Alien Territory Part 1

Film

In a month of dire warnings about Russian spies, Chinese viruses, American fascism, global heating (six months left to fix it, apparently, which means the planet is doomed before I can get tickets for the National Theatre again) watching say, ‘The Salisbury Poisonings’ or reading Cormac McCarthy seems like a little light entertainment.

Meanwhile, scientists have announced that there are most likely 36 intelligently inhabited planets near us, which suggests that aliens have had a look through a telescope, spotted Donald Trump and decided not to come anywhere near here except to empty their toilet waste.

The pandemic drove me back through the entire ‘Alien’ film cycle (Lockdown rules; you’re allowed to have some guilty pleasures). I did it because we have a history, that thing and I.

To keep it brief, many years ago we were commissioned to work on a new Ridley Scott film by 20th Century Fox, and delivered several pages of around twenty poster copylines apiece which included ‘that’ one – whether they used it from our supplied page or someone else came up with it simultaneously in America (as some publicist’s wife now claims she did) is hardly relevant, although I’d quite like to find our original work folders on it, but when we sold the company I suspect they were dumped.

Not that it matters as firstly, we got paid – the page with ‘In space no-one can hear you scream’ was stamped ‘£20 received'(!) Second, it’s the most obvious line you can think of when the brief is ‘a horror film set in space’, a new concept back then, and third who cares? It’s not exactly Madame Bovary and we were working on between 25-35 films a month. 

Over the years we remained tangentially involved in the sequels and had been required to read various different versions of the scripts by highly respected writers. Carrying the weight of a franchise that started out as a horror film and developed powerful arthouse pretensions, creative teams tore themselves apart trying to deliver what the studio thought it wanted. It’s fascinating to recall how the brief was twisted back and forth in adaptations. So let’s start at the beginning. Of course, the films have been picked apart on DVD extras for decades – this is about watching them afresh.

Alien

The egg box. That was all any of us had seen – a special shoot of a green egg, and a reference to ‘It! The terror from Beyond Space’, upon which writer Dan O’Bannon had very loosely based ‘Alien’. For another example of their work, check out O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett’s ‘Dead and Buried’, a genuine one-off, nicely directed by ‘Death Line’s Gary Sherman.

The finished film of the first Alien enthralled because if its scuffed, atmospheric production design, its star, a very young Sigourney Weaver, and its astonishing creature. Years later, when John Hurt and I saw the film at a Somerset House open-air screening, we realised that it didn’t work for a new young audience. They were bored because the first hour was too slow and there was all this talking and they just wanted to get to the highs, like a YouTube mash-up or a Tik Tok clip.

For me it could be slower still. Scott’s direction is subtly unnerving. The ship is a great industrial machine, an oil tanker grinding its way across the sea of the universe, and it sets a slow drum beat to the events. This is one of the best early examples of feeling as though we’re really in the hostile environment of space.

It’s a fatalistic film, everything pre-ordained from the outset. There’s a class hierarchy, a bad-tempered atmosphere, a sense that no-one on board really has control. Into this comes the distress signal that is not, the rescue mission that is not, and an agent of chaos, the alien, which is seemingly not a threat on the fateful morning that John Hurt awakes. The monster works because it has a genesis, the life cycle of an insect or mammal crossed with that of a highly self-defensive parasite, and humans are no match. It is genuinely other-worldly; we can’t even see how it moves.

If the rest of the film is a series of tick boxes marking off each of the early raised questions, we are still shocked by Ian Holmes’ avuncular robot turning rogue and the ultimate plans for the ship. Jerry Goldsmith’s best score only resolves its sinister minor chords at the close, when sleep and safety beckon.

The film’s success was not based on any one element but the cohesion of all into one disturbing, penumbral vision. It would prove hard to replicate as the stakes were raised…

To be continued

 

37 comments on “Alien Territory Part 1”

  1. Jan says:

    I love the first “Alien” film Chris it is a great picture. I get ‘what you are saying re the build up the 1st hour or so.

