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This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.
― Ellen Ripley

Alien is a science fiction horror film from 1979, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto. It follows a highly aggressive extraterrestrial creature which stalks and kills the crew of a spaceship.

Plot Edit

In the year 2122 the commercial towing spaceship Nostromo is returning to Earth from a mission on Thedus. It is carrying 20 million tons of mineral ore for the company Weyland Yutani and the crew is in stasis. After receiving an unknown transmission from a nearby planet, the ship's computer wakes the seven-man crew. After the crew recovers from stasis, the Nostromo detaches itself from the refinery and lands on the planet. Captain Dallas, Executive Officer Kane and Navigator Lambert leave the ship to try and determine the source of the transmission, while Warrant Officer Ripley, Science Officer Ash, and Engineers Brett and Parker stay on the ship to monitor progress and make repairs.

Dallas, Kane, and Lambert discover, that the signal is coming from an abandoned alien spaceship. Inside they find the remains of a large alien creature with its rib cage forced out from the inside. Back at the ship, the computer is finally able to translate some of the unknown transmission, which Ripley determines to be a warning or a threat. Kane finds a chamber filled with eggs. Upon closer inspection of one, it opens up and a creature attaches itself to Kane's face, compromising his oxygen mask. Dallas and Lambert carry him back to the ship, where Ash lets them inside against the orders of Ripley, who believed, they should follow quarantine protocols, which causes Ripley to become suspicious about Ash, since he, as the science officer, should have known better.

Once they have Kane in the infirmary, they attempt to surgically remove the creature from his face. Unfortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful due to the fact that the creature's blood is made of some kind of corrosive acid. Later the crew finds out, that the creature has detached itself from Kane's face and died, leaving Kane awake and alert. With everything seemingly back to normal, the crew resumes its mission back to Earth.

Before reentering stasis, the crew sits down for one final meal. At one point, Kane starts to choke and convulse, until all of the sudden a creature bursts from his chest and runs away. Horrified, the crew attempts to create weapons, including electric prods, and motion trackers, and try to track the creature down. After a first failed attempt at killing the creature, the crew decides to abandon the refinery, and take the shuttle back to Earth. While everyone else is gathering supplies and tools, Brett tries to track down the ship´s cat. The creature then appears suddenly, now grown up and takes him away through the air conducts.

Having witnessed the event and realizing how dangerous the creature has become, the crew arms themselves with self-made flame throwers and try to throw the Xenomorph into space. The attempt fails and the captain is taken away by the creature, too. Ripley then takes command. Noticing, that Ash is behaving suspiciously all the time and that he is not doing anything productive against the creature, she begins to monitor Mother and discovers Ash´s hidden agenda with the company. They knew about the alien signal all along, had decoded it, knew also about the creature all along and through Ash they want to take the creature alive for their own profit. She also realizes, that they have been using through Ash the ship and its crew to test and analyze it. Ash discovers Ripley´s discovery and tries to kill her, because she had become a threat to the company´s purposes. The others prevent him from doing so. They take him out and discover, he is a robot, an ideal person for such a conspiracy. They awaken him and discover, the company were satisfied with the expectations regarding the creature and gave Ash the order to bring it back to Earth and sacrifice the rest of the crew on the way. They also realize through Ash´s analysis, that the creature is too strong for them to being able to defeat it and decide to destroy the ship with the alien inside after turning Ash off.

Parker and Lambert, who were still alive with Ripley, are later killed by the alien, while they were making the corresponding preparations, leaving Ripley completely alone with the alien on the ship. She still manages to activate the self-destruct sequence, get her cat and go to the shuttlecraft and lifeboat Narcissus in time. The alien, however, foresaw the event and hid in the ship, but was in a bad shape because of the vibration of the self-destruction of the Nostromo. Ripley discovers it in time and, in the nick of time, launches it in space killing it.

After the victory she sends a message through space about what happened and sends the ship to the best possible course in space in the hopes of being salvaged. She then takes her cat and goes to the cryo chamber to sleep in the hopes of being woken up by one of the space ships she hopes to encounter.

