The Alien as we know it is the colour of oiled machinery or charred bone, perhaps both. It can squeeze itself into tight spaces and blend into a tight knot of piping just as easily as it can vanish into darkness. But, as detailed in the complete article on the creation of the original Alien monster (The Eighth Passenger), it was originally decided that the creature would have translucent rather than dark skin. “One should be able to see the skeleton, the blood circulatory system, the organs etc,” Giger wrote in his diary. He later explained in 2001 that the idea was to see actor Bolaji Badejo writhing like “a spider-thing inside of this half transparent suit”.
“Scott would actually like the whole Alien transparent,” Giger wrote in his diary, “in the way I’ve made my biomechanoids.”
“They built special ovens for this plastic material,” said Giger, “like hot-melt vinyl, but it was not transparent enough to see through to the person behind it and it didn’t work.” Giger explained that had he been given time, then the transparent suit might have been feasible. “Andrew keeps producing more and more transparent costumes,” he wrote. “However the ideal solution has still not been found, because the material is not resistant enough and tears … Unfortunately he still hasn’t produced anything we can use, and time is running short.”
Unfortunately, the process was complex and the results simply unsatisfactory. After almost two weeks of experimenting, Giger wrote again that, “Andrew has still not come up with any satisfactory result. The moulds have been badly damaged by his experiments and the great heat, and have to be patched up by the plasterers in meticulous detail, or even made all over again.” Giger later told Famous Monsters magazine that “It turned out to be a … how you say … a night dream … uh, a nightmare.”
Though their efforts failed in Alien, the creatures in Prometheus would successfully be portrayed as having translucent skin; notably the Hammerpede, though the excised Fifield-mutant was also translucent and gelatinous in appearance.
The translucent Alien was packed away and the fact of its existence simply passed into the series’ trivia, with the suit itself only exposed in a few production photographs. There was not much information on its condition in the decades following Alien’s release, but in 2012 special effects technician Dennis Lowe posted images of the now-tattered suit, which had been rescued from the rubbish tip by the film’s associate producer, Ivor Powell.
“Ivor also had some reject Alien costume parts that he rescued from the skip when everything was dumped after the production had wrapped. These are the original latex parts to come out of the plaster moulds. They have been kept in a bag all these years but latex, being organic, breaks down over time and you can see some corrosion setting in, it tends to become brittle and powdery. They look better than I would have thought, all the same.”
Dennis Lowe, Prometheusforum.net, May 2012.
Interestingly, the latex has taken on the appearance of discarded skin, much like the sample found by Brett before his death…
A portion of the skull also survived (bearing a remarkable resemblance to the ridged heads of Aliens in its unfinished state) and the suit, as it survives in full, can be seen in the complete Alien design article, which again is right here.