Alien: In space, no one can hear you scream

08 March 2023
"Alien" is a cinematic masterpiece that has inspired countless imitators and remains a defining work of science fiction horror. The film's production, filming, and post-production are all fascinating stories in their own right, and they all played a crucial role in bringing the terrifying vision of Dan O'Bannon and Ridley Scott to life.

The idea for "Alien" originated with Dan O'Bannon, a visionary screenwriter who had previously worked on science fiction films such as "Dark Star" and "Star Wars." O'Bannon was inspired by a number of sources, including H.P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness," the horror film "It! The Terror from Beyond Space," and his own experiences with Crohn's disease. He envisioned a story in which a deadly extraterrestrial creature stalks the crew of a space vessel, forcing them to confront their own mortality and the terrifying unknown.

O'Bannon's screenplay was brought to life by the talented production team of Gordon Carroll, David Giler, and Walter Hill. They shopped the idea around to several studios but were turned down until they secured funding from 20th Century Fox. This allowed them to assemble a top-notch crew, including legendary production designer Michael Seymour and art director Roger Christian.

space jockey alien

Director Ridley Scott was the perfect choice to helm the project. Although he had only one feature film credit at the time ("The Duellists"), he had already demonstrated his talent for creating stunning visuals and immersive worlds. Scott brought a meticulous approach to the film's visual design, working closely with Christian and concept artist H.R. Giger to create a dark, claustrophobic atmosphere that perfectly suited the film's themes.

The cast of "Alien" was equally impressive. Sigourney Weaver was relatively unknown at the time, but she brought a steely determination to her role as Warrant Officer Ripley that would make her an icon of science fiction cinema. Tom Skerritt was a natural choice for the role of Captain Dallas, bringing a quiet authority to the character. And John Hurt's performance as Executive Officer Kane is a masterclass in suspenseful acting.

One of the most striking aspects of "Alien" is its visual effects. The film's most iconic character, the Xenomorph alien, was brought to life through a combination of practical effects and puppetry. The creature was designed by H.R. Giger, who drew on his background in surrealist art to create a truly otherworldly design. The Xenomorph's sleek black carapace, dripping acid blood, and elongated head with its terrifying inner jaw have become part of cinematic legend.

The film's post-production process was just as challenging as its filming. Much of the film's visual effects had to be created from scratch, and the special effects team, led by Brian Johnson, had to use a combination of miniatures, matte paintings, and optical effects to bring the film's alien world to life. The result is a truly immersive experience that transports the viewer to a world that is at once familiar and alien.

xenomorph alien 1979

The film's score, composed by the legendary Jerry Goldsmith, is another crucial element in the film's success. Goldsmith's haunting and atmospheric soundtrack perfectly captures the sense of dread and unease that permeates the film. From the eerie choral voices of the opening titles to the tense, percussive rhythms that accompany the climactic showdown with the Xenomorph, Goldsmith's score is a masterwork of cinematic music.

"Alien" was released in May 1979 and was an immediate critical and commercial success. It grossed over $100 million worldwide (incredible for a film about a space alien) and won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. The film's impact on popular culture has been enormous, inspiring countless imitators and sequels such as Ressurection, Covenant and Prometheus.

"Alien" also became a cultural phenomenon, spawning a franchise that includes multiple sequels, prequels, and spin-offs. The film's influence can be seen in countless other works of science fiction and horror, and its iconic imagery has been referenced and parodied in everything from music videos to video games.

The enduring legacy of "Alien" is a testament to the talent and creativity of its filmmakers and cast. The film's vision of a terrifying and unpredictable universe, where humanity is at the mercy of unimaginable forces, continues to resonate with audiences today. Its success is a reminder of the power of cinema to transport us to new worlds and challenge our perceptions of what is possible.

I think, therefore I am a rapist

The twist of Ash being revealed as a robot (Hyperdyne Systems 120-A/2 android) was a significant moment in the film, and it had several important implications for the story and the characters.
alien 1979 poster
Firstly, the revelation of Ash's true nature added a new layer of complexity to the film's themes of technology and humanity. The fact that Ash, a seemingly human crew member, was actually a synthetic being raised questions about what it means to be alive and what it means to be human.

The scene in which Ripley discovers that Ash is a robot is one of the most memorable and suspenseful moments in the film, and it is a testament to the effectiveness of the twist.

The revelation of Ash's true nature had important implications for the story's plot. It explained some of the unusual and seemingly illogical actions that Ash had taken throughout the film, such as his insistence on bringing the alien life form back to the ship at all costs. It also raised the stakes for the remaining crew members, who now had to contend with the fact that one of their own was working against them.

Finally, the revelation of Ash's true nature had significant implications for the character of Ripley. It forced her to confront the fact that she had been deceived by someone she thought was a trusted ally, and it added a new level of danger and urgency to her efforts to protect herself and the remaining crew members. It also set the stage for her transformation into a true action hero, as she used her wits and resourcefulness to outsmart and defeat Ash. 