    It sets the tone it’s a bit like what you wrote yonks and y’know about how sometimes the build up to an old tv sitcom being just as enjoyable (if not occasionally)more so as the real comic interlude which will follow. With Alien the feel of the ship that’s it is a working base with all the cobbled togetherness of any working industrial unit that builds into the reality of the set up.

    I don’t think I really understood about The class hierarchy thing till you said but of course it is there. Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto standing their ground, the other lass (The pilot ) being not so certain of where she stood in the set up.
    I reckon Tom Skerritt was very well cast in that role because he has all the merits of being the leader – but at no time do you believe he’s invulnerable. In a way you get it from the off he’s in bother. I didn’t really understand how important Signourey Weaver was to the film until the sequels started to be churned out. I thought she was a cut price Jane Fonda basically! It’s a classic horror movie move The girl v. Baddie end scenario. Along the way in the sequels when The monster is revealed as female it’s a good twist. Very clever.

    Ian Holm does a good turn as The Android.

    The original “Alien” gets to be both claustrophobic and massively adrift /separated from humanity at the same time. In some ways it’s the ultimate classic haunted country mansion but on steroids. In space!

    You little contribution which turned out to be a mega contribution sold me on seeing the picture. The line sort of got me interested in the set up. I know that’s me being just one passing idiot out of a multitude of probably brighter but it does a proper good job. Puts you right up there with Mr Rushdie suggesting folk being naughty but nice enjoying fresh cream cakes or taking an egg to work (!) – if that were him – I might be mixing up my advertising slogans…Credit where it’s due.

    You never just got paid £20 quid for that did you? No your winding us up!

  2. snowy says:

    ‘Alien’ is an interesting film, but in the 40 years since it was made the way stories are told has completely changed.

    A few years ago I was chatting with Anne Billson on her blog, [for those unaware she’s proper writer on film], it was something about the shift in female representation. And before I opened my mouth and completely embarrassed myself in front of somebody who really knows their onions, I thought I’d ask around among friends that were born after 1979 what they thought about ‘Alien’.

    Being a real spod, I wrote out a list of questions so each of them would get asked exactly the same thing. Nerdy as it gets, but if you don’t you can’t compare ‘like for like’.

    It was an abject failure in each and every case, each time I started going through the questions it was immediately obvious that they were talking about ‘Aliens’, they had absolutely no awareness of ‘Alien’. The film has been absorbed into the franchise and is just now a low budget ‘prequel’ to all the Hollywood blockbuster rehashes.


    Jan, I bet it was £20, think back to 1979…. it’s about a £ a letter.

    If you had got a pound for every letter you put in your notebook that year you could have retired to live in a gold mansion on a private island .


    For those studying film, the standard reference work on ‘Alien’ is published by the BFI and was written by Anne Billson. Don’t argue just buy it.

  3. snowy says:

    You could get away with the slow build in ‘Alien’ then, because there were almost absolutely no other distractions around in the cinema.

    [I went and looked up the average wage in 1978, it was about £80 p/w gross, so £20 was more than a days pay for approximately 10-ish minutes work, not complaining, it’s nice work if you can get it].

  4. Dead and Buried is a gem – esp for the wonderful Jack Albertson – one of my favourite actors who played Grandpa in the Gene Wilder Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and should have reprised his stage role in the Sunshine Boys in the film but was already booked. What a marvellous old actor.

    Is Alien a horror film or SF ? (discuss in 25 words using one side of the paper)

    Great post !

  5. snowy says:

    *rubs hands together*

    “It’s a horror story in a Sci-Fi setting”.

    In 9 words, what do I win? Oh, nothing – that’s just what I expected…. *sulks*

  6. That’s pretty good. What’s your favourite charity ? I’ll send them a tenner

  7. admin says:

    Anne Billson’s own film guide is indispensable and she takes no prisoners in her informed opinion. She is a dear friend and a regular reader of this column.

  8. SteveB says:

    Yes Dead and Buried is a film I also remember well. “Let me help you with those hands” Also the A-Train music!

    That’s really interesting that Aliens “obliterated” Alien. I wouldn’t have expected that because Sigourney Weaver fighting the alien in her undies was always quite memorable for me (because it emphasised her vulnerability), much more than the second film.

