In the 1950s sci-fi ruled the theaters, namely The Thing from Another World (1951) inspired so many others such as Forbidden Planet (1956), It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), just to name a few, however these all had a few things in common. When Alien burst onto the scene (pun intended), the spaceship had a hard-working crew, arguments of pay structures, and some crude remarks, it left behind the properness of those movies of 50s, but one key element of the bygone era, aside from the creature itself, is the isolationism of their predicament. The movie came from various influences, first the director Ridley Scott, working on his only second full length feature, prior was The Duelists (1977) that earned him a few awards and much acclaim, and using a script from legendary writer and later filmmaker Dan O’Bannon, who later went to pen and directed the gory film The Return of the Living Dead (1985). Dan actually based the screenplay from a story he wrote with Ronald Shusett (Dead & Buried ), who earned for the character backgrounds. They also had Alien designs from H.R. Giger that created the well-known monster that uses acid for blood, to plague nightmares for years to come, as it lurked in the darkness, and released onto the public by Twentieth Century Fox. This $11-million dollar budget earned $203-million at the box office, which opened on May 25, 1979, later spawned a board game, numerous incarnations of figurines, comic books, and a huge long lasting marvelous franchise.
Horror and sci-fi fans, know of the plot very well, therefore I’ll merely glance some portions and dive deeper into other areas. The film takes place in 2122, as the Nostromo vessel silently travels through space, the ship’s computers maintain everything until it intercepts a signal just as the requirement of sailing vessels of today a distress call, means all go to aid in help. Some have always thought it was more of a coincidence that they stumbled across; however, one could wonder if all of the crew knows the true meaning of this beacon, or is there one among them with other intentions, following different programming. One could speculate that the ship changed course and that the Weyland corporation knew of this location prior and especially later in the film noting a special order for Ash (Ian Holm). Once the crew awakens from hyper-sleep, we the audience recognize that they’re workers, miners, no connection to the military or mercenaries, just traveling and doing a job. An interesting aspect is the crew is a diverse group that includes two women Veronica Cartwright and Sigourney Weaver (The Cabin in the Woods ), both originally cast in each other roles. For Weaver this film marked her film debut, she did other roles, all uncredited), while Cartwright’s acting skills dated back to The Birds (1963), and when it comes to comparisons of the characters Ripley appears more assertive and Lambert is much more passive. As the crew ventures down the forbidding planet, a series of problems arise, just like in any movie, nothing can go smoothly, which puts the ship mechanics into fixing and arguing about the payment structure. The duo, who have nice chemistry, is Brett and Parker, played by Harry Dean Stanton (Christine ) and Yaphet Kotto (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare ) respectively. Meanwhile, Dallas (Tom Skerritt (The Devil’s Rain ), crew leader, with inquisitive Kane, (the legendary actor John Hurt (RIP 2017)) and ordered to accompany Lambert, venture to the signal. It’s through a series of wonderful detailed compositive shots we tour an alien ship that appears extremely different, we the viewers learn through observation more about the habitat in Aliens (1986). The vastness of the eerie cargo hold, shows the potential of pending horrors, and from there the horrors start mounting for this group of workers. The viewers witness the birth of the Alien, it was the climactic scene filmed with four cameras, no one knew what to expect, as the set was cleared beforehand, and just the essential crew including John Hurt present, before all the splatter occurred, hence all reactions were very natural. Of course, one last crew to note of Ash (Ian Holm (From Hell ) the android, who wants to complete the mission, and the crew isn’t very happy about this method, however he’s merely following his corporate programming. Scott used an interesting technique with the monster, allowing it to have an accelerating maturing cycle, thereby the audience doesn’t know what it looks like and can do from each brief glimpse of it. However, not to criticize too much it does grow large and tall fairly fast, oops. One must note the character of the monster, the Alien, portrayed by Bolaji Badejo (RIP 1992) who the crew found, and thought fit the ideal look Scott sought. He wanted an individual that no one would suspect as someone wearing a mask, hence Bolaji’s height of 6ft 10in and extreme thinness earned him the role.
