Retroplex Cinema: Alien (1979)

Retroplex Cinema is back and we look at a science fiction classic.  The trailer for Ridley Scott's "prequel" to Alien titled Prometheus, has started a stir in the industry.  In a summer when The Avengers assemble, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Bourne Legacy continues, Prometheus has become one of the most anticipated films of the year.  So now in Retroplex Cinema, let's take a look at Ridley Scott's film that started it all, the original 1979 Alien.

Alien (1979) scared the living crap out of people when it first hit theaters.  It was one of the first films to cross over science fiction with suspenseful horror.  The film set a new standard with some fantastic visual effects and the fact that science fiction could be smarter, darker, and be scary as hell.
     Plot: Chances are you have seen the film, and you haven't you really should.  We will help you out though, along with Wikipedia, with a full plot synopsis right here:  The commercial towing spaceship Nostromo is on a return trip from Thedus to Earth, hauling a refinery and twenty million tons of mineral ore, and carrying its seven-member crew in stasis. Upon receiving a transmission of unknown origin from a nearby planetoid, the ship's computer awakens the crew.Acting on standing orders from their corporate employers, the crew detaches the Nostromo from the refinery and lands on the planetoid, resulting in some damage to the ship. Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt), and Navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) set out to investigate the signal's source while Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Science Officer Ash (Ian Holm), and Engineers Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto) stay behind to monitor their progress and make repairs.
Dallas, Kane, and Lambert discover that the signal is coming from a derelict alien spacecraft. Inside it they find the remains of a large alien creature whose ribs appear to have been exploded outward from the inside. Meanwhile, the Nostromo's computer partially deciphers the signal transmission, which Ripley determines to be some type of warning. Kane discovers a vast chamber containing numerous eggs, one of which releases a creature that attaches itself to his face. Dallas and Lambert carry the unconscious Kane back to the Nostromo, where Ash allows them inside against Ripley's orders to follow the ship's quarantine protocol. They unsuccessfully attempt to remove the creature from Kane's face, discovering that its blood is an extremely corrosive acid. Eventually the creature detaches on its own and is found dead. With the ship repaired, the crew resume their trip back to Earth.
     Kane awakens seemingly unharmed, but during a meal before re-entering stasis he begins to choke and convulse until an alien creature bursts from his chest, killing him and escaping into the ship. Lacking conventional weapons, the crew attempt to locate and capture the creature by fashioning motion trackers, electric prods, and flamethrowers. Brett follows the crew's cat into a large room where the now-fully-grown Alien attacks him and disappears with his body into the ship's air shafts.
     Dallas enters the shafts intending to force the Alien into an airlock where it can be expelled into space, but it ambushes him. Lambert implores the remaining crew members to escape in the ship's shuttle, but Ripley, now in command, explains that the shuttle will not support four people.
Accessing the ship's computer, Ripley discovers that Ash has been ordered to return the Alien to the Nostromo's corporate employers even at the expense of the crew's lives. Ash attacks her, but Parker intervenes and decapitates him with a blow from a fire extinguisher, revealing Ash to be an android. Before Parker incinerates him, Ash predicts that the other crew members will not survive. The remaining three crew members plan to arm the Nostromo's self-destruct mechanism and escape in the shuttle, but Parker and Lambert are killed by the Alien while gathering the necessary supplies. Ripley initiates the self-destruct sequence and heads for the shuttle with the cat, but finds the Alien blocking her way. She unsuccessfully attempts to abort the self-destruct, then returns to find the Alien gone and narrowly escapes in the shuttle as the Nostromo explodes.
As she prepares to enter stasis, Ripley discovers that the Alien is aboard the shuttle. She puts on a space suit and opens the hatch, causing explosive decompression which forces the Alien to the open doorway. She shoots it with a grappling gun which propels it out, but the gun is yanked from her hands and catches in the closing door, tethering the Alien to the shuttle. It attempts to crawl into one of the engines, but Ripley activates them and blasts the Alien into space. She then puts herself and the cat into stasis for the return trip to Earth.
     Origins:  The idea of Alien came from the mind of Dan O'Bannon, who wrote the screenplay for the film.  He once said about Alien "I didn't steal Alien from anybody. I stole it from everybody!"  He was influenced by popular films of the 1950's such as The Thing From Another World, Forbidden Planet, and Planet Of The Vampires.  The film went through multiple rewrites amd was shopped to several studios.  Initially, , 20th Century Fox did not express confidence in financing a science fiction film. However, after the success of Star Wars in 1977 the studio's interest in the genre rose substantially.  O'Bannon recalled that "They wanted to follow through on Star Wars, and they wanted to follow through fast, and the only spaceship script they had sitting on their desk was Alien". .Alien was greenlit by 20th Century Fox at an initial budget of $4.2 million
