WolfmanOz at the Movies #21

In space no one can hear you scream

One of the downsides (I’m sure there’s many others) of the internet is that the surprise element in movies is very much negated. In addition, releases are now pretty much worldwide, especially as so many films are then released onto a streaming service within weeks of their cinema debuts.

So a film, like Alien, would somewhat lose its shock/surprise element to an audience today.

In the late 70s, sci-fi films were on a tidal wave of popularity, following Star Wars astounding success in 1977. There was Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Battlestar Galactica, Superman, Star Trek; The Motion Picture, The Black Hole etc etc. Anything related to science fiction was now serious box office.

But Alien was something else. It was a horror film that just happened to be set in a futuristic science fiction setting where it was more akin to a haunted house story than science fiction.

As we all know now the film follows the crew of a commercial space ship, who, after investigating a mysterious derelict spaceship on an undiscovered moon find themselves up against a particularly aggressive and murderous extraterrestrial alien that stalks their spaceship.

It has spawned numerous sequels, prequels, novels, comic books, video games etc. where now it is a cultural icon, especially in the alien itself.

The production was incredibly fortunate where screenwriter Dan O’Bannon introduced director Ridley Scott to the artwork of H.R. Giger who was then hired to work on all design aspects of Alien and its environment including all form of the alien from the egg to the fully developed alien.

Whilst exploring the derelict spaceship, one of the crew members, unfortunately, has a parasite attaching itself to his face. Once back on their spaceship it eventually frees itself from him and the crew have a final meal before returning to stasis . . .

The impact of this scene on audiences worldwide was startling. The sense of dread had been slowly building through the film but we weren’t expecting something like this. It also stands as a superb example of practical effects which are so utterly convincing. It also surprised the cast during filming who were not expecting the sudden outburst of blood and gore. Their reactions caught on film are genuine.

The crew now decide to locate the creature but it has grown . . .

The alien proceeds to kill the remainder of the crew, with the exception of Warrant Office Ripley who escapes from the spaceship aboard a shuttle but the alien has also boarded the shuttle. With ingenuity Ripley blasts the alien into deep space which allows the audience to regain their composure as the film ends.

Despite initial mixed reviews, Alien has received critical acclaim over the years, particularly for its realism and unique environment. One of its great strengths is its pacing. It takes its time. It waits. It suggests the enormity of the crew’s discovery by building up to it with small steps.

A sequel was inevitable but it would be another 7 years before the release of Aliens in 1986.

IMO, this is one of the very few times in movie history where a sequel has matched the original, albeit it is styled entirely differently in that it is more akin to a war movie . . . the catchline for the movie was “This time it’s war”.

Set years later, Ripley is sent back to the moon where the alien was first was discovered on, accompanying a squad of space marines to investigate why communications have been lost with a human colony on the moon.

Like the original film, Aliens is an incredibly intense experience with a standout performance by Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. It also cemented director James Cameron as a serious talent to be noticed.

Unfortunately after this movie the series petered out in a number of very poor sequels and recently there has been a couple of attempts to revive the franchise with 2 prequels – Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.

Despite both being directed by Ridley Scott, neither came close to replicating the visceral sense of horror and excitement of both Alien and Aliens.

Enjoy.

40 thoughts on “WolfmanOz at the Movies #21”

  1. A long time fan of the multi talented Ron Cobb, O’Bannon called upon him for the human tech.
    IIRC, the mighty Chris Foss was brought in to further develop Cobb’s vision of Nostromo.


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  2. One of my 5 favourite movies of all time…
    It was such a revelation. Here was a serious sci-fi movie. The Nostromo looking like an old freighter (so unlike the Enterprise), the grime you could just about touch, the casualness of the crew (being all civilians of course), the special effects, for its time was marvellous.


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  3. I remember taking my younger sister to see this film in late 1979. When the alien burst out of the man’s stomach (not sure who the actor was), just about everyone in the Cinema jumped out of their seats screaming their heads off. Including me and my sister…………………………………


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  4. the special effects, for its time was marvellous.

    CGI* will never better the practical effects of Alien (1979), Outland (1981)
    and Blade Runner (1982).
    * The no closer than twenty feet rule still holds,
    despite all the advances in computer technology.


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  5. Bill Paxton’s Hudson in Aliens is a very underappreciated role. His comic relief lines live on today.