List of deaths Edit

Name Cause of Death Killer On Screen Notes
The Pilot Chest exploded Some unknown creature Some unknown creature No Killed offscreen before the movie itself
Facehugger Dies after implanting the Chestburster into Kane Yes
Gilbert Kane Chestburster emergence from his stomach Yes
Samuel Brett Head smashed open Alien Yes
Arthur Dallas Alien No Last one to die in director´s cut
Ash Decapitated Lambert and Parker Yes incinerated by Parker
Dennis Parker Killed with a headbite Yes Pinned to a wall
Joan Lambert Impaled Alien Yes
Nostromo Drone Hit by a harpoon and then blasted into outer space Ellen Ripley Yes

Cast Edit

Impact and Analysis Edit

Critics have also analyzed Alien's sexual overtones. Adrian Mackinder compares the facehugger's attack on Kane to a male rape and the chestburster scene to a form of birth, noting that the Alien's phallic head and method of killing the crew members add to the sexual imagery. Dan O'Bannon has argued that the scene is a metaphor for the male fear of penetration, and that the "oral invasion" of Kane by the facehugger functions as "payback" for the many horror films in which sexually vulnerable women are attacked by male monsters. On one level it's about an intriguing alien threat. On one level it's about parasitism and disease. And on the level that was most important to the writers and director, it's about sex, and reproduction by non-consensual means. And it's about this happening to a man." He notes how the film plays on men's fear and misunderstanding of pregnancy and childbirth, while also giving women a glimpse into these fears. O'Bannon himself later described the sexual imagery in Alien as intentional: "One thing that people are all disturbed about is sex... I said 'That's how I'm going to attack the audience; I'm going to attack them sexually. And I'm not going to go after the women in the audience, I'm going to attack the men. I am going to put in every image I can think of to make the men in the audience cross their legs. Homosexual oral rape, birth. The thing lays its eggs down your throat, the whole number.

Production Edit

The impetus for Dan O'Bannon to write Alien stemmed from Dark Star, an ultra-low-budget science fiction comedy he had made with Ron Cobb and director John Carpenter while studying cinema at the University of Southern California. Dark Star included an alien which had been created using a spray-painted beach ball, and the experience left O'Bannon "really wanting to do an alien that looked real." The relatively cold reception the comedy Dark Star had received also led O'Bannon in the direction of a horror film — his reasoning being that while it was hard to make people laugh due to the diverse nature of comedy, it was easy to scare an audience as fear is almost universal.

As he was working on this new concept, O'Bannon was contacted by fellow screenwriter Ronald Shusett, who had been impressed by Dark Star, and the two agreed to collaborate. At the time, Shusett was working on an early version of what would become Total Recall (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger), but the pair elected to pursue O'Bannon's concept first as they believed it would be the cheaper of the two to produce. The project, at this point titled Memory, would eventually form the first half of Alien: the crew of a spacecraft wake from stasis to find their journey home is not yet complete, and soon learn that they have been roused in response to a mysterious signal being received from an uninhabited planet. They set down to investigate and their ship malfunctions, stranding them there. However, O'Bannon did not yet have any ideas for the alien menace that would subsequently terrorize them.

Work on Memory stalled while O'Bannon accepted an offer to work on a film adaptation of Dune. While the project ultimately fell through, it introduced O'Bannon to several artists who would influence Alien, not least of all H. R. Giger. Inspired by Giger's disturbing yet beautiful artwork, O'Bannon resumed work on Memory. At Shusett's suggestion, he combined the script with another he had written about gremlins infiltrating a B-17 bomber over Tokyo during World War II titled They Bite; the location was simply switched to a spaceship, and O'Bannon had the second half of his story, now titled Star Beast. Shusett is credited with the key concept of getting the alien creature on board the ship by having it implanted inside one of the crew, only to later burst out of him, an idea that came to him in a dream. O'Bannon, meanwhile, was adamant that the titular creature be mortal, wanting to avoid the indestructible monster trope common in horror at the time, and as a result needed to find some way to prevent the crew from simply killing their tormentor. Help eventually came from Ron Cobb, who suggested giving the Alien acid blood. "That was Ron's idea and I want everyone to know it," O'Bannon later recalled. "I wanted the thing to be, in every respect, a natural animal, which means yes, if you shoot it, it'll die." While he was thrilled with the story, O'Bannon disliked the title, and eventually changed it to Alien after noticing the number of times the word appeared in the screenplay. He and Shusett liked the new title's simplicity, as well as its double meaning as both a noun and an adjective.

