Loving Lambert

“This is a movie about alien interspecies rape, that’s it. That’s scary. That’s scary because it hits all of our buttons, all of our unresolved feelings about sexuality, all of them.”
~ Dan O’Bannon, Alien Evolution, 2001.

Lambert’s final scene is probably Alien‘s greatest source of horror and shock, bar Kane’s last supper. It is also one of the film’s most speculative scenes: what sort of experience did the Alien subject her to, exactly? Was it sexual as well as violent? Was it literally sexual, or merely figuratively? Alien fan boards have seen the topic being raised and fought over for years – did the Alien rape Lambert?

The answer is not something we can turn to the scripts for. The scene was completely improvised in post-production. Veronica Cartwright, who plays Lambert, knew nothing of the Alien’s suggestive actions until she saw the movie upon release. “[Lambert’s death] was supposed to be done different,” she told Fantastic Films magazine in 1979, “but they ran out of time so they changed it. Ridley wanted to do a thing where I freak out and crowded back into one of those lockers that the cat came out of. I sort of crawl up into it and die of fright. But that got changed.”

She also told Starlog that she “was supposed to sneak along the wall and get into the locker – the same one the cat was in earlier. The Alien is supposed to track me down with his sensory things and I die of fright. Well, that’s what they told me, but the next thing is I’m hanging from a meat hook.”

Gathering from Cartwright’s quote, we can deduce that the shots of Lambert crawling into the storage locker and seizing up was not filmed due to time concerns, and Ridley worked his way around it in post (Cartwright herself said in 2013 that they never shot her final scenes, only the footage of her being suspended so the viewer can see her dangling legs). Scott took her dying screams and distorted them , then took an excised clip from Brett’s death and spliced it into Lambert’s. The rest is for the imagination to squirm over.

The Many Deaths of a Navigator: Lambert suffered a myriad of alternating deaths throughout Alien‘s scripting phase. In O’Bannon’s script, Melkonis, the character who most resembles Lambert, has his head twisted and wrenched off by the Alien. In an early Giler and Hill draft, the cocooned Dallas tells Ripley that the Alien has eaten Lambert. In later scripts, Lambert is at one point set alight by Parker, who is aiming for the Alien with his flamethrower, and in another version is sucked through a hole in the ship’s hull.

“Because of budget reasons and time we just couldn’t shoot it,” said Scott, “but I wanted Lambert to get sucked out of the ship through an opening about the size of a keyhole. Not a very heroic ending – but dramatic.” Scott added, in an interview with Cinefantastique Online, that economics also played a part in excising the death sequence: “We couldn’t afford it, besides, I couldn’t work out in those days [without CGI] how to squeeze a body through a hole that big.”

For the immolation sequence, Scott said in 1979, “as the script was reworked, and as we shot the film, other scenes that were equally powerful [as the chestburster], such as the air-lock depressurisation, the flamethrower death of Parker and Lambert, and the cocoon scene with Dallas were cut altogether or changed.”

“When I saw the final cut it was a lot different than I had anticipated,” said Cartwright. “For example, the scene where the tail creeps up between my legs, those were Harry Dean Stanton’s legs. He was the first one to go, so the Alien’s tail came up and pulled him closer to inspect him. Then –whack– it drags him up into the rafters. And so when I was watching the movie I realized, ‘those aren’t my legs!’ It was really weird. Who knows what will end up being changed in the editing room.” One giveaway that the legs are not Lambert’s is that the feet wear sneakers – Lambert wears cowboy boots throughout the entirety of the film.

“She was the one who first expressed the fears that most people might have. And when Lambert saw the Alien, she freaked out. I mean most people in that situation would – it’s not the nicest thing in the world to stand next to. Plus, I figured when I was working on her, that this was her last trip and she was on her way home. And I worked to the effect that she had an experience before that wasn’t too pleasant. I mean getting hit in the face with the blood wasn’t too pleasant either. It sort of sent her over the end a little.”
~ Veronica Cartwright, Fantastic Films, 1979.

Lambert still ultimately dying of fright however is still suggested by Ridley Scott in his 2003 commentary, where he notes: “Veronica was always great at barely controlled terror. Catatonic terror. She’s always like, two steps from a heart attack, which I think she finally does at the end – have a heart attack.”

