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This kind of film may have been attempted before, but never to such a grand scale. So much so that this has become the benchmark for horror/sci-fi's and although it probably wouldn't get rated an 18 now, it was certainly enough back then with a strong amount of gore and a huge dose of terror, inciting genuine feelings of terror amongst the audience. How fitting the film's tagline would be 'In space, no one can hear you scream'.
Once the camera is done ogling the well crafted set of the spaceship 'Nostromo', we see the crew awaken from their super futuristic stasis pods. All the gadgetry, even today still looks classy, although admittedly dated. When a message from 'Mother' comes in about a nearby distress beacon, a new directive is initiated, one that ultimately results in unhappiness amongst the crew who believed they were headed home. Now, landing and searching for signs of life, Kane encounters a hostile parasitic organism that attaches to his face, penetrating his mouth, even through a chunky space suit helmet. More arguments about his quarantine and the safety of the others are ignored and this 'thing' is brought on board to operate on. They soon find that whatever it is, it aint letting go without taking the life of its host and that it contains some serious defence mechanisms.
The events that follow would prove to shape not only the films direction but the future of the genre, along with a creature so fearsome original and sinister in appearance. From it's grisly, explosive entrance, it's relentless killing spree and it's desperate finale, H.R Giger's creation forever embedded itself in the memory of everyone watching. Some might say that it's a slow burner, building anxiety and a tense atmosphere, others would just say it's bloody long.
A brilliantly diverse, ragtag team of conflicting personalities makes for some real drama aboard. Each engaging in their own quirky traits and quotes before they inevitably bite the dust. One of my favourite aspects of the film and it's characters is that I never got a sense of who was going to survive the ordeal, if any. It dithered on possibly being captain Dallas or the seemingly intellectual superior Ash. Its secret about one of the crew members also being an unexpected twist that shaped the plot. That and, unlike the majority of horror films today, had a crew that you didn't particularly want to see get torn apart - whereas films nowadays you typically want to see the highly polished, plastic, prats suffer their fate.
Everything about the film feels designed to cause fear, the dark and dank, claustrophobic bowels of the ship, the exploration, the discovery, the erie soundtrack, the aliens birth, the aliens habits, the aliens body-just everything about the alien in general is pretty terrifying. A long, tough watch for newcomers, but still a classic worth seeing, perhaps not for the scare element but definitely for quality filming, possibly the mother of all sci-fi horrors.
"Alien" is a 1979 sci-fi film which was directed by Ridley Scott, who has also directed such films as "Blade Runner" (1982), "Gladiator" (2000), and "Hannibal" (2001).
Warning: Spoilers will likely be given during this review.
The film is 117 minutes in length and stars Sigourney Weaver ("Avatar", "Paul", "The Village") as Ripley, Tom Skerritt ("Top Gun", "Tears of the Sun", "Poison Ivy") as Dallas, and John Hurt ("Hellboy", "V for Vendetta", "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy") as Kane.
The plot for the film reads as follows: The space vessel Nostromo and its crew receive a distress call from an alien planet. After searching for survivors that planet they head back home only to realize that a deadly alien life form has joined them.
"Alien" is, at the time of writing, rated in IMDB's Top 250 films of all time at No.50, and was the second picture on which Ridley Scott took the helm. He was not the first choice, however, as the job was originally given to Walter Hill, who had passed on the chance and handed it down to Scott. Others in the frame were Robert Aldrich, who had directed "The Dirty Dozen", Peter Yates, who was responsible for "Krull" four years later, and "The Great Gatsby" director, Jack Clayton. The film came about when screenplay writer Dan O'Bannon made a film at university with John Carpenter, which featured an alien in a comedy guise. O'Bannon decided that he wanted to adapt this and make something much more terrifying. With "Star Wars" fresh in the minds of movie goers, Ridley Scott set out to bring a cinema masterpiece to the public. With a budget of just $11m, "Alien" went on to achieve phenomenal success, and raked in near $105m worldwide. Is it any good? Let's find out!
The film starts out with a wide-angled shot of space as the opening credits roll. The Nostromo, a spacefreighter, comes in to view during the next shot, and we then get to see the now familiar corridors of the spacecraft. Everything is quiet on-board and we're given a sense of the loneliness the universe quite probably has, until a computer screen boots into life. The seven-person crew, which had been in stasis, awaken from their slumber and gather in the ship's mess and go about their business. Though every film has to start somewhere, I felt that one which was made in 1979 probably needed to explain the stasis part of things, as they carry on with their daily schedules as though nothing has happened, which, incidentally, is what would likely happen with stasis anyway, but I do wonder if the audience viewers of that decade would have realised this.
I just love the old computers in films which were made before the Internet and the World Wide Web became popular, all the way up to the modern computers of today. Almost all of them have green screen monitors, and you can practically guarantee to see some binary code appear at some point. "Wargames", "Hackers" and "The Matrix" are three which spring to mind here, proving that technology, though it moves fast these days, doesn't stray far from the basics of binary - a code which takes its origins from somewhere around 100 BC. The cinematography is excellent, with the ship looking as good in 1979 as it would have today. Of course, Blu-ray obviously enhances the effect, but Ridley Scott's vision of how a spacecraft should look was one of the future, and all credit is due to artist H.R. Giger, who designed the alien itself, among other things in the film.
