Alien (1979) Definitive Edition starring Sigourney Weaver
A classic sci-fi movie. A phrase almost synonymous with Alien. This film is very, very highly regarded by critics. I first saw it aged 11 and it scared the hell out of me. When i found out my flatmates (Jaz and James) had never seen this before i just had to show it to them (Jaz had seen an alien film but couldn’t remember which one). I must admit i do prefer it’s sequel (Aliens) but hate most of the other films in the series (especially Alien Vs Predator and it’s sequel Requiem).
You know the basic plotline (or should do, the film’s 35 years old) the crew of a cargo freighter are woken up from cryosleep, land on an alien planet where one of them is attacked by a ‘facehugger’ than grows into a xenomorph (the alien) with acid for blood and a hunter’s mindset as it takes out the crew one by one. However, the first half hour of this film is very slow. There are lots of long establishing shots and a rudimentary discussion between the characters about payment contracts which helps set up the crew’s dynamics. However, once you get to the famous chestbuster scene, it really picks up the pace and doesn’t ease the tension until the credits roll.
The cast is small but full of recognisable names: Captain Dallas (Tom Skeritt), XO Kane (John Hurt), Navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Warrant Officer Ripley (Weaver), Science Officer Ash (Ian Holm) and Engineers Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton). All of them give their best and Ridley Scott is exemplary as the film’s director. Jerry Goldsmiths soundtrack is suitably eerie as well. The special effects are nothing special (pardon the pun) but they aren’t bad, and the superb set design more than makes up for it.
In fact, there’s so little point analyzing in detail (because it’s all good) I’ll just list what i thought were the standout great scenes (obviously MAJOR SPOILERS!):
The ‘Space Jockey’ (A very creepy foreshadowing scene which inspired Prometheus)
The chestbuster scene (James: I can see why John Hurt got the Best Supporting Actor nomination!)
The fully grown alien attacks Brett (Jaz couldn’t look!)
Dallas in the vents (Tense as hell, scared the shit out of me as a kid)
Ash attacks Ripley and gets decapitated by Parker (Another shock moment)
The Alien attacks Parker and Lambert (just when you thought you couldn’t lose any more cast members!)
I always joke this is the most politically correct film ever (it kills all the men before the women, and all the white guys before the one black guy!) [Jaz: ‘If they’d just listened to the woman they’d have been fine all along!’] but some of the imagery is terrifying (the alien’s second mouth and Ash using a rolled up magazine to smother Ripley were both very phallic images) while the facehugger is to a point even scarier than the alien (once it’s on you, there’s no escape). Jaz had actually seen the chestbuster scene from AVP, and was thus caught out by the famous John Hurt scene (as everyone should be). My advice if you’re an adult watching this film – watch late at night with the lights down – it really adds to the atmosphere!
Differences with the cinema version? Not many actually – it removes one or two scenes (e.g. the one where Dallas talks to the ship computer before entering the vent shafts) and adds one notable addition (Ripley discovering two cocooned versions of her former crew and then mercy killing them at their request). The changes don’t alter my opinion much, but the removal of the Dallas-Mother scene does make that segment of the film flow better in my opinion.
Overall, the film is an exemplary lesson in how to create a really tense atmosphere and in the alien has one of the greatest sci-fi monsters of all time at it’s disposal. Apart from the first half hour, i can’t fault it.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
We’ll watch the sequel soon so a review of that will be up next week. Hopefully we’ll get round to Prometheus and Predator at some point as well.