Movie: Alien (1979)

All the spoilers all the time.  You have been warned! (Is this warning really necessary after four decades?!?)

My Thoughts While Watching:

Alien was released 40 years ago on the 22nd. At first I was confused because I felt it came out while I was in High School but that was one of the sequels.  The original was released in 1979. So in honor of its anniversary, I thought I would give it a gander.

Holy crap, the 20th Century logo came up with music that sounded like it was from a million years ago.  This is how non-ramped-up movie audio sounded four decades ago?? Wow.

In the opening shot of The Nostromo it gives vehicle details like crew: 7, cargo: refinery processing 20M tons of mineral ore, course: returning to earth.  Like what was that mineral ore for?  Are we still using fossil fuel in the future?  Is that rocket ship up there on diesel? Thought: I would like to see actual NASA spaceship panels from 40 years ago compared to what they look like in modern times.  I feel like looking at the panels on this ship is like comparing Atari to Wii.

They are traveling while in deep space sleep.  There are no IVs or anything. Or like pee tubes.  And they just wake up a little drowsy but good to go. Forty year ago me would have been ok with it. 2019 me is questioning the realism.

Funny side note:  I bought one of those Lucky Birds like the one on their table in the opening scenes – just two weeks ago!  It pissed me off because I cannot get it to bob up and down to drink the water like it is supposed to.  Maybe its tail feather is too short?  But I digress…  (Before I even finished typing this Husband walks in and fixes it.)

They have rainbow patches for this mission!  You can buy one on Amazon.  I know that you can because I just did! Five bucks. I would love to have the actual shirt with the patch on it!  That might be a little much though…

They come in for the slowest landing of all time, land uneven on a rock and then their whole ship is about to fall apart. I know, I know… it is necessary to further the story. But damn, they made it through space and mining space ore and a little pebble up and kills their ship?  2019 Chelle taking issue.  What I am not taking issue with – holy hell Sigourney Weaver looks amazing in this movie!

The three crew members go in to explore the ship that sent out the distress signal and you know shit is just going to go sideways. It is the sound, it is the tune that plays intermittently, it is the wide-eyed expressions.  They have given us the bait, we have taken it, we are prepared to be scared! Movies from that era knew how to build suspense with just sound/music.  All without CGI. I give it to the director Ridley Scott, the long, wide pans of the camera make the movie.

The distress signal in binary code was not a distress signal! It was a warning!  GET OUT PEOPLE! GET! OUT!  They are out of range for Sigourney to alert them and now they have found eggs on the alien spaceship!  GET OUT!!!  But no.  Let’s touch the random scary looking egg.  “Wait a minute, there’s movement.”  Once again, GET DA FREAK OUT!  But no. And then it’s on like Donkey Kong… Ripley knew it was a warning being sent and said as much. She knew the hatch should not be open because of potential contamination.  And said as much.  Did anyone listen?  Of course not.  (In my head “Sometimes It’s Hard To Be A Woman” plays.)

Now we see the alien in all of its glory attached to a face. They try to remove it and its acid blood pours out and burns through several levels of the ship. They shoulda listened to the woman.  Molecular acid for blood!  A defense mechanism.  Genius!  And when the creature finally falls off the crewmate’s face, did they listen to Sigourney and shoot the thing out a hatch?  Um, nope. Now it is out there and they have no clue where.  Sigourney tries to tell Dallas that there are things that need to be done before they lift off, repairs. Did he listen to her?  Again, no. She deserves to be the sole survivor of this soon to be debacle.

The famous dinner scene… Smoking cigs at the space dinner table.  And then the transformation!!  One of the best acted scenes in history.  Why best acted?  Because only the alien host knew what was about to happen.  Ridley Scott is a genius and made it a surprise for all of the other actors so he could capture their unexpected expressions.  The baby alien is adorbs!  But, seriously…shoulda listened to the woman.  Ash holds them back from injuring the alien and it gets away.  There’s something up with this Ash dude.  Now it is a search through a relatively dark vessel for the alien. I would think there would be more lights in the future, some LEDs. When the guy finds the shed alien skin I laugh – the set people cut up condoms to get that particular prop. And within a matter of a few minutes the baby grows into a full sized alien?  And he eats someone while the cat watches.  That is the least surprising thing to me, the cat just watching shit happen.