O'Bannon drew inspiration for his script from various sources, later stating, "I didn't steal Alien from anybody. I stole it from everybody!" The Thing from Another World (1951) inspired the idea of professional men being pursued by a deadly alien creature through a claustrophobic environment (Dark Star director John Carpenter would later direct a film version of this story in 1982, titled The Thing). Forbidden Planet (1956) gave O'Bannon the idea of a ship being warned not to land, and then the crew being killed one by one by a mysterious creature when they defy the warning. Planet of the Vampires (1965) contains a scene in which the heroes discover a giant alien skeleton; this influenced the Nostromo crew's discovery of the alien creature in the derelict spacecraft. It! The Terror From Beyond Space and the works of H. P. Lovecraft have also been cited as likely influences.

Walter Hill and David Giler Edit

While O'Bannon and Shusett almost signed a deal to produce Alien as a low-budget feature with Roger Corman's studio, a friend offered to find them a better deal and passed their script on to Walter Hill, David Gilerand Gordon Carroll at Brandywine Productions, which had ties to 20th Century Fox; supposedly, the script was literally found its way to Hill's desk through the window of his office, which backed onto an accessible alleyway. While Hill was immediately drawn to the script, Giler was and has remained adamantly dismissive of O'Bannon and Shusett's work, labelling it the "bone skeleton of a story then. Really terrible. Just awful. You couldn't give it away." Despite this, both men were thrilled by the now-infamous Chestburster scene, and based on the strength of this core idea Hill and Giler began making revisions to the script.

Aside from changing the names of the characters, Hill and Giler sought to remove many of the extraterrestrial aspects from the story. For example, the original alien stone pyramid where the Eggs were to be found was replaced by a man-made military facility containing biological weapons. "They wanted that to be an army bunker for some reason," said Shusett. "I guess they just went, 'Okay this will give it realism,' and that's boring." These alterations were later vetoed by director Ridley Scott at O'Bannon and Shusett's behest, and the origins of the creature again became extraterrestrial. Other more outlandish ideas were likewise blocked, including appearances by characters such as Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun and Jack the Ripper. Despite the rejection of these alterations, some significant changes stuck. Most notably, Hill and Giler came up with the character of Ash and the subplot of his being an android acting on secret company orders. O'Bannon was dismissive of the idea, while Shusett was more amiable, describing Ash as "one of the best things in the movie... That whole idea and scenario was theirs." Another key change came from Fox's then-President Alan Ladd, Jr., who is credited with suggesting the character of Ripley be turned into a woman in order to make the film stand out from its contemporaries.

The battle over the script led to huge tension between the four writers, O'Bannon and Shusett one one side and Hill and Giler on the other. Despite his subsequent praise for some of the ideas they added, Shusett was generally dismissive of their tampering, stating, "They weren't good at making it better, or in fact at not making it even worse." O'Bannon went further, claiming Hill and Giler were simply seeking to justify the removal of his and Shusett's names from the screenplay, so that they could claim it as their own. With rewrites continuing even as filming was taking place, O'Bannon and Shusett were eventually brought back into the fold to finalize the script.

Writing credits Edit

The battle over the script came to a head when it came time to apportion screenplay credits for the film. According to O'Bannon, the film was originally to be credited solely to Hill and Giler. As a result, O'Bannon filed a complaint with the Writers Guild of America, who eventually ruled in his favor. Despite an appeal by Hill, the film ultimately credited its story to O'Bannon and Shusett, and the screenplay to O'Bannon; Hill and Giler were not mentioned at all. However, despite this official ruling, it is certain Hill and Giler contributed at least some aspects to the finished film.

The outcome of the writing process led to on-going hostility between O'Bannon and the producers, with Giler continuing to accuse O'Bannon of stealing his writing credit on the film, and eventually O'Bannon took legal action to close the matter for good. "In the end," summed up Giler, "the plot in O'Bannon's Alien and the one in ours are the same. Basically the same. And yet, they are as different as night and day. It's something subtler than the Writer's Guild is equipped to handle. Though the storylines are basically the same, what happens to the characters has been changed drastically. That is what has been altered."

