Alien


2h 4m 1979
Alien

Brief Synopsis

The crew of a broken down space ship accidentally picks up a deadly alien life form.

Photos & Videos

Alien - Lobby Card Set
Alien - Toy Box for Alien Action Figure

Film Details

Also Known As
Alien - Le 8ème passager, Alien: The Director's Cut, Star Beast
MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Horror
Thriller
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jan 1979
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
20th Century Fox; Brandywine Productions; R/Greenberg Associates
Distribution Company
20th Century Fox Distribution; 20th Century Fox Distribution; 20th Century Fox International; CBS Video; Hispano Foxfilms; Ufd
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA; Marina Del Ray, California, USA; Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 4m
Sound
70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints), Dolby
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In deep space, the crew of the commercial ship Nostromo--comprised of five men and two women--is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules, halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. The tale unfolds as they further look into the S.O.S. distress call from that battered commercial space vessel--only to discover that it's a warning call, rather than a call for help. However, it is too late to turn back as three members of the crew have already left to investigate the derelict ship. Far away in space and time, all five encounter an awesome galactic horror, that begins to kill the crew members one by one.

Crew

Nick Allder

Special Effects Supervisor

Nick Allder

Special Effects

Jonathan Amberston

Art Direction Assistant

Denys Ayling

Miniature Photography

Peter Baldock

Assistant Editor

Raymond Becket

Assistant Director

Max Bell

Dolby Consultant

Adrian Biddle

Camera Focus

Stanley Bielecki

Advertising Consultant

Stanley Bielecki

Publicity Consultant

Martin Bower

Supervisor

Peter Boysey

Supervisor

Allan Bryce

Floor Effects Supervisor

Eddie Bulter

Models

Ray Caple

Matte Artist

Gordon Carroll

Producer

Clinton Cavers

Effects Coordinator (Alien)

Roger Christian

Art Direction

Ron Cobb

Concept Artist

Lori Covel

Assistant (To Producer)

Valerie Craig

Production Assistant

Peter Culverwell

Assistant Editor

John Davey

Other

Colin Davidson

Camera Focus

Carlo Demarchis

Additional Mechanical Effects (Alien)

Shirley Denny

Models

Roger Dicken

Other

Leslie Dilley

Art Direction

Brian Doyle

Unit Publicist

Ray Evans

Lighting Gaffer

Kay Fenton

Continuity

Benjamin Fernandez

Art Direction Assistant

Bill Finch

Production Accountant

Chris Foss

Concept Artist

H.r. Giger

Visual Effects Designer

David Giler

Producer

David Giler

Screenwriter

Jean Giraud

Art Department

Mary Goldberg

Casting (Usa)

Jerry Goldsmith

Music

George Gunning

Carpenter Head

Mark Haggard

Production Executive

Steven Harding

Assistant Director

Alice Harmon

Assistant (To Producers)

Bob Hathaway

Sound Editor (Music)

Patricia Hay

Makeup

Les Healey

1st Assistant Editor

Dick Hewitt

Video Coordinator

Dick Hewitt

Other

Walter Hill

Screenwriter

Walter Hill

Producer

Hanson Howard

Music "Symphony No 2" ("Romantic")

Guy Hudson

Special Effects Technician

Paul Ibbetson

1st Assistant Director

Brian Johnson

Special Effects Supervisor

Bob Jordan

Assistant Trainee To Ridley Scott

Dave Jordan

Property Master

Philip Knowles

Special Effects Technician

Derrick Leather

Sound Mixer

Charles Lippincott

Publicity Consultant

Charles Lippincott

Advertising Consultant

David Litchfield

Camera Operator

Bernard Lodge

Special Graphics Effects

Dennis Lowe

Special Effects Technician

Maureen Lyndon

Assistant Editor

Tommy Manderson

Makeup Supervisor

Ray Merrin

Sound Rerecording Assistant

John Mollo

Costumes

Sandy Molloy

Assistant (To Ridley Scott)

Sarah Monzani

Hairstyles

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Music ("Eine Kleine Nachtmusik")