In the horror/sci-fi genres some monsters have a lasting influence, the Alien, definitely fits into this arena, after it uses a Face-hugger to attack, and rapes its victim, forcing a phallic appendage down one’s throat to administer a single organism while maintaining nutrients through the host. It contained absolute the best defense of acid which bleeds through anything, and causes a wonderful sequence of tension filled moments in the movie. Ash’s character admires the simplistic nature of the organism, and it relates with the fans of absolute simple this monster actual is, no rules apply it merely hunts, works to reproduce and kill. This is a point I disagree, first at the end the of film, he sneaks on board the escape the pod, it seeks self-preservation rather than mere killing its opposition. However, in later sequels and spins-off, such Alien: Resurrection (1997) the aliens want to free themselves and kill a weaker one using his acid fluid to melt the escape in the AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) the wounded alien attacked and sacrificed to free the queen. In these instances it plays by the rules the betterment for the species survival.
The story does overlook a few basic reasoning aspects, such as when Dallas and his team arrive at the ship and locate the old corpse do they continue to search, the only reason I can surmise is that if they find something worthy they keep the rewards. This leads to an interesting aspect what is the lifespan of the eggs, how long can they last for, perhaps since they all seem connected by umbilical cords, perhaps the only the strong survive by feeding off the others. In addition, the film does make a connection to a fantastic sci-fi movie from 1968 called 2001: A Space Odyssey, the on-board computer, was called Hal, and it malfunctions, while in Scott’s movie it’s known as Mother (Helen Horton, supplies the voice), works very slow in providing any necessary information. Aside from the wonderful sets created for this movie, the biggest thanks goes to H.R. Giger (who’s alien influence reoccurring in with Species ), his artistic work, used bone and subtle sexual phallic symbols to heighten the beasts’ look. The special effects used a large amount of K-Y jelly as the slime and the snapping jaws came from various latex products for the appearance of other worldly creation. One issue I always have trouble with movie, and it’s really an odd observation, is in Ripley’s sleep chamber she has Jones, her cat, how does the chemistry and technology work to separate the proper hyper sleep of both of these vastly different species. Just curious. A film like “Alien” likely not have worked well today’s modern audiences, as it takes the time to setup the movie, it used a steady pace, and builds, slowly, taking the time for the egg development life-cycle to explode. Jerry Goldsmith’s score takes the time to enhance each scene, showing the complexity of the story. Hence the reason it wouldn’t today, the audience wants explosions, action, and a quicken pace, this shreds the backstory clearly fleshing out for their enjoyment, a sacrifice.
Obviously, the producers knew this film had a wonderful potential to pawn a sequel though not for another seven years, but the excellent choice of a woman leading the aggressive charge, her determination shows in the final act (Weaver always connected to this role). It’s likely the finest sci-fi of the 70s and perhaps in top 5 of all time, as it balances creepy suspense through all the darkened corridors and the graphic horror at dinner table. This film contains a lasting tribute to so many other films such as Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs (1987), Leviathan; Event Horizon; and Cloverfield all make references to it. In fact, filmmakers use the simple isolationism to generate scares, because the learned there’s no way of properly escaping the terrors of the Alien. (*1)
- In space no one can hear you scream.
- The Scariest Movie Ever Made. Experience it only on the big screen (USA 2003 re-release)
- Sometimes the scariest things come from within
- It’s Alien, the 8th passenger.
- The scariest movie ever made… just got scarier. (UK 2003 re-release)
- A word of warning…
- In space no one can hear you scream… This Halloween in theatres, everyone will hear you scream (Re-Release)
IMDb Rating: 8.5/10
Baron’s Rating: 8.5/10
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) A crossover that pairs the titular alien monsters.
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) A crossover that pairs the titular alien monsters.
(*1) The staff of researchers here at The Horror Times, wanted a different way to sum up their enjoyment of this movie, some humor hence their word: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious