The Alien Legacy is a 1999 documentary directed by Michael Matessino that details the production of the 1979 film Alien. Created for the home video box set of the same name, it uses interviews with the film's crew, interspersed with behind the scenes footage and images, to detail the development, filming and release of the movie.
The Alien Legacy is notable as being the first feature-length documentary that seriosuly examines the creation of an Alien film — previous documentaries had generally been short features designed more to promote their respective movie than seriously detail its creation. As such, it set the precedent for later documentaries such as The Alien Saga and, perhaps most notably, the four feature-length making-of documentaries created by Charles de Lauzirika for the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set.
Delayed Region 1 Release
Due to production delays, the making-of documentary was not actually completed in time for the release of Alien Legacy box set in the United States. Rather than postpone the entire set, 20th Century Fox instead elected to release it with only four DVDs/cassettes containing the Alien films, with a mail-order coupon included in the packaging that could be redeemed at a later date for a copy of the documentary. Due to the fact the Region 2 (Europe) version of the Alien Legacy box set was not released until several months after the Region 1 version, the documentary was finished by that time and was included at release, as a bonus fifth disc.
The documentary is divided into eight separate chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of Alien's production. It features no formal narration but instead relies on newly-filmed interview clips to tell the story of the film's development, interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage and images. Notably, the interviews involve only the film's crew — none of its cast members appear (outside of footage from the film).
The first chapter covers the development the film's script, also touching upon Dan O'Bannon's debut feature film, Dark Star. It goes on to cover the assembly of the production team, including the numerous concept artists who worked on the picture, and the conceptualization of the Alien itself.
Includes interviews with director Ridley Scott, writers Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, Alien designer H. R. Giger, conceptual artist Ron Cobb, special effects supervisor Brian Johnson, associate producer Ivor Powell, and Giger's assistant Mia Bonzanigo.
The second chapter covers the hiring of the various actors for the film, as well as the various traits each of the characters in the film has and how this reflects upon their relationships with the others around them.
Includes interviews with Ridley Scott and Ronald Shusett.
John Mollo: Costume Design
The third chapter is exclusively presented by costume designer John Mollo, with particular emphasis placed on the design of the spacesuits worn by the ship's crew while they explore LV-426. It includes a look at elements of the spacesuit used by Kane in the film, both the full size version worn by John Hurt and the miniaturized version worn by the child stand-in who played the character in certain wide shots.
Bob Burns: Archivist of Fantastic Cinema
The fourth chapter centers on Bob Burns and his extensive collection of Alien memorabilia and props. Burns highlights several items from his collection that were used in the film, including Jones' carry case, a tracking device, a laser pistol and the front exterior miniature of the Narcissus shuttle, along with other pieces that ultimately did not appear in the movie.
The fifth chapter details the design and construction of the Nostromo, with particular focus on the interior sets. The documentary shows a significant amount of footage showing the construction of the Nostromo interiors, as well as glimpses of some scenes that were ultimately deleted from the movie.
Includes interviews with Ridley Scott, H. R. Giger, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder and Ivor Powell.
Alien on Board
The seventh and longest chapter goes into the filming of the titular creature, in particular focusing on the infamous Chestburster scene and the decision to show as little of the Alien as possible throughout the film. It also touches on the casting of Bolaji Badejo as the titular creature. Notably, the documentary also shows the deleted Eggmorphing scene almost in its entirety.
Includes interviews with Ridley Scott, Ronald Shusett, H. R. Giger, Ron Cobb, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder, and Ivor Powell.
In the final chapter, the cast of the documentary reflect on the release of the film, share stories from the first time they saw it in a theater and describe how the movie has affected their careers. It ends with brief clips of their reunion at Shepperton Studios.
Includes interviews with everyone featured in the documentary, including Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, H. R. Giger, Ron Cobb, Les Dilley, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder, Ivor Powell and Mia Bonzanigo.
The interview footage featured in the documentary was filmed as part of a crew "reunion" held at Shepperton Studios, the London studio where the original film was shot. Brief clips of the crew meeting at this reunion can be seen in the documentary itself.
Since its inclusion in the namesake The Alien Legacy DVD box set, the documentary has also been released as part of the Alien Anthology and Prometheus to Alien: The Evolution Blu-ray sets. In the interim, it had been planned to include the documentary on the bonus disc of the Alien Quadrilogy DVD set in 1999, but space limitations forced it to be omitted.
- Director Michael Matessino and producer David C. Fein had previously produced the extensive Collector's Section archives on the Aliens: Special Collector's Edition and Alien: Special Collector's Edition LaserDisc releases, as well as contributing articles on Alien and Aliens, respectively, for the exclusive booklet included with the Alien Trilogy Facehugger VHS box set.