Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


The crew of the Nostromo make an amazing discovery -- but things get worse.

ALIEN (1979). Director: Ridley Scott.

"This place gives me the creeps."

When Twentieth-Century Fox re-released Alien, they asked director Ridley Scott to prepare a new version incorporating footage that had been excised when the film was first released. Scott complied, but had always liked the original cut, and found the new cut to be too long and lumbering. So he did a final edit and came out with an alternate version that was a minute shorter than the original. But any way, you slice it, this is Alien, and it's good.

The crew of the Nostromo are awakened early by what they assume is a distress signal and land on a foreboding, stormy planet wherein they discover a derelict spaceship with a dead economy-sized navigator [see photo]. In the bowels of the derelict ship they find a mass of strange eggs, one of which unleashes a creature that attaches itself to the faceplate of crewman Kane (John Hurt). Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is concerned about admitting Kane to the ship due to possible contamination -- it turns out she's right to be concerned -- but compassion overrides directives and Kane is taken to the medical center. From then on it's a mounting spiral of horror as the alien creature proves to be deadly and nearly unkillable. Alien admirably sustains tension throughout and works up a beautifully creepy atmosphere. The acting is good, with the ladies Weaver and Veronica Cartwright (who was in The Birds as a child) taking top honors. H. R. Giger's biomechanical alien design is intriguing and the film has superior art direction and scenic design. Dramatic license allows for the sounds of explosions and so on in space even if the ads claimed "In space no one can hear you scream." Jerry Goldsmith's musical score is a plus.

New scenes include one in which Cartwright gives Weaver a smack in the face and calls her a bitch. And one late in the movie when Ripley comes across cocoons containing some of the crew members, and toasts Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) when he begs her to kill him.

Alien was an influential movie, even as it was itself influenced [in script, incident, and design] by such B movies as It, the Terror from Beyond Space! and Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires. It was followed by Aliens. In 2012 Ridley Scott made a prequel entitled Prometheus.

Verdict: Very well-dressed and absorbing popcorn movie. ***1/2.

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