They send Dallas into the airshaft to flush out the alien.  It is dramatic. They are tracking it right to him but he cannot see it. He makes his way to a lower shaft. It is all dark.  Oh god Dallas move! And then he turns around and from the dark a great alien jump-em-out happens:

In this still the alien kinda reminds me of the no-eyed monster from Pan’s Labyrinth. I feel like this guy does not look like the aliens in later movies, I might be wrong.  He made me jump though.  Good for you not-little-after-five-minutes alien.  And after all that build up for Dallas to be a big character or maybe a turnaround hero – nada!  Skerrit is Skert. He is toast.  Alien toast.  We don’t even see his remains, he is so gone.

I am with Lambert – let’s just draw straws and the winners take the small craft and get the hell outta here. But do they? nope.  Another woman not listened to. And when she cracks the ship’s computer, Sigourney reads with utter despair: “Crew expendable.”  And then Ash goes full broken droid on her ass, all the while bleeding milk, trying to stuff a rolled up magazine down her throat.  That shit is terrifying and more real than the alien. Stuffing a full on Hustler magazine into the woman’s mouth, trying to silence her with porn!  But her fellow crew mates are there to the rescue! Go Parker!  And when Parker takes Ash’s head off with a baseball bat!  THAT is amazing!  Wait, where did that baseball bat come from?  They knock leather out in space?

When they reanimate Ash it is gross AF – he is speaking through a mouthful of clotted milk. When the arrogant head says he cannot lie about their chances but he can feel sorry for them – I was right with Parker on flamethrowing what was left of the droid into obliteration!  So now they have seven minutes to grab the necessities, meet back up and then blow the ship the hell up.  Nothing can go wrong, right? Sigourney trying to find Jones the Cat. Can’t leave him behind. Sigh. Really Sigourney?  Really?  Yeah, yeah, I know – I would do the same.  And while Lambert and Parker were gathering the necessary supplies, along came the alien and the rest is history.  That leaves us with Sigourney and Jones the I-Cant-Leave-Him-Behind-Although-It-Means-Dead-Crew-Mates-Cat.

Run Sigourney! RUUUUUNNNNN!  Time to set up the emergency destruction system!!! “failsafe” the very word makes me think it will fail and she is not safe!

The alien almost finds her and then she takes off! LEAVING JONES THE CAT!! It is too late to turn off self destruct, she goes back and even though the alien lurked around the cat cage, it left it unscathed…. or…. did it?  YOU HAVE ONE MINUTE TO ABANDON SHIP!  And she makes it just before detention.  But, seriously – what kind of nuclear craziness caused three massive atom splitting explosions on that ship and WHAT could they have possibly worried about to set up a self destruct of THAT magnitude???  Oh yeah, the alien.

She lets the cat out of the cage, gets into her panties and is about to crawl into the deep space sleep pod when what comes outta hiding?? A mother fucking alien!! YAS QUEEN YAS!  She quietly and quickly slides into a handy space suit, zips it up with her boobs all out there.  And just when the alien thinks it has her where she cannot get away: buckle into the space chair, force it out of its tight space with some sort of steam action and then open the hatch and purge the shit outta the ship… all while singing You Are My Lucky Star…..

Now she can crawl up with the cat in the deep space sleep chamber and hopefully get back to Earth… and onto a sequel.

I loved it. IMHO it held up well to be forty years old in 11 days.  Good job Ridley and Sigourney and Jones the Ima-Survive-No-Matter-How-Many-Humans-Die Cat!

Have you seen it?  Did you like it?  Let me know in the comments below!

Some Interviews and Extra Video:

IMDB Synopsis: After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

Starring:

Tom Skerritt Tom Skerritt Dallas
Sigourney Weaver Sigourney Weaver Ripley
Veronica Cartwright Veronica Cartwright Lambert
Harry Dean Stanton Harry Dean Stanton Brett
John Hurt John Hurt Kane
Ian Holm Ian Holm Ash
Yaphet Kotto Yaphet Kotto Parker
Bolaji Badejo Bolaji Badejo Alien
Helen Horton Helen Horton Mother (voice)

Director: Ridley Scott

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My ranking scores –

0-19 Levels of: Ugh

20-39 Levels of: Meh (aka I cannot reach the remote)

40-59 Levels of: I don’t hate it?

