“The [Alien 3] script that unfortunately circulated, I don’t even look at it as my script. The piece of junk was a product of a few weeks of intense, hysterical story conferences with the studio to rush to get the picture into production and it turned out completely awful…”
~ Eric Red, Arrow in the Head interview, 2001.
It’s hard to find a fan of Eric Red’s Alien III. Though scripts by William Gibson and Vincent Ward have become appreciated by fans (usually figuring into ‘Greatest Scripts Never Made’ lists), Red’s is usually openly ridiculed – maybe fairly.
Red had a solid filmography at his back before being recruited to pen the third movie by Brandywine Productions, with credits including the minimalist thriller The Hitcher and grungy vampire movie Near Dark, but Alien III would be his first foray into big-budget franchise pictures. It would also be his last.
Cast of Characters (in order of appearance)
Sam Smith – The lead character, “Captain in the Special Forces”.
John Smith – Sam’s father, a “career military officer”.
Mary Smith – Sam’s mother.
Karen Smith – His sister.
Mark Smith – His kid brother.
Sergeant Chong – a Japanese military officer.
Dr. Alice Rand – Science Officer.
Screenplay also includes various named but one-off characters, and several unnamed military and special forces.
The plot revolves around the generically-named Sam Smith. He lives in North Star (pop. 251), an orbital colony that is modeled on 20th Century Kansas rural life. Instead of the bleak, functionalist cargo containers at Hadley’s Hope, the milieu here consists of “postcard shots of the dusty, average mid-western town. Farmhouses. Silos. Windmills. A Drive-in. Fields of Wheat. Fields of Corn. An A&P. A School. A Grocery Store. A 7-11.” Sometimes the script mysteriously refers to the colony as “Sulaco Space Station”. Endearingly, it is also known as “Shitsville” by its youth.
In the beginning, Sam awakens from a nightmare that placed him aboard the Sulaco. Inside were ruined cryotubes and a shred of clothing with the nametag “Ripley”. In the dream, Sam is part of a rescue squad who are quickly ravaged by an Alien. He quickly wakes up… to find that one of his arms is bionic. At breakfast with his family (General John, Mary, Karen, and Mark Smith), Sam is told that he has been unconscious for two weeks, and is lucky to be alive. His injury is blamed on a technical fire aboard his rescue ship, though Sam has flashbacks to a vicious encounter with a strange alien being. John Smith explains to Sam the nature of his recovery: “They used the latest android Synthetic technology on you … They found enough of you to put back together. The rest we… we had to reconstruct.”
Sam and his father drive around town, the former noticing that many families have moved away, apparently due to an increasing military presence. Locals accuse the soldiers of being complicit in illegal experiments with the colony’s denizens, and Sam is quizzed by military personnel about any recollections of his “accident”.
The truth is revealed to Sam when, having sneaked into a military base, he activates a 3D hologram of the events aboard the Sulaco, which show him and his men being slaughtered by an Alien:
“He sees himself and his soldiers, like laser ghosts, whirl in horror, totally unarmed as the Alien swings down from the rafters and hits them. Sam screams out as he sees the creature’s jackhammer jaws piledrive the recreation of him in the torso, taking his arm and a good part of his ribcage with it. Sam is splattered with green holographic blood. THE CAMERA PUSHES IN TO A TIGHT CLOSE UP OF SAM’S FACE as his face contorts in anguish. He watches the monster tear his men to pieces, ripping them limb from limb in a greenish slaughterhouse, their faces screaming in total silence, which makes it worse.”
Sam confronts his father about keeping the secret from him, but General John justifies the secrecy: “I have a job, Sam. I’m here to do my job.” Afterwards, Sam stows away in a truck filled with pigs. It enters a military installation. At the end of the journey “Sam tumbles head over heels with fifteen fat, rolling pigs down a stained, stainless steel shaft in almost total darkness. They all slide together.” In this pit are animal pens spread across a big, steel-beamed warehouse space. The floor is covered with straw and wet with blood and guts. Suddenly “the belly of a pig ruptures and a chestburster smashes out in a sickening spray of intestines. The Pig Alien has the wide torso, tiny head, and little legs of a pig.”
Inside the pen are multiple forms of the Alien creature, and the monster line-up reads like a Kenner toy bonanza. There are dog Aliens, cat Aliens, the aforementioned pig Aliens, and even chicken Aliens. Sam escapes the pen and sneaks around the base, spying on scientists and his own father, who seems to be conferencing with military brass, several scientists and Dr. Rand, a shady top scientist. Rand declares that the Alien’s genetic material is compatible with organic and inorganic material. “Imagine a living, organic jet fighter,” she says, “or an Alien tank.” More importantly, she claims to have managed to effectively control the Alien. When she attempts to demonstrate this, one of her Alien subjects punches a hole on her skull.
Chaos ensues, with a swarm of Aliens tearing through military personnel. When Special Forces come to the scene, Sam takes charge:
Sam: I’m Sam Smith. Captain Special Forces. I think I’m the ranking officer here.
He flashes the I.D. card in his wallet. The Special Forces team surrounds him.
