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Film review: Alien: The Director's Cut

It's not time that's been unkind to "Alien"; it's director Ridley Scott.

For the second time — the first was with the 1982 sci-fi thriller "Blade Runner" — Scott has gone back to one of his films and tinkered with it. And for the second time, he's made changes that aren't for the better.

When it was originally released in 1979, "Alien" stood out from both its science-fiction and horror competition because of its subtlety, and because it left so much up to the imagination. The new spruced-up version is still subtle but, surprisingly, not quite as effective, thanks to a few tightening-up edits and a nearly five-minute scene integrated into the film for the first time (although it is available as an extra feature on the "Special Edition" DVD).

For those unfamiliar with film, "Alien" follows the unlucky crew of the Nostromo, a space barge of sorts that picks up what seems to be a distress signal from a nearby planet. After investigating, the crew members find an otherworldly craft on the surface, and one poor fellow (John Hurt) picks up an alien parasite that attaches itself to his face, making him a host to something infinitely worse — a hostile beast that begins picking them off one by one.

Though some of Scott's editing decisions in this new version are questionable — one even violates continuity — he has left the film's most suspenseful and chilling moments intact. And this is still one of Sigourney Weaver's best performances. (Her star turn here opened the door for strong female characters in all genres.)

Also, the film's non-digital special effects still stand up, even if some of the design elements are now a bit antiquated (especially the on-board computers).

"Alien: The Director's Cut" is rated R for strong scenes of violence (alien attacks, explosive mayhem and violence against women), scattered use of strong sexual profanity and crude slang terms, gore and glimpses of nude photos. Running time: 116 minutes.