The first time we see an alien is during a walk outside. The lifeforms are dead, but still look incredible. When Kane sees a live one, he is in awe. This quickly turns to shock as the being attacks his space helmet and attaches itself to his face. What I thought was clever was the way the alien kept its grip on its victim. If they tried to prise it away, its grip would tighten around the neck. Cutting one of its tentacles with a laser didn't help either, as the acid-like substance it spewed from the wound ate through the ship's floor. Of course, this is where one of the best pieces of science fiction film history takes place, with the 'John Hurt moment', as I like to call it, where a seemingly impregnated Kane goes through a painful experience with the 'birth' of an alien, emanating from inside his stomach. It is a great scene, and though a little dated today - you can tell it's robotic - it still ranks high as one of the most shocking.
There were a few things I didn't agree with throughout the film, and I am sure that if it was filmed for today's audience, Ridley Scott would have surely changed or excluded them. One such scene was when a ship was set to auto-destruct. As the huge explosion happens, Ripley is looking right at it. But we know that a blast of such magnitude would surely blind a person doing so. It is also a cliché that whenever you get a group of people together in a film which has a crisis, there is always one woman who is strong and gets on with what needs to be done, and always one who is whiny and hysterical. That is nothing against women on my part, by the way, but I am sure we all know of instances of where this has happened on the big screen.
Perhaps the film's ace up the sleeve is its atmosphere. Ridley Scott has done a great job in not diving feet first into the major plot, and instead his scenes eerily creep along with a sense that you know something's going to happen, but you just don't know when. Case in point being when some of the crew are walking through an alien vessel, not knowing what they will find around each corner. That feeling is projected into our minds as we watch the scene, because of the first-person angles we get to see. Years later when a game based on the film was released, it intensified those moments and brought back memories of first watching "Alien", as we now get to be the first person.
Everybody who has ever heard of the "Alien" series of films will know that Ripley was played by Sigourney Weaver. However, Meryl Streep, fresh from her performance as Linda in "The Deer Hunter" - a film which earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role - was also in the frame. This was Weaver's first full film role, but she grabbed it with both hands and took on the role with great enthusiasm, which was also a role she probably became typecast for. With the exception of "Ghostbusters", "Gorillas in the Mist" and "Avatar", it could be said that the actress has done very little via way of major roles apart from that of Ripley. Knowing what we know now, though, I have to say I am pretty confident that Weaver's Ripley is more suited to the film than what a Ripley with Streep would, or could, have been. I feel Streep is the kind of actress who would have not taken to Ripley as well as Sigourney Weaver did, and as a novice, Sigourney realised this was her big chance.
Jon Finch may not be a name on the lips of everyone who loves everything Hollywood, but you could say he was the 'nearly man' for a lot of films. He turned down the chance to play James Bond and the part ultimately went to Roger Moore. He also rejected the chance to play Doyle in "The Professionals" with Martin Shaw getting the nod instead. Ultimately, he was cast as Kane in "Alien", but on the second day of filming had a severe bout of diabetes and bronchitis, so had to drop out of shooting. Ridley Scott's original first choice, John Hurt, who had previously been contracted to another film made himself available, and the rest, as they say, is history. The now infamous chest-bursting scene in which Kane meets his demise was filmed without the knowledge of any of the actors around Hurt, and the look of panic and terror on their faces was completely real. It is said that Veronica Cartwright (Lambert) fainted, and Yaphet Kotto (Parker) was ordered to leave the set and relax in order to get his blood pressure down. John Hurt obviously made an impression on film producers and directors alike, because he came out of the role with plenty of offers, and just a year later was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, when he brilliantly played the role of John Merrick in "The Elephant Man".
Of the other characters and actors, Tom Skerritt (Dallas) is probably now the most well-known of them all, but he hadn't really starred in many big films to that date. Yaphet Kotto had, some six years earlier, starred as the 'Bond Baddie' in "Live and Let Die", but it was Ian Holm (Ash) who had been in the most films, ranging from "The Man in the Iron Mask" (1976) to "The Fixer" (1968) and "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1978).
Blu-ray Extras (Anthology Version)
1979 Theatrical Version - 117 minutes in length, and the original version for your viewing pleasure.
2003 Director's Cut - 116 minutes in length. The film as the director wanted it, though it is believed it's in name only and Ridley Scott had little input.
Audio Commentary - here we have the director, writer, producer, editor and five of the stars including Sigourney Weaver and John Hurt.
Audio Commentary 2 - This is the alternative commentary which features Ridley Scott only.
Final Theatrical Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith - here you get to listen to the score on its own.
Composer's Original Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith - as above, you have the opportunity to hear the score without the film playing.
Deleted and Extended Scenes - some interesting scenes here. It is obvious why a few were cut, but I like the look of others, also.
MU-TH-UR Mode - plenty of options here as you're watching either version of the film when you have the feature enabled. This provides a heads up display which pops up whenever you get to a part which is featured. It gives you the option to watch the video clip or allows you to save it as a tag. If you do the latter, you can switch to the bonus disc after you have watched the film and your tags will be there for you, in the order you saved them.
What the Critics Say
Entertainment Weekly: "Pay attention to the enhanced detail audible in a new six-track sound mix, which may be the most important cleaning job of all; silence and Jerry Goldsmith's score have never twined so hauntingly."
Baltimore Sun: "Even with some scene tinkering that has left this "director's cut" one minute shorter than its original release, this is still one of the creepiest, scariest, most shocking films ever."
Film Threat: "This is a five star film because it is one of the most perfect science fiction thrillers of all time."
L.A. Weekly: "Unfortunately, fulfilling an apparent need to assert absolute control over his early successes no matter the cost, the director has gone ahead and loused up his 1979 masterpiece of gothic sci-fi horror."
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "A landmark film, the unnecessary tinkering has not perceptibly harmed its overall effectiveness and it's a special Halloween treat to see it digitally spruced up and on the big screen for the first time in 25 years."