In a separate interview with Danny Peary in 1984, Scott said: “You’d probably die before the thing touched you anyway. I mean, you’d have a heart attack, right? You’d turn and see it and last about four seconds before you had a coronary, okay … run-ins with the Alien [were] always done with the ultimate feeling of a heart attack. The rush of a heart attack, even if the thing didn’t ever touch them.”

Let’s note that Cartwright herself told Starlog that “All I can assume is: I got raped by the Alien.” She explained that “There were many things that were shot which aren’t in the final movie. I thought events would take a different direction than they actually did in Alien. And that surprised me.”

picture042

“Well, originally my death was meant to take place in one of the lockers. I was supposed to crawl into the lockers like the cat … We shot for five days … Well, somebody asked me once, ‘how did it feel for that tail to go up between your legs’, but those were Harry Dean Stanton’s legs. If you notice I wear cowboy boots throughout the movie. But that was the end result – we never did shoot my death, so, what I thought was going to happen -getting caught up inside that locker- was never shot. I asked them what was going to happen, they said they had enough footage. And the next thing I’m in a week later and I was hanging from a jockstrap contraption for a couple of hours, just so they could see my foot dangling and then they decided that was what my death would be.”
~ Veronica Cartwright, Texas Frightmare Convention, 2013.

It seems absurd to suggest that the Alien physically rapes or sexually penetrates Lambert, considering that, one: the kill sequence lasts mere moments, with the Alien gone once Ripley arrives at the scene, and two: the Alien has no penis, and in fact sports a vulva-like protrusion on its groin, (the creature is hermaphroditic). So we are left, arguably, with a form of symbolic rape, or the creature penetrating Lambert’s body with its tail, and/or Lambert’s heart succumbing to her terror during the ordeal. Perhaps Lambert suffered a massive heart attack just as the Alien reaches out for her, or as it grooms her body. Of course, one point to muse over is the state of Lambert’s corpse, as found by Ripley, in a suggestive state of undress…

Extract from one of the earliest Giler/Hill drafts. When Ripley rushes to Lambert’s screams, the navigator is nowhere to be found. Upon stumbling inside the nest, a near catatonic Dallas reveals her fate.

Advertisements

13 Comments

Filed under Alien

13 responses to “Loving Lambert

  1. Dave Ellison

    I could have sworn either in the ADF book or a draft of the script that the alien grabbed lambert and tried to force her into an airduct that was too small for her body which explains the bizarre screams.

  2. Gaius

    Some points to consider (trigger warning for discussion of rape):

    I recall reading somewhere that 90% of rape is motivated by the desire to cause pain, the desire for control/dominance, or the desire for revenge (if anyone can find a source on that statistic, let me know). Sex or sexual attraction is not typically relevant; again, I recall reading somewhere that rapists need to work to maintain arousal during the act. It is an act of violence that happens to to involve sexual anatomy.

    As far as we know, the alien is motivated primarily to feed, reproduce, and (in the post-Alien canon), protect the hive. In none of the above contexts is there a desire to cause pain, control for the sake of control, or exact revenge (though the queens, certainly, have the desire and ability to seek vengeance, that is post-Alien canon). Consequently, it cannot be said that the alien raped Lambert in the strictly human sense of the word, because it doesn’t appear to be motivated by the desires typically associated with human rapists.

    On the other hand, the creature as envisioned by Giger and Ridley Scott is the very embodiment of rape: it possesses attributes of both the phallus (skull, tongue, back spokes, tail, facehugger probe) and vagina dentata (drooling, toothy maw); it reproduces parasitically by forcibly impregnating a host; it emerges explosively from its host in a violent, fatal birth; and, let’s face it: when it kills you, it does so by poking holes in you.

    In this sense, any attack by the alien constitutes a symbolic rape, because it is designed, literally, for violation.

    • Andre

      Good points there, Gaius,
      but wouldn´t the creature be even more frightful if you could sense something like curiosity and boredom in the beast? — Which motivates it to try out whatever possible with those human bodies resembling its own rough shape. Just because it wants to do it. Just for fun, so to speak.
      For me, this is a terrifying thought.