  9. snowy says:

    I’d have to give it a bit more thought, but a few shreds come back to mind.

    There are no ‘stars’ as such in ‘Alien’, it’s an ensemble piece.

    Ripley [character] was originally a man, it’s the gender switch among other things that saved ‘Alien’ from being just another routine ‘peril in space’ film.

    There had been a rising trend of films with female characters being pushed/bullied/terrified until they finally snap and take action: Carrie, Halloween etc. ‘Alien’ resets this model because Ripley doesn’t loose control. She is always in control of herself and when Dallas is killed, she takes up command.

    [The last one is a bit of an approximation, I remember it being a lot more complicated than that when I last talked about it.]

    Other people will chip in, there are lots of ‘Film Freaks’ around here and they are all cleverer than me.

    Shame we didn’t know in advance we could have all had a ‘Watch-Along’, [I might dig it out later, I’ve not seen it for a couple of years].

  10. SteveB says:

    Other people will chip in, there are lots of ‘Film Freaks’ around here and they are all cleverer than me.

    Well at least one the man in the white suit 😉

  11. snowy says:

    I did say they were cleverer than me. [if I keep shooting my self in the foot at this rate I’ll have run out of socks by Friday lunchtime].

    ERRATA:

    Anne wrote the BFI texts for Jim Carpenter’s The Thing AND Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She also wrote a novella based on Jones the cat from Alien. [She has also written lots of others books to boot, so just buy one].

    .

    Bonus fact: Sound/Vocalisations of the alien in ‘Alien’ were by Percy Edwards, [perhaps better known in the UK than the US].

  12. Roger says:

    Mild spoiler ahead!
    The thing which amused and irritated me about Alien and its successors – still does, in fact – is that a film made by a profit-seeking corporation assumes that profit-seeking corporations are interested only in possible profits and will happily kill their employees and endanger the whole human species to get them. Did the people who authorised that theme not notice it could apply to them and their employers or did they think it was so obviously true and good it didn’t need thinking about?

  13. Dawn Andrews says:

    Love the first film for the slow build-up and the characters, the way they interact. I read somewhere that Dan O’Bannon said the creature was so scary in revenge for Dark Star bombing? I love the beach ball alien in that! Alien has a fairytale feel too, ‘lucky star’.

  14. admin says:

    Roger, studios make dozens of films about corporate greed every year and know it applies to they. And they don’t care because why would they?

  15. Jan says:

    that last bit when Weaver/Ripley goes into “lucky star”rings very true. On the mercifully v odd occasions when I’ve been in the position of just having to stick right on track and it’s vital to simply chug along and keep going solidly for a short time even though your’e completely terrified you DO keep going by latching onto something that’s virtually a mantra just to concentrate on and in the same moment leave your focus where it needs to be. That was one of the bits of the film that properly worked and caught the gut grabbing fear – they really caught that pretty well.

    Wot are The “BFI” texts that this lady wrote please? ( Wot are BFI texts?) It’s funny isn’t it that “The Thing” and “Alien” were contemporary. Both films released and in the pictures at much same time (if memory serves) At the time “Alien” was the bigger draw no two ways about it. Which the Fowler slogan probably helped no end with. Over time though I have really enjoyed “The Thing” more and more that was another great picture. It was a remake of a really old black and white picture RKO I think. That old!

    I can remember the title of the long short story /short book it was based on
    “Who goes there?” Can’t remember who wrote it but the title is so evocative of the concept, the uncertainty of the shape shifting monster which was kind of mind bending. You know over a long time weighing them both up I’m not certain I don’t actually prefer the Thing for me it’s the better film.

    Same themes isolation but at the same time claustrophobia with the added twist of spot the baddie.

    The end bit with Kurt Russell and Keith David the black guy who crops up in one of the best(est) Carpenter films of the lot “They Live” when they are just sat there sharing (were they sharing? not 100% they were) The bottle of whisky with neither of them that sure about the other…..Great ending

    Yes out of the two the Thing for me. John Carpenter

    Hope you are alright sir weather’s proper rubbish here. (That saves a letter) have a nice weekend.

