This year marks the 35th anniversary of the science fiction/horror classic Alien.
The film, written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, was certainly not the first movie to combine both those genres. However, it may be the most famous given that how influential it became.
The movie begins with the 7-member crew of the cargo ship Nostromo being wakened from their hypersleep prematurely to investigate a signal originating from an uncharted planet. Three of the crew-Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt) and Navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright)-head out to the source of the signal. There, they find a creature which attaches itself to Kane, paralyzing him. Against the advice of Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Kane is brought back aboard the ship. As he examines Kane’s condition, scientist Ash (Ian Holm) believes the creature should be preserved and studied. At the same time, Engineers Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) manage to repair the ship (which was damaged as it landed on the planet).
As the Nostromo resumes its course to Earth, the creature dies. However, shortly afterward, the film’s most memorable occurs when a new creature violently kills Kane by ripping itself out of his stomach. This prompts the remaining crew to hunt it down.
This task is not easily accomplished as the monster becomes larger and more lethal. The crew itself becomes picked off one by one until Ripley finds herself the last one standing.
The design for the title creature came from the artwork of H.R. Giger. The creature itself was designed by Carlo Rambaldi, who previously designed the aliens for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). The movie won the Academy Award for Visual Effects, as well as the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
The small cast does a great job, each portraying credible individuals. But the one who most people remembered was Weaver, who became a star with this movie. She would go on to reprise Ripley in the first three sequels to the film: Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection (1997). The character did not appear in Alien vs. Predator (2004), Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) or the prequel Prometheus (2012). Weaver herself would go onto other successful movies, including Ghostbusters (1984) and Galaxy Quest (1999). She would earn Academy Award nominations for her performances in Aliens, Working Girl (1988) and Gorillas in the Mist (1988).
In addition, the movie boosted the career of its director, Ridley Scott. He would go on to make such classic films as Blade Runner (1982), Someone to Watch Over Me (1987), Thelma & Louise (1991), Gladiator (2000) and American Gangster (2007).
Many say that the movie owes a debt to the classic science fiction/horror movie It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958). But I always felt Alien had more in common with the classic Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None (Stanton, a non-horror/science fiction fan, reportedly agreed to play Brett when Scott told him that the movie would be similar to that story).
To commemorate the movie’s anniversary, 20th Century Fox has re-released it on blu-ray.