STARRING: Sigourney Weaver,
John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Skerrit, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm,
1979, 124 Minutes, Directed by: Ridley Scott
landmark of science fiction and horror, Alien arrived in 1979 between Star
Wars and The Empire Strikes Back as a stylishly malevolent alternative to
George Lucas's space fantasy. Partially inspired by 1958's It! The Terror
from Beyond Space, this instant classic set a tone of its own, offering
richly detailed sets, ominous atmosphere, relentless suspense, and a
flawless ensemble cast as the crew of the space freighter Nostromo fall prey
to a vicious creature (designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger) that had
gestated inside one of the ill-fated crew members.—
fiction is a handy genre: it is possible for people who doesn't really
know much about it to transpose another genre (western, horror, detective)
unto it, look cool in the process and make a bundle at the box office.
It is seldom that a "pure" science fiction movie gets made without
all kinds of genres transposed unto it - take Star Wars for example, which is a pastiche of every
movie genre known to mankind. It is not one movie, but
all movies, thus falling perfectly under egghead Umberto Eco's definition of
a cult movie.
"Despite the plot's limitations, director Ridley Scott pulls it all off
with amazing visual aplomb . . ."
is a horror flick set in outer space. The old haunted house is the giant
space ship Nostromo. The monster is a vicious (a truly original) alien
designed by Swiss artist HR Giger.
The teenagers in the old house are
the ship's crew: Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, et al. Predictably the alien
kills them all off until only a lone female crew member remains.
been made of the Alien movies being feminist. This is true to an
extent, in that its female protagonist Ripley (Weaver) doesn't wait and
hang around to be rescued by a male. Instead she does the Rambo
thing herself - particularly in the first sequel (Aliens)
- and blow away those alien mothers herself! But
the plot device in the first Alien movie is one that has been done
the year before by Jamie Lee Curtis in Carpenter's Halloween horror
movie and every subsequent slasher movie from Friday the 13th to
Nightmare on Elm Street.
the plot's limitations, director Ridley Scott pulls it all off with amazing
visual aplomb - having made his debut in the advertising business, Scott
has got that 1980s "look" to all his movies.
This film is no
exception: first there is the stunning designs by Swiss artist HR Giger.
His stuff is like the Surrealists on a really very bad day.
Scott creates a sense of unease by placing human protagonists against
an alien and surreal backdrop - one of the basic ingredients of sci-fi.
Both the Nostromo and the alien world where the alien gets picked up are
strange and unforgettably original. Claustrophobic, the Nostromo is grimy
and dark - continuing the tradition set by Star
Wars and 2001 of giving the viewing public
space ships that look like they might actually work!
Add to this
stunning special effects and an alien brought to life by special effects
wiz Carlos Rambaldi (who later designed E.T.!),
brooding music by Jerry Goldsmith (Oscar winner for The Omen) and
it is not difficult to see why the movie has achieved both the cult status
and box office success it did . . . a hit with both horror and sci-fi
fans, it spawned three sequels: Aliens (in 1986), Alien
3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997).
is by Dan O'Bannon. As a student O'Bannon also collaborated with Carpenter
on the cult classic Dark Star - from which he borrowed liberally for
Alien. O'Bannon later wrote Total Recall and
Screamers- both based on Philip K.
Dick short stories. Sometimes he appears to be the only person in Hollywood
who actually reads sci-fi in his spare time!)