    ‘Game Over Man, Game Over!’

    Hudson – ‘Vasquez has anyone confused you with a man?’
    Vasquez – ‘No! How about you?’


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  6. Anther great line from Aliens – the marines aren’t told they’re under the reactor core, but are told to disarm all their weapons. One reacts with, “What are we supposed to use now man, harsh language?”


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  7. Current Hollywood feminists would do well to observe the character development of Ripley. She wasn’t perfect but she was relatable.

    Movies can have strong female leads without all the current woke messaging that just serves to insult the audience.


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  8. Alien was such a wonderful and terrifying movie! Especially on the big screen.

    I’ll point to the fine performance of veteran actor Ian Holm, who managed to be ever so slightly less than human…just enough that it was hard to tell he was an android until you saw all the white stuff and tubes. Whereupon you thought “of course!”


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  9. Exactly Slim Cognito.

    At the time some suggested Ripley was a female Rambo – she was nothing of the sort.

    A strong, independent woman who fought tooth and nail especially as there was a mother symbolism in her protection of Newt after what happened to her and her mother.


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  10. I watched both recently and was amazed at how well the first one stood up. Great story, tech, directing. The second one was v good as well but as wolfman points out a different theme.


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  11. FS – That would make Christmas dinner with the family interesting. ‘Son are you clutching your stomach because of grannie’s plum pud or have you been in an alien spaceship?’


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  12. Ripley blasts the alien into deep space which allows the audience to regain their composure as the film ends.

    Are you kidding?

    How can one be composed when that monster is still out there,* waiting, waiting to return?

    *The monster might have been terminated in sequels. Dunno. I was too spooked by the original to watch any more.

    Great review, BTW.


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  13. Bear Necessitiessays:
    May 19, 2022 at 9:14 am
    Bill Paxton’s Hudson in Aliens is a very underappreciated role. His comic relief lines live on today.

    my favourite character. I use his line all the time.

    Private Frost : Hot as hell in here.
    Private Hudson : Yeah man, but it’s a dry heat!

    the prequels were seriously bad.

    I mean lets land a bunch of scientists on a foreign world, the navigator gets lost in a cave system and the biologist starts poking alien goop with his bare hands.

    What could possibly go wrong?


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  14. The script for Aliens had many gems.

    Private Vasquez : Look, man. I only need to know one thing: where they are.

    Private Drake : Go, Vasquez. Kick ass.

    Private Vasquez : Anytime, anywhere, man!

    Private Hudson : Right, right. Somebody said “alien” she thought they said “illegal alien” and signed up!

    Private Vasquez : Fuck you, man!

    Private Hudson : Anytime, anywhere.



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  15. The original Alien. I watched it again last year and the plot, even the special effects hold up. And that scene with John Hurt is one of the classics of cinema.

    Here are two pieces of trivia re. the original Alien. The women who played Lambert was an actress by the name of Veronica Cartwright. Veronica was the sister of Angela Cartwright who played Penny in Lost in Space. Also, Veronica was originally given the role of Ripley, only to be gazumped by Sigourney Weaver.


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  16. The abominations that were the prequels were absolute shite.

    There’s simply no way such idiots could ever land a spot on important missions. I mean, they were even more stupid than Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber, which seemed impossible.

    Far more entertaining than those stupid movies were reviews done by the likes of The Critical Drinker, who gives everyone involved the raspberries they deserve.


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  17. Veronica Cartwright played a cameo in Primes ‘Bosch’. Who can forget those crazy eyes? Its no wonder her character’s son tontines her. However letting her rot in the bed for a few weeks took me back to Alien …eee yew. Spoiler alert: it’s not a romantic comedy!


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  18. TBW : the reason the sequels exist is because Alien is hard to kill. Much like Albos and Wongs ambition for the lodge, or the Greens belief they are not stupid and know best and Whitlam was the bestest eva! Mediocrity is cyclical however the rev cycles are accelerating.


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  19. Bruce of Newcastle says:
    May 19, 2022 at 10:39 am
    Alien was such a wonderful and terrifying movie! Especially on the big screen.

    I’ll point to the fine performance of veteran actor Ian Holm, who managed to be ever so slightly less than human…just enough that it was hard to tell he was an android until you saw all the white stuff and tubes. Whereupon you thought “of course!”

