The science fiction horror film Alien became a cult movie when it was released in 1979 and spawned an entire subgenre of movies called ‘body horror’. Director Ridley Scott, whose powerful vision was largely responsible for elevating this movie from an average B-grade flick to a movie masterpiece, is also responsible for what is commonplace in moviedom today—the director’s cut. Yes, Alien was one of the first movies to be released on DVD with a special version, known as the director’s cut. The director’s cut retains all its original horror, bleakness, cynicism and cold-hearted finesse. A crew of ill-fated “truck drivers in space” are on board the spaceship Nostromo when they intercept an unfamiliar signal on the radio. Following the signal, they land on a strange, smoky planet where three of them come upon a vast, bizarre space ship that has been abandoned. The biologist among them goes down deeper into the ship to discover a bunch of eggs. When he gets too close, a primeval and horrifying hand-like creature slithers out of the egg and attaches itself to his face. What happens after that forms the crux of the movie and inspires enough chills to last the summer. The cast included seven spaceship crew members including Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, Tom Skerritt as Captain Dallas and Ian Holm as Ash.
The director’s cut includes a few deleted scenes, notably the one in which Ripley kills her crewmates, Dallas and Brett, when she discovers them being used as human hosts (eggs) for the alien. There is also a director’s commentary by Ridley Scott. The best part, however, is the extended feature on the Making of the Movie. Through interviews with the cast and crew, it lets us in on lots of interesting back stories, ranging from the artistic dilemmas to the petty rivalries. Particularly fascinating is the revelation of Ridley Scott’s directorial style and the pressure he was under—he used to set up 45 shots in a day and those were some incredible sets!
One of the best features is the interview with Swiss painter and sculptor, H.R. Giger, who was responsible for creating the Alien. Clad in black with notebooks full of monstrous images, the man seems almost as eerie as his imagination. The interviews with him reveal the creative process and bring out the wonder of building a horrific creature in a time when digital imaging had not yet been discovered.
Even today, Alien remains a class act—a movie that is a forerunner to many of the clumsier sci-fi horrors made after and the DVD is a collector’s edition worth picking up.
A version of this was published in the Mid-Day yesterday.