I love this movie, and I’m so glad the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list brought it to me! Any excuse to throw this on the blu-ray is a good one, so I was quite happy to spend some time with the ill-fated crew of the Nostromo again.
Alien is essentially a haunted-house story, and nothing really scary happens for the first hour, it’s all build-up, a mysterious signal, a strange planet, and a derelict spacecraft.
Awakened from hyper-sleep the crew of the commercial towing vessel Nostromo, learn they’ve been roused long before their scheduled wake-point because MOTHER, the ship’s main computer has intercepted a signal that indicates intelligent life. Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) orders the ship down to the surface of the desolate and eerie LV-426. From there, he leads a team with Kane (John Hurt) and Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) to check the source, while Ash (Ian Holm) watches over them, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) puzzles over the transmission, attempting to decipher it, as Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) make repairs.
The H.R. Giger designed planet and spacecraft are off-putting, and look bio-mechanical in nature, but that’s just a hint of what’s to come. I remember, much like everyone else, before Prometheus came along, wondering what the story of the Space Jockey was, where did he come from, and WHAT was he…
Kane investigates a cargo area laden with what look like leathery eggs, until one of them hatches, and the contents are flung at his face, burning its way through his suit, and the creature wraps it’s tail around his neck, and impregnates the poor man, leading to something even more monstrous - and leads the classic chest-burster scene, that is still stunning!
Even after the xenomorph is born, we never get to see all of the creature at once, Ridley wisely keeps the creature hidden in the shadows, or shows close-ups of those frightening jaws. By not showing us everything, we are left to create the monster in our imagination. By the time the sequel rolls around (also on the list, and can’t wait to revisit it) the actual shape and form of the Alien was well-known, but that doesn’t make it any less scary going back to the original film that launched the series.
I love the little details, the fact that the Nostromo is a beaten up bit of space-tug, that the crew are working class folks, that everything on the ship has a reason for being there, and almost every bit of space is used, especially on the flight deck.
And I love, Jerry Goldsmith’s score for this film, especially the opening and closing themes, there’s a quiet sense of mystery weaving through the notes that I really like.
The film created and written by Dan O’Bannon (remember John Carpenter’s Dark Star?) and Ronald Shusett, isn’t like Star Wars, it paints space as a cold, dark place, filled with terror, as the poster’s immortal tagline tells you… In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream.
The Alien, though humanoid in shape, is of course the stuff of nightmares, and Giger’s bio-mechanoid approach to it makes it all the more frightening.
This and Blade Runner (also coming up on the list) are probably my favorite Ridley Scott films, and I can’t help but notice that some of the screen graphics on the computer displays both movies use are exactly the same. I guess it’s no surprise to think they exist in the same universe… in fact on the release of Prometheus, there’s an extra on it, in a letter format, from Weyland, who alludes to the replicant maker in Los Angeles. Kinda cool!
This was also the first film for me, when I was growing up that had a strong female lead front and center, and to me – that is awesome! I love a woman who can kick ass and take names! Sigourney was born for that role, and she was perfectly cast in it!
This movie continues to be one of my favorites, and as much as I love seeing the xenomorphs getting all shot up in the sequel, this film is amazing, and we wouldn’t have had the sequels (good and bad, and bad, and ok) or the spin-offs (bad and bad) or the amazing Dark Horse comics without it.
What’s your favorite moment?