THE ALIEN FACTOR (1978) — Limited Edition Blu-ray Review

Retromedia released The Alien Factor to Blu-ray on June 14, 2016 in a limited edition of 1,000 units autographed by actor (and Blu-ray release producer) George Stover.

The Alien Factor is the sort of film that’s almost impossible to recommend; objectively, it’s bad by most conventional standards, but if you appreciate the can-do attitude of no-budget filmmakers trying to create something wonderful with limited resources, then it can be a charming and surprisingly ambitious endeavor.

The film was created by a group of enthusiastic special effects nuts, fanzine writers, and what we might generally call “monster kids”, notably led by cult producer and director Don Dohler (best known for the Troma-distributed Nightbeast, a quasi-remake of The Alien Factor) and featuring effects work from Ernest D. Farino, who went on to create effects for many well-known films including The Terminator, The Abyss, and The Thing, among many others.

The story concerns a small town caught up in terror when an alien spacecraft crashes in the area. It turns out the spacecraft’s occupant was a sort of alien zoologist, and the three dangerous alien specimens in his care escape and are unleashed, killing several people.

The town’s sheriff is pressured by the mayor’s aide to take care of the problem quietly, and is joined in his mission by an outside scientist who observed the crash and has some ideas on how to wrangle the aliens. Meanwhile, other folks in town try to organize hunting squads and take vigilante action against the invaders.

This is a film where the enthusiasm and the low budget are on display in equal measure. While the main few characters come out alright, there’s a lot of very poor acting. Some of it is charming in a disarming way, though on the other hand there’s one scene early on in which a minor character mumbles a line of babble so completely unintelligible that he might as well be gargling a fluffernutter (or playing one of the aliens in a malfunctioning earthsuit).

The film’s major highlight is without question the creatures, a delirious mix of costumes, makeup, and composited stop-motion animation. If you’re a “monster kid” then you can probably overlook — or even appreciate — all the badness and just have a blast with the monsters as they go on a clumsy murder spree.

This is a crazy amalgam of a surprisingly high concept story, cheesy delivery, awesome aliens — some with spectacularly creepy designs, a white guy who dresses just like Prince, and full marks for a surprisingly bleak ending. It’s bad — but it’s good, though.

The Package

The Alien Factor released by Retromedia in a very lovingly put-together, feature-packed Limited Edition of only 1000 units, autographed by actor George Stover, who not only had a small part in the film and returned for its 2001 sequel, but was largely the main force behind putting this Blu-ray together (director/producer Don Dohler passed away in 2006).

The feature is presented in great quality, and cinematographer Britt McDonough, who was unhappy with prior home video releases, has commented on how great it looks now. The original film is 16mm, so it’ll never look super sharp, but this presentation appears to be very true to source.

Sound quality doesn’t fare very well, though it was probably not great to begin with. Combined with the sometimes very bad line delivery, there are places where dialogue is impossible to make out and the absence of subtitles is noticeably felt.

It’s worth noting that while not rated, the movie’s tone is cartoonish enough that it feels pretty safe for older kids, even with the horror elements. Younger kids might be permanently scarred by the creepy costume designs, though.

Special Features and Extras

The disc comes packed with a substantial amount of interesting features, most hosted by George Stover.

1993 Reunion (31:59)
 Amateur home video recording of a vintage convention appearance with several cast/crew, who seem relaxed and comfortable talking about the film (a bit disarming, given the often stilted dialogue in the film).

Meet The Cast And Crew (35:22)
 A great collection of modern remembrances from many members of the cast and crew. This is very obviously cobbled together from a ton of different video recordings of widely varying quality and proficiency, and the hodge-podge nature is actually pretty charming.


The Television Years (38:19)
 Highlights from a televised presentation of the film with a horror host; features a lot of behind-the-scenes looks at the creature effects.

Behind The Scenes (6:17)

Deleted Scene: “Leemoid” (2:13)

Blooper Reel (3:38)

Retro Drive-In Theater Intro (2:36)
 Retromedia’s Fred Olen Ray provides a goofy stylized intro for the movie. Weirdly, this is only available as a stand-alone feature where a “Play Movie with Intro” option would have made a bit more sense.

The Alien Factor is a terrible, oddly very fun movie full of cool and clunky alien monsters. If you’ve read this far, you probably have a very good idea whether this is a movie for you or not. If so, grab the signed, limited edition Blu-ray while you can, and enjoy a great collectible along with your bad movie.

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
 The Alien Factor — [Blu-ray]

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