Lionel Newman

Music Director

Tiny Nicholls

Wardrobe Supervisor

Roger Nichols

Special Effects Technician

Dan O'bannon

From Story

Dan O'bannon

Screenwriter

Dan O'bannon

Story By

Dan O'bannon

Visual Design Consultant

Terry Pearce

Other

Bill Pearson

Supervisor

Bob Penn

Stills

Eddie Powell

Stunts

Ivor Powell

Associate Producer

Jill Quertier

Production Buyer

Carlo Rambaldi

Other

Terry Rawlings

Editor

Bridget Reiss

Assistant Editor

Patti Rodgers

Models

Bert Rodwell

Other

Bill Rowe

Sound Rerecording

Roy Scammell

Stunt Coordinator

Mary Selway

Casting (United Kingdom)

Michael Seymour

Production Designer

Jim Shields

Sound Editor

Ronald Shusett

From Story

Ronald Shusett

Story By

Ronald Shusett

Executive Producer

Neil Swan

Special Effects Technician

Garth Thomas

Production Manager

Bryan Tilling

Sound Editor (Dialogue)

Derek Vanlint

Other

Derek Vanlint

Director Of Photography

Peter Voysey

Supervisor

James M. Walters

Key Grip

David Watkins

Special Effects Technician

Dr. David Watling

Additional Mechanical Effects (Alien)

Peter Weatherley

Editor

Bill Welch

Construction Manager

Ian Whittaker

Set Decorator

Peter Woods

Key Grip

Photo Collections

Alien - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from Fox's Alien (1979), directed by Ridley Scott. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Alien - Toy Box for Alien Action Figure
Here is box art for a Kenner Alien Action Figure, marketed from the Fox film Alien (1979), directed by Ridley Scott. The toy was controversial when released, due to the fact that the movie was R-rated.

Film Details

Also Known As
Alien - Le 8ème passager, Alien: The Director's Cut, Star Beast
MPAA Rating
Genre
Action
Horror
Thriller
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Jan 1979
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
20th Century Fox; Brandywine Productions; R/Greenberg Associates
Distribution Company
20th Century Fox Distribution; 20th Century Fox Distribution; 20th Century Fox International; CBS Video; Hispano Foxfilms; Ufd
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles, California, USA; Marina Del Ray, California, USA; Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 4m
Sound
70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints), Dolby
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Wins

Best Visual Effects

1979

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1979
Michael Seymour

Articles

Alien


At the time of its release in summer 1979, Twentieth-Century Fox's Alien felt at once like something old and yet something refreshingly new in motion pictures. Longtime science fiction fans noted the similarities in the plot to such old favorites as It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) and Planet of the Vampires (1965), but the look of Alien was utterly new, bringing the grungy, run-down look of Star Wars (1977) to the horror genre, and introducing the bio-mechanical designs of Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger which, along with the action sequences of visceral gore, became a much-imitated sensibility in science fiction films for years afterward. Alien was also the first box-office hit for director Ridley Scott and made a star of actress Sigourney Weaver.

The story is simple and direct, one of the great virtues of the compact, suspenseful film. In deep space, the large tug Nostromo is returning to Earth carrying a cargo of mineral ore, its small crew in hypersleep chambers. Along the way, they are awakened by the ship's computer, "Mother," when it intercepts a nonhuman transmission from a planetoid, which they are required to investigate by lawful agreement among corporate interests operating in space. The crew consists of the captain, Dallas (Tom Skerritt), second-in-command Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), science officer Ash (Ian Holm), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Kane (John Hurt), Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), Parker (Yaphet Kotto), and Jones, a cat. A small team descends to the planet to discover a massive alien ship. The pilot of the craft is dead and the team discovers a chamber full of what appear to be eggs. Leaning over to investigate, Kane is attacked by a life form that springs from an egg, penetrates his helmet, and latches onto his face. The team evacuates Kane to the Nostromo for treatment, not realizing that they have allowed a fearsome Alien creature to play out its life cycle aboard their ship.