Set Design Edit

Initial concept work for the film was carried out by Ron Cobb and Chris Foss. The production was keen to ensure the sets of Alien had a unique look. According to production designer Michael Seymour, "We were very concerned about avoiding any direct influence from previous space productions. We took the trouble to show ourselves Star WarsClose Encounters [of the Third Kind], Silent Running and 2001: A Space Odyssey a couple of times. Our objective? To avoid any clear reference to any of them!" Originally, Giger was only to design the titular Alien, but as time went on it was decided to have the Swiss artist work on all of the film's alien environments, including the planetoid and the derelict spacecraft. In this way, the extraterrestrial aspects were guaranteed to contrast with the look of the human spacecraft Nostromo, designed by Cobb.

The sets of the Nostromo's three decks were each created almost entirely in one piece, with each deck occupying a separate stage and the various rooms interconnected via corridors. To move around the sets, the actors had to navigate through the hallways of the ship, adding to the film's sense of claustrophobia and realism. The sets used large transistors and low-resolution computer screens to give the ship a "used", industrial look and make it appear as though it was constructed of "retrofitted old technology". Cobb created a system of industrial-style symbols and color-coded signs for various areas and aspects of the ship. The company that owns the Nostromo is not named in the film, and is referred to by the characters simply as "the company". However, the name and logo of "Weylan-Yutani" appears on several set pieces and props, such as computer monitors, beer cans and the actors' costumes. Cobb created the name Weylan-Yutani to imply a business alliance between Britain and Japan, deriving "Weylan" from the British Leyland Motor Corporation and "Yutani" from the name of his Japanese neighbor. The 1986 sequel Aliens explicitly named the company as "Weyland-Yutani", and it has remained a central aspect of the franchise ever since.

Art director Roger Christian used scrap metal and parts to create set pieces and props to save money, a technique he employed while working on Star Wars. Some of the Nostromo's corridors were created from portions of scrapped bomber aircraft, and a mirror was used to create the illusion of longer corridors in the below-deck area. Special effects supervisors Brian Johnson and Nick Allder made many of the set pieces and props function, including moving chairs, computer monitors, motion trackers and flamethrowers. Four identical cats were used to portray Jones, the Nostromo crew's pet. During filming Sigourney Weaver discovered that she was allergic to the combination of cat hair and the glycerin placed on the actors' skin to make them appear sweaty. By removing the glycerin she was able to continue working with the cats.

H. R. Giger designed and worked on all of the alien aspects of the film, including the derelict, which he designed to appear organic and biomechanical in contrast to the industrial look of the Nostromo and its human elements. For the interior of the derelict and the Egg chamber he used dried bones together with plaster to sculpt much of the scenery and elements. Veronica Cartwright described Giger's sets as "so erotic... It's big vaginas and penises... The whole thing is like you're going inside of some sort of womb or whatever... It's sort of visceral". The set with the deceased Engineer Pilot, nicknamed the "Space Jockey" by the production team, proved especially problematic, as 20th Century Fox did not want to spend the money for such an expensive set when it would only be used for one scene. Scott described the set as the cockpit or driving deck of the mysterious ship, and the production team was able to convince the studio that the scene was important to impress the audience and make them aware that this was not a B-movie. To save money only one wall of the set was created, and the Pilot sat atop a disc that could be rotated to facilitate shots from different angles in relation to the actors. Giger airbrushed the entire set and the Pilot by hand.

The origin of the Pilot creature was not explored in the film, but Scott later theorized that the ship might have been a weapons carrier capable of dropping Xenomorph Eggs onto a planet so that the Xenomorphs could use the local lifeforms as hosts. In early versions of the script the Eggs were to be located in a separate,pyramid-shaped silo, which would be found later by the Nostromo crew and would contain statues and hieroglyphs depicting the Xenomorph reproductive cycle, offering a contrast of the human, Xenomorph and Engineer cultures. Cobb and Giger each created concept artwork for these sequences, but they were eventually discarded due to budgetary concerns and the need to trim the length of the film. Instead, the Egg chamber was set inside the derelict and was filmed on the same set as the Pilot scene; the entire disc piece supporting the Pilot and its chair was removed and the set was redressed to create the Egg chamber. Light effects in the Egg chamber were created by lasers borrowed from English rock band The Who. The band was testing the lasers for use in their stage show in the sound stage next door.