  16. snowy says:

    ‘Alien’ came in 1979, ‘The Thing’ came out in 1982, but they are both part of a wave of Sci-Fi films, ‘The Thing’ is a marginally better film – as a piece of entertainment, ‘Alien’ is a more important film as it changes what it is possible for characters to be.

    ‘The Thing from Another World’ [1951], has some great scenes in it, the dialogue and acting are a bit dated, but some of the camera work is great, particularly the where they discover the ship.

    The’ BFI Film Classics’ series of books are very handy if you watch a film and go “That was a brilliant film!”; “But I don’t know why it was so brilliant?”.

    In each book a proper film expert takes you through the film and explains what is going on in the scenes, how putting the camera in a particular spot changes how the audience feels, How arranging the actors around a table means the camera making little flicks between characters makes thing feel more tense than having them just sit there just ‘talking at’ each other.

    [It seems Bloomsbury are now handling publication for the BFI]

  17. snowy says:

    Evil corporations are a bit of a Sci-Fi trope:

    Armadyne, Conglomerates Amalgamated, Cyberdyne Systems, Izon, Omni Consumer Products, Spectacular Optical, Soylent, Tyrell, Umbrella, Zorg. [Though placing some of these will test your film knowledge.]

    The fear of/loathing for them goes back a really long way, way before people were ‘Sicking it to The Man’. It’s in a lot of the 50’s original American Sci-Fi stories because of second wave of the ‘Company Town’, large business creating vast factories and building housing for workers alongside, exercising control over every single part of their employees lives. Probably the most extreme form is in ‘Brave New World’, where a corporation has the status of a religion.

    Once the idea ‘escaped the box’ it became a source of general villainy, hence: Auric Enterprises, Carver Media Group, Drax Industries, Graves Diamonds, Greene Planet, King Industries, Ocean Exotica, Stromberg Shipping, Zorin Industries.

  18. Anne Billson says:

    Thank you everyone in this thread who has said lovely and generous things about me.

    To clarify, Alien came out in 1979; John Carpenter’s The Thing in 1982 – same year as ET. Critics absolutely crucified it, and (most likely symptomatic of the shift in movie-going tastes away from the uncertainties and paranoia of the 1970s and towards more simplistic blockbusters after Star Wars) audiences preferred their aliens benign and cuddlesome, and their endings clear-cut and optimistic.

    Carpenter was a fan of Christian Nyby’s (some say Howard Hawks’) The Thing From Another World (1951). Both films were adapted from the same source (John W Campbell Jr’s longish short story Who Goes There?) but take contrasting approaches to the material, though Carpenter “quoted” some of the imagery from the 1951 film.

    I wrote the BFI Modern Classics book on The Thing (1997, at a time when it had yet to undergo critical reevaluation, though most people I knew of my generation loved it). I don’t know if there’s a book on Alien in the same series, but if there is I didn’t write it.

    In 2011 I wrote a short story called My Day by Jones, which was the events of Alien from the POV of Jones the Cat, and posted it on my blog, where it got a lot of attention. After I removed it someone posted it elsewhere on the net, without my permission and with my name removed, from where it was downloaded thousands of times, so I’m still sore about that. I was also a bit miffed a few years ago when an American brought out a book with the very same idea – Alien from the cat’s POV – not because he had the same idea, but because over the years I had tried several times to interest publishers in a book like this, and they didn’t want to know.

    Anyhow (here’s the self-pimping bit; please forgive me but I still don’t have a publisher so I am obliged to DIY), My Day by Jones is available in my book CATS ON FILM (kindle or paperback), which has been described (not by my mother) as “possibly the best book ever” and “one of the finest pieces of specialist film scholarship published in recent years” and “a hugely entertaining publication from an erudite & engaging film critic”.

