The original terror. Written by Dan O’Bannon after his space comedy, Dark Star, with further revisions and drafts by producers Walter Hill and David Giler. Designed by artists Ron Cobb, Chris Foss, and HR Giger, with some minimal artistic input from the famous Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud.
Directed by The Duellists helmer, Ridley Scott, Alien received a mixed critical reception upon its 1979 release but was lauded by fans. The critics quickly followed. It remains a rarely matched watermark in science-fiction and horror history.
The film was perhaps the most rewarding and most tumultuous of Dan O’Bannon’s career. This article explores the brainstorming for the film, the first Giler and Hill revision, and the subsequent ‘fusion’ between the two.
Sandals in Space
A brief look at one of the wackier ideas for the movie.
The Alien Planet
Design of the planetoid, from its description in Dan O’Bannon’s original script, to conceptual interpretations by the film’s concept artists, and finally to its appearance in the film.
The conceptual stages of the film’s pyramid, which became an egg silo, and then was finally merged with the Space Jockey derelict.
Filming the Fourth Act
The bustle and objections to filming Alien’s final scenes aboard the Narcissus.
Kane’s funeral and unseen burial shroud.
The design of the facehugger and chestburster creatures, from initial descriptions, designs, and props.
The Eighth Passenger
The design of the adult Alien, from initial descriptions, designs, and props.
The Translucent Alien
A short article on the aborted plans for a translucent Alien skin, and the suit’s current state.
The box Alien
Did Heavy Metal magazine reveal an excised shot of the Alien in a previously unseen pose?
A look at the deleted scene that explained the origin of the Alien eggs.
Space Truckin’ – the Nostromo
The design of the Nostromo, from its aesthetic roots in Dark Star, Ron Cobb and Chris Foss’ approach to design, and shooting the models.
A look at Brett and Parker.
The casting of the film’s main character, and an indepth look at Sigourney Weaver’s rising star.
The creation and ‘nature’ of Ash.
A look at Ash’s compartment on the underside of the ship.
The design of the Nostromo’s escape shuttle, and its short appearance in Aliens.
Nostromo Crew Profiles
Crew biographies culled from the Alien Legacy DVD set.
Dressing the Future
A look at the design of the Nostromo uniforms.
“Mortal, after all”
A look at the original Alien’s always-intended mortality.
The conception and design of the derelict aircraft’s long deceased pilot, the Space Jockey.
The Space Jockey was at one point planned only to appear in the planetoid’s landscape, rather than inside the derelict ship.
A look at the excised mural depicting the Alien life-cylce.
Crew Logs: Ron Cobb
An indepth look at one of the film’s conceptual artists, Ron Cobb, and his involvement with Alien and Aliens.
Jon Sorensen: Alien Miniatures Experience
Nostromo model maker Jon Sorensen’s reflections on his time making Alien in 1979.
Space Sorrow & Sex
An article looking at the Nostromo crew’s ennui and proposed sexual relationships.
The Other Kane
John Hurt wasn’t the first actor to don Kane’s jumpsuit – stage actor Jon Finch originally filled the role until illness forced him to leave the film.
Roby to Ripley
Changing the character of Dan O’Bannon’s Martin Roby to the film’s Ripley was not all that monumental for the filmmakers, despite the cultural implications of the shift.
Bad Alien Reviews
Upon release Alien was in fact scathed by a large segment of the established critical community.
Alien Reviews From Yesteryear
Some fully transcribed reviews of Alien from the time of its release in 1979.
Ridley Scott’s Alien II (or ‘What He Wanted to Happen)
In 1984 Ridley Scott spoke about his ideas for an Alien sequel.
Alien and its Antecedents
It! The Terror From Beyond Space, Forbidden Planet, and their influence on Alien.
Alien Ads from Yesteryear
A few clippings from old film magazines advertising Alien toys, hats, and other memorabilia.
Wrapped in Plastic: Kenner’s Alien Toys
A look at what some called an ill-conceived child’s toy….
David Cronenberg and David Lynch on Alien
Two keystone directors and their take on Alien.
Interview with Bolaji Badejo, 1979.
An interview with Alien performer Bolaji Badejo, originally featured in the Autumn 1979 issue of Cinefantastique, and reproduced here with thanks to the aforementioned magazine.
Interview with Sigourney Weaver, 1979
An interview with Weaver, from Fantastic Films.
Interview with Dan O’Bannon
The writer talks Dark Star, Star Wars, and Alien.
Vintage Interview with Ron Cobb
The artist talks difficulties with Alien, cats, kids, and more.
Tom Skerritt & Veronica Cartwright at Texas Frightmare Weekend
In May 2013 Tom Skerritt and Veronica Cartwright sat down to talk about their experiences filming Alien. Topics raised include reactions to the chestburster, seeing Bolaji Badejo around set, their views on the sequels and more.
An article exploring the debate over Lambert’s fate at the hands of the Alien.
5 responses to “Alien”
If you stop someone in the street and tell them you have just seen an alien on the street corner, they will instinctively think you mean a non-human visitor from beyond the stars. But before 1979, they would have thought you were simply referring to someone foreign. Something that the film ‘Alien’ has never been fully credited for was that it was responsible for actually changing the English language. Before 1979, you will be hard pressed to find a reference to the word ‘alien’ in popular culture that didn’t mean ‘foreign’. After the release of the film, the word became synonymous with ‘space monster’. Up to 1979, SF fans had to use phrases like ‘bug-eyed monster’ (or BEM) or ‘little green men’ whereas now, the world’s word of choice is ‘alien’. Such was the power of this amazing film,
Found this belter of vid on youtube tonight. Not sure if it’s been posted on here yet – but if not – it should be. All about Giger’s work on the ALIEN. The relevant part starts at 40.39 –
I was on the film set of Alien at Shepperton Studios on the day of the chestburster scene being filmed. Got a tour of the different sets, met the cast, looked at the storyboard and watched John Hurt rehearse the infamous scene. Watching him rehearse, even without special effects was still fairly disturbing! I was only about 8 years old, so I was quite young, but still a very memorable day!
I bet you’ve got some intriguing stories, Duncan! You’re part of film history.
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