60-85 Levels of: That was solid.

86-100 Levels of: I Loved It!

I rank this movie a 99.78!

*******************************************************************

Trailer:

Additional Movie Info:

It received a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97% Fresh.  It received a Rotten Tomato audience rating of 94% liking it.  Average Rating: 4.4/5 with a number of User Ratings: 458,961.

Movie Reviews:

Specs:  Release date: 22 June 1979 (USA) / Runtime: 116 minutes / Budget: $11M

IMDB Trivia:

  • Shredded condoms were used to create tendons of the beast’s ferocious jaws.
  • The chestbursting scene was filmed in one take with four cameras.
  • To get Jones the cat to react fearfully to the descending Alien, a German Shepherd was placed in front of him with a screen between the two, so the cat wouldn’t see it at first. The screen was then suddenly removed to make Jones stop advancing and start hissing.
  • The dead facehugger that Ash autopsies was made using fresh shellfish, four oysters, and a sheep kidney to re-create the internal organs.
  • For the chestburster sequence, Sir John Hurt stuck his head, shoulders and arms through a hole in the mess table, linking up with a mechanical torso that was packed with compressed air (to create the forceful exit of the alien) and lots of animal guts. The rest of the cast were not told that real blood and guts were being used, so as to provoke genuine reactions of shock and disgust. Apparently, this worked so well that Yaphet Kotto went home in complete shock afterwards, locking himself in a room and refusing to talk to his wife for several hours.
  • The original cut of this movie ran three hours and twelve minutes.
  • A scene originally cut, but re-inserted for the Director’s Cut, shows Lambert slapping Ripley, in retaliation for Ripley’s refusal to let her, Dallas, and Kane back on the ship. According to Ridley Scott and Veronica Cartwright, every time she went to slap Sigourney Weaver, Sigourney would shy away. After about three or four takes of this, Scott finally told Cartwright “Not to hold back. Really hit her.” Thus the very real shocked reactions of Weaver, Yaphet Kotto, and Harry Dean Stanton.
  • This movie takes place in 2122.
  • The first day that she shot a scene involving Jones the cat, Sigourney Weaver’s skin started reacting badly. Horrified, the young actress immediately thought that she might be allergic to cats, and that it would be easier for the production to re-cast her, instead of trying to find four more identical cats. As it transpired, Weaver was reacting to glycerin sprayed on her skin to make her look hot and sweaty.
  • The rumor that the cast, except for Sir John Hurt, did not know what would happen during the chestburster scene is partly true. Everyone had read the script, which explicitly stated that something would be coming out of Kane’s chest, but they did not know specific details. For instance, Veronica Cartwright did not expect to be sprayed with blood, so her reaction to it was genuine. Sigourney Weaver related that they suspected that something dramatic was about to happen, because when they got to the set, the crew were wearing raincoats. Tom Skerritt admitted years later that he was the only one besides Hurt to know exactly what was coming. He had been following director Ridley Scott around to learn about the process of filmmaking, and had been present during meetings where the chestburster effect was discussed in detail. He was of course requested to keep the specifics to himself, in order to elicit genuine reactions from the other cast members.
  • This movie was originally scripted to end with Ripley escaping the Nostromo with her shuttle, and the Alien dying on board the Nostromo. Ridley Scott thought this ending was way too simplistic, so he negotiated with the studio for an additional half a million dollar budget, and a week of filming to add a “fourth act” to the movie, showing how the Alien stowed away aboard the shuttle, and Ripley trying to flush it out. Scott originally wanted a much darker ending, where the Alien climbs back into the shuttle and Ripley harpoons it, but it makes no difference. The Alien runs towards her, slams through her masks, and rips her head off. It would then sit in her chair, and start mimicking Captain Dallas’ voice, saying “I’m signing off, hopefully the network will pick me up.” Apparently, Twentieth Century Fox wasn’t too pleased with such a dark ending. According to Scott, while pitching this idea over the phone, there was a long and uncomfortable silence. Within fourteen hours, a studio executive arrived, who threatened to fire him on the spot, unless he changed the ending to one where the Alien would die. Scott later admitted that allowing Ripley to live was the better ending.
