Release Date(s)1995 (July 26, 2022)
Studio(s)MGM/UA (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
Often lumped in with the barrage of science fiction horror films that were being released throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Species debuted to a strong box office take, despite unsavory reviews from critics. It embellished on the designs and concepts of H.R. Giger through the support of special effects maestros Steve Johnson and Richard Edlund, while also turning its star, Natasha Henstridge, into a bona fide sex symbol overnight.
As part of the SETI program, a group of scientists receive extraterrestrial instructions on how to splice alien DNA into human DNA. Carrying this out, they succeed in producing a young girl named Sil (Michelle Williams), who ages at an advanced rate. Sil escapes her confines and heads out into the world, aging further into an attractive adult (Natasha Henstridge). Hunting her down is the project’s overseer, Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley), and his team that includes Baker (Marg Helgenberger), Arden (Alfred Molina), Dan (Forest Whitaker), and Lennox (Michael Madsen). As they search for her on the streets of L.A., Sil develops a need to procreate. Constantly thwarted, she leaves a string of dead bodies in her wake, and it’s up to the team to find her and stop her.
A simplistic tale of an alien genetics experiment gone wrong, Species managed to attract a variety of names both in front of and behind the camera, all of whom were working at the top of their respective games. The obvious star of the film (besides Henstridge) are the practical makeup effects and visuals, which clash horribly with extremely dated CGI. The pace of the film has decent momentum behind it, but the story dies out right as things are getting more interesting, leaving in its wake an unfulfilling climax. Regardless, there’s plenty of good in Species that still works. It’s not a frightening film in terms of its monster, but it has good performances and memorable set pieces, and there’s clearly a clever creative team behind it.
Species was shot by cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex Platinum cameras and Panavision Primo and E-Series lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Scream Factory revisits the film on 4K Ultra HD with a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, which was finished as a 4K Digital Intermediate and graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included). Scream Factory’s previous Blu-ray improved upon MGM’s, but this 4K presentation tops them all. It features an extremely high bit rate, hovering mostly around 90 Mbps, with excellent textures and a smooth, refined grain structure. Detail is off the charts, boosted in every scene under all lighting conditions, artificial or otherwise. Contrast is perfect and the images are crisp. The HDR10 grade is great, but the Dolby Vision further enhances the finer nuances of shadows and skin textures. Highlights are solid without appearing blown out or overwrought and blacks are velvety deep. Hues are richer and much more accurate, especially when it comes to flesh tones and foliage. The colors found on costumes and objects also pop quite a bit more as well. The dodgy CGI sticks out, especially towards the end, but thankfully there’s very little of it. It’s a clean and stable presentation, and the finest the film has ever looked on home video.
Audio is included in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. Both have an ample amount of support, but the 5.1 definitely offers more envelopment, giving ambient and LFE activity plenty to do. Dialogue exchanges are mostly relegated to the front, while surround activity, specifically panning, is minimal. Sound effects are all fairly crisp and clear. The stereo track is similar, but more confined.
Species on 4K Ultra HD is included in a 3-Disc Collector’s Edition package with a black amaray case alongside a Blu-ray of the film in 1080p (containing the same 4K transfer) and a second Blu-ray of extras. Also included is a double-sided insert with the film’s original theatrical poster artwork on the front and the teaser poster artwork on the reverse. Everything is housed in a limited slipcover featuring the original theatrical poster artwork. The following extras are included:
DISCS ONE & TWO: FILM (UHD)
- Audio Commentary with Natasha Henstridge, Michael Madsen, and Roger Donaldson
- Audio Commentary with Roger Donaldson, Steve Johnson, Richard Edlund, and Frank Mancuso, Jr.
DISC THREE: EXTRAS (BD)
- After Birth: The Evolution of Species (HD – 36:43)
- From Sil to Eve with Natasha Henstridge (HD – 16:35)
- Engineering Life (Upscaled SD – 16:50)
- H.R. Giger at Work (Upscaled SD – 12:07)
- The Making of Species (Upscaled SD – 49:05)
- Designing a Hybrid (Upscaled SD – 15:48)
- Alternate Ending (Upscaled SD – 2:11)
- Theatrical Trailer (Upscaled SD – 1:52)
- Production Design Gallery (HD – 50 in all – 3:22)
- Creature Design Gallery (HD – 150 in all – 8:11)
- Still Gallery (HD – 106 in all – 8:37)
All of the extras from Scream Factory’s and MGM’s previous releases of the film have carried over. There are two audio commentaries, one with actors Natasha Henstridge, Michael Madsen, and director Roger Donaldson, and the other with Donaldson, make-up effects creator Steve Johnson, visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund, and producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. After Birth: The Evolution of Species is a great retrospective documentary on the film’s special effects by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, and features interviews with Roger Donaldson, Steve Johnson, production designer John Muto, creature supervisor Norman Cabrera, cinematographer Andzej Bartkowiak, chrysalis supervisor Billy Bryan, and composer Christopher Young. From Sil to Eve, which was produced for Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of Species II by Red Shirt Pictures, features an interview with Natasha Henstridge who discusses becoming famous very quickly because of the film, doing films that she regrets afterwards, her enjoyment making the second film despite it not being as good as the first, and feeling proud to have been a part of the franchise. In the Engineering Life featurette, a group of scientists that includes professors Kevin Plaxco, Robert Goldberg, Norbert Reich, Myron Goodman, and Ph.D.s Douglas Gurian-Sherman and Miguel de los Rios discuss the real-life implications of DNA splicing. H.R. Giger at Work talks about the late artist with Roger Donaldson, Natasha Henstridge, and writer/producer Dennis Feldman, and offers a behind-the-scenes tour by Giger personally of his workshop as he sculpts for the film. The Making of Species DVD documentary produced by Greg Carson is presented in three parts: The Origin, The Concept, and The Discovery. It examines the making of the film using on-set and retrospective interviews mixed with behind the scenes footage and alternate takes. It features interviews with Dennis Feldman, Frank Mancuso, Jr., Roger Donaldson, John Muto, Ben Kingsley, Forest Whitaker, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Michelle Williams, Marg Helgenberger, and Natasha Henstridge. Designing a Hybrid discusses the creature effects work with Richard Edlund, Steve Johnson, Frank Mancuso, Jr., and Roger Donaldson. The image galleries contain a total of 306 stills. The Production Design Gallery features 50 stills of storyboards, models, and sets under construction. The Creature Design Gallery features 150 stills of sculptures and special effects makeup in progress and on the set. The Still Gallery features 106 stills of poster concepts, promotional photos, behind-the-scenes photos, creature concepts, press photos, posters, and lobby cards. It’s worth noting that the audio commentary with Kim Newman and Sean Hogan recorded for the 88 Films Region B Blu-ray release of the film hasn’t been included here.
Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition 4K Ultra HD of Species doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of bonus materials, but they’re all quality, as is the main presentation. If the CGI had blended a little more than it does, it would be a perfect presentation. As is, it’s still an accurate representation of the film and a very worthy upgrade.
- Tim Salmons