Alien had its beginnings when a major film project fell apart in France. Writer Dan O'Bannon had been working on designs for a big-budget adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune, to be directed by Alexandro Jodorowsky. The film never got off the ground and O'Bannon soon found himself sleeping on the couch of fellow writer Ron Shusett in Hollywood. O'Bannon dusted off an old script and with Shusett's help, wrote the story for Alien. One of the artists who was brought on to the ill-fated Dune project as a designer was a surrealist Swiss painter named H. R. Giger. O'Bannon later wrote, "...then we had to figure out the monster. Well, I hadn't been able to get Hans Rudi Giger off my mind since I left France. His paintings had a profound effect on me. I had never seen anything that was quite as horrible and at the same time as beautiful as his work. And so I ended up writing a script about a Giger monster."

O'Bannon envisioned the film resulting from his script to be a low-budget but efficient little thriller. He enlisted an illustrator friend, Ron Cobb, to do some preliminary paintings and drawings for the project and proceeded to shop the script around to studios. Many showed interest, but a production company called Brandywine (made up of producer Gordon Carroll and producer/ directors David Giler and Walter Hill) won out. Brandywine had a production agreement with Twentieth Century Fox, who set up a budget of eight million dollars, a much bigger budget than O'Bannon ever intended. Walter Hill would have helmed the movie but had to drop out due to another project. The producers instead hired Ridley Scott, who had helmed many high-profile commercials in England, but had only directed one prior feature, the critically-praised box-office disappointment The Duellists (1977). Walter Hill did a final rewrite on the script, which was shown to Scott, who later said, "I read it in forty minutes...and bang! The script was simple and direct; it was the reason why I did the film."

Design work on Alien proceeded; Chris Foss was brought in to do more concepts on spaceships, but work on the monster itself had yet to begin. O'Bannon finally brought in a book of H. R. Giger's paintings called Necronomicon to show to the director. "I looked down and saw this stunning picture," Scott later said. "I have never been so sure of something in all my life. And I said to Dan, 'Well, either my problems are over or they've just begun.'" Giger was hired for preproduction design work and given a studio space in which to work (the film would be shot largely at Shepperton Studios in England); he also promptly asked for an assortment of animal bones for his work materials. Giger painted a number of large canvases and using the bones as a base, he sculpted his ideas with Styrofoam. He had freedom to depict the life cycle of the Alien, and the stages called for different-looking creatures, dubbed by the crew the Face Hugger, the Chest Burster, and the Big Alien.

To portray the main creature, the filmmakers hired a six-foot-ten, 26-year old Nigerian named Bolaji Badejo, a design student in England. Giger made a cast of his body, and "as I do with all my work, I made the creature look biomechanical. Starting with the plaster core, I worked with Plasticine, rubber, bones, ribbed tubes, and different mechanical stuff like wires. The whole costume is translucent; the head is fiberglass." Scott was determined that the creature would look properly "alien" onscreen, so he opted to show it primarily in close-up views in quick cuts. Only once is the creature seen full-view.

The filmmakers of Alien, and Giger in particular, influenced the look and feel of science fiction films for several years to come. As Brooks Landon wrote in Cinefantastique from a 1988 vantage point, "[Alien] immersed us in a systematically alien environment, an entire implicit ecology, confronting us with a spaceship at once so vast and so strange looking that it subverted our comfortable distinctions between biology and machinery, our expectations of mechanical forms with implicitly clear functions, and with a creature that threatened us from without and from within." For better or worse, the dark, menacing, and erotic biomechanical combination of "circuitry and slime" became the default sensibility in films such as Saturn 3 (1980), Scared to Death (1981), Galaxy of Terror (1981), Lifeforce (1985), and the 1986 version of Invaders from Mars, among many others.