  3. Glenn

    The creature stuck its tail either up her back or butt, using gravity to impale her like evil men did in medieval times. At some point during this, it broke her back and ripped off the clothes. As for cause of death, nothing says heart attack. She was mortally wounded, panting, still breathing and then it does something with its hands and breaks her some way which caused instant death, the moment of which the scream abruptly stops.
    When her back is turned earlier, you can see the shadows of chains dangling and for an instant a peep at some part of the alien in a brownish color. Then shadows of the chains are replaced with shadows of the horns of the creature as it is crouching and shifting. You can sense the odor when the head is swaying in observation, as Lambert grosses out, it’s too close and not putting out an acceptable vibe. Dallas warned Parker about “heroics”; and by demonstrating a frontal attack on the standing beast, lived up to that. I liked the Lambert kill better than the Parker. His was too similar to Brett’s but with a tighter and off-center view of the mouth thing. The deleted scene with Lambert isn’t very good except for the over-the-shoulder-Lambert shot of it crouching and walking towards her crab-style. I wish they somehow edited that into the film, but the linear view from Parker’s station looks terrible. I’m glad they left that on the cutting room floor. One of the best scenes, and I only hope that some other movie will come along and have a scene, or movie for that matter, that matches the mystery and tension.

  4. Danny flego

    the impression I got was the alien stripped her naked,raped her and then finished her of with the fresh coconut treatment as with brett and parker, apparently footage exists of the alien stuffing her bleeding corpse into the same air shaft it used to enter the locker in if you believe the old famous monsters of film land magazine article from nov 79. Wich would explain the bloodstained dangling legs seen.

  5. Ren

    Veronica Cartwright is the first woman I ever fancied. Her role as Lambert captured me. She originally thought she was getting the role of Ripley but was told about the change of plan pretty much when she got off the plane to start filming.

  6. D. Bowman

    IF Veronica Cartwright had gotten to play Ripley, then it would’ve been a very different movie for a less imperious and more adorably quirky gal like *her* to be the Heroine who survived and triumphed over the Alien. Unfortunately, the downside is that Cartwright would’ve ended up in the blue jumpsuit & white sneakers that the role of Ripley required to be taken “seriously”, since I actually preferred seeing Veronica ROCK those bitchin’ cowboy boots as Lambert. So in that respect, it all worked out just fine.

  7. johnny6666

    We’re assuming, of course, that the sexual activity of the Alien would be somewhat identifiable to humans (i.e. recognisable as copulation).

    But are we really sure? I’d suggest that the term ‘Alien’ accurately signifies the utterly unknowable nature of the creature, and the film works carefully to accentuate this. Ridley Scott (and Terry Rawlings) masterfully edit the film to give a very primal composite impression of the Alien – never explicit denotation, but suggestive connotation. Outside of the shuttle sequence, we never see the Alien in anything but very tight, very carefully controlled flashes of imagery – teeth, head, hands, etc. It’s a very primal, almost associational smattering of visual and auditory information that defies ready classification, creating the idea of the alien (as opposed to outright depiction, as in most every B-movie monster film ever made).

    And that’s how I choose to approach the Lambert sequence. I don’t know what the hell happened to Lambert: those utterly bizarre and indefinable sounds that accompany her final (terrifying) scream over the intercom sum up the film for me – the utterly unknowable. (Note: the film wasn’t called ‘The Alien’, but ‘Alien’, thereby suggesting something beyond the logical relationships of specific subjects/identities/things).

    Of course, to deem the Alien ‘indefinable’ after it being a prominent fixture in pop culture for 35 years is ridiculous. But confining oneself to ‘Alien’, and ignoring everything beyond it, the Alien is truly…alien. Only Lambert has any idea of what happened to her (or, indeed, perhaps not…)

  8. Charles

    Bugger! I have watched Alien countless times and never picked up on the Lambert/Dean Stanton legs switch. It will completely kill the tension in that scene from now on…

  9. Biomechanic

    Is it reasonable to think that Lambert’s death through the key sized hole would have been the inspiration for the Newborn death scene in Alien Resurrection?

  10. Pingback: Alien: the 1978 Scripts | Strange Shapes

  11. GEEZ.. does anyone realize the meaning of the word SYMBOLISM!? the alien is a creature which is more symbolic rather than literal, she was “vlad” to death by the creature one way or the other,

    The alien also skullfucks everyone to death.

Collate...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s