Hello and welcome back to My Journey into Science-Fiction Part:25. Alien, 1979 is a science-fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O’Bannon. In Part:24, I visited Nineteen Eighty-Four and if you would like to know what connects these two films, click on the link below.
Alien, 1979 was produced by Brandywine Productions and distributed by 20th Century Fox, making the studio over $146 million worldwide. Fast forward to 2021, with the official confirmation of a TV show in development for HULU, audible creating a successful audio series for their platform and the possibility of a third film to complete Ridley Scott’s latest trilogy, the Alien franchise looks as strong as ever. So, I guess it is time to go back and see where it all began.
It’s pretty hard to come up with something new while talking about a film that is much beloved by fans. However, I can be honest and give you a few reasons why this film still impresses me so much. I think this was the first film that gave me a real sense of the vastness of space! I remember watching it on VHS, and it felt cold and lonely. The silence in that opening sequence is beautiful, only disturbed by the awaking of a monitor and the crew of the Nostromo.
Keep it simple stupid is something I learnt on a training course many years ago, but I did not realise it would be a constant throughout my life. Personally, it has helped me make some good decisions and reminded me how I like my films, books and any other sort of media. I’m not saying Ridley Scott had an easy time making this film, but he makes it look effortless in many ways. The plot is pretty simple as we have a corporation that wants a biological weapon at any cost and a crew that want to make some money and survive. Not only do the team have to battle an alien lifeform, but their own decision making within the group. Yes, it’s a horror set in space, but it is also a story about humanity and the frailties that come with it.
I love the silent moments in this film. During one scene, Brett Harry Dean Stanton a technician aboard the Nostromo, is brutally killed by the Alien, but instead of showing the grizzly moment, you watch the reaction of Jones, the ship’s cat. Ridley Scott trusts the audience to understand what is going on at that moment. You do not have to show and explain everything, but let the scene breathe and let the viewer have a far more immersive experience with the film. It is a perfect moment and something I hope modern filmmakers bring back. I guess this could have just been down to budget issues and could be a happy accident, but it works.
And the last thing I love about this film is what I call The fairy-tale effect. I enjoy it when a movie like Alien becomes a franchise. I love, enjoy, and well, I was going to say hate some of the films that have followed, but I like them all, to be honest. However, none of them will be as enjoyable as the original, in my opinion at least. Each film is a different story, but it is just a reimagined version of the original tale. Maybe you didn’t enjoy Alien Covenant, but you sure will enjoy watching Alien again when you fire up the 4K player, which gives more meaning to the original film and puts it in that sweet spot it truly deserves.
Plus, with this film still looking pretty fantastic, you suddenly remember, oh, this is the first time we see an engineer or the beauty and frightfulness of an alien egg and Ripley becoming the modern hero we all love. Speaking of Ripley, I also think this is the best version of her character that we have ever seen on screen. It isn’t muscle or fighting power that saves her, it is her intelligence, and that’s far more powerful.
After finishing his work on Dark Star David O’Bannon wanted to create a horror movie in space, with an alien that looked real. O’Bannon then wrote twenty-nine pages of a script called Memory, which featured pretty much of the opening of Alien 1979. However, it was working on the production of Jodorowsky’s Dune that introduced him to Hans Ruedi Giger.
O’Bannon now had the vision of his alien and was ready to try and sell the screenplay in Hollywood. Ronald Shusett came up with the idea of a crew member becoming impregnated, later with the embryo bursting out his chest, to be used as a plot device to get the alien aboard the Nostromo. David Giler and Walter Hill at Brandywine Productions went through eight drafts of the script and created Ash the android, which they believed was one of the best parts of the movie. O’Bannon and Shusett later claimed the Hill and Giler wanted to get their names of the script and take it for themselves. Despite the fact Hill and Giler wrote the final shooting script, O’Bannon was awarded sole credit for the screenplay with the Writers Guild of America.
I know I have missed a lot of reasons and names on what makes this film work, but I just mentioned some things that attract me to the film. I am currently watching The Beast Within: The Making of Alien, and this whole production is littered with wonderful images, actors and revelations. I repeat this many times in these conclusions, but it’s always true! Sometimes you need everyone on the crew to be at the top of their game to create something truly remarkable. Alien is one of those films, and Ridley Scott certainly leads that charge very well.
I said earlier that the silence moments in this film might have been a happy accident? Funny, I’m currently reading about Alfred Hitchcock and recently watched Psycho, and Ridley Scott uses some of those techniques in this film. Now, I can understand more about storytelling and why some people are truly talented. Most of you have probably watched the movie and understand why it’s a classic anyway. I’m just glad I went back and started to take a closer look into this great moment in cinema history; that still affects popular culture to this day.
Choosing where I will go next in My Journey into Science-Fiction Part:26 will help mention some names who made Alien a success. First up, I was going to visit the original Planet of the Apes, 1968 Jerry Goldsmith wrote the music for this film, amongst many other classics. My next choice was going to be my final one, but something magical happened. Chris Foss was a visual artist on Alien and also worked closely with Stanley Kubrick to create some early concept drawings for A.I Artificial Intelligence 2001 but I can’t pick that either. So, the winner is Roger Christian, set decorator and production designer for Alien, plus the director of Battlefield Earth 2000. I do understand this is described as one of the worst films ever made, but I don’t remember hating it that much? I need to go back and see how the dust has settled on John Travolta’s passion project, and see what happened!