I liked this film the first few times I watched it, and I still do like it. I am also very opposed to remakes, but I can't help but feel "Alien" would benefit from a new imagining. Of course, it could be said that "Prometheus" (2012) is the fifth in the series which helps us see "Alien" from a 21st century perspective - a reboot if you like - so all is not lost. However, I also feel that if they were to continue the franchise, Sigourney Weaver should have been given the option to reprise her role as Ripley. With that out of the way, let's focus on what I've just seen. Here we have a film that is not only terrifying in some parts, but is (inadvertently) funny in others. The camaraderie between the crew is quite evident and they genuinely like to share jokes and play pranks on each other. Though jokes and pranks are obviously not seen during the film, the togetherness is, and that's what I enjoyed the most. It's this bunch of crew members who go about their mission, not knowing what's coming next. And we do the same while watching it.
My rating: 8/10
I love horror and sci-fi movies alike, and Alien is a recognised genre classic. There really is very little to dislike about this film; it is perfect for what it is. They really don't make them like they used to.
Alien is a story about the crew of a deep space mining ship who are pulled out of cryogenic sleep (or whatever the term is!) to answer what seems to be a distress call from a neighbouring planet. When three members of the crew get off to investigate, one of them gets attacked by a strange lifeform which attaches itself to his face. Back on the main ship, the spawn of the creature escapes and grows into something huge, dangerous and deadly.
This film was made in 1979 and has that realism that all good genre films made before CGI have. The space ships and the aliens were models or men in suits, filmed at careful angles and in certain lightings in order to create a more realistic effect. The simplicity of the effects and the sets are disguised so well that everything becomes very, very real.
The alien, for example, is a man in a suit. You rarely see the alien out in the open unless its disguised by dry ice or flashing lights. The reason being that the producers don't want you to know its a man in a suit. Otherwise it looks like this. Had they left that awful scene in the movie, it would have ruined it, but they were trying to create suspense and atmosphere, and only seeing the alien in short segments gave it so, so much more menace.
Another thing I want to mention is the cast. They're just brilliant, and there isn't a 'looker' among them. It's impossible to watch any kind of movie these days without one of the leading actors being blatant eye candy. Here, they're just good actors. Their characters are believable, the issues they have and the banter between them is very believable. And for that reason you can identify with them. I couldn't care less about a muscle bound Sam Worthington in Avatar. Yeah, he might look like a grunt, but I can't identify with that. Tom Skerritt as Captain Dallas on the other hand ... for a start he looked a bit like my dad but everything about him just seemed that much more believable.
The last thing I want to mention, is the sound. Not just the music - which is excellent - but just the effects. The wind noise, the battering of the coolant showers as they go haywire, the screams of the alien, everything even down to the cat's hiss is visceral and authentic.
This is a great movie. If you haven't seen it, you really should, and if you get a chance to see it on a big screen, don't miss out.
##Originally appears on my blog, amillionmilesfromanywhere.blogspot.jp
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Alien is a 1979 film written by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett (with uncredited input by Walter Hill and David Giler) and directed by Ridley Scott. It's a haunted house in space film and has myriad influences. It! The Terror from Beyond Space, And Then There Were None, The Thing from Another World, EC Horror Comics, Forbidden Planet, Jaws, and, perhaps most surprisingly, a 1974 John Carpenter comedy called Dark Star. In Dark Star, the bored crew of a spaceship had a pet alien called Pinback who they had to track down when he became loose on the ship. Pinback was a beachball with feet and played for laughs but Dark Star screenwriter Dan O'Bannon later gave the concept a horror twist and wrote a screenplay called Star Beast about the crew of a spaceship being bumped off one by one by a much more realistic and nasty alien. Star Beast (not a great title) duly became Alien and O'Bannon's screenplay attracted the attention of a young British director named Ridley Scott. Scott's first film The Duellists hadn't made a huge impact at the box-office but it did win a jury medal at the Cannes Film Festival and lead to this iconic sci-fi horror. Scott was known for his strong visual sense (he was particularly famous for a Chanel No. 5 commercial titled Share the Fantasy) and became excited by the project after watching Star Wars and realising that special effects had come on enough to make his grand vision for Alien possible.
The premise of Alien, for the benefit of the five people in the world who have never seen it, has the merchant spaceship Nostromo on a routine mission transporting twenty million tons of mineral ore back to Earth. Its seven member crew - Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt), Navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Science Officer Ash (Ian Holm), and Engineers Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto) - are sleepily woken from their stasis chambers in deep space when the ship receives a distress call. The crew are duty bound by a company directive to investigate any distress call and follow the trail to a desolate planet where - in what appears to be a doomed alien spacecraft - Kane finds a chamber containing a large number of strange alien eggs. A crablike creature from one of the eggs attaches itself to Kane's face when he unwisely takes a closer peek. Back on the Nostromo, it metamorphoses into an apparently indestructible huge alien carnivore and becomes at large on the gigantic ship. Just to make matters even worse, it soon transpires that the creature has acid for blood. "It's got a wonderful defense mechanism. You don't dare kill it!" Needless to say, everyone on the Nostromo is now in very big trouble indeed.
