With our ALIENS screening mere days away on Wednesday December 8th, AccessReel has decided to countdown the 5 reasons we love the James Cameron movie. Number 5 was actor Paul Rudd. Number 4 is the original Ridley Scott film that started the whole franchise off.
Director Ridely Scott made two solid gold contributions to the sci-fi movie genre. One was BLADERUNNER (1982) and the other was his 1979 movie ALIEN. His nightmarish vision of the future was so convincing that audiences worldwide flocked to experience this new movie universe. ALIEN was a melting pot of influences and styles that melded together perfectly to form an exciting sci-fi horror/thriller that changed the landscape of science fiction film.
In ALIEN, the crew of the mining ship Nostromo crash on a planetoid where they have been sent to investigate a derelict spacecraft that contains the remains of a large humanoid alien who appears to have died from its internal organs being blown out. The crew discovers a chamber filled with large alien eggs. One hatches and the inhabitant attaches itself to a crewmember’s face. They kill the newborn creature, repair their ship and set course back to Earth, unaware they now have a lethal alien on board.
Before ALIEN, the popular view of the science fiction future was shining spaceships, gleaming control panels and hermetically sealed, dust-free cleanliness. A typical example is the massive white interior of the Discovery 1 spaceship in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
Films like eco-sci-fi SILENT RUNNING (1972) and John Carpenter’s DARK STAR (1974) proposed space as a place where the messiness and grime of simply doing a job would make the interiors of spacecraft look dingy, cluttered and worn. DARK STAR artist Ron Cobb eventually worked on ALIEN and was responsible for the look of the Nostromo.
DARK STAR writer Dan O’Bannon wanted to adapt the malfunctioning, non-shiny world of that film into what would become ALIEN. DARK STAR was a satirical comedy with a brainless alien that looked like beachball with feet. O’Bannon wanted something far scarier for his new script and he was inspired by the work of Swiss surrealist artist HR Giger. Where Cobb set the style of futuristic earth technology, Giger was responsible for the derelict alien ship, the planetoid and the alien. Giger’s work is invariably described as beautiful and disturbing. His work involved taking images of the human body and welding them with technology, creating what has been referred to as his bio-mechanical style.
Director Scott brought together a solid cast of strong actors to play the crew. This group were not a military operation as in STAR WARS or STAR TREK, they were ordinary folk who worked for a mining corporation. Scott rehearsed extensively with Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright and Ian Holm. He wrote pages of back-story for their characters and made them rounded and believable rather than mere bait for the monster in a creature feature.
ALIEN introduced filmgoers to “chest-bursters” and “face-huggers”. It may be difficult to believe now, but it scared the pants of 1979 audiences. The power of this strange, scary universe became the basis of James Cameron’s very popular sequel.
See the sequel ALIENS at our special AccessReel Member’s Screening on Wednesday December 8th. Click here.