Filming Edit

Alien was filmed over fourteen weeks from July 5 to October 21, 1978. Principal photography took place atShepperton Studios near London, while model and miniature filming was done at Bray Studios near Maidenhead, Berkshire. Production time was short due to the film's low budget and pressure from 20th Century Fox to finish on schedule — filming actually began before many of the complex sets were completed, with Scott having to frame his shots to work around sections that were unfinished.

A crew of over 200 workmen and technicians constructed the three principal sets: the surface of the planetoid, and the interiors of the Nostromo and the derelict. Art director Les Dilley created 1/24th scale miniatures of the planetoid's surface and derelict spacecraft based on H. R. Giger's designs, then made molds and casts and scaled them up as diagrams for the wood and fiberglass forms of the sets. Tons of sand, plaster, fiberglass, rock and gravel were shipped into the studio to sculpt a desert landscape for the planetoid's surface, which the actors would walk across wearing space suit costumes. The suits themselves were thick, bulky and lined with nylon, had no cooling systems and, initially, no venting for their exhaled carbon dioxide to escape. Combined with a heat wave, these conditions nearly caused the actors to pass out and nurses had to be kept on-hand with oxygen tanks to help keep them going. For scenes showing the exterior of the Nostromo, a 58-foot (18 m) landing leg was constructed to give a sense of the ship's size. Ridley Scott still did not think that it looked large enough, so he had his two sons, Luke and Jake, and the son of one of the cameramen stand in for the regular actors, wearing smaller space suits to make the set pieces seem larger. The same technique was used for the scene in which the crew members encounter the dead Pilot inside the derelict spacecraft. Like the adults, the children nearly collapsed due to the heat of the suits, and eventually oxygen systems were added to assist the actors in breathing.

The film was originally to conclude with the destruction of the Nostromo and Ripley escaping in the shuttleNarcissus. However, Ridley Scott conceived of a "fourth act" in which the Alien appears on the shuttle and Ripley is forced to confront it. He pitched the idea to 20th Century Fox and negotiated an increase in the budget to film the scene over several extra days. Scott had wanted the Alien to bite off Ripley's head and then make the final log entry in her voice, but the producers vetoed this idea as they believed that the Alien had to die at the end of the film.

Special Effects Edit

Spaceships and planetoid Edit

The spaceships and planets for the film were shot using models and miniatures. These included models of theNostromo, its attached mineral refinery, the escape shuttle Narcissus, the planetoid and the exterior and interior of the derelict. Visual effects supervisor Brian Johnson, supervising modelmaker Martin Bower and their team worked at Bray Studios, roughly 30 miles (48 km) from Shepperton Studios where principal filming was taking place. The designs of the Nostromo and its attachments were based on combinations of Ridley Scott's storyboards and Ron Cobb's conceptual drawings.

Only one shot was filmed using blue screen compositing: that of the shuttle racing past the Nostromo. The other shots were simply filmed against black backdrops, with stars added via double exposure. Though motion control photography technology was available at the time, the film's budget would not allow for it. The team, therefore, used a camera with wide-angle lenses mounted on a drive mechanism to make slow passes over and around the models filming at 2½ frames per second, giving them the appearance of motion. Scott added smoke and wind effects to enhance the illusion.

A separate model was created for the exterior of the derelict. Matte paintings were used to fill in areas of the ship's interior as well as for exterior shots of the planetoid's surface. The surface as seen from space during the landing sequence was created by painting a globe white, then mixing chemicals and dyes in a tank, photographing the results and projecting these images onto the sphere.[14] The planetoid was not named in the film, although in Aliens it is christened LV-426. In Alien the planetoid is said to be located somewhere in theZeta2 Reticuli system.