Alien is still a formidable late night shocker with, most famously, HR Giger's striking alien design - the creature chillingly sleek, curved and organic, rife with sexual subtexts. The rather grimy vision of the future is impressive too and somehow more realistic. The Nostromo is not the gleaming, pristine khazi free Starship Enterprise but a huge floating industrial city laboriously traversing the far reaches of space. I think the thing about the alien creature that most scared me when I watched this film growing up was the way that it seemed to have two sets of teeth and the inner set of retractable razor sharp snappers would burst out to kill as it ooozed saliva like a rabid dog on a hot day. The horror sequences are often vivid here and the film amps up the tension in deliberate fashion. Dallas exploring the darkened spooky air shafts with his flame thrower is one of the best examples of this, especially if you are at all claustrophobic. One slight disappointment though, especially to modern eyes, is that when we get a much longer and better look at the creature later in the film the body of the alien is patently a man in a suit. It works better lurking in the shadows and flickering corridors, only to be glimpsed fleetingly.
Alien has a glacial pace in its first third that might frustrate some but an amazing sense of atmosphere is generated - right from the opening moments when the crew awake like star bound Rip Van Winkles from their stasis pods in a dreamlike sequence. The music by Jery Goldsmith provides a suitably off kilter and majestic backdrop. A strong sense of otherness is always present in the film and the cast is a distinct plus too because these feel like real people. They are a grizzled mature blue-collar crew who just happen to work in outer space. If they made Alien now they'd have some berk from Dawson's Creek as Captain Dallas or something and a plastic teenage flavour of the month Ripley but there are some excellent actors here. Harry Dean Stanton and Yapphet Kotto are believable as grumbling engineers always looking to cut a few corners and Ian Holm brings some gravitas as Ash, the ship's science officer. Ash is soon at loggerheads with the crew because he seems to admire the alien and believes they should not kill it because of its potential research value.
John Hurt (a late replacement for Jon Finch) doesn't have a huge part but still manages to feature in one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history and I like the sharp contrast between the two female officers (Lambert and Sigourney Weaver's Ripley) here. Lambert is a hysterical big girl's blouse scared of her own shadow whereas Ripley is pragmatic and as tough as any of the men. Ripley is a sci-fi heroine who is reflecting changes in the real world. Alien remains an effective blending of science fiction and horror and probably deserves its legendary status. It's a film you can still get wrapped up in no matter how many times you have seen it. Just remember to watch it late at night with all the lights off.
To us, now, the concept and the special effects used in Ridley Scott's Alien is a familiar sight. Ground breaking films have the tendency to fade in terms of their effects, even if their legacy still remains. Alien is an outstanding film, one which even to this day I find absolutely fascinating and shocking. Moments still make me jump, I still marvel at some of the acting, and the special effects somehow manage to not look dated. It's easy to draw comparison with horror/sci-fi films of its time, such as John Carpenter's The Thing, in terms of some of the features used with the special effects, but what Alien has that these other films don't is the timing and application, secrets that surprised even its cast, and the suspense to rival even the most intense of thrillers and shockers.
A plot so simple
The location is space, and the film takes place upon a space station where a mining crew investigates a strange SOS on a distant planet. The discovery of something alien comes as no surprise, either to the characters in the film or to us as an audience: films featuring aliens have been commonplace for a long time before this came out. The surprise element comes later on as the crew reboard the ship, unaware that this time, they're not alone. We are kept firmly in suspense not only by Scott's patient direction, but also by the score, an often ambient and low toned accompaniment, but also with elements of abrupt and explosive orchestral eruptions.
The importance of acting
The film ultimately becomes one of survival, as we realise that there is an alien species looking to take over the ship and kill its inhabitants, and this is where the cast comes in. It features a host of names that are recognisable, either by cult status or through frontline Hollywood exposure. They weren't necessarily on top of their game when this film came out, though, indeed this was Sigourney Weaver's first lead role, and one that rocketed her to stardom and was the launchpad for her subsequent international recognition as a movie star. She had already notched a few films under her belt, but her role as Ellen Ripley was her first lead role and saw an unlikely female lead in a male-led genre. It certainly gave the film a different viewpoint, and was effective indeed.
She is supported well by the rest of the cast, and as everything revolves around the crew, it's an incredibly small cast, resulting in them having equal amounts of screen time for the most part. It almost means that Ripley doesn't have the lead, as all crew members become desperate to survive the alien's presence, the fear of the unknown being a catalyst for their group safety, most thoughts of rank and power disappearing as panic sets in. Tom Skerritt plays Dallas, the captain, with Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto and Ian Holm filling in the various functional officers aboard the ship. All of them perform excellently, and we never know what is going to happen. Quite often, things get telegraphed by cast members, who obviously know what is going to happen, but what is marvellous about Alien is that the cast were kept in the dark about certain scenes in the film. The most famous scene in the film, with an explosive element to it (I'll reveal no secrets!), features shock and surprise, the cast being scared out of their wits, and the magic of this is that it was all set up without them actually knowing what was going to happen. Ridley Scott was determined to get realistic reactions wherever possible, and kept the camera rolling on a number of occasions to try and capture these visuals in order to enhance the viewing experience. He certainly did that.
Aside from the cast and the suspense the film gives us, there's also the Alien to think about. For its design, H R Giger was brought in, having collaborated through tenuous links with other members of Alien's creators, author Dan O'Bannen in particular. A lot of creating went into this, and not just the screenplay or tale before it. Additions were made by Scott, for the characters' back stories, and also a lot of time was invested in Giger for him to create the perfect shell in which to house the alien itself. The surrealist artist was really as perfect choice, which hindsight has shown. However, it's never easy to know this at the time, and careful consideration has paid of in this instance. The visual effects of the alien, with its black and shiny (almost leathery) look as well as reflective 'eyes' make it menacing beyond belief, and scenes where it slowly emerges into shot are intense beyond belief. This, coupled with the creaky growl it emits when breathing as well as the sinister music the score allows, all make for perfect sci-fi. Nothing tacky in sight!