Sam: I think it’s pretty simple. We have to kill that monster and get everybody the fuck out.
Sam and the team assess the situation, and find that an Alien nest is quickly being established. Not only that, but with any Queen figure still immature, the Aliens have still still managed to reproduce:
On the black and whit screen, the Alien is weaving huge, suspension bridge-like cocoon all over the warehouse area. Thirty people, half mutilated or dead are spun into the cocoon. The fifteen foot Alien looks like a weave-woman with the tender care it takes in building its nest.Sam operates a joystick on the controls. The TV camera zooms in and pans to reveal tortured, slimed faces in the thick tendrils of cocoon from floor to ceiling. Some are already beginning to reform…
Sam decides to rescue his father, who is trapped within the hive. He runs into his pal, Sergeant Chong, who assists him. They find Sam’s father, and pull him from the hive and into the airducts, but not before an Alien reaches for them–
Sam grabs a grenade from his belt. He bites out the pin.
Sam: Breakfast of champions!
He chucks the grenade into the Alien’s mouth. The creature swallows it. KRAKA-KABOOOOOOOOOOM! It gets its head blown off.
The script also plummets into Friday the 13th styled sex n’ murder:
INT. ZERO GRAVITY CHAMBER – SECTOR “C”
A set of panties float in the air.
Two naked bodies, slick with sweat, floating and thrusting in the anti- gravity room. Russ massages Terry’s breasts, fingering her hard nipples, her body wrapped around his. As they float in the room, he turns her over and puts his head between her legs. She wraps her soft thighs around his face.
Lauren: OH YES!
She goes down on him too, her head bobbing between his legs.
Russ: C’MON BABY OH JEESUU–!
Her legs are wrapped around his back and plunges into her, pressing her face to his as their tongues meet, their two perspiration slick bodies revolving upside down, suspended in zero gravity, stars and space seen through the window of the room.
Lauren: OH! UH-HUH!
He slides out of her and turns her over in the weightless space, taking her from behind his hands squeezing her flushed, jiggling tits at he slams into her, her wide, soft buttocks slapping his waist.
Lauren: BABY IT FEELS SSOOO GOOO–! OOOOHHHHYYEEEEEESSSSS!!! RUSS OH YEAH OH YEAH!!!
Russ turns her over as they both about to come. She straddles him and they thrust desperately, revolving in the air, their bodies shivering in orgasm.
After that bizarre scene comes…
He opens his eyes and his guts come out his mouth. The huge, thick, slimy teal rips through his torso and smashes out Laurens chest, taking her ribcage, intestines and left tit with it. Their eyes are rolled up in their sockets and the mutilated corpses are flung off the tail. Three Aliens crawl through the floating blood and guts towards the airlock door. More follow. An armoured slew of crawling monsters.”
Apart from the slasher elements, we also get a traditional Alien cocoon/flamethrower scene:
Colonel Sinclair: H-heeelllpp m-meee. P-please…
Sam and the rest turn to look. A horrible halfway transformed Colonel Sinclair is all sewn up in cocoon substance, his arms and legs molted mostly away. He realizes he is turning into one of those things. His face is torn as much with terror as hideous agony.
Colonel Sinclair: K-kkk—iiilll mmmmeeeee— Mmmmuuuuhhhnnnneeerrruuuff Ggggggoooooo…….!
John Smith hits him with a douse of flame from the flamethrower blowtorch. The charred crisped remains of the Colonel slowly smolder in the blackened, burning cocoon.
Sam: Let’s get out of here.
Meanwhile, the earth begins to rumble all around the colony. Sam and the special forces are besieged by Aliens. Chong is blown out into space (“Poor old Chong”) and we segue into a space battle with a batch of Aliens and space-suited commandos. Around the colony, Aliens are wreaking havoc in cornfields and in 7-11’s. The Smith family fight off an Alien home invasion, but luckily Mary Smith is adept at combat:
An Alien crashes its claws through the kitchen window in a decimation of glass and wood frame. It shoves its snout through.
Mary: Okay you ugly motherfucker, suck on this.
She grabs a handful of knives from the wall and thrusts them inside the monster’s face. Lots of acid. It makes a grab for her but its arm goes down into the garbage disposal. Mary flicks the switch on the wall.
GGGGGGGGRERRRRRGGRGRGRGRGRGRMMMM!!!! The creature loses its arm below the elbow. Mary grabs her kids in her arms and tugs them with her down the steps into the basement as the creature thrashes in agony while the sink melts away.
