Aliens: Special Collector's Edition is a 1991 four-disc LaserDisc set that saw the debut of the extended Special Edition of Aliens, along with bonus features. Aside from introducing the Special Edition cut of Aliens, the set is also notable for being one of the very first attempts to issue a film from the Alien franchise on home video as a deluxe package incorporating unique supplemental features in addition to the movie. As such, it can be seen as the template for later, highly comprehensive (and often lauded) releases such as the Alien Quadrilogy and Alien Anthology box sets.
The Special Collector's Edition LaserDisc was the first time the extended Special Edition of Aliens became available in its complete form — while an extended cut of the film had previously been broadcast on CBS in 1989, it did not include all of the footage that James Cameron had been forced to excise from the film for its theatrical release, as some of these sequences had never had their special effects completed. The television broadcast had also been heavily censored for violence and profanity. For the Collector's Edition LaserDisc, Cameron returned to visual effects artists Robert and Dennis Skotak and had them compete the unfinished sequences so that they could be included in the new, fully extended and uncut version of the film.
As well as the film itself, the LaserDisc contains a "Collector's Section", an extensive archive of exclusive supplemental materials prepared especially for this release. This archive consists of an extensive written piece on the making of the film, augmented with photographic and video content, that details the making of the movie and many of the secrets behind the film's effects and set pieces. Together, this material forms what is essentially a making-of documentary on the making of the film, albeit one that is predominantly text-based rather than employing filmed interviews or narration (while interview clips are included in the archive, they are infrequent compared to the written information). The section's creation was overseen by David C. Fein and Michael Matessino, who would later go on to create the making-of documentary The Alien Legacy, Fein as producer and Matessino as director.
As was standard for LaserDisc releases of the time, the Collector's Section content is presented in the form of a slideshow — static images that the viewer can scroll through at their leisure, one "slide" at a time, using their LaserDisc player's controls. Slides consist of either written text or images. Occasionally, the viewer will be prompted to press the enter button on certain slides, and doing so will launch a corresponding video clip. The material is broadly split into three sections, covering pre-production, production and post-production, with each of these split further into chapters that deal with specific topics. A table of contents at the start of the section gives the viewer the option to jump straight to specific chapters. Although predominantly text-based, the material also includes concept art, script excerpts and on-set photographs, as well as video clips such as interview segments and behind the scenes footage of the effects crews at work.
The bonus material contained within the Collector's Section remained exclusive to the LaserDisc release until, in 1999, the interview footage with James Cameron and behind the scenes clips were included in the Alien Legacy DVD box set (and on the corresponding individual Aliens: Special Edition DVD). However, the remainder of the Collector's Section material would not be released elsewhere until the LaserDisc's supplemental content was replicated in its entirety as an archive included on the bonus disc of the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set in 2003. This archive was in turn included on the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set.
Following the LaserDisc's release, the extended Special Edition of Aliens has gone on to prove immensely popular. Unlike the majority of extended versions or "director's cuts", which tend to be limited to a one-time home video release, the Special Edition has become at least as well known as the original theatrical release and is arguably equally widespread. Virtually every home video release of the film since has included the extended cut, sometimes in lieu of the theatrical version — for instance, the Special Edition was made available on DVD in 1999, yet the original theatrical cut was not released on DVD until the Alien Quadrilogy set in 2003. The Special Edition is the version typically shown on television in the United Kingdom, and was also the version shown at the Aliens Live event in 2016.
The Special Collector's Edition LaserDisc also made an impact beyond simply introducing an alternate version of James Cameron's movie. The set's specially-prepared bonus material no doubt inspired the increasingly comprehensive and expansive Alien home video releases that have followed in its wake, not least of all the Alien: Special Collector's Edition LaserDisc, a similar set created for Alien that was released the following year. The two sets subsequently proved to be the template for feature-heavy home video sets such as the Alien Trilogy Facehugger box set, the Alien Legacy DVD set (which featured a selection of material from the LaserDisc supplements as bonus features), the Alien Quadrilogy set with its feature-length making-of documentaries and alternate cuts of the other three films in the series, and the exhaustive Alien Anthology Blu-ray box set.
- 1991 Special Edition
- Annotated history of the production
- Interview with James Cameron
- Screenplay excerpts
- Conceptual art work
- Original storyboards
- Rare production photographs
- Behind the scenes footage
- Original advertising materials
- Guide booklet including program notes and chapter listing
- ↑ "LaserDisc Database - Aliens: Special Widescreen Collector's Edition". Retrieved on 2018-03-07.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 "Weyland-Yutani Archives - Aliens 1989 CBS Special Edition Broadcast". Retrieved on 2014-11-17.
- ↑ Dave Hughes, Michael Matessino, David C. Fein, James Cameron. Alien Trilogy booklet, p. 18 (1992), 20th Century Fox.