To shock an audience
I mentioned earlier that there is a bit of a John Carpenter feel to proceedings here, and this is due to the horror director's links with O'Bannen on Dark Star, a space sci-fi which also featured an alien. These origins have followed forwards, and the use of humanistic looks but quite clearly alien in existence, coupled with blood and violence, ends up causing quite a stir. Audiences were shocked, and quite rightly so, as there was no pre-warning about it, and it was ground breaking at the time. it spawned three sequels that Weaver headed up as Ripley, and if anything, her performance in Aliens, the sequel, was better, perhaps the best I have seen her in anything. This platform though, remains for me, the better of the film's series, as it started it all off. The work done in Aliens may have had a bit more pressure on it, to be able to live up to the first film's excellence, but to actually start from scratch like Alien did is nothing short of brilliance, with every 'i' dotted and every 't' crossed.
Good heavens, Ridley...........
Scott's insistence on perfection here has earned the film cult status as well as critical acclaim. The tagline 'In space no one can hear you scream' is nothing short of hitting the nail on the head, and it must have felt even more frightening in a cinema. Goodness knows, some of those scenes make me jump even after watching many times, with the first time of viewing shocking me even more. It's a genius film, one I enjoy watching each time I put it on, even if it has become more about catching the little elements you miss first, second and subsequent times around. I particularly like watching the faces of the cast as realisation dawns on them that something might happen they know nothing about. Therer's nothing like having your cast being kept in suspense. It makes things seem so much more real.
Needless to say, this is a fantastic film that I strongly recommend. Empire's Top 500 places this one in 33rd position, with its sequel 3 places higher. I suppose it really depends on which way you look at it. Either way, they're both great, and this one pips it for me, as it started it all off. Watch it, but be prepared, be very prepared!
Originally released in 1979, this is where the ever-growing Aliens (and Predator) franchise started, and is arguably the strongest of all the releases. SPOILER WARNING! There are spoilers in this review,so I've clearly marked them if you haven't seen the film and don't want it ruined.
Directed by Ridley Scott, this is a tense, psychologically harrowing film which is deftly executed. The plot is simple; a crew of 8 interstellar 'truckers' (and their cat, Jones) are awoken from their cryo-stasis deep sleep by the ship's computer, MOTHER, upon receiving an unexpected signal from a planet in their vicinity. The crew deliberate about whether or not they should investigate, and send a small team to the planet's surface. They discover the source of the signal; a staggeringly large alien spacecraft that appears to have crashed into the planet's surface. It appears derelict, but the crew soon make a discovery that they regret, unleashing a malevolent alien onto their ship with no means of escape, and few resources to combat it. Can they outwit the creature, or will they be hunted down and eviscerated...? And will they uncover a suspected traitor in the midst of all this terrifying confusion?
This film achieves almost everything it sets out to do, and does it so successfully in certain aspects that it raised the bar for horror films. The set designs are wonderfully created. The mining ship Nostromo is cramped and claustrophobic, with low lighting and twisting tunnels connecting large, cathedral-like open spaces that remove any sense of refuge on the ship. By the end of the 1970s, the space race had dwindled and so had the public's perception of it. Whereas previous sci-fi films had depicted space travel as glamorous and exciting (Star Wars, 2001, Star Trek), this depicts it as just another dirty, dangerous environment, and one which involves backbreaking work and little comfort, akin to life on a submarine or oil rig.
Even the exploration of the alien planet looks gruelling and dangerous, even before they discover the alien eggs. The trek across the howling, barren surface looks horrible, and any boyhood fantasies about being an astronaut are given a wake-up call. HR Giger's designs of the alien spacecraft are truly exotic and unsettling; all biological/mechanical fusion, insectoid and annelid in its inspiration (there's also a dead Predator to spot!) One gets the feeling that the crew that investigate are not just looking at dead alien crew, but are stepping into the husk of a dead creature, mirroring the parasitic life within.
The sense of cabin fever that would naturally ensue in such an isolated environment is played upon, with tensions rising between Captain Dallas (Tom Skerrit), our heroine Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Ash, the Science Officer played by Ian Holm, who was added to the mission just before take-off in suspicious circumstances. Already there's a sense that nowhere is safe, even before the mosntrous alien is brought on board.
All of this works well to create a sense of unease, which is brought to a head when Office Kane (John Hurt) presses on into the bowels of the alien ship to discover a brood of alien eggs, one of which opens quite majestically at first, only to reveal a parasite (the disgustingly designed face-hugger) that attacks him, implanting him with an egg. After an incubation period, the alien foetus erupts out of his chest in the canteen, in a gory shower of bloody explosion. This scene is one of the film's most famous, and is a good reminder that traditional special effects can be much more effective than buckets of CGI.
Once unleashed, the alien proves to be a perfect predator, hunting the crew with brutal efficiency. It is also kept out of sight until the very end; its form only hinted at in a few chance glimpses in the dark corridors of the Nostromo. The crew are almost entirely at its mercy, with no weapons to fight back with, unlike in the sequel where protagonists are armed to the teeth. Improvised cattle prods and flamethrowers, and an almost insane plan to attempt to catch the creature in a net highlight the crew's desperate plight.
The film draws upon various innate human fears to great effect. The isolation of the ship is a natural fear, all dark and labyrinthine in its construction. Any haven is eradicated by the crew's implied mistrust of each other, and the first victim falls prey in the galley, the heart of the crew quarters that they call home. The shock revelation that higher forces are at work adds another layer, when Ash is revealed to be a robot that has been planted by their employers to ensure they deviate from their path. The location and nature of the alien was already known about then, and the crew are reduced to mere guinea pigs to see just how an effective weapon this creature is.
