Alien (1979)

ALIEN (1979)
Article #1082 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-1-2004
Posting Date: 7-29-2004
Directed by Ridley Scott
Featuring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright

The crew of a mining expedition is pulled out of suspended animation to investigate the possibility of intelligent life on a distant planet.

Much has been made of how this science fiction/horror movie resembles IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, but unless someone has tracked down undeniable proof that the earlier movie was the inspiration for this one, I’m more likely to chalk it up to coincidence, as the idea of a marauding space alien loose aboard a spaceship seems to me a fairly logical concept that could easily occur to anybody. In fact, I suspect that the idea may be largely a serious retread of the comic take of the idea from DARK STAR, as Dan O’Bannon also helped write the script of that one. When I saw this years ago in the theater, I was less than impressed with the movie for somewhat trivial reasons. I didn’t care much for the fact that the eggs in the movie had such little resemblance to the eggs featured prominently in the ads, I thought the use of the cat for cheap scares to be annoying, and I really thought it was stupid for Ripley to go back for the cat after she had started to self-destruct mechanism (incidentally, I have no idea why I concocted this latter complaint; every viewing of the movie I’ve had since shows I clearly had my time line mixed up, and nowadays I chalk it up to proof that the memory can play tricks on you).

Watching it again, I feel very different about these things. The egg is a non-issue, and I now perceive that the scares involving the cat are actually somewhat witty. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was the movie’s strengths; the excellent visual sense of the movie, the incredible design of the Nostromo, the alien, the alien spaceship, etc., and most particularly the excellence of the performances and the depth of the characters; most movies of this ilk wouldn’t bother much with character development of this sort. The exquisite use of sound and silence and the masterful pacing also help the movie to hold up well through the years. If I have any regret, it’s that the movie didn’t quite scare me enough to keep me awake all night, which is kind of ironic, because…well, that’s a story for another time.


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