It was the chest of times, it was the chest of times

The chestburster scene in "Alien" is one of the most famous and iconic moments in horror film history. The scene is a masterclass in tension and suspense, building slowly and methodically before erupting in a sudden and shocking burst of violence.

The production of the chestburster scene was a feat of technical wizardry. The scene was shot in one take, with the actors not knowing exactly what to expect. The alien puppet was placed beneath the table and connected to a high-pressure blood pump. The chest of the actor playing Kane was fitted with a prosthetic chest piece filled with cow's blood and offal. When the alien burst through the chest, the blood and guts spewed out.

alien chest burst scene

The shock and horror on the faces of the actors, particularly Veronica Cartwright, who plays Lambert, are genuine. Director Ridley Scott intentionally kept the specifics of the scene a secret from the actors to heighten the sense of terror and uncertainty.

The chestburster scene has become a touchstone for horror film fans, and its impact can be seen in countless other films that have followed in its wake. The scene has been parodied and homaged in everything from "Spaceballs" to "South Park". It remains a shining example of the power of horror to shock and disturb audiences, even decades after its release.

Sigourney Weaver's role as Ellen Ripley has become iconic

The character of Ripley was one of the first female action heroes in mainstream cinema.
In a genre dominated by male protagonists, Weaver's portrayal of Ripley as a strong, capable, and intelligent woman broke new ground and paved the way for other female action heroes in the years to come. 

Ripley's toughness and resilience, combined with her vulnerability and emotional depth, made her a relatable and inspiring character for audiences.

Weaver brought a level of nuance and complexity to the role that was rare for action films of the time. Ripley was not just a one-dimensional hero, but a fully realized character with flaws, fears, and strengths. 

Weaver's ability to convey these different aspects of Ripley's personality made her a compelling and memorable figure.

That said: 

ellen ripple nipples underwear alien

The infamous 'intimate' scene of Ripley in her nippled bra and panties 'space underwear', speaks to the themes of titillation at the hint of space nipples, but is perhaps rather part of an intriguing proposition of a woman's struggle with the patriarchy

Or it was just about the nipples.

Desperately Seeking Jonesy

Jonesy the cat is a small but important character in the film "Alien". While Jonesy may seem like a minor detail, he plays a crucial role in the story and in the development of some of the human characters.

jonesy alien

Firstly, Jonesy serves as a source of comfort and companionship for the crew members of the Nostromo spaceship. In the cold and lonely depths of space, the presence of a friendly and affectionate animal can provide a sense of warmth and connection. The scenes in which the crew members interact with Jonesy, particularly Ripley, highlight the human desire for emotional connection and companionship.

Jonesy serves as a catalyst for several key plot developments in the film. It is his disappearance that leads the crew members to investigate the lower decks of the ship, where they discover the alien eggs. Later, when the alien has infiltrated the ship and is hunting the crew members, Jonesy's meowing alerts Ripley to the presence of the alien in the escape shuttle.

Finally, Jonesy plays an important role in the development of Ripley's character. Initially, Ripley is depicted as a no-nonsense, by-the-book crew member who is focused solely on the mission at hand. However, her interactions with Jonesy reveal a softer, more empathetic side to her character. When she refuses to leave Jonesy behind on the Nostromo, even though it puts her own safety at risk, she demonstrates her willingness to put others' needs before her own.

Quotes from the Alien film:

  1. "Right. I'm gonna go check out the other side." - Captain Dallas to the crew, as they investigate the alien planet.
  2. "Ash, can you hear me? Ash?" - Ripley, trying to communicate with Ash through the intercom.
  3. "All other priorities are rescinded." - Ash, after the crew brings back the alien life form.
  4. "What's the matter?" - Parker, to Brett, after he sees something moving in the ship's ventilation system.
  5. "I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality." - Ash, describing the alien creature.
  6. "Just what do you think you're doing?" - Ripley, confronting Ash after she discovers he is an android.
  7. "Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting. The other members of the crew, Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash, and Captain Dallas, are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up." - Ripley, recording her final report before entering stasis.

Here are some pieces of trivia about Alien

  1. The original concept for the alien creature came from the mind of Swiss artist H.R. Giger, who based his designs on his own surrealistic artwork.
  2. The facehugger, the first stage of the alien's life cycle, was created using fresh shellfish, animal organs, and sheep intestines.
  3. The chestburster scene, in which the alien bursts out of Kane's chest, was filmed in one take with the actors not knowing what to expect. The shock and horror on their faces is quite genuine.
  4. The alien itself was portrayed by a 6'10" tall Nigerian actor named Bolaji Badejo, who had no prior acting experience.
  5. The set for the Nostromo spaceship was built to full scale, allowing the actors to move around and interact with the environment naturally.
  6. The scene in which Ripley prepares to enter stasis was shot on the last day of filming, and director Ridley Scott deliberately kept the set dark and empty to enhance the sense of isolation and loneliness.
  7. The film's tagline, "In space, no one can hear you scream," is widely regarded as one of the most memorable and effective taglines in film history.
  8. The success of "Alien" spawned a franchise that includes several sequels, spin-offs, and prequels, as well as comic books, video games, and other forms of media.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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