Tuesday, June 5, 2012


ALIEN (1979)
Directed by Ridley Scott

Tom Skerritt - Dallas
Sigourney Weaver - Ripley
Veronica Cartwright - Lambert

     A deep space mining vessel receives a strange beacon signal from a uninhabited planet.

     This is the first review that is the lead up to Prometheus as I wanted to do something special with the film. So I thought why not do reviews for Alien and Aliens before the review for the prequel. I'll admit that Alien wasn't the first one of these I watched due to when I was about nine years old I was unlucky enough to see a book at a library in Martinsville, Virginia. Now this book, from what I remember of it, reminds me now of the modern day making of books that the bigger films have out right now. Now just to give you a clue as to my film viewing at that moment in time, I was treated to a Conan the Barbarian and The Sword and the Sorcerer double feature in a empty movie theater with my dad and the projectionist when I was eight years old. Which was awesome by the way! Now this book had images from the chestburster scene which freaked me out and scared me from watching the film for about five plus years. I said I was unlucky yet in reality that images staid with me throughout my childhood as I wanted to see what was going on. How is what I saw possible I always thought after seeing those pictures. Now when I think about Alien, well, I'll let the review really tell you what I think below.

     This is a review for the director's cut of the film.

     Thirty three years after it's initial release Alien has lost none of it's impact. In the week leading up to the release of Prometheus I decided to review the main Alien movies to re-acquaint myself with the universe LV-426 inhabits. The production design on Alien still leaves me in awe as you do not see sets that are built like that anymore. Where no level of detail is overlooked. To actually working steampipes, to the bunk area for the crew that each had their own look. Yet the main reason why the sets are so impressive for Alien is due to that the alien could be hiding anywhere in most of the places shown. The reason why I'm going into the set design first is because the Nostromo is and of itself a whole other character in the film. Another design that the film was known for was for the alien itself, as the alien is a nightmare made real and viewable. If only for seconds at a time. It wasn't designed to be shown in a lot of light and be out in the open. The main design property of it was to be hidden and barely be shown.  A lot of the reasoning behind this is that it's a old film psychological trick. The less you show something, except for in quick flashes of it,  in return makes the audience use their imagination more which most of the time is always worse that what can possible be shown. I know I've mentioned that in previous reviews, but it is true and will always be true as the viewer cannot help but to fill in the gaps that are missing.

     The cast in Alien was also well put together, baring one exception and that being Sigourney Weaver's Ripley. I'm not saying she did poorly in the role, it's just that her performance doesn't stack up with the rest of the more veteran cast members who have had more experience in front of the camera. Part of the problem is that some of the emotions she tries to show are the exact opposite of what she is trying to portray for the situations she is in. Yaphet Kotto as Parker sticks out the most as the smart ass engineer who always has something to complain about no matter how trivial it may be. His character also adds what humor there is in the script due to his bad attitude which helps lighten the almost complete somberness of the film. The most level headed of the characters in the movie was Dallas, who was played by Tom Skerritt. After his on screen death it almost seems as if controlled chaos takes over on the ship. One thing that sticks out the most with the actors is that their characters seem to not like each other and they cannot wait to be done with their mission as any real person would be as they are doing a job and just want to be done with it. The reason for this is that no one really liked each other in the cast and crew and that translated onto the screen, which just made the characters seem more real and believable.

     While the film has a deliberate pace, it does drag in spots. It's not always a bad thing for this to happen in films, it's this one slight that is the most detrimental to Alien. I will probably get some disagreement on this but it is true. There are scenes where nothing is happening except shots on the crew milling about and doing there own thing. The good thing about these scenes is that it helps to establish the crew and their personalities as each one is their person. Even Ash who we find out later is an android is shown doing very human things and having quirks about him. It's the little things like this that help establish the world we are invited into for over two hours. While the film didn't really do anything new as it used pre-existing staples from movies, what it did do is use what was around to create it's own place in the film world and create a new film genre.  It also created as whole universe for people to play in as if Alien was a sandbox movie and a launching ground for others to go crazy in. Alien as a film is starting to show it's age but it's that age that makes the film hold up today still. There are no quick cuts, the shots are set and the scenes are let out to play the way they should. As natural as possible. Another interesting thing about the film to me is that it can be put into the Mythos category of films. That is the alien is really of unknown origins and that it  can be seen as having been asleep for a long time and as guardians for something unknown but at the same time something that feels old and is unexplainable. Alien is almost a perfect film and still stands out above almost all films made today.

     Kane's final meal surprise.

     Ripley, for God's sake, this is the first time that we've encountered a species like this. It has to go back. All sorts of tests have to be made.
     Ash, are you kidding? This thing bled acid. Who knows what it's gonna do when it's dead?
     I think it's safe to assume it isn't a zombie.

     The blue laser lights that were used in the alien ship's egg chamber were borrowed from the band The Who, who were testing out the lasers for their stage show in the soundstage next door.

     The space jockey prop was 26 feet tall.

     The original cut of the film ran 3 hours and 12 minutes.

     In a preview of the bonus feature menus for the "Alien Legacy" box set posted to USENET, the bio for Dallas had him as being born female and Lambert as being born male, suggesting gender reassignment before the events in the film. Negative fan reaction prompted this to be changed before production of the DVDs.

     The rumor that the cast, except for John Hurt, did not know what would happen during the chestburster scene is partly true. The scene had been explained for them, but they did not know specifics such as real animal innards were being used. For instance, Veronica Cartwright did not expect to be sprayed with blood. This was done to help the actors show true revolt and fear.

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