We rewatch the original Alien movie in anticipation of the upcoming Prometheus  . . .

Alien face hugger pic

Here are some random thoughts:

- Alien is somewhat slow compared to today’s movies (there is no dialogue for the first six minutes of the movie). It is still gripping stuff though. It would be interesting to see if Ridley Scott opts for a much faster pace with Prometheus.

- That dead facehugger looks disturbingly realistic! According to IMDb.com it was made using fresh shellfish, four oysters and a sheep kidney to recreate the internal organs. Urban legend has it that H.R. Giger’s initial designs for the facehugger were held by US Customs who were alarmed at what they saw. Writer Dan O’Bannon had to go to LAX to explain to them that they were designs for a horror movie!

- Not much has aged for us, not even the clunky computer graphics and 747 cockpit style switches seem right to us. Maybe we’re technologically retarded, but all the tech stuff seems suitably ruggedized instead of sleek Mac GUIs for a commercial spaceship towing a refinery and twenty million tons of mineral ore.

- One forgets that “the Company” knew in advance of the distress signal and knew what to expect which is why they placed the robot infiltrator Ash on board – all stuff which will be addressed in Prometheus we’re sure. (“The Company’s” name is Weyland-Yutani, but it is never mentioned by name though.   While the crew is eating, if you freeze the frame, you can clearly see their brand on the can Dallas is drinking from. Apparently concept artist Ron Cobb created the name to imply a business alliance between Britain and Japan, deriving “Weyland” from the British Leyland Motor Corporation and “Yutani” from the name of his Japanese neighbor.)

- It’s 1979 so everyone smokes – but is this a clever thing to do on a spaceship where oxygen is at a premium?

- Although it was made in the decade that style forgot, none of the fashions (consisting of overalls in any case) and hairstyles look particularly dated in the way that Linda Hamilton’s Lion King hairdo did in the 1984 Terminator. Ripley’s sneakers did look somehow out of place in a time warp sort of way . . .

Nostromo crew pic

- We’re amazed at how young the actors looked back then, probably because they are all a whole lot older today. That’s why we were surprised by how old they actually were at the time the movie were made. As critic Roger Ebert pointed out the actors were older in Alien than was typical in thriller films at the time, which helped make the characters more convincing:

“[N]one of them were particularly young. Tom Skerritt, the captain, was 46, Hurt was 39 but looked older, Holm was 48, Harry Dean Stanton was 53, Yaphet Kotto was 42, and only Veronica Cartwright at 29 and Weaver at 30 were in the age range of the usual thriller cast. Many recent action pictures have improbably young actors cast as key roles or sidekicks, but by skewing older, Alien achieves a certain texture without even making a point of it: These are not adventurers but workers, hired by a company to return 20 million tons of ore to Earth.”

- Is there any sane reason to install a mini-nuke self-destruct mechanism on your multi-million dollar spaceship? Think about it.

Space jockey from Alien pic

- Thirty-three years later Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox almost didn’t have their Prometheus prequel. The mysterious “space jockey” almost didn’t make an appearance in the original movie! 20th Century Fox Studios almost did not allow the 26 feet tall “space jockey” prop to be built so as to save on money (it would only be used for one scene). However, Cobb convinced them to leave the scene in the movie, as it would be the film’s “Cecil. B. DeMille shot”, showing the audience that this wasn’t some low-budget B-movie. Incidentally Giger airbrushed the entire set and the “space jockey” by hand and children stood in for the regular actors to make the set seem larger on screen.

 

Read part 1 of this article here.

Read part 3 of this article next week.

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Category: Features, Movies

About the Author

James has been running The Sci-Fi Movie Page since Before the Beginning of Time Itself (TM), i.e. since the site's inception in 1997. In addition to sci-fi James also likes 1970s motorbikes and chili dogs although he doesn't own the former and no longer eats the latter. He currently resides in Kiev, Ukraine for reasons best left unexplained.

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