In Space, Nobody Can Hear You Screw Up...

Movie: Alien
Year: 1979
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright

Much like when I went to see Star Wars, I didn't know much about this movie at all before I saw it. The magazine Heavy Metal (the American offspring of the French BD magazine Metal Hurlant) had some production photos and artists' illustrations but didn't go into any detail about plot. I didn't know who any of the actors were except Yaphet Kotto who I'd seen in a James Bond movie.

Also, like when I went to see Star Wars, my buddy and I trekked the 54 mile drive to Boise to see this one. On the drive home, we didn't say anything at all. We were left speechless for an hour long drive.

The Flaws

There aren't a lot of them but they are there and most of them are only visible to the very astute (read: nitpicky as hell) filmgoer.

When the crew leaves the ship into what is seen as an incredible wind storm, the exhaust from their suits makes plumes that go straight up. Did the wind calm? If so, why do we still hear it?

Mother, the computer, might be able to control the Nostromo but she needs spelling and grammar check software installed. She misspells "ALIGNMENT" as "ALLIGNMENT" and when her directive is shown, she's supposed to "INSURE RETURN OF ORGANISM" rather than "ENSURE RETURN OF ORGANISM."

Towards the end, as Ripley is pressing the sequence to open the outer hatch of the Narcissus to rid herself of the creature (now commonly called "the xenomorph"), the little details on the panel are obviously bits of a tank model glued to the console. They aren't painted or even removed from the sprue. Someone just pulled a part from a model box and glued it down. There's even a miniature shovel clearly visible.

Why These Flaws Don't Matter

This movie is a new version of an old "ghost in the house" story. But it answers the old question of why don't they just get the hell out of the house.

They can't.

There's death inside and death outside.

And they try to leave. Most of them fail.

But from the moment that Kane falls victim to the face hugger, the tension starts to build and doesn't let up until Ripley is settled down into hibernation.

Even then, there are unanswered questions about the cat, Ripley or if maybe there's another one in the escape pod with her (we didn't know their reproductive cycle at this point).

The scene where they're all tracking the alien and it turns out to be the cat is a great bit of misdirection. The tension builds then we're laughing with the crew as kitty runs off. When Brett finds the cat and is talking to him, we see motion behind him but it's too late.

Brett's scream still echoes through that cavernous ship.

It's just a damned good horror flick with jump scares and moments of genuine tension.

It's also one of those movies that I'll stop and watch to the end if I stumble across it while channel surfing.


  1. Yep. One of the best, AFAIC.
    Also, it's cool that the 80s gave us the spectrum -- "E.T." on one end and "Alien" on the other end.

    1. A friend of mine LOVED "E.T." but had never seen "Alien" so he bought them both of VHS when they were in a bargain bin at the local video store.

      I'm not sure he has recovered yet.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

If you have for Force it...

Klaatu barada... oh, darn it!