    The late Ian Holm – a top actor who was always worth watching.

    I believe one of the reasons why Alien works so well and continues to do so is comes from the fact that the audience can all identify with the characters. Everyone aboard the Nostromo is a normal, everyday, working stiff just like the rest of us. Also none of the cast were particularly young as well.

    I think they used the phrase “truckers in space”.

    Both Alien and Aliens are in my top 50 favourite films.


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  20. I remember when Alien came out my brainy elder brother, who was allowed to see it (unlike me) was confused by the tagline ‘In space no one can hear you scream’ – when the first external shot of Nostromo u can hear the sound from its engines carrying through airless space!


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  21. Love that movie! We were running a bit late and the only seats left were in the front rows. Sure, the Beloved said, no worries, we’ll sit there.

    There I was, third row in the middle, as the horror unfolded right above me.* The rotten thing scared the daylights out of me. I confess – I screamed. Really screamed. Even the Beloved, ever calm and composed, said Oh shit!

    Good stuff, Wolfman. Thanks for the excellent review and the memories.

    * back in the days when it was absolutely forbidden and very bad form indeed to give away the action – the “recommenders” had big grins on their faces – you’ll love it.


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  22. WolfmanOz says:
    May 19, 2022 at 1:55 pm

    I believe one of the reasons why Alien works so well and continues to do so is comes from the fact that the audience can all identify with the characters. Everyone aboard the Nostromo is a normal, everyday, working stiff just like the rest of us.

    you make a good point. This also works in the more hilarious sci-fi like Dark Star and Red Dwarf.

    Dark Star is a must.. and I recently discovered (watching “The Prisoner”) that a killer bouncy inflatable ball is not a unique plot device.


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  23. calli says:
    May 19, 2022 at 4:41 pm
    Love that movie! We were running a bit late and the only seats left were in the front rows. Sure, the Beloved said, no worries, we’ll sit there.

    There I was, third row in the middle, as the horror unfolded right above me.* The rotten thing scared the daylights out of me. I confess – I screamed. Really screamed. Even the Beloved, ever calm and composed, said Oh shit!

    Good stuff, Wolfman. Thanks for the excellent review and the memories.

    * back in the days when it was absolutely forbidden and very bad form indeed to give away the action – the “recommenders” had big grins on their faces – you’ll love it.

    Nice one calli !

    Of course back in those days, spoilers were rare thanks to no internet, so although we went to see the film knowing it was probably going to be scary we had no idea of what was coming.

    The famous scene with poor John Hurt and the chest burster occurred approx. half-way through a near 2 hour film, and, as I have said before, the tension had been deliberately built up slowly so when the “action” did occur it was a huge shock/jump for us all.

    In terms of movie shock scenes I rate it on par with Hitchock’s infamous shower scene from Psycho.

    I have always found director Ridley Scott a little over-rated and I still maintain this is by far his best film (actually only the 2nd one he’d made after the user-appreciated The Duellists)


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  24. Never saw Alien. I prefer my monsters to be human, much scarier. Loved the Duellists. Harvey’s best movie. To keep the animosity going for so long without wrecking the the whole thing was excellent directing. Intense restraint, sounds a bit wanky but that’s how it seemed at the time. Did Conrad justice.


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  25. lotocotisays:
    May 19, 2022 at 6:06 pm
    Dark Star is a must..

    The first O’Bannon/Cobb project.

    Indeed — O’Bannon went on to write the Alien franchise.


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  26. Wolfie, Aliens is one of my all-time favourite films and one of the few films that out does the original, although the original is top notch too.

    Great everything; including cast, story, screen play and “look.”

    It was great to see a female as the main protagonist, all the while remaining a believable female – fierce but vulnerable; courageous but frightened and all the while thoroughly human.

    Five stars!


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  27. Bar Beach Swimmer says:
    May 20, 2022 at 5:25 pm
    Wolfie, Aliens is one of my all-time favourite films and one of the few films that out does the original, although the original is top notch too.

    Great everything; including cast, story, screen play and “look.”

    It was great to see a female as the main protagonist, all the while remaining a believable female – fierce but vulnerable; courageous but frightened and all the while thoroughly human.

    Five stars!

    Absolutely ! ! !

    Decided to watch both Alien and Aliens tonight – far better, although not as scary, than the bulls!t we’ll be getting with the election night coverage.


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