In the Los Angeles Times, Charles Champlin called Alien "preposterously scary and surpassingly well-done" and wrote that "not a frame... is flat or casual or perfunctory." Champlin also praised the production design and effects, concluding that "the effects are more persuasively out of this world than any I can remember. The sense of otherness – the sense that this planet, this thing, this alien wreck of a ship derive from no previous models – is very strong. What good is a fantasy that isn't fantastic? Eerie, this one is." On the other hand, Vincent Canby, writing in the New York Times, does not feel the film is different looking; he writes, "Alien is an extremely small, rather decent movie of its modest kind, set inside a large, extremely fancy physical production... It's an old-fashioned scare movie about something that is not only implacably evil but prone to jumping out at you when (the movie hopes) you least expect it. There was once a time when this sort of thing was set in an old dark house, on a moor, in a thunderstorm. Being trendy, Mr. Scott and his associates have sent it up in space."

Even though Alien was a violent, bloody film with a hard "R" rating, Twentieth Century Fox did not hesitate to license the film out for a number of commercial products and toys. (At the time, Fox's Star Wars had been in almost perpetual release for two years and was still enjoying huge merchandising sales). There were Alien books, records, shirts, iron-ons, puzzles, games, bubble-gum cards, a "Blaster Target Set," and most notoriously, a large 18-inch Alien Action Figure. The Alien Action Figure boasted "mechanically operated jaws" (as in the movie, a teeth-bearing tongue extended from the mouth) and "spring loaded arms to crush its victims!" Although commonplace today, this was the first kid's toy marketed from an R-rated film, and it garnered some controversy at the time.

Alien was a natural for a sequel, and seven years later Fox released Aliens (1986), written and directed by James Cameron. This film wisely did not try to duplicate the deliberate horror-suspense mood of Ridley Scott's effort; instead, Cameron presented a non-stop action picture and cleverly expanded on the Alien life cycle.

Producer: Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill
Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: Dan O'Bannon (screenplay and story); Ronald Shusett (story)
Cinematography: Derek Vanlint
Art Direction: Roger Christian, Les Dilley
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Film Editing: Terry Rawlings, Peter Weatherley; David Crowther (director's cut)
Cast: Tom Skerritt (Dallas), Sigourney Weaver (Ripley), Veronica Cartwright (Lambert), Harry Dean Stanton (Brett), John Hurt (Kane), Ian Holm (Ash), Yaphet Kotto (Parker), Bolaji Badejo (Alien)
C-117m. Letterboxed.

by John M. Miller

SOURCES:
The Book of ALIEN, Paul Scanlon and Michael Gross, 1979, Simon and Schuster.
"Making ALIEN: Behind the Scenes" by Mark Patrick Carducci and Glenn Lovell, Cinefantastique Magazine, Volume 9 Number 1, 1979.
"Giger: Sliming Technology" by Brooks Landon, Cinefantastique Magazine, Volume 18 Number 4, 1988.