  19. Stephen says:

    Hi Chris, excellent article.Jerry Goldsmith’s score is innovative and up there with his best work;but it’s arguable whether it’s his best score

  20. Dawn Andrews says:

    With you on the stepping iout of terror nto a virtual mantra Jan, very useful. Films can be many things, I tend to rewatch old favorites when really stressed, when I got out of hospital after twelve days last year I watched The cat and the Canary five times. A bit like comfort food.
    I was always so glad Jonesy made it out! I think it was partly a stress reaction after watching the creative pork it. Love Veronica Cartwright in that film. Have a good weekend all film freaks.

  21. Ian Luck says:

    A thing I like very much about ‘Alien’ is that only the surnames of the characters are used – so that actors of either gender could play them – and each name tells us nothing – Dallas, Ripley, Kane, Ash, Lambert, Parker, Brett; all fairly nondescript, and each of whom could be anybody. Even the cat of the Nostromo, had a surname for a name.

  22. Ian Luck says:

    I’m sad to report that Sir Ian Holm, who played Ash in Alien died yesterday, aged 88.

  23. John Howard says:

    Ann – thank you, book now ordered… Admin – You are still doing it.. even when you aren’t suggesting my book pile is getting bigger…. Ah well, can only be good can’t it.

  24. Jan says:

    That’s v interesting the way you’ve put that Snows that Alien’s strength is partially centred on what it’s possible for characters to be. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms at all but I see where you are coming from. I would still contend that the young female lead v the monster is an old theme. It’s there in very old silent films – it’s even there in fairy tales in a sense.

    Maybe the difference here is that Ripley out THINKS her foe. By the maintenance of her self control and logical input into the situation she saves the day. Also remembering that it was Ripley who wanted to stick to the space quarantine rules initially. Ash breaks them seemingly out of sympathy for others but in reality out of a desire to harvest the monster for commercial exploitation.

    By sticking to the logic rulebook Ripley succeeds. This is not traditionally viewed as being a female strength. I think that may be partly what you are getting at here. Let me know if I’ve misread your thoughts.

    I think James Cameron’s take a this same idea is played forward into Aliens now there’s not only Ripley there’s the young female Marine who displays the traditionally male attributes of great physical courage. I might have mismembered this one (apologies if I have!). but doesn’t she actually assist the commander of the unit the guy who is quite doubtful and “green” in physically steadying his hard enabling the machine gun fire at the monsters in the air duct?

    She might even decide on the location the counter offensive point. A decision she didn’t have much of a shout in really it being dictated by the monsters. But Cameron and his writers make the decision hers.

    Whatever you think of Mr C as a director and I am no intellectual (obviously!) he does generally speak well for women in his pictures. The proper story in Terminator is the machine v. The female lead Sarah Connor. She gets to make most of the decisions. Fair play to him.

  25. Jan says:

    Interesting point about the names being gender fluid Ian.

    What about the name of the ship itself though? I read “Nostromo” long long time back and can hardly remember all the details but isn’t Nostromo in Conrads book a proper heroic figure a bloke who works for some big firm exploiting mineral wealth silver or gold in S. America?

    Isn’t there something a bit dodgy or a bit unsuitable about the design of the ship he captains a deep hull or something similar that means he had to use like a tug or a barge to filch the minerals from somewhere? Maybe after some other outfit had done the actual mining? Honestly I can’t recollect the ins and outs of it

    Dunno if I am just reading too much into this but I always wondered if the naming of the commercial space freighter was the real clue to one of the biggest “characters” of this piece. The very backdrop against which the drama plays out.

  26. Jan says:

    Thanks a lot Snowy for explaining about BFI Texts. Thankyou! Much appreciated.

    Hello Anne Billson. That’s a top take on the Alien story you have come up with here. One animals P.O.V about another creatures arrival and takeover of its very own personal space. A not very impressed and increasingly perturbed Jonesy I would have thought!

    Could I just ask please in the first picture about “the Thing”bits of which I can remember funnily enough mainly because the filming especially a bit from a plane in the sky if I have remembered correctly seemed to be properly modern. Like it was from the 1970s not the 1950s( I saw the first “Thing” as a youngster. ) Being in black and white helped and probably because the special effects weren’t too startling back then there was like a build up of things getting scarier. Carpenter waded in much faster with the special effects. I can recall bits of the 1st picture though.

