movie. Still, many people, like myself and the team at Midnight Legacy, are utterly devoted to Alien 2’s brand of cinematic cheese, and actively seek out such titles. The only problem for folks like us in the past has been that no distributor has been willing to do them justice until now.

Alien 2 follows a group of spelunkers who drive around L.A., do a television interview, meet up with a guy named Peter who has absolutely nothing to do with anything, go bowling, buy candles, get dressed in a bathroom, climb down an incredible lot of ropes, and, oh yeah, eventually get brutally murdered by aliens. You will be amazed when you reach the halfway point in the film how little has actually happened. And when things do start to happen, you won’t quite understand why they happen. Honestly, it seems as though the filmmakers started to make a movie about cavernous rock monsters, and at the last minute, threw in some stock footage and dialogue about a space shuttle in order to capitalize on the success of Alien— which is probably not far from the truth.

The absurdity of the whole thing is that the aliens ultimately have no business being underground. They only come to be there because the spelunkers find this crazy rock before driving to the cave, and instead of leaving the rock in the car where it won’t weigh them down or impede their progress, they take it down into the cave with them. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s an alien inside (this film’s equivalent of a face-hugger, I suppose). In terms of the alien, there is effectively no creature design. From what I could tell, it’s made entirely out of tentacles and pulsating steaks. Of course, it could just as easily look like a rock. The movie’s a bit unclear about that. However, in spite of, or perhaps precisely because of, the constant confusion the movie engenders in its audience, I found Alien 2 to make for some incredibly enjoyable viewing.

Typically, one expects the transfer of such a film to be absolutely dreadful, often an umpteenth generation transfer from a VHS source with a garbled soundtrack and cropped, discolored, dirty imagery. Now, it’s not that there’s no market for high quality versions of bad films. People gladly pay for a second or third copy of titles based simply on the promise of a new transfer from better source material (which is ultimately why Blu-ray has been successful despite gorgeous transfers on many DVDs). But now we have Midnight Legacy, whose first release promises to be the start of an incredible library of high quality versions of the most obscure, cheesy movies. Just take a look at these disc specifications of Alien 2 taken from their site: “Brand new 1.85:1 high definition transfer from the original 35mm negative featuring significant additional footage not seen anywhere in the world. Ultra high bitrate AVC encode @36 MBS, on a BD-50, faithfully representing our 2k scan and preserving the integrity and look of film. English DTS MA 2.0, fully restored from the original audio masters, and respectful of the original sound design.” Granted, you may not be entirely sure what some of that stuff means, but I can tell you after viewing this Blu-ray that most Hollywood releases aren’t afforded this kind of transfer!

There’s a lot of blurry archival footage of a space mission, Naval ships, helicopters and the like throughout, which Midnight Legacy could only do so much with as the initial quality was so poor. But the film’s original footage is sharp and free of all obvious blemishes or debris, with deep blacks and rich, vibrant colors that perfectly showcase all the wonderful gore. I was shocked to find myself comparing the quality of this transfer of Alien 2 with that of the first few features on my recently purchased “America Lost and Found” BD set from The Criterion Collection. I was so impressed I even watched the movie a second time just to admire the transfer and see if I could actually spot any blemishes or marks in the film proper (by which I mean any footage apart from stock footage or the inherently flawed, optically printed final shot), and it is indeed virtually spotless. Frankly, it’s about time someone gave cinematic oddities like Alien 2 the same loving treatment others such as Criterion do the odd masterpiece, for movies this cheesy are every bit as rare.

The special features included on the disc are 11 minutes of effects outtakes transferred in full HD from the film’s B-roll, and the only surviving trailer, recovered from the incredibly rare Dutch VHS.

Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.



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