Alien

Alien

At the time of its release in summer 1979, Twentieth-Century Fox's Alien felt at once like something old and yet something refreshingly new in motion pictures. Longtime science fiction fans noted the similarities in the plot to such old favorites as It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) and Planet of the Vampires (1965), but the look of Alien was utterly new, bringing the grungy, run-down look of Star Wars (1977) to the horror genre, and introducing the bio-mechanical designs of Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger which, along with the action sequences of visceral gore, became a much-imitated sensibility in science fiction films for years afterward. Alien was also the first box-office hit for director Ridley Scott and made a star of actress Sigourney Weaver. The story is simple and direct, one of the great virtues of the compact, suspenseful film. In deep space, the large tug Nostromo is returning to Earth carrying a cargo of mineral ore, its small crew in hypersleep chambers. Along the way, they are awakened by the ship's computer, "Mother," when it intercepts a nonhuman transmission from a planetoid, which they are required to investigate by lawful agreement among corporate interests operating in space. The crew consists of the captain, Dallas (Tom Skerritt), second-in-command Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), science officer Ash (Ian Holm), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Kane (John Hurt), Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), Parker (Yaphet Kotto), and Jones, a cat. A small team descends to the planet to discover a massive alien ship. The pilot of the craft is dead and the team discovers a chamber full of what appear to be eggs. Leaning over to investigate, Kane is attacked by a life form that springs from an egg, penetrates his helmet, and latches onto his face. The team evacuates Kane to the Nostromo for treatment, not realizing that they have allowed a fearsome Alien creature to play out its life cycle aboard their ship. Alien had its beginnings when a major film project fell apart in France. Writer Dan O'Bannon had been working on designs for a big-budget adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune, to be directed by Alexandro Jodorowsky. The film never got off the ground and O'Bannon soon found himself sleeping on the couch of fellow writer Ron Shusett in Hollywood. O'Bannon dusted off an old script and with Shusett's help, wrote the story for Alien. One of the artists who was brought on to the ill-fated Dune project as a designer was a surrealist Swiss painter named H. R. Giger. O'Bannon later wrote, "...then we had to figure out the monster. Well, I hadn't been able to get Hans Rudi Giger off my mind since I left France. His paintings had a profound effect on me. I had never seen anything that was quite as horrible and at the same time as beautiful as his work. And so I ended up writing a script about a Giger monster." O'Bannon envisioned the film resulting from his script to be a low-budget but efficient little thriller. He enlisted an illustrator friend, Ron Cobb, to do some preliminary paintings and drawings for the project and proceeded to shop the script around to studios. Many showed interest, but a production company called Brandywine (made up of producer Gordon Carroll and producer/ directors David Giler and Walter Hill) won out. Brandywine had a production agreement with Twentieth Century Fox, who set up a budget of eight million dollars, a much bigger budget than O'Bannon ever intended. Walter Hill would have helmed the movie but had to drop out due to another project. The producers instead hired Ridley Scott, who had helmed many high-profile commercials in England, but had only directed one prior feature, the critically-praised box-office disappointment The Duellists (1977). Walter Hill did a final rewrite on the script, which was shown to Scott, who later said, "I read it in forty minutes...and bang! The script was simple and direct; it was the reason why I did the film." Design work on Alien proceeded; Chris Foss was brought in to do more concepts on spaceships, but work on the monster itself had yet to begin. O'Bannon finally brought in a book of H. R. Giger's paintings called Necronomicon to show to the director. "I looked down and saw this stunning picture," Scott later said. "I have never been so sure of something in all my life. And I said to Dan, 'Well, either my problems are over or they've just begun.'" Giger was hired for preproduction design work and given a studio space in which to work (the film would be shot largely at Shepperton Studios in England); he also promptly asked for an assortment of animal bones for his work materials. Giger painted a number of large canvases and using the bones as a base, he sculpted his ideas with Styrofoam. He had freedom to depict the life cycle of the Alien, and the stages called for different-looking creatures, dubbed by the crew the Face Hugger, the Chest Burster, and the Big Alien. To portray the main creature, the filmmakers hired a six-foot-ten, 26-year old Nigerian named Bolaji Badejo, a design student in England. Giger made a cast of his body, and "as I do with all my work, I made the creature look biomechanical. Starting with the plaster core, I worked with Plasticine, rubber, bones, ribbed tubes, and different mechanical stuff like wires. The whole costume is translucent; the head is fiberglass." Scott was determined that the creature would look properly "alien" onscreen, so he opted to show it primarily in close-up views in quick cuts. Only once is the creature seen full-view. The filmmakers of Alien, and Giger in particular, influenced the look and feel of science fiction films for several years to come. As Brooks Landon wrote in Cinefantastique from a 1988 vantage point, "[Alien] immersed us in a systematically alien environment, an entire implicit ecology, confronting us with a spaceship at once so vast and so strange looking that it subverted our comfortable distinctions between biology and machinery, our expectations of mechanical forms with implicitly clear functions, and with a creature that threatened us from without and from within." For better or worse, the dark, menacing, and erotic biomechanical combination of "circuitry and slime" became the default sensibility in films such as Saturn 3 (1980), Scared to Death (1981), Galaxy of Terror (1981), Lifeforce (1985), and the 1986 version of Invaders from Mars, among many others. In the Los Angeles Times, Charles Champlin called Alien "preposterously scary and surpassingly well-done" and wrote that "not a frame... is flat or casual or perfunctory." Champlin also praised the production design and effects, concluding that "the effects are more persuasively out of this world than any I can remember. The sense of otherness – the sense that this planet, this thing, this alien wreck of a ship derive from no previous models – is very strong. What good is a fantasy that isn't fantastic? Eerie, this one is." On the other hand, Vincent Canby, writing in the New York Times, does not feel the film is different looking; he writes, "Alien is an extremely small, rather decent movie of its modest kind, set inside a large, extremely fancy physical production... It's an old-fashioned scare movie about something that is not only implacably evil but prone to jumping out at you when (the movie hopes) you least expect it. There was once a time when this sort of thing was set in an old dark house, on a moor, in a thunderstorm. Being trendy, Mr. Scott and his associates have sent it up in space." Even though Alien was a violent, bloody film with a hard "R" rating, Twentieth Century Fox did not hesitate to license the film out for a number of commercial products and toys. (At the time, Fox's Star Wars had been in almost perpetual release for two years and was still enjoying huge merchandising sales). There were Alien books, records, shirts, iron-ons, puzzles, games, bubble-gum cards, a "Blaster Target Set," and most notoriously, a large 18-inch Alien Action Figure. The Alien Action Figure boasted "mechanically operated jaws" (as in the movie, a teeth-bearing tongue extended from the mouth) and "spring loaded arms to crush its victims!" Although commonplace today, this was the first kid's toy marketed from an R-rated film, and it garnered some controversy at the time. Alien was a natural for a sequel, and seven years later Fox released Aliens (1986), written and directed by James Cameron. This film wisely did not try to duplicate the deliberate horror-suspense mood of Ridley Scott's effort; instead, Cameron presented a non-stop action picture and cleverly expanded on the Alien life cycle. Producer: Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill Director: Ridley Scott Screenplay: Dan O'Bannon (screenplay and story); Ronald Shusett (story) Cinematography: Derek Vanlint Art Direction: Roger Christian, Les Dilley Music: Jerry Goldsmith Film Editing: Terry Rawlings, Peter Weatherley; David Crowther (director's cut) Cast: Tom Skerritt (Dallas), Sigourney Weaver (Ripley), Veronica Cartwright (Lambert), Harry Dean Stanton (Brett), John Hurt (Kane), Ian Holm (Ash), Yaphet Kotto (Parker), Bolaji Badejo (Alien) C-117m. Letterboxed. by John M. Miller SOURCES: The Book of ALIEN, Paul Scanlon and Michael Gross, 1979, Simon and Schuster. "Making ALIEN: Behind the Scenes" by Mark Patrick Carducci and Glenn Lovell, Cinefantastique Magazine, Volume 9 Number 1, 1979. "Giger: Sliming Technology" by Brooks Landon, Cinefantastique Magazine, Volume 18 Number 4, 1988.