    In the first film was there ever much of a clue as to what the shape shifter monster looked like BEFORE the constant mutations? I often have wondered about that with Carpenters film. Bizarre bits of non earth stuff appear and disappear but what did the space critter kick off as?

    maybe odd really to be asking this question at much the same time as a beyond miniscule virus mutation could profoundly change all of our futures but I did wonder…….

    Thanks – no worries if you don’t find time to do this.

    Very sad to read about Ian Holms passing. He did a good turn in Alien. His voice was really well suited to reproducing a computer voice sound. (Early Alexas him and Hal!!).Mr. Holm even got the glitches spot on.

    R.I.P. sir.

  27. Anne Billson says:

    Thank you for the order John Howard! Much appreciated; hope you enjoy it.

    Jan – in The Thing From Another World (1951) the monster is not a shape shifter. It just thaws out from a block of ice (someone thoughtlessly leaves an electric blanket on top of it IIRC!) and runs amok. I don’t think it changes its appearance at all. Carpenter’s films returns to the idea in Campbell’s original story that the monster takes on the form of whoever or whatever it kills.

    Carpenter’s film begins in a very low-key way – with the dog arriving at the outpost, and the Norwegians trying to kill it. There’s a mystery to be solved – why were the Norwegians trying to shoot the dog? – and it’s half an hour before we see the first manifestation of the monster, when the dog starts sprouting tentacles, and all hell breaks loose.

  28. snowy says:

    Hello Jan, [have you layered the Sweet Peas yet?]

    There had always been smart and capable women characters in film, but they tended to appeared in plots that contrived to push their character down. From the 30s to about the early 50s women characters go from being tied to railway lines to standing along side the male hero carrying their own gun. But something happens to plots in the early 60s that begins to reverse that trend and by the 70s, women are more often portrayed as/reduced to decorative puppets. [It tracks what is going on in wider society, but that will lead us into a massive ‘history lecture’ about the fluctuating position of ‘Women in the Workforce 1890-1990’ and the discussion is already a bit stretched as it is.]

    There is a big difference in feel, between a film where the female character is chased around, gradually losing both her wits, and her clothes, before in the last reel finally cornered, exhausted, without hope, falling over in a tear-stained heap, conveniently next to a nail file that she grabs and in one last desperate act, lashes out blindly and kills the monster. And a film where the heroine is the only one that realises what is going on and ‘goes to the fight’.

    Female vs Monster does appear in lots of Fairy stories/Folk tales, but it might just be a variation on Big vs Small – Strong vs Weak, there are also traditional stories that have child heroes, both male and female and monsters certainly come as male and female, [there may even be more female ‘monsters’ in folk stories than male, Grendel’s mother in Beowulf, powerful witches, wicked stepmothers etc.]

    What Ripley has on here side as well as her courage, self-control and smarts is home-ground advantage, she knows every inch of the ship and how everything works. The Alien is as trapped as she is. The plot becomes contrived, [as all plots have to], by removing option after option until it comes down to a ‘fight to the death’.

    Ripley doesn’t run counter to female strengths, but to two decades of female caricatures.


    The female marine you are thinking of is ‘Vasquez’, she’s great, has a cracking intro line when she is asked: “Hey Vasquez have you ever been mistaken for a man?” and delivers a complete stinger in reply. But between that and her ‘splashy’ end she isn’t well used, and it is my opinion that they made her just a little bit too butch to allow the female half of the audience to easily find identification, [but that is just an opinion].


    Sarah Conner becomes strong through Terminator, she starts the film as a wet heap with big hair, being protected by Reese. She doesn’t become strong in her own right until the second film.


    The ability of a Director to control how a film comes out is overstated, a media construct that there has to be one spokesperson for the 100-200+ people that worked together on a film, the can be and are very frequently sacked by studios if they diverge from what the Producers want the film to be. To have complete control over a film one person has to be Writer/Director/Producer.