The alien, and its manner of killing and reproduction, hit all the right psychological targets. It is both parasite and hunter; a revolting combination of stalker, murderer and rapist, invading and destroying the body from both within and without. Its design is part crustacean, insect, worm, deep-sea creature and nightmarish monster; all animals that provoke an automatic fear and revulsion. It also draws upon other deep instincts; it is a truism of the animal kingdom that there are no fiercer creatures than a mother protecting her young, and a predator in desperate search of food. Our heroine Ripley stoically stands up to the creature, Jones the cat being her adopted young in this instance (getting a human child involved in a mining mission would stretch the credibility too far), and using her instincts and invention to survive and outwit the alien. The film brilliantly pits these two forces, with which we are all familiar, against each other to provide the conflict.
OK, ALL THE SPOILERS ARE OVER IT'S OK TO LOOK NOW!
Casting in this is fantastic, with all actors turning in natural, believable performances of cabin-fever, fear, and revulsion. Veronica Cartwright is outstandingly hysterical during the scene where Dallas descends into the air ducts in an attempt to flush the creature out, but without ever overacting the part and her panic steps right out of the screen into the audience. Yaphet Kotto playing the towering, manly engineer Parker is reduced to a tearful panic after sighting the creature. No-one feels safe, and the tension is almost tangible.
Scott's direction is spot on, with lingering shots of the alien planet and craft, which are darkly beautiful. This movie is very dark, but then of course it had to be for both credibility and for purposes of masking the alien from sight. He also takes a wise decision in keeping the alien out of sight, and by having it alter its form throughout, you never quite know what it is you're looking out for. The fear of the unknown is perhaps the most powerful, and while there are a couple of 'boo!' moments out of the dark, they're not over done, so they never lose their potency. Most modern horror films would do well to remember this rule of 'less is more'.
If there is one criticism of this film, it would be its use of sound in space. It draws heavily from 2001 in its slow, graceful shots of the Nostromo, but the decision to include the sound of roaring engines in the vacuum of space is baffling and annoying. Given that the film's great tagline is 'In space, no-one can hear you scream', you can't help but wonder if a re-edit is in order to chop out these misplaced sound effects.
It's also a shame that its legacy went downhill so much. Its sequel was a worthy action flick, but cheapens the scariness of the alien in the original as they are gunned down in their hundreds. And the latest Aliens/Predator blockbusters are so dumb in comparison it's hard to believe they're from the same family.
You can pick this up on DVD for under a fiver now, so it's not going to break the bank at all. Best watched on your own in the dark for maximum effect.
Ridley Scott's second, award winning, feature is an absolute classic and is a must see for fans of horror, science fiction or films in general.
The crew of a commercial towing ship, while on their way to earth, are ordered to investigate a transmission originating from a nearby planet. While investigating one of the crew members, Kane, is attacked by a strange creature which attaches itself to his face. Kane is put into quarantine and eventually the creature dies and falls off of Kane's face and so the crew decide to resume their journey back to earth.
However all is not as it seems. In one of the most memorable scenes in cinema history Kane begins to convulse and a strange alien creature bursts out of his chest. It is then up to the crew to find and kill the alien before it kill's everyone on board.
The biggest impact of the film is the atmosphere it creates. Unlike the majority of horror films nowadays, "Alien" does not rely on blood and guts for easy scares but on the tension which is amplified by the superb performances of all the actors.
Another amazing aspect of the film is the special effects, for which the film won an Oscar. Made in 1979 you would be forgiven for assuming that the effects would be somewhat dated and unrealistic, however you would be wrong. The design of the alien is fantastic and very memorable, I also thought that the inside of the space ship was very well done and unlike anything seen before in science fiction films.
As mentioned before, this film is a classic and I urge anyone who has not seen it to watch it. Also for anyone who has seen it I recommend watching the sequel "Aliens", which while slightly different is just as good if not better than the original.
Review also posted on ciao.co.uk
Once in a while all the elements of a great film come together and alline to create truly remarkable cinema. Any Sci-Fi horror taking place on a space ship these days will be likened to Alien- take any recent titles such as Pandorum and Event Horizon.
1979, deep space had recently become the new frontier on exploration and in this masterful story of an lethal alien encounter filled with sexual symbols the loneliness of space is also apparent. If H. R Giger (who design the alien and it's living environment) was hired given his previous artworks of a sexual nature we can assume with a purpose- to wire his style into the visuals. You've probably heard or noticed by now things like the alien head design resembling a phallic object or how John Hurt's chestburster scene is reminiscent of a birth. Images like these feature though out the entire film.
Getting to the "horror" bit - the film is terrifying. The disconcerting music which is hauntingly melancholy opens the film. Horror always works best with melancholy tones and moods. Before long we are introduced to the crew members aboard the Nostromo- a vast ship cargo ship returning from its mission into deep space. The crew are woken up when the ship intercepts a distress beacon emitting from a nearby planet.
Straight away this becomes strange and slightly troubling that something this far out would be signalling for help. This continues as an organism they find there apparently contaminates one of the crew.The acting is great. Sigourney Weaver creates one of the strongest female characters on film to date. Ian Holm also add a monotone, dethatched performance to the film as well.
Review also on Ciao.co.uk under username- Pippylong
It's 1979 and Sci-Fi movies are about to change...forever!
Ridley Scott's Alien was released in 1979 and quickly gained box office success and critical acclaim. With a stellar cast including Tom Skerrit, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto, it was Sigourney Weaker as Luitentant Ellen Ripley that helped launched this movie into iconic status.