She then kills an Alien with a chainsaw, and the family is quickly saved by Sam and co. The special forces and armed civilians -bikers, farmers, drunks and ramblers- then face down a moving wall of Aliens. After a protracted battle, the Aliens are defeated. The locals begin evacuating the ravaged space station, but the Smiths return to their farmhouse. Unfortunately, John Smith has been injected with Alien spore, and he begins to transform. In this scene, he explains some of the shenanigans going on:
John: We’d b-been experimenting with the Alien. Couldn’t t-train it. B-but we isolated its cell, i-its genetic code. F-found that on the genetic level is was a purely predatory cell and t-thought if we could fuse it with a human D-DNA we could make a stronger, more resilient h-human. Sam, I didn’t want to test it on anyone. I tested it on myself. S-Sam they put the Alien cells in m-me. S-somethings happening to me you’ve got to get out you’ve ggggGGGGGGGGGGGOOOOOOOOOOOOEEET–“
Outside in the farmyard a cow emulates The Thing From Another World as “legs burst out the side of its ribcage as its spine jerks and splits in showers of blood and acid”; this strange cow-insect-Alien conglomeration proceeds to attack. The Smiths escape the farm, but Alien-John sets about establishing more spawn, resulting in Alien roosters and Alien mosquitoes, all culminating in what Red can only describe as a… thing:
Fifty humans have been turned into an Alien Thing. They have fused together into one…thing. It is a two story, moving, murderous ass of armour and flesh, eyeballs, and tongues, screaming mouths and jackhammer jaws in a huge, an amorphous blob of arms, legs, talons, hooks, snouts, and teeth. There are the teeth… The Alien Human Thing is advancing down the block.
This creature’s appearance precipitates the unfurling of the space station:
The skin is peeling off North Star. The farmlands and hills are burning away, revealing the metal endoskeleton of the space station that lies beneath, charred and blackened beneath the smoldering skin of the farmlands. The small pickup speeds across a road that is sizzling off the huge steel girder structure of the Sulaco station. Below the beams can be seen the full fifty stories of the space station, dropping away into the hellish infinity. The whole frame work is shaking and shifting, the beams ripping loose and dropping miles down into the bowels of the ship. Great fires burn fifty stories down. Boiling, billowing clouds of fire and debris are surging upwards from the bottom of the space station.
There is a race against time, the station falls to pieces, and the Smiths appeal to Alien-John for mercy (which is granted) and board a spaceship, but not before saying goodbye to their Alien father:
John Smith, with the last drops of humanity in him, helps first his wife, then his daughter across to the silo. He reaches out his hand and picks up Mark. The little boy’s face is soaked with tears. Real tears pour from John Smith’s face as he holds the child near his mutated features. He looks at him one last time, then places him down with the rest of his family.
The family escape and “Sulaco Space Station” becomes an orbital biomechanical vessel, a fusion of Alien DNA, human flesh, and steel girders and plates. This Bio-Station attempts to pull back the Smiths’ escape craft, but Sam retorts by firing nuclear missiles at the beast. The survivors are left adrift in space, but a rescue ship shines a light upon them. “The four space suits hang, floating, as the rescue ship starts for them. Fade out. The End.”
A key problem is that the script feels tonally out of sync with the rest of the series. The dialogue is hammy and prone to emulating bottom-rung 80’s actioners, and the prose has strangely jejune sentences like, “Ten or more Facehuggers are scrambling across the gore-splattered straw floor for Sam. They want his ass.”
Most grievously, the characters are dull. The military’s motivation is cardboard. The Aliens have all the hardiness of toothpaste. Sam’s bionic arm is slightly developed and then dropped completely, like a forgotten detail. The Alien variants are comedic. An Asian character is referred to as a “chink” and a “Jap”. It switches names frequently (North Star becomes Sulaco Space Station, Mark Smith becomes John Jnr) and also steps into redneck parody. For example, one character (Old Man Perkins) yells into his cornfield, “Harrison, if this is your cow run loose again on muh property I’m gonna shoot him down like I keep tellin’ yuh!” In another example of unintentional humour, when a married couple are attacked inside a convenience store the husband grabs his wife and exclaims, “LETS GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE, MARY!!!” The entire script plays like a strange precursor to Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. There’s nothing in the script comparable to The Hitcher’s quiet foreboding and horror, and nothing approaching Near Dark’s swagger. It’s a flat script. as far removed from the Alien series as it is from Red’s more impressive work.
Red explained to Arrow in the Head the trouble with planning a sequel to a successful series: “Sequels are very demanding to do. They have their own group of problems. When you do the first picture, you’re basically setting the ground rules, you’re designing the engine, you’re building the car and setting how it works. Sequels have different requirements because you both have to use the things that worked in the first picture if you can, but also give it a different spin and make it different. They’re tricky, they’re not as simple to put together as they might seem.”
But according to Red there was another problem impeding the story-writing process – the producers. “The basic problem when I was involved, for five weeks, was they didn’t know what they really wanted. They really wasted talent because of that. Another major problem was they didn’t want Sigourney back, so I had to go through a whole series of new characters.”
Though it’s easy to empathise with someone having to tolerate indecisive (and dictatorial) producers, crafting new characters and scenarios is a writer’s job. Weaver referred to the resulting script as being “a real disaster, absolutely dreadful.” Meanwhile, Red continued to blame Hill and Giler, who “had no story or treatment or any real plan for the picture. They were very disorganised and irresponsible.”
After the debacle with Red’s script, Giler and Hill looked for another screenwriter, this time settling on Critters 2 writer David Twohy. Though Twohy’s last screenplay had featured the same elements as Red’s Alien III (that is, vicious aliens in a small-town America environment), he was to give the producers a very different sort of story…