  29. Ian Luck says:

    1951’s ‘The Thing From Another World’, based on John W. Campbell’s novella ‘Who Goes There?’ – in that, it is a shape-shifter; it’s natural state is a bluish creature with a glaring red eye. In the 1951 movie, it is reduced to James ‘Gunsmoke’ Arness, in a boilersuit, with thorns on his knuckles, and a ‘Frankenstein’ type head prosthesis, and who is described as: “An intellectual carrot!” It’s easy to mock, but I love this film – the set pieces are brilliantly done, like the scene where the men mark out the saucer under the ice – it’s a beautiful shot. The scene where they fight it off by trying to burn it, is astonishing; it must have been choreographed very carefully so that nobody in that claustrophobic (and refrigerated) set didn’t die.
    We must not forget, ever, that the solution to it’s destruction, is suggested by the only woman on the base, too.

  30. Jan says:

    Snows
    I reckon Sarah picks up her game in the first “Terminator” film when she has a pop at her beloved she hits him with “On your feet soldier” he’s told her about her future persona and she don’t hang about she’s goes with it. The end scenes with Arnie reduced to metal skeleton also show she’s changed she just battles on with the much reduced Arnie – in one of his more convincing scenes!. You know they apparently offered Arnie both parts the goodie and the baddie in Terminator – he had no doubts of which role he wanted. . No fool that fella.

    Yes I hadn’t sufficiently considered that Ripley is playing on her home turf. She knows her ground and it plays into her strengths.

    Thankyou for the reply Ann. I always wondered about the original form of this monster.

    They have made some sort of t.v. Series or a film about what happened in the Norwegian camp apparently. Bet that will be worth a watch with present day FX.

    Ian don’t t get me wrong I like th e first film the 1950s version. I don’t know if I have bewildered myself into believing this( it’s been a long old rubbish work day and I’m not long in). I can sort of recall a scene in this picture where they have a load of vegetables (I’m sure it was veg!!) Why veg I dunno and they try and reanimate this weird alien by using the veg….Yes I know WEIRD…. Me dad suggested somebody should have struck up a chorus of “Sing to me my melon-cauli baby” I mean it was pretty odd.
    The scenes on the ice and the fire were smashing.

    Snows I don’t reckon much was made of any of the marine characters bar Signourey ‘s love interest. And the skipper the black guy who smoked cigars. Vasquez did make an impression though she became a very very popular character in the US. Remarkable really considering the character she played. That’s how they cast Marina Sirtis as Troi in “Star Trek” ..because they wanted a sort of Latino female figure. Although how the butch, tough Vasquez morphs into Troi the counsellor with psychic advantages I can’t work out!!! The girl who was Vasquez turns up with Arnie as his love interest in “Running Man” another film.I really love. Sharon Stone being his estranged wife.

    Right that’s enough SF minutiae for me at least I’m late’s not early tomorrow. Night night

  31. snowy says:

    You could well be are probably quite right Jan, [I haven’t seen it through for ages]. My impression is at that point in the franchise arc she is still just running from the monster and isn’t full-formed. Until she finds out in the last 2-3 scenes if this is ever going to end; it has to be her, because there is nobody else to stop it. It’s why Sarah Connor [victim] becomes Sarah Conner [hero] at the end, she stops running away from the monster and starts running toward it. [Doubtless shouting “I’ve had quite enough of this now, I’m hot, tired, dirty and I hate you so much I’m going to get you and rip your electronic nuts off].

    Don’t tell anybody young or they will scream about ‘brownface’; but ‘Jenette Goldstein’ who played Vasquez so brilliantly well is a pale Jewish woman from Beverly Hills. And yes she does after a great opening get shunted into a ‘Soldier’ archetype, partly being clad in a uniform that removes her distinctiveness and her character being tougher than half the other marines, she doesn’t shine out as being either particularly good/able or particularly bad/clumsy at the job. [Foot-soldiers exist in films just to be killed for narrative reasons.]

    [The actress is very talented, she plays John Conner’s foster-mother in T2, she’s Irish in Titanic and Polish-American in 24].