The Alien Saga


"Quite a shock, really. I'm mean we were looking at this, sort of, gray penis...can I say that?" Actress Veronica Cartwright says it anyway in reference to a seminal moment in post-Vietnam horror/science-fiction cinema, the chest-bursting scene from Alien (1979). Co-star Yaphet Kotto suffered from "the creeps" for two weeks after shooting the scene, while Tom Skerritt reacted in an equally visceral way to the cow intestines that were used to make the unexpected even more horrifying and gory. These bon mots and other behind-the-scenes facts can be found in the documentary, The Alien Saga, now on DVD from Image Entertainment. Produced by Prometheus Entertainment, The Alien Saga tells the complete history of the influential, lucrative, and highly effective horror series, starting with Alien, followed by the sequels Aliens (1986), Alien3 (1992), and Alien Resurrection (1997).

Alien burst onto the pop cultural scene when alien entities were looked on with favor, wonder, and goodwill. Think of the lanky sightseers in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), or the eccentric oddities in the Star Wars (1977) cantina, the intergalactic place where everybody knows your species. It was Alien that restored the palpable horror in extraterrestrial encounters that began in The Thing from Another World (1951) and continued throughout the 1950s and into the 60s. But the difference between the experience of Alien and, say, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), is the national trauma of seeing the blood and guts of Vietnam close encounters on the six o'clock news.