     Release & Legacy: Alien opened in theaters on May 25, 1979. It was rated "R" in the United States, "X" in the United Kingdom, and "M" in Australia. The film had no official premier in the United States, yet moviegoers lined up for blocks to see it at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood where a number of models, sets, and props were displayed outside to promote it during its first run.Religious zealots set fire to the model of the space jockey, believing it to be the work of the devil.  Alien did have a formal premiere in the United Kingdom at the Odeon Leicester Square on September 6, 1979, but it did not open widely in Britain until January 13, 1980. Critics gave the film mixed reviews but despite that, Alien was a commercial success, making $78,900,000 in the United States and £7,886,000 in the United Kingdom during its first run.  It ultimately grossed $80,931,801 in the United States and $24,000,000 internationally, bringing its total worldwide gross to $104,931,801.  The film also won the 1970 Academy Award for Visual Effects.
      Around and shortly after Alien's release in theaters, a number of merchandise items and media were released and sold to coincide with the film. These included a novelization by Alan Dean Foster, in both adult and "junior" versions, which was adapted from the film's shooting script Heavy Metal magazine published a comic strip adaptation of the film entitled Alien: The Illustrated Story, as well as a 1980 Alien calendarTwo behind-the-scenes books were released in 1979 to accompany the film: The Book of Alien contained many production photographs and details on the making of the film, while Giger's Alien contained much of H. R. Giger's concept artwork for the movie. A twelve-inch tall model kit of the Alien was released by the Model Products Corporation in the United States and by Airfix in the United Kingdom.  Kenner also produced a larger-scale Alien action figure, as well as a board game in which players raced to be first to reach the shuttle pod while Aliens roamed the Nostromo's corridors and air shafts. Official Halloween costumes of the Alien were released for October 1979.  Several computer games based on the film were released, but not until several years after its theatrical run 
     Director's Cut: In 2003 20th Century Fox was preparing the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set, which would include Alien and its three sequels. In addition, the set would also include alternate versions of all four films in the form of "special editions" and "director's cuts". Fox approached Ridley Scott to digitally restore and remaster Alien, and to restore several scenes which had been cut during the editing process for inclusion in an expanded version of the film  Upon viewing the expanded version, Scott felt that it was too long and chose to recut it into a more streamlined alternate version:  "Upon viewing the proposed expanded version of the film, I felt that the cut was simply too long and the pacing completely thrown off. After all, I cut those scenes out for a reason back in 1979. However, in the interest of giving the fans a new experience with Alien, I figured there had to be an appropriate middle ground. I chose to go in and recut that proposed long version into a more streamlined and polished alternate version of the film. For marketing purposes, this version is being called "The Director's Cut."
The "Director's Cut" restored roughly four minutes of deleted footage while cutting about five minutes of other material, leaving it about a minute shorter than the theatrical cut.  Many of the changes were minor, such as altered sound effects, while the restored footage included the scene in which Ripley discovers the cocooned Dallas and Brett during her escape of the Nostromo. Fox decided to release the Director's Cut in theaters, and it premiered on October 31, 2003. The Alien Quadrilogy box set was released December 2, 2003, with both versions of the film included along with a new commentary track featuring many of the film's actors, writers, and production staff, as well as other special features and a documentary entitled The Beast Within: The Making of Alien. Each film was also released separately as a DVD with both versions of the film included. Scott noted that he was very pleased with the original theatrical cut of Alien, saying that "For all intents and purposes, I felt that the original cut of Alien was perfect. I still feel that way", and that the original 1979 theatrical version "remains my version of choice".  He has since stated that he considers both versions "director's cuts", as he feels that the 1979 version was the best he could possibly have made it at the time
      Alien went on to spawn three sequels, numerous comic books, video games, action figures, and two crossover films with the Predator series of films.  This summer the universe returns to theaters in Prometheus, and soon in Retroplex Cinema, we will look at the classic sequel directed by James Cameron, Aliens.  Until then check out the trailers below for the original Alien.








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