The 1970s through the early 1980s were a time where it was common practice for crafty Italian exploitation filmmakers to produce unauthorized sequels to American horror films and actually get away with it. The most notorious of these cult cash-ins is 'Zombi 2' (also known as 'Zombie,' 'Zombie Flesh Eaters,' 'Island of the Living Dead,' and 'Woodoo') directed by Lucio Fulci ('The New York Ripper' and 'City of the Living Dead'). The movie isn't really a sequel to anything, but was just named that way in order to ride the coattails of George A. Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead.'
One of the least known of these obscure oddities, though, is the film presented here -- the unofficial follow-up to Ridley Scott's masterpiece from Ciro Ippolito (under the pseudonym Sam Cromwell). Apparently 20th Century Fox intended to sue Ippolito for $10 million regarding its title, but lost their legal case since there's also a novel from the 1930s called "Alien." While dedicated cult aficionados still have a few more weeks to wait for Fulci's landmark film to finally hit the high-definition format, 'Alien 2 - Sulla Terra' -- or 'Alien 2 on Earth' -- is now available in a limited edition Blu-ray courtesy of new distributor Midnight Legacy.
The movie begins with the imminent arrival of a team of astronauts on their return from a deep space mission. As the news media is busily prepping to cover this historical event, we're introduced to Thelma Joyce (Belinda Mayne, 'Krull') -- our sexy blonde heroine of the story who enjoys bowling, spelunking, and long walks on the beach. Thelma is also telepathic, but her psychic ability is more of a curse than a blessing. Whenever these "monsters" inside her--as she calls them--decide to rear their ugly heads, she's overcome with a sudden wave of unbearable pain, not to mention those wind machines really do a number on her hair. And Thelma forebodingly has such an experience right around the same time the space capsule splashes down from orbit.
A short time later, a freshly recovered Thelma is off cave exploring with her boyfriend and a few of her other serious speleologist friends. We know they're serious because they've got fluorescent-colored jumpsuits and are fully equipped with all sorts of caving gear, including a full-size typewriter one of them actually hauls deep down into the bowels of the cavern to type up his report by candlelight.
Meanwhile, the space module is recovered with no sign of the astronauts inside. But elsewhere, mysterious funky-looking rocks begin appearing all over the planet. Only the rocks aren't rocks at all, they're deadly dormant life-forms from outer space -- one of which finds its way into Thelma's backpack.
'Alien 2 on Earth' is a terrible movie, but I guess that's to be expected with any film whose sole existence is to take advantage of a trademark loophole. There's barely any semblance of a plot here, and due to the extreme low-budget nature of the production the movie is padded with loads of stock footage and frivolous tedium of people taking their sweet time transporting themselves from one place to another. In fact, it takes a good thirty minutes or so before we even get our first glimpse of an alien, and even then it's just a crumpled mass likely made out of paper mâche. The acting is awful, the dialog is atrocious, and both are made even worse by horrible dubbing (though the voice dub of the African American dude in the bowling alley is so stereotypically over-the-top that it's both offensive and an unintentional riot at the same time).
Things do improve once we finally get to the caves, though not by a whole lot unfortunately. After some cringe-inducing jazzy rappelling music during the explorers initial descent into the cavern (which completely goes against the grain of the scene), the score by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis (credited as Oliver Onions) then suddenly shifts to a pulse-pounding, synthesized beat that is probably the best part of the entire movie. Ippolito also teases gorehounds with a decent amount of bloodshed and some mutilation, such as an eye-gouging and a beheading, but truthfully it isn't anything we haven't seen countless times before and executed much better (like from Fulci).
Plus, you know a movie has to be bad when its lackluster ending manages to gain more infamy than its borderline-infringing title. I'm treading down spoiler territory here so be warned, but after witnessing most of her friends being killed by some alien monstrosity and narrowly escaping with her own life, the very next place Thelma goes is the bowling alley for her final confrontation. It really is the king of all anti-climactic climaxes.