The documentary begins with the birth of the idea, a brainchild of filmmaker Dan O'Bannon, who was sparked onto the idea of a parasitic alien creature by H.R. Giger's conceptual artwork created for an aborted pass at Dune. The documentary gives equal weight to each step of the project's gestation, from several script drafts penned by O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, to nibbles of interest from Roger Corman, and finally, to 20th Century-Fox's conclusive participation, headed at the time by Alan Ladd, Jr., a dead-ringer for his father. Initially interested in the unprecedented chestbursting scene, Fox and its production partner Brandywine Films commissioned a final script by Brandywine's Walter Hill and David Giler. The Brandywine team made several major adjustments from O'Bannon and Shusett's script, including changing Ripley from a male into a female character.

The Alien Saga touches briefly on the first film's influence on the horror/science fiction genres, but develops fully the production history of the Alien's spawn, namely its three sequels. Each sequel, from the blockbuster Aliens to the critically misunderstood Alien3 and the pretentious, over-the-top Alien Resurrection, is given a complete historical analysis, from casting to shooting to critical and popular reception. Cast members like Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Tom Skerritt, Carrie Henn and Ian Holm discuss their experiences, while Michael Biehn, Ripley's love interest and hard-nosed grunt in Aliens, discusses his displeasure at his character being unceremoniously killed off for Alien3. Ridley Scott and James Cameron, directors of the first two films, appear in archival interviews, but there's not a peep from directors David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, helmers of the last two.

Aside from candid and insightful interviews, The Alien Saga offers theatrical trailers, featurettes and other unseen material, including H.R. Giger's bio-mechanical conceptual artwork, on-the-set footage of the productions in process, and even rare screen tests of Sigourney Weaver, directed by Ridley Scott on elaborate sets built in London. The Alien Saga DVD is a great primer for Fox's upcoming Alien Quadrilogy, the comprehensive set of all four films. On the other hand, the DVD could stand as a reason not to invest in the sure-to-be hefty boxed set. Either way, The Alien Saga is worth a look, not just for the fascinating history behind a popular franchise, but a reminder to just how unique and daring the Alien series was - and still is.

For more information about The Alien Saga, visit Image Entertainment. To order The Alien Saga, go to TCM Shopping.