The story follows the crew of the Nostromo, a commercial mining freighter travelling through space which picks up a distress signal from the planet LV4-26. Upon the orders of their employers they investigate the signal, with devastating effects. During investigations a parasite attaches itself to one of the crew (John Hurt) and unbeknown to the rest of the crew, plants and embryo in his chest which leads to the positively frightening chest buster scene.
What follows is a claustrophobic cat and mouse game between the remaining (and ever depleting) crew and the unknown alien while a great sub-plot unfolds outlining the perils of commercial greed.
The acting is immense and what made this film so interesting for its time was the improvised nature of many of the scenes. Furthermore, the casting of a female lead in what was ultimately a horror/action movie in space was so innovative for its time. There were no major Hollywood stars cast in this movie which only added to the audiences ability to relate to those they saw on screen and ultimately providing a more terrifying experience.
This has to be one of the most significant movies of all time. I have watched this movie more times than I care to remember and it always delivers on fear, tension and claustrophobia. At the time of release, the tagline was "In space no-one can hear you scream" which perfectly epitomises the solitary situation the crew find themselves in and the fact that no-one is coming to help them.
The film itself spawned 3 sequels, some better than others but none living up to the raw, gritty tension of the original.
Once you have watched Alien, you will also find it very difficult to watch subsequent sci-fi movies, and especially sci-fi horrors, without making comparisons and seeing obvious references. It was such an influential movie of its time, launching Sigourney Weaver into stardom and creating one of the most iconic and culturally significant series of movies for a generation.
This classic stars Sigourney Weaver as a crew member onboard a spaceship in the future who lands on an unusual planet. Once they leave, they unknowingly take with them a deadly alien monster who terrorises and kills them one by one.
Ridley Scott, as director, captures an eerie atmosphere that makes the corridors of the spaceship seem like dark, deserted streets that could feature anything hiding behind a door, under the bed or on the ceiling.
The SFX of the alien was ahead of it's time at this point and so were the SFX of just about everything else.
In my own opinion, I do find the pace of the movie to be lacking and pretty slow.
Scott loves to draw out his movies with slow build ups but the first 45 minutes or so were pretty dull for me with little explanation for what was going on.
Once this is out of the way, the action kicks off and the alien is born. The crew then become victims of the monster.
The film has a handful of gore but I wouldn't say the gore level was over the top. The kills are more implied than shown here, much like how it was in 'Halloween'.
I am more of a fan of it's sequel than this one but I can see why it has it's classic status. The reasons are so obvious.
Sigourney Weaver puts on an excellent performance as Ripley, who starts off as a generic crew member, but then soon becomes the focal character of the film.
The film deserves to be seen by everyone, whether you are a Sci-fi horror fan or not, but I can't guarantee that you will fall in love with Ridley Scott's direction which almost always involves very slow paces in his movies.
At times, especially early on, I felt the film was going nowhere.
I will recommend this one given it's classic status but don't be surprised when I give a higher rating to it's sequel.
Until recently I'd never really watched any of the Alien films in full but always liked the bits I'd caught when it was on telly. When I saw the quadrilogy on offer for £10.00 on Amazon I thought it would be worth investing in. Alien is the first film in the series.
This film was released in 1979 and was directed by Ridley Scott. Alien is set in space some time in the future. It centres on the cargo ship 'Nostromo' and its crew lead by Dallas (Tom Skerrit). They answer a faint distress call on a planet and some of the crew go out to investigate. On returning to the ship Kane (John Hurt) has a creature attached to his face. In contradiction of his orders, science officer Ash (Ian Holm) lets them back on board despite the obvious risk.
Kane is taken to the infirmary where the creature releases its grip. He seems to have almost recovered and they all sit down to eat. The most memorable part of the film follows; a small alien creature bursts out through his stomach and scampers off leaving Kane dead. Dallas takes his team to hunt the alien down. As it picks them off one by one, it is Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) who takes charge and kicks some ass as the film progresses.
In the first half an hour of the film there isn't that much action. This is great because it really builds up the tension and gets you on the edge of your seat in anticipation of what is going to happen. As it all kicks off most viewers will realise there isn't going to be a happy ending.
The set is very believable and adds to the atmosphere and mood of the film perfectly. Sigourney Weaver really settles into her role as Ellen Ripley and I truly believed her emotions and disposition throughout. The change in her personality as the film progresses is convincing and I really empathised with her struggle. Although she takes centre stage for the second half of the film, the rest of the cast put in some worthy performances too.
Although this is an old film, I didn't find the special effects too dated. It is your imagination that runs wild with what you don't see rather than what you do. The only slightly cheesy part is when the alien comes out of the stomach; I did think it looked a bit fake.
The film is an 18 certificate and this is definitely appropriate. This film has some creepy and jumpy bits that would not be suitable for young viewers. Overall, this is well worth watching. The fusion of horror and science fiction is combined perfectly to make a visually stunning and intellectually brilliant movie experience that I really enjoyed.
Alien was the first movie in the series of Alien films and when Ridley Scott first released this back in 1979 he had audiences across the globe terrified and on the edge of their seats as he introduced these fearsome monsters.
The movie is set aboard the Nostramo which is a giant deep-space spacecraft with a minimal crew led by Captain Dallas played by Tom Skerrit and including ship Warrant officer Ripley played by Sigourney Weaver. They respond to a distress call and discover a derelict alien craft and some strange eggs.
One of these eggs hatches while they are there and reveals a scary face-hugging parasite that attaches itself to Kane played by John Hurt. Once he collapses at breakfast screaming in pain the alien bursts out of his chest that had me glad I hadn't eaten anything recently and is a gruesome scene. Rumour has it that the rest of the cast didn't know this was going to happen so there could be as much realism and shock as possible. And it certainly acheived that!
