Movies: Alien (1979)

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by Tom Johnson

Alien was once the only Alien film I had not seen in the theater. Yes, I actually paid (and dragged my wife along) to see the unfortunate Alien Resurrection. What a stupid concept: Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) having flung herself into flaming, molten metal at the end of Alien3, is cloned from a drop of blood. Apparently her DNA must have mixed with the alien creature’s and now she’s a hybrid of the two, but looks perfectly human. She just acts kind of like an animal at times, and I guess it provides a few twists to the story in that she’s now somewhat immune to their attacks, being one of them and all. But come on, that’s a pretty cheap tactic around which to base your story.

OK, to get back on track: Alien is a masterpiece of mood and the good spook. Like any truly great horror movie, it works slowly, quietly, and provides you with the occasionally mild surprise before ramping up the tension dramatically. Even after having seen it countless times, I found myself still reacting to the same scenes that get me every time. I also found myself bracing as the tension mounted — regardless of knowing exactly what’s going to happen. That’s what good horror does for you.

Ridley Scott, in 2003, went back into the vaults to resurrect some scenes that never made the cut of the original 1979 theatrical release. He also chose to tighten up some of the scenes, as he felt some of the material wandered a bit, and in my opinion he was right. After seeing this new version, I’m certain he’s right — there’s slightly less unnecessary exposition before we find the crew investigating the mysterious, deserted spacecraft that beckoned them. He’s also added new bits here and there, the significant addition being the discovery by Ripley of Dallas (Tom Skerrit) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto) cocooned by the alien and impregnated by its face-huggers.

Why this scene was left out of the original is unknown; it explains further why Ripley must destroy the ship, since there will soon be multiple creatures running around. The original entirely neglects to bring up the idea that the alien itself can leave eggs behind — something that seems to be further exploited in Aliens wherein a single, huge, very angry queen is responsible for reproducing, and the creature we knew from the first movie is simply a warrior, present in multitudes.

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