Egg and Facehugger Edit

The scene of Kane inspecting the Egg was shot during post-production. The "Facehugger" and its proboscis, which was made of a sheep's intestine, were shot out of the Egg using high-pressure air hoses. The Facehugger itself was the first creature that Giger designed for the film, going through several versions in different sizes before deciding on a small creature with human-like fingers and a long tail. Dan O'Bannon drew his own version based on Giger's design, with help from Ron Cobb, which became the final version. Cobb came up with the idea that the creature could have a powerful acid blood, a characteristic that would carry over to the adult Alien and would make it impossible for the crew to kill it by conventional means such as guns or explosives, since the acid would burn through the ship's hull.

Chestburster Edit

The design of the "Chestburster" was inspired by Francis Bacon's 1944 painting Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. Giger's original design resembled a plucked chicken, which was redesigned and refined by effects artist Roger Dicken into the final version seen on-screen. When the creature burst through the prosthetic chest appliance worn by John Hurt, a stream of blood shot directly at Veronica Cartwright, shocking her enough that she fell over and went into hysterics. According to Tom Skerritt, "What you saw on camera was the real response. She had no idea what the hell happened. All of a sudden this thing just came up." The creature then runs off-camera, an effect accomplished by cutting a slit in the table for the puppeteer's stick to go through and passing an air hose through the puppet's tail to make it whip around.

The real-life surprise of the actors gave the scene an intense sense of realism and made it one of the film's most memorable moments. During preview screenings the crew noticed that some viewers would move towards the back of the theater so as not to be too close to the screen during the sequence. In subsequent years the Chestburster scene has often been voted as one of the most memorable moments in film. In 2007, the British film magazine Empire named it as the greatest 18-rated moment in film as part of its "18th birthday" issue, ranking it above the decapitation scene in The Omen (1976) and the transformation sequence in An American Werewolf in London (1981).

The Xenomorph Edit

For most of the film's scenes the titular Alien was portrayed by Bolaji Badejo, a Nigerian design student supposedly encountered by the crew in an English pub. A latex costume was specifically made to fit Badejo's 7-foot-2-inch (218 cm) slender frame, made by taking a full-body plaster cast of him. Scott later commented that, "It's a man in a suit, but then it would be, wouldn't it? It takes on elements of the host – in this case, a man." Badejo attended t'ai chi and mime classes in order to create convincing movements for the Alien. Although Badejo was the principle Alien actor, in several famous scenes the creature was actually portrayed by stuntmen Eddie Powell and Roy Scammell. These include the scene where the fully-grown creature is first revealed, when it lowers itself from the ceiling to kill Brett; in the sequence a costumed Powell was suspended on wires and then lowered in a graceful unfurling motion. Shots of the Alien inside the vents also did not feature Badejo, as he simply could not fit inside the restrictive set.

"I've never liked horror films before, because in the end it's always been a man in a rubber suit. Well, there's one way to deal with that. The most important thing in a film of this type is not what you see, but the effect of what you think you saw."
―Ridley Scott on his decision to keep the Alien hidden

Scott chose not to show the Alien in full through most of the film, showing only pieces of it while keeping most of its body in shadow in order to heighten the sense of terror and suspense. The audience could thus project their own fears into imagining what the rest of the creature might look like: "Every movement is going to be very slow, very graceful, and the Alien will alter shape so you never really know exactly what he looks like." The Alien has been referred to as "one of the most iconic movie monsters in film history" in the decades since the film's release, being noted for its biomechanical appearance and sexual overtones. Roger Ebert has remarked that "Alien uses a tricky device to keep the alien fresh throughout the movie: It evolves the nature and appearance of the creature, so we never know quite what it looks like or what it can do... The first time we get a good look at the alien, as it bursts from the chest of poor Kane (John Hurt). It is unmistakably phallic in shape, and the critic Tim Dirks mentions its 'open, dripping vaginal mouth.'"

Trivia Edit

  • One of the original scripts of Alien eventually turned into the film Species.
  • Another early script for this movie was used as a basis for its prequel Prometheus.
  • A director's cut was released in 2003 which is one minute shorter. Its creation was overseen by Ridley Scott himself. In this version, Dallas and Kane´s destinies are revealed.
  • The Alien appears as a DLC character in Mortal Kombat X, along with Leatherface, as part of Kombat Pack II.

Videos Edit

Alien (1979) Trailer

Alien (1979) Trailer


External links Edit


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