  • Originally, there was no subplot with the Company betraying the crew. When David Giler and Walter Hill re-wrote the first draft by Dan O’ Bannon and Ronald Shusett, they wanted to find ways to make the plot more interesting. They initially added a third act twist, where the ship’s CPU had a hidden directive. Mother was supposed to allow the facehugged Kane into the ship, despite Ripley’s objections. Although the Company had programmed Mother to reroute the Nostromo, and investigate the origin of the species, the computer functioned under its own special protocol. As Mother states in the final scenes, she was not keen on betraying the crew, but she took a neutral place by allowing the creature to enter the ship, gestate and evolve. When Ripley scolds Mother, the CPU retorts that her allegiance lies only to science. The data for this “key-product” would be fascinating for the scientific world. The producers and writers finally realized that this revelation would be too reminiscent of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). They kept Mother as the CPU, but incorporated Ash as the seventh and final character, who was always intended to be the spy. He was written as an android, and much of his attitude echoes the scrapped Mother storyline (he opens the hatch to allow the parasite to enter the ship, despite the quarantine rules. In the Director’s Cut, he monitors the stain inside Kane, but lets it incubate, he wants to keep the dead facehugger for further studies, and he repeatedly expresses his wonder for the new fascinating species). Ash even had extra dialogue about the key products found in space, and the orders by the Company, but Ridley Scott ultimately decided to stream
  • Ash’s blood is colored water. Milk was not used, as it would have spoiled quickly under the hot studio lights. Milk was used though for the close-up of his innards, along with pasta and glass marbles.
  • For Parker’s death, a fiberglass cast of Yaphet Kotto’s head was made, and then filled with pigs’ brains. The forehead was made of wax, so that the Alien’s teeth could penetrate it easily. Barbed hooks were fastened to the end of the teeth to make sure it broke the wax surface effectively.
  • The shot where the Xenomorph’s tail goes through Lambert’s legs and up her back, was actually taken from the scene in which Brett was killed. The pants and boots don’t fit what Lambert is wearing in the scene, where she encounters the Alien. Originally, her character was to crawl away from the Alien, and essentially die from fright, hiding in a locker, but this was never shot.
  • The character of Ash, and subsequently an android character being introduced into this movie, is what Dan O’Bannon calls a “Russian spy”, someone on a mission, who it is discovered, intends to sabotage said mission. “If it wasn’t in there, what difference does it make?” the screenwriter asks. “I mean, who gives a rat’s ass? So somebody is a robot.” O’Bannon was annoyed by the character being added, and called it “an inferior idea from inferior minds well acted and well directed.”
  • The Xenomorph in this movie is slightly different from others of his kind featured in the sequels in terms of behavior: unlike the other Aliens in the franchise, which kill only for food, host gathering, or self-defense, the Alien in this movie is implied multiple times in the movie, novelization, and several scripts to be very sadistic, and enjoys killing for fun. This is shown when the Alien kills Parker: he waits thirty seconds or so, while squeezing Parker so hard he bleeds, before finally killing him with a headshot.
  • The scene where Ash is decapitated caused an usher in London to faint.
  • Body Count: nine (including the Space Jockey, facehugger, and the Alien).
  • In the first half of the first four Alien movies, one or two characters are introduced and built up in a way to make the audience think that they are going to be important characters throughout the story, only to have them killed off less than halfway through. In this movie, it is Dallas (Tom Skerritt).
  • This is the only movie in the Alien franchise that does not contain a variation of the Alien Queen. In Alien³ (1992), Ripley discovers that an Alien queen embryo is growing inside of her in the third act, while Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) features a premature Predalien Queen, according to the directors. This is because James Cameron developed the concept of an Alien Queen for Aliens (1986), so the idea did not exist for this movie’s production.

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