by Scott McGee

The Alien Saga

"Quite a shock, really. I'm mean we were looking at this, sort of, gray penis...can I say that?" Actress Veronica Cartwright says it anyway in reference to a seminal moment in post-Vietnam horror/science-fiction cinema, the chest-bursting scene from Alien (1979). Co-star Yaphet Kotto suffered from "the creeps" for two weeks after shooting the scene, while Tom Skerritt reacted in an equally visceral way to the cow intestines that were used to make the unexpected even more horrifying and gory. These bon mots and other behind-the-scenes facts can be found in the documentary, The Alien Saga, now on DVD from Image Entertainment. Produced by Prometheus Entertainment, The Alien Saga tells the complete history of the influential, lucrative, and highly effective horror series, starting with Alien, followed by the sequels Aliens (1986), Alien3 (1992), and Alien Resurrection (1997). Alien burst onto the pop cultural scene when alien entities were looked on with favor, wonder, and goodwill. Think of the lanky sightseers in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), or the eccentric oddities in the Star Wars (1977) cantina, the intergalactic place where everybody knows your species. It was Alien that restored the palpable horror in extraterrestrial encounters that began in The Thing from Another World (1951) and continued throughout the 1950s and into the 60s. But the difference between the experience of Alien and, say, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), is the national trauma of seeing the blood and guts of Vietnam close encounters on the six o'clock news. The documentary begins with the birth of the idea, a brainchild of filmmaker Dan O'Bannon, who was sparked onto the idea of a parasitic alien creature by H.R. Giger's conceptual artwork created for an aborted pass at Dune. The documentary gives equal weight to each step of the project's gestation, from several script drafts penned by O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, to nibbles of interest from Roger Corman, and finally, to 20th Century-Fox's conclusive participation, headed at the time by Alan Ladd, Jr., a dead-ringer for his father. Initially interested in the unprecedented chestbursting scene, Fox and its production partner Brandywine Films commissioned a final script by Brandywine's Walter Hill and David Giler. The Brandywine team made several major adjustments from O'Bannon and Shusett's script, including changing Ripley from a male into a female character. The Alien Saga touches briefly on the first film's influence on the horror/science fiction genres, but develops fully the production history of the Alien's spawn, namely its three sequels. Each sequel, from the blockbuster Aliens to the critically misunderstood Alien3 and the pretentious, over-the-top Alien Resurrection, is given a complete historical analysis, from casting to shooting to critical and popular reception. Cast members like Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Tom Skerritt, Carrie Henn and Ian Holm discuss their experiences, while Michael Biehn, Ripley's love interest and hard-nosed grunt in Aliens, discusses his displeasure at his character being unceremoniously killed off for Alien3. Ridley Scott and James Cameron, directors of the first two films, appear in archival interviews, but there's not a peep from directors David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, helmers of the last two. Aside from candid and insightful interviews, The Alien Saga offers theatrical trailers, featurettes and other unseen material, including H.R. Giger's bio-mechanical conceptual artwork, on-the-set footage of the productions in process, and even rare screen tests of Sigourney Weaver, directed by Ridley Scott on elaborate sets built in London. The Alien Saga DVD is a great primer for Fox's upcoming Alien Quadrilogy, the comprehensive set of all four films. On the other hand, the DVD could stand as a reason not to invest in the sure-to-be hefty boxed set. Either way, The Alien Saga is worth a look, not just for the fascinating history behind a popular franchise, but a reminder to just how unique and daring the Alien series was - and still is. For more information about The Alien Saga, visit Image Entertainment. To order The Alien Saga, go to TCM Shopping. by Scott McGee

Quotes

Got a wonderful defense mechanism. You don't dare kill it.
- Parker
It's a robot. Ash is a god damn robot.
- Parker
I can't see a goddamn thing.
- Lambert
Quit griping.
- Kane
I like griping.
- Lambert
Whenever he says *anything* you say "right," Brett, you know that?
- Ripley
Right.
- Brett
Parker, what do you think? Your staff just follows you around and says "right", like a regular parrot.
- Ripley
Yeah, shape up. What are you some kind of parrot?
- Parker
Right.
- Brett
When we throw the switches, how long before the ship blows?
- Ripley
Ten minutes.
- Parker
No bullshit?
- Ripley
We ain't outta here in ten minutes, we won't need no rocket to fly through space.
- Parker

Trivia

Originally to be directed by 'Hill, Walter' , but he pulled out and gave the job to Ridley Scott.

Veronica Cartwright was originally to play Ripley, but producers opted for Sigourney Weaver.

An early draft of the script had a male Ripley.

All of the names of the main characters were changed from the original script by Walter Hill and David Giler during the revision of the original script by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett. The script by O'Bannon and Shusett also had a clause indicating that all of the characters are "unisex", meaning they could be cast with male or female actors. However, Shusett and O'Bannon never thought of casting Ripley as a female character.

Conceptual artist H.R. Giger's designs were changed several times because of their blatant sexuality.

Miscellaneous Notes

Re-released in United States October 29, 2003

Released in United States April 1981

Released in United States 1998

Shown at WideScreen Film Festival in Long Beach, California October 23-25 and October 30 - November 1, 1998.

Released in USA on video.

Selected in 2002 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Released in United States Summer May 25, 1979

Re-released in United States October 29, 2003 (Director's Cut)

Released in United States April 1981 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition ("Scared to Death": Horror Movie Marathon) April 2-23, 1981.)

Released in United States 1998 (Shown at WideScreen Film Festival in Long Beach, California October 23-25 and October 30 - November 1, 1998.)

Released in United States Summer May 25, 1979