From there the terror begins as the crew are picked off one by one and their dwindling numbers fight for survival against this monster that is hunting them down.
Sigourney Weaver was great in this original and it shot her to fame and a household name overnight. She portrays Ripley as a gutsy individual who stands up against the alien lifeform that is attacking her crew.
The special effects as you can imagine are fantastic and the drama is intensified by shooting alot of the movie in dark corridors and dimly lit rooms to add to the chilling atmosphere. While perhaps not as frantic as the other Alien movies in the series this one stands out as it is more subtle and shows the frailties of humans against this ulimate killing machine.
Worth watching but your anxiety levels will rise while viewing in what is a scary film.
There are few films which successfully combine the horror and thriller genres as well as 'Alien.' Arriving not long after 'Star Wars,' the idea of space adventures was still fresh in audiences' minds. Ridley Scott's film is a delight from start to finish, thanks mainly to a chilling atmosphere, a slow burning tension and a stellar cast.
The crew onboard the Nostramo land on a planet and send some of their team out to survey the area. Gentlemanly Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by a mysterious lifeform, resulting in the crew coming back onboard their spacecraft. Kane slips into a coma like state, with this alien creature grappling his face and refusing to budge. The rest of the crew can only sit and wait for Kane to wake up and come around. When finally he does, everyone is surprised to see him feeling alive and well again. But nothing can prepare the crew for what is about to follow. It would appear that Kane had been impregnated during the coma by the creature. A shocking episode mid-meal is the first event in which the alien begins to take control of the spacecraft.
The film plays out for the remaining hour or so onboard the craft, as the crew fight to stay alive and avoid the creature, who is growing in size and intelligence by the minute. The alien is stalking the crew and picking them off one by one... It all builds to a startling finale which will leave you breathless.
The film is gripping from start to finish, thanks to the amazing cast. Stalwarts John Hurt and Tom Skeritt give it some much needed backbone, while Yaphett Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton excel in their roles. A superbly cast Ian Holm delivers a chilling performance as the medic Ash. It's Weaver's film though, as she goes from strength to strength, becoming one of the most significant film heroines in film history. Ripley is a headstrong and determined woman and Weaver's performance is spot on.
A creepy soundtrack, a brooding atmosphere of dread and incredible effects all combine to deliver an edge of your seat thrill ride. A remarkable film that is essential viewing.
Released in 1979 and directed by Ridley Scott, 'Alien' is centered around a group of 'truckers in space' who come across a strange, ancient-looking crashed alien spacecraft that is host to row upon row of giant eggs, whereupon one of the eggs opens and a grotesque hand-like creature attaches itself to the face of one of the explorers (John Hurt), only to fall off after he is taken back onboard the group's orbiting spaceship. The worst is yet to come however as an insectile creature with rows of sharp teeth later bursts out from Hurt's chest without warning, scuttling off and quickly growing in size and slaughtering the ship's terrified crewmembers one-by one as it skulks around the ships dank and darkened corridors.
Alien does a brilliant job of mixing the worlds of horror and science fiction, with some great creature designs courtesy of Swiss surrealist artist H.R. Giger, whose unspeakably ancient alien craft, mysterious fossilized giant alien 'navigator', and highly sexualised Alien drone creature are at once believable, compelling and utterly terrifying. The special effects are excellent, and though the chestburster scene does look a little archaic by modern standards its still infinitely preferable to the soulless CGI of today's films.
The plot is tense and engaging, amounting to a dark psychological horror in which the surviving crew members fight amongst eachother whilst an sleek and unseen terror with razor sharp teeth and claws stalks them in the vast darkness of their huge and foreboding, cavernous and unsophisticated craft. The film also has an excellent cast who put in great performances, particularly central protagonist and unlikely heroine Sigourney Weaver and the aforementioned John Hurt amongst others.
A true classic, Alien is sinister, intelligent and one of the most unsettling sci-fi horrors ever made.
This is the classic 1979 Horror movie that opened the door for a host of sequals, directed by Ridley Scott.
The film is set in deep space on board a mining space ship(The Nostramo) that is on its way back to Earth, the crew have been asleep in hyper sleep on the journey back but are woken when the ship intercepts a distress signal from a planet.
The crew go down to the planet to investigate but soon discover the signal is a warning not a call for help.
Three of the crew leave the landing craft and go to investigate the source of the signal.
Whilst inside an alien craft they discover a large number of pod like eggs which harbour parasite like creatures.
One of the crew is attacked by one of the creatures and the rest of the team try to remove it from his face but discover any attempt to remove the creature may kill the crew member.
On their return to the Mother ship the affected crew member suddenly wakes up the next day and seems fine.
Whilst eating the crew plan their return to Earth but are horrified when the stomach of the affected crew member bursts open and a reptile like creature emerges only to escape into the bowels of the ship.
Thus begins a hunt for the creature that will cost the lives of nearly all the crew.
The creature grows rapidly and is a formidable enemy.
There is a great cast in this movie:Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm, Yaphet Koto and Harry Dean Stanton.
The movie has great special effects and won an Oscar for Best visual effects in 1980.
I think this film was well ahead of its time and is still very watchable.
Running time 116 minutes and is available on Amazon UK for £4.98 with free super saver delivery.
The terror begins when the crew of a spaceship investigates a transmission from a desolate planet, and discovers a life form that is perfectly evolved to annihilate mankind. One by one, each crew member is slain until only Ripley is left, leading to an explosive conclusion that sets the stage for its stunning sequel, Aliens.