At any rate, 'Alien 2 on Earth' is a bizarre and often logic-defying piece of Eurotrash horror pretty well running on empty in terms of B-movie monster thrills. Ciro Ippolito is no Dario Argento or even Lucio Fulci for that matter, and the film doesn't even come close to other more entertaining 'Alien' rip-offs like Roger Corman's 'Forbidden World' or 'Galaxy of Terror.' But the sheer absurdity on display here is certainly something to see for curious fans of cult cinema, and may even provide a hearty laugh or two along this ridiculous journey.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Midnight Legacy makes their home video debut with 'Alien 2 on Earth' as spine #1 (similar to The Criterion Collection) and a limited edition of 30,000 copies worldwide. Although early press reports indicated that the Blu-ray was to be housed in a red keepcase, my review copy arrived in a standard blue case with a slipcover. There are no annoying pre-menu trailers or promos and the BD-50 Blu-ray disc is reported to be region-free.
When Midnight Legacy officially announced that they were getting into the video market, they stressed that their main goal was to "give films the respect they deserve," which I must say they've definitely proven with their debut release. Working from the 35mm negative and using as little digital tampering as possible, the company not only presents 'Alien 2 on Earth' fully uncut with a beautiful 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer, the film is also presented in its original widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the first time ever.
First off, one thing that should be noted is that there's a fair amount of stock footage in the first act of the movie, and to be honest it is in pretty rough shape. These clips are tattered, extremely faded, and covered in dirt and other eyesores, but rest assured -- what follows after this footage is a dramatic improvement.
Aside from a very thin layer of grain, the remainder of the picture is practically spotless. Most of the dirt and other age blemishes have been wiped clean, so much so that I had a hard time pinpointing any stragglers. Colors are mainly neutral but natural with only the occasional splash of brightness (such as the yellows and oranges of the caving expedition jumpsuits), while flesh tones appear accurate. Contrast seems appropriately balanced and provides a pleasing sense of depth. Blacks are nice and deep, with very little in terms of crushing. Details are also much better than expected, but what I found most impressive are the darker scenes that take place inside the underground caverns. The clarity and shadow detailing in these sequences even manage to outclass many modern movie releases.
The bottom line is 'Alien 2 on Earth' looks great on Blu-ray, and if more studios gave their catalog titles this sort of treatment the world would be a much happier place.
Although the remastered audio of 'Alien 2 on Earth' isn't anywhere near as impressive as the video (most likely due to the quality of the source), purists should still be happy to see the preservation of the original stereo sound design via a lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix.
Considering this is a dirt-cheap movie, it's not at all surprising that the track has weak dynamic range and rather bland fidelity. Dialogue reproduction is adequate and rarely drowned out by other sound effects or the music. Some may be put off that voices appear to be out-of-sync with lips, but in all fairness that's from the Italian actors being dubbed in post-production and not a fault with the recording. Bass activity is practically nonexistent except for a mere flutter of a station wagon engine in the third act of the film. There are sporadic crackles and hisses here and there, but fortunately they are relatively minor for the majority of the time. The only place where they are really noticeable is during a particular tune on the soundtrack.
In the end, this is a serviceable presentation and nothing more, which is probably the best 'Alien 2 on Earth' will ever get.
Despite the title, 'Alien 2 on Earth' is not a sequel to Ridley Scott's masterpiece, and let's be honest -- isn't a very good film. It isn't even a very good rip-off as far as Eurotrash cinema is concerned. But the utterly baffling direction (of the sort that has to be seen to be believed) somehow manages to give this Italian horror cheese-fest a molecule of charm. The quality of Midnight Legacy's inaugural release is highly impressive, too, offering a couple of rare supplements (though a few new ones would have been nice) and a stellar video transfer that absolutely trounces most catalog titles on the format. In any case, it's tough to outright recommend this one to the masses, but for fans of the film or collectors of oddball cult curiosities then this Blu-ray is the definitive disc of 'Alien 2 on Earth' to own.