    Maria Conchita Alonso is the woman in ‘Running Man’. Which is a ‘satire’ of sorts about the power of the media/TV and how they will do absolutely anything to make money. [If you watch it now, post everybody’s completely blithe acceptance of reality TV, it told us what was coming, but we didn’t believe it].

  32. Jan says:

    I didn’t twig I had mixed the two ladies up Snowy. Cheers me dears I would have NEVER have twigged that Vasquez was the same woman as J.Connors foster mum in T2 or even more staggeringly that she was The Irish mam in Titanic who told the folk/fairy tales to her kids as the ship is sinking ……ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY sure? I will have to Google it. I could see the step mum and the Irish mammy were the same lady but would have NEVER ever have seen that they were Vasquez I mean are you sure your sure? Will proceed to Google shortly. I am supposed to be pretty good at spotting facial features ……I suppose there is a certain look to the upper face below the eyes …

    It’s a funny thing how certain directors notably for me (cos of the films I watch obviously) Carpenter and Cameron ‘re use the same actors over and over. Both in terms of character actors playing relatively small roles and major stars. I suppose it’s who you view as talented and who you like and get on wirh. It’s interesting in that it showcases the talents of character actors and can do their careers no harm. Also it works at a different level for the more major stars Kurt Russell’s career being really helped by Carpenter. I mean you might not rate Kurt as a massive major talent but I find him very pleasant!

    Certain really major star actors seem to work with their buddies quite a bit Tom HANKS and Gary SINISE being a case in point. I wonder if that’s a more difficult set up than working repeatedly for the same director? I like Gary Sinise as an actor but I wonder if it did limit some of the roles he was offered and got to play cos of repeatedly working with Hanks?

    In the US acting seems to be much more pigeon holed than here. Certain actors seem to work solely in SF once being taken into SF films and series they don’t seem to work in more mainstream stuff ever again. I suppose it’s because the whole industry is just that much bigger.

  33. Jan says:

    Snowy TO THE SWEET PEAS I was going to do the thing that Helen said grow one or more specimen(s) separately in small containers focusing the growth toward the florals….making them competition ready and of course now ALL LOCAL SHOWS ARE OFF.

    As it goes cos all the nurseries were shut I have got FOUR really big tubs of sweet peas going. . Having planted all the seeds I harvested last year and some really cheapo Lidls ones which have fantastic perfume. Just to fill space as there was no summer bedding to be had.

    Loads of flowers to take into work I suppose. But as far as challenging that bloke with his ‘orrible purple flowers and sturdy stems it’s a case of being all dressed up with nowhere to go. I’ll have him next year!

  34. Helen Martin says:

    Wasn’t this Helen, Jan. Of course that’s what happened. You can grind your teeth over it but brace yourself because next year sweet peas will be off, you know, except for ‘orrible purple flowers and they will flourish. It’s just the way things are.

  35. Jan says:

    H very true!!

  36. Lauren C says:

    This is one of the most entertaining and thoughtful discussions I’ve run across in weeks, as political and social matters here in the US suck up all available oxygen (which is a good and necessary thing, I must add). I too had to stop and order “Cats On Film”, thus ending my attempt at a personal, post-grad-school record of days without buying a book (made it to 79).

    I have two strong memories associated with the film. The first is of my middle brother sitting on the end of my bed that summer that Alien was released, telling me the entire story of the film, because I said “I’ll never go see that”, and his saying repeatedly, “And you think it’s going to get the cat!” (for we are a family of cat slaves). The second is of watching Alien at a repertory cinema in Toronto, where I’d gone for a first pass at grad school. Despite knowing (I thought) the whole movie, I was transfixed. Then I discovered that my brother had not told me the end of the movie, and when I got up to leave the theater, my legs were literally shaking, and I’m not a legs-shaking kinda person.

    So thanks for the prod to re-watch it.

  37. Ian Luck says:

    Jan – at one point, the Thing gets an arm torn off (it grows another, of course), and the scientists find that, if fed with blood the separate bits of the creature, will quickly grow into plants – I think that each one would have grown into another ‘Thing’.

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