Great Scott! presents: Alien

Alien_movie_poster.jpgRidley: 1979

Every fortnight (ish) my beloved and I are watching a film by either Ridley or Tony Scott. We’re watching in chronological order. There are, of course, spoilers.

General thoughts:
I love the music, and the lack of music is quite stark in a number of these scenes – when they’re looking through the cabinets and the only sound is their footsteps, it really enhances the creepy-factor. And I love the graphics – the planets are gorgeous.

They have such bulky space suits – they seem peculiarly un-futuristic, but then the whole aesthetic is that it looks remarkably familiar for all that it’s set a long way in the future.

I really like the way the characters physically  deteriorate. Ripley has a massive bruise on her cheek; Lambert is grimy and sweaty and distraught. Parker is sweating. Ash, though, continues to look calm. BECAUSE ASH IS CREEPY.

The cinematography is marvellous and it’s a delight to watch. Intimate, for all it’s set on a huge spaceship.

I took notes while I watched this, and tried to imagine that I was watching it for the first time. My notes went like this:

  • I love the opening – the stars and the developing ‘Alien’;
    also the opening with the ship is spectacular and a lot like Star Wars, until you get inside
  • It’s a really creepy opening. The ship looks deserted.
  • So manual: buttons everywhere. And not pristine – scuff marks, dust…
  • The sleepers in their pants, in their white room, is creepy as all get-out
  • SMOKING IN SPACE. It’s nice to see that they’re friends. Also, two women! excellent.
  • Talking to “Mother” – the computer in a room filled with lights and terminals. What a view of technology.
  • Oh dear. Being stuck on an unknown planet and unable to lift off for 25 hours? that’s bad. And Brett and Parker don’t seem especially keen to work very fast on the problem.
  • Aaaand then they find an enormous unfamiliar ship. Great. And their transmissions back to Ash are breaking up. Really great.
  • The revelation of the enormous alien sitting in its seat is remarkable – to the viewer – but doesn’t seem to be to the characters
  • Yes yes! listen to the lady! get the hell out of here!
  • Something weird about Ash – not wanting to warn those who are out exploring.
  • Investigating the eggs, under the mist, is deeply creepy.
  • The facehugger jumping out of the egg is terrifying – and then to cut to the ship, and slowly pan away, with the wind blowing? Genius.
  • Quarantine problems – Ripley won’t let those outside come in because of the potential problems. And then Ash overrides her and opens the hatch. WE DON’T LIKE ASH.
  • The facehugger is a seriously creepy creature
  • The way the camera almost creeps up on Ash, to try and see what he’s doing at the computer, is really interesting… and then Ripley arrives and the camera looks up at Ash, and it’s all a bit intimidating. There is definitely something disturbing about Ash.
  • And then the facehugger is gone! Ash, Ripley and Dallas go to the infrimary to look for it and they LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN – that’s very silly. Ash finally closes it, thank goodness. And then it falls on Ripley from a vent, but it’s dead (weird that Dallas leaps in front of her, or good that he’s protecting a fellow officer?). Ash wants to keep it, Ripley to destroy it – Dallas goes with Ash, which Ripley finds problematic, mostly because she doesn’t trust Ash.
  • And then Kane wakes up! And wants a meal before going back into the freezer…  and then the alien leaps out of Kane’s chest, and I remember the story that no one on set except Ridley Scott, apparently, knew what was going to happen so those reactions are all authentic. But now we have a baby alien on the loose in this very large ship.
  • Stupid cat, Jonesy, getting in the way of Ash’s oh so clever micro-disturbances gadget.
  • Oh Brett, finding that skin is never going to be a good thing…  and look, it is ridiculous that that thing could have got that big that fast. I understand it’s meant to be about the horror of it, but that still doesn’t make sense.
  • I really like that the camera gives us Jonesy’s face as it watches what happens…
  • Crawling through corridors. Urgh. With a flamethrower. Seriously.
  • The movement sensor doesn’t do three-D. That’s kinds problematic, right?
  • The alien jumping out at Dallas = me actually jumping. Despite it being obvious that it was coming. Well played, film.
  • And now we discover that science has been tasked to gather a specimen of the organism for analysis, and that the crew are expendable… and Ash somehow gets into the Well-Lit Computer Room and goes all creepy on Ripley. When we next see him he seems to be sweating white stuff, which is also creepy, plus the fact that he is tossing Ripley around like a doll and tries to kill her. Fortunately Parker and Lambert arrive, although Ash seems to have an outrageous strength and then goes into paroxysms. And THEN we discover that he is a robot. Having Ash’s head upright on the table makes narrative sense and is, of course, a very clever way to allow Ian Holm to actually play this section.
  • The way the camera treats the whole experience of the alien creeping up on Lambert – and then Parker dying first – is a brilliant move. Also, the intense close-up on the alien’s face is grotesque.
  • I adore that although Ripley is clearly affected by th deaths of her crew – she’s not Ash – she is still completely competent and capable.
  • It’s REALLY creepy that the computer is “Mother” and that Ripley yells at her, calling her a bitch – as if not stopping the shut down is deliberate. (A call-back there to this film by Aliens that I hadn’t picked up on before.) It makes the callousness of the science dept even more troubling.
  • The destruction of the Nostromo is really cool … three times, apparently. That’s a bit weird.
  • Ripley is busy getting ready for sleep, in her undies, and then ALL OF A SUDDEN the alien is THERE, curled up in the wall. THAT is a masterstroke of horror. Talk about lulling into a false sense of. Fortunately, Ripley keeps her head and gets into her space suit to finally deal with the creep once and for all.
  • And then she goes to sleep, and the camera zooms in on her, and then it fades to a few scattered stars.


My beloved’s thoughts included:

Same time as Star Wars

Corridors in space!

WHY do the screens make ‘printing noises’ as they display ?

And the iconic ‘Alien’ cryosleep pods.

Mother, the ship’s computer is a room, almost organic ? Question and answer.

Cheating a bit, but this time they land a HUGE ship, and yet by Aliens they take town a tiny little dropship.  The huge ship is from a even huger ship.  Why the damage on landing? it looked so soft?

The iconic alien space ship.  And inside, the iconic HR Geiger concepts and sets.  The alien sitting in a gun turret.

Into the cave, tropical.  And then the eggs.  Hundreds of eggs.  Havn’t these guys watched any SciFi / Action movies to know what’s happening… seriously.  You’re touching it, everyone knows not to touch ‘it’.  And there it is, now you’ve done it and it’s attached to YOUR FACE.

What does the alien eat to grow??


Also, if you haven’t already, you should go read this excellent and incredibly detailed essay on fonts etc in the film.

Actors out of place:

The scary leader of the commune from Big Love is one of the engineers! Also, Bilbo in space! And the War Doctor in a spaceship that’s as large on the inside as the out!


2 responses

  1. […] – Alien (1979) Ridley – Blade Runner (1982) Tony – Top Gun (1986) Tony – Beverly Hills […]

  2. […] – Alien (1979) J: In space nobody can hear you scream. Slow burn but magnificent film. A: not one […]

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