I think most people know the film already, but for those who don't, here's a quick introduction to "the movie which changed the look of Science Fiction":
Seven "space truckers" on service of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, two women and five men, are on their way back to earth on a space towing vehicle called "The Nostromo". Their hypersleep suddenly gets interrupted by a seemingly casual signal from a nearby unknown planet. The crew decides to make an intermediate landing on the planet to examine the source of the signal. A short while later, three members of the crew - Captain Dallas, the Navigator Lambert and the 1st Officer Kane - find themselves aboard a strange looking space ship wreck that harbors a dead, over-dimensional, non-human pilot with a big hole in his chest, and a large number of mysterious looking pods or eggs. A living something within one of the eggs catches the attention of the 1st Officer Kane. He bends over the egg and, although he examines it very carefully, a nasty creature suddenly jumps right through his helmet onto his face and crams a hose-shaped trunk down his throat. Dallas and Lambert are not able to remove the alien creature from the face of their unconscious comrade, and so they carry him back to the "Nostromo" where he is brought directly to the surgery room. But even here, they can't get rid of the alien because it spatters highly aggressive, caustic blood as soon as it is scratched with the scalpel. The helpless crew backs of for a discussion how to proceed. A bit later, when someone of the crew is looking after Kane, the "face hugger" beast lies dead and rolled up on the floor. The astronaut is conscious again, however can't remember what happened. When Kane says that he feels no pains whatsoever, the crew decides to go back to hypersleep and continue their way to earth. Then, during a quick meal before the flight, the terrible happens: Kane winces and cries like mad under pain, so that the crew has to hold him on the table. The T-shirt suddenly colours red and a horrible creature bursts through his chest - a shrill cry escapes from its tooth-armed mouth and it finally vanishes lightninglike into the dark corners of the space ship, leaving behind a dead Kane and a crew that is totally stunned with horror.
What follows then is the best SciFi suspense horror-thriller that has ever been filmed. The narrow, dark spaces on the "Nostromo" suddenly become a dangerous prison for the rest of the crew as the alien grows up and develops into an incalculable, seemingly invincible enemy that has just one goal: hunt every living creature on the ship and use their bodies to multiply itself. But - as the movie subtitle says - "In space, no one can hear you scream", and so it's up to the crew to take on the uneven fight for survival and either win or lose it.
What made this film, whose story and characters look rather like those of a "Roger Corman" SciFi B-movie, so special and finally similarly famous as Stanley Kubrick's legendary "2001: A Space Odyssey" or George Lucas's "Star Wars" series? Well, I think that several things contributed to its enormous success.
There are first of all, and above all, the outstanding (Alien) artworks and designs of Swiss artist Hans Rudi Giger (short: H.R. Giger), a visionary art genius who is famous for his otherworldly, bio-mechanical designs that are frightening and beautiful at the same time. His bio-mechanical creatures and designs seem to remind us of our own overshadowed, sharp-toothed origin and our uncertain, gene-manipulated future, which makes them very authentic and timeless. Without Giger, there would have been no "Alien" - at least not such an outstanding one - and most of the film's success is due to his work. Giger, by the way, won the "Best Achievements for Visual Effects" Oscar for the design of the alien creature and scenery in April 1980.
The second reason for the success of this film is that it has probably one of the best combinations of talents that exists in film history. All key positions in the film are filled with hand-picked young talents that partly became big names later, like the lead artist H.R. Giger, the designers Ron Cobb and Les Dilley, director Ridley Scott, cinematographer Derek Van Lint, the 1st class actors Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto, the orginal "Alien" script writers Dan O'Bannon and Ron Shusett, and more. Such a combination of talent creates synergies that literally lifted the story into otherworldly dimensions, and until today, this first "Alien" movie is still considered the best film of the series. The other three films of the series are genre pearls too, but none of them reaches the authentic look and the suspense and thrill of the first one.
Last, but not least, a major part of the film's success is due to its look, which was simply "different". At the time of the filming (1979), the designs of films like "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Starship Enterprise" or "Star Wars" had basically set the standards for how a successful SciFi movie has to look. Clean, almost sterile space ships and fancy, futuristic looking crew uniforms were pretty much state-of-the-art. "Alien", on the other hand, came with a look that made the film much more authentic and real. From the dirty mining space ship to the non-uniform every-day suits of the crew members to the rough, hostile environment of the alien planet - it all resembles much more the real world we live in.
The "Alien" series has had two major DVD releases so far, the "Alien Legacy" 4-disc set (1999) and the "Alien Quadrilogy" 9-disc set (2003). Each film from the two box sets was/is also available as standalone version with the exception of the extra bonus discs: "Alien Legacy" (1999) and "Alien Evolution" (2003). So, this new "Alien" 2-disc set is 100% identical to the one from the "Alien Quadrilogy", including the theatre and director's cut version of the film and all "Alien" extras (film commentary, "Behind the Scenes" featurettes, cut scenes and photo galleries). The director's cut is a nice variation of the original film and worth watching, but it doesn't quite match the brilliant original cut. The bonus material, on the other hand, is a feast not only for fans. It is nicely done and very extensive, in fact, it is quality-wise probably the best on today's DVD market. The bonuses, including Ridley Scott's film commentary, are completely new and therefore also interesting for people who already own either the "Alien Legacy" box or the first standalone "Alien" disc. If you liked the whole series, you may want to buy the complete 9-DVD set instead of this 2-disc set as it also contains the extra disc with an additional 1-hour featurette, the cinema and TV teaser trailers of all four films (which can't be found on the standalone disc-sets), and more. In addition to either this new 2-disc set or the Quadrilogy, you may also want to take a look at the "Giger's Alien" film book, which is also available from Amazon. It's written in the form of a diary and has a lot of additional fine pictures and comments by the "Alien" father himself, H.R. Giger.