Director: Ridley Scott
Harry Dean Stanton/Brett
The Nostromo’s (a commercial towing spacecraft) return to earth is interrupted by a distress signal on a planet nearby. The mostly blue-collar crew goes to check it out and unknowingly bring back an alien life form on board. It’s lunchtime!
Alien is the movie that made the formula of a “crew trapped in an enclosed area with monster” popular. Countless imitators have followed but none were ever able to achieve the artistry that “Alien” proudly displayed. On the visual front, everything about “Alien” is more than just on the money; it’s fucking amazing! You get the kickarse production designs by Michael Seymour; who can forget the inside of the crashed space ship or the unveiling of the Alien egg farm? You get atmosphere up the wazoo with dripping corridors, lots of smoke and groovy lighting. And of course, you get the H.R. Giger's “Alien” design; one of the more original creature designs to ever grace the silver screen. Top all that off with Scott’s subtle and moody directing and you get a visual horror feast that’s undoubtedly on top of the menu.
Story wise, Alien hooks you early on and gradually imposes its terror upon you. What I love about the characters in this flick is that they all pretty much get the same screen time. For someone who knows nothing about this classic movie, it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint who’s going to make it and who’s not. It’s pretty nerve-wracking. Also, all of the kills are injected with a huge dose of tension with Scott fully using the dark surroundings to scare us. The inside of that spaceship is just plain creepy; even the ventilation shaft doors that shut in a circular motif gave me the brrrs. Another aspect that had me chewing on my socks is the way the movie handled the growth cycle of the alien. That dinner scene still gets to me even though I’ve seen it a thousand times. Every time you think that it's over, it gets worse. The Alien itself is one of the more interesting cinematic creatures ever. I won’t give everything away in case some people live on Mars and have yet to see this flick, but I will say that any creature that has acid for blood is OK in my book. Wow!
Alien does betray its intelligence and uniqueness twice though. First off, the damn cat really pissed me off. Couldn’t the screenwriter find a less obvious and silly reason to get a character wandering in the dark so he could get his head bit off? The feline bothered me even more when Ripley (Weaver) went back in the ship to save it, discarding two important facts: A) the ship is going to blow up and B) the invincible Alien is still on the prowl. Come on! Fuck the cat! You’re going to die! The other thing that cheapened the movie for me was having Ripley in her bra and panties (why are the panties two sizes too small??) during her final encounter with the alien. Why do that? To excite us (didn’t work, she looked like a plumber with that butt crack sticking out)? To put Ripley in a more vulnerable state? To further imply that the Alien is a phallic symbol on two legs? Whatever the reason, it didn’t work for me. It looked sleazy and was obviously only there to show some skin.
The film’s overall superior qualities do compensate for its smaller faults though. You just can’t go wrong with Alien! It’s a haunting and engrossing ride that swallowed me whole from the get-go. In an age of CGI, this movie reminded me just how much more effective “model” effects and matte paintings were in the days. Time has been good to Alien. The vibe of the flick is all dread. I would compare it to visiting a cemetery at night. This flick just charmed the hell out of me (even the computer noises; loved that old school bleeping) and still holds up like a champ today. In space, no one can hear you scream…
THEATRICAL DIRECTOR'S CUT COMMENTS
Just in time for Halloween 2003, FOX releases "Alien: The Director's Cut" into theatres. Although an obvious "cash cow" move (hey, why not release it on DVD and call it a high enough $$$ return?), it was a treat for me to see "Alien" on the big screen for the very first time (originally released in 1979). Now although the "special effects" looked more dated since the screen was so big and the flaws more apparent (like that severed head on the table, or the chestburster puppet on a stick), the bang-on production values, the gorgeous exterior Nostromo shots, the breathtaking space scenery and the beyond astounding set designs (inside the ship and especially on the creepy Alien planet) truly shined. "Alien" had a somber enough feel and arresting enough imagery on the small screen, but witnessing that unique world on a massive canvas blew my sox off to "Face Hugger" heaven..
And what about the editing changes and the 11 minutes of new footage, you may ask? Well, first off, the pace of the flick was definitely tighter than the initial cut. I heard that Ridley Scott shaved seconds from some scenes to speed things up and I felt it. New footage-wise, my favorite bit had to be "The Nest" sequence where an exhausted Ripley (Weaver) found two expiring crew members gooed up on the walls in Alien slime (a tactic that James Cameron mucho used in "Aliens"). It gave those two RIP characters a good finish and allowed Ripley to have an extra emotional moment. I loved it! Other obvious additions were a slight physical confrontation between Ripley and Lambert (Cartwright) which upped the impact of the situation at hand, a slick overhead money shot of the Alien hanging from chains, ready for attack and an added peeved Alien Vs Ripley chase down a hall where the Alien did something that I've been dreaming of doing forever...kick that damn cat "Jonesey" out of the way. Yeah bitch!
In conclusion, this "Director's Cut" didn't bring enough variations to its whole to gravely affect my memory of the original cut of "Alien". It pretty much felt like the same ol' film to me. But its "new" and more obvious goodies were still a treat to munch on and this "Director's Cut" should slap a smile on every Alien fanboy's mug. Don't see it for the new stuff, that's just a minor bonus. See it to experience Scott's classic on the big screen. The way it should be seen.
The murders themselves are very quick, so you won’t see much (Alien bites here and there). But we do get the bloody splashing “dinner” birth scene (that part always makes me cringe) and a cyborg going ape shite spitting out gross milk (or it looks like milk).
Tom Skerritt (Dallas) is very appealing as the man’s man of the bunch. Tough, focused and on the ball. Sigourney Weaver (Ripley) gives a decent performance but I thought she overdid it sometimes in respect to her more emotional scenes. Overall, she worked. Veronica Cartwright (Lambert) is a cutie and does what she has to do well. Harry Dean Stanton (Brett) is always funny. Here he deadpans his way though yet another performance. Good shite! John Hurt (Kane) is on the money but I just wished we could have seen more of him. Ian Holm (Ash) is just plain creepy; 'Nuff said. Yaphet Kotto (Parker) is "fun stuff" as the tough guy. He gives a funny, sympathetic show. All of the actors have perfect chemistry between them. Congratulations everybody!
T & A
Sigourney Weaver’s butt crack. Are you horny yet?
Ridley Scott does a lot of slow pans, fully capturing the incredible set designs and the spooky mood of the environment. He offers some gnarly image superimpositions and does groovy things with sounds (loved the silence). He also does great things with lighting, using the dark as his ally to scare us. And even though I hated the cat in this flick, I did appreciate the close-up shots of the cat retreating as the Alien was slowly attacking one of the crewmembers (wow). Scott makes the right choice and mostly keeps the Alien in the shadows just showing enough for us to know what’s out there. He does show it a bit too much in the end (guy in a suit, anyone?) but that’s easily forgivable. This flick is the perfect example of flawless build up and steady tension throughout. Whoever said horror movies have no “art” in them can kiss my arse and watch this flick to be proven wrong.
The score by Jerry Goldsmith perfectly captures the mystery and the awe of the situation. I also dug the subtle heartbeat thumping that played during the stalk sequences.
The term has been used countless times in the past but I’ll use it again: CLASSIC. To this day no “Alien” clone has ever been able to recapture the novel mood, build-up, designs and charm of this original. Not even its sequels. Alien is in a class of its own. If you can’t see that then maybe it's time for that chestburster to pop through.
Walter Hill was initially supposed to direct this film but he pulled out and Scott took over.
Much of the dialogue in the film was improvised.
An early draft of the script had Ripley as a man.
A sex scene between Dallas and Ripley was in the script but never filmed.
Scott originally wanted a darker ending. He wanted the alien to bite Ripley's head off in the escape shuttle then sit in her chair and start speaking with her voice in a message to Earth. Apparently, 20th Century Fox wasn’t down with that.
Veronica Cartwright was originally set to play Ripley but the producers went for Weaver in the long run.
A.E. van Vogt sued the film claiming plagiarism of his 1939 story 'Discord in Scarlet. Everything was settled out of court, of course.