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Alien was the first film to successfully merge sci-fi with horror (and the war genre on some level) and has influenced hundreds of films and directors who wanted to go the same way but weren’t sure how. Ridley Scott taught them.
The characters, scientists and engineers rather than Han Solo-esque space cowboys, are logical and practical and are on their way back to earth with mineral ore when they are sent to investigate what appears to be a distress signal from a nearby planet. They find a derelict spaceship and a chamber filled with alien eggs. It turns out the signal wasn’t an SOS, but a warning…
One of the alien eggs attaches itself to Kane’s (Hurt) face and then appears bursting from his stomach in one of the most famous scenes in the history of film, thus pitting the crew of the Nostromo against a malevolent death machine.
Aliens is set 57 years after Alien and it has James Cameron’s fingerprints all over it. Big budgets, special effects and fast-paced action sees Ripley as the last crew member of the Nostromo who’s been told that the planet where they first found the eggs has been colonised. Contact has been lost and Ripley, along in an advisory capacity finds disaster. Aliens have taken over the colony and she finds one remaining survivor, a little girl called Newt, played memorably by Veronica Cartwright. An all-female fight-to-the-death between Ripley and the queen of the aliens ensues and we are also treated to some tender moments between Ripley and her charge.
Both directors are considered to be visionaries and they manage to absorb us in the story, the dialogue and the action with its dark intensity which is all at the same time frightening, intriguing and utterly compelling. This is sci-fi filmmaking at its very best.
Alien also produced one of the most iconic taglines ever – ‘In space, no-one can hear you scream’.
Some of our favourite Alien/Aliens quotes…
Ripley: Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting. The other members of the crew, Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash and Captain Dallas, are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.
Ash: There is an explanation for this, you know.
Ripley: Ash, that transmission… Mother’s deciphered part of it. It doesn’t look like an S.O.S.
Ash: What is it, then?
Ripley: Well, I… it looks like a warning. I’m gonna go out after them.
Hudson: That’s great, this is really fuckin’ great, man. Now, what the fuck are we supposed to do? We’re in some pretty shit now, man.
Hicks: Are you finished?
Newt: Guess we’re not gonna make it, are we?
Ripley: I’m sorry, Newt.
Newt: Don’t be sorry, it wasn’t your fault.
Hudson: That’s it, man. Game over, man. Game over, what the fuck are we supposed to now, huh, what are we gonna do?
Ripley: Get away from her, you bitch!
Newt: We’d better get back, ’cause it’ll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night… mostly.
Serial spouse John Hurt was engaged to Marie-Lise Volpeliere-Pierrot, the aunt of the lead singer of 80s band Curiosity Killed the Cat!
The original title for Alien was ‘Star Beast.’
The rumour that the cast, except for John Hurt, did not know what would happen during the ‘chestburster’ scene is partly true. The scene had been explained for them, but they did not know specifics. For instance, Veronica Cartwright did not expect to be sprayed with blood.
The blue laser lights that were used in the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who. The band was testing out lasers for their stage show in the soundstage next door.
The literal German translation of the first film’s title is Alien: The Uncanny Creature from a Strange World.
Ripley’s miniature bathroom in her apartment in Aliens is actually a British Airways toilet, bought from the airline.
Sigourney Weaver’s Best Actress Academy Award nomination for Aliens was the first ever for an actress in an action role in an action movie.
The professional relationship between Bill Paxton and James Cameron stretches back to the early 80s with Terminator, followed by Aliens, True Lies and Titanic. Paxton was slated to appear in Avatar but they thought it was just too much!
The Stars of Alien/Aliens – Where Are They Now?
Thanks to his rugged good looks and imposing presence, Skerritt has been not unpleasantly typecast in a series of ‘uniformed’ roles – Sheriff Bannerman in The Dead Zone, Lt. Stoner and Detective Sheen in TV movies, ‘Viper’ in Top Gun, Commander Bergstrom in Space Camp, Captain Sedman in Night Moves and Sheriff Brock in TV series Picket Fences!
At a shade under six feet tall, she remains one of Hollywood’s most enduring and beautiful stars. Between Alien films she starred in Ghostbusters and then went on to play Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist. She’s been in Dave, The Ice Storm and a number of smaller film and TV roles but is perhaps most widely known to this generation for her portrayal as Grace Augustine in Avatar.
British born, she was a child actor in Hitchcock’s The Birds. She was originally cast as Ripley but the director switched the roles just before shooting started. She has also appeared in Witches of Eastwick with Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer as well as US TV hit Six Feet Under.
Harry Dean Stanton
An actor and a singer, HDS appeared in Cool Hand Luke with Paul Newman and The Godfather Part II with almost everyone. Other film roles include seminal 80s film Pretty in Pink and most recently appeared in The Avengers movie.
One of Britain’s greatest talents, he is best known to British TV audiences for playing (to perfection) Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant and the unutterably insane Emperor Caligula in I, Claudius. Two Oscar nominations for playing John Merrick in The Elephant Man and stoner Max in Midnight Express followed, as did roles in Scandal, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I.
Sir Ian Holm CBE to give him his full title is an Oscar-nominated stage and screen actor who remains a legend of the Royal Shakespeare Company (from where he still has a scar from a wound inflicted upon him by no other than Sir Laurence Oliver during a production of Coriolanus!) Perhaps his best known role was as Sam in Chariots of Fire but has also been in The Fifth Element and played Bilbo Baggins in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
With no acting experience before being cast as ‘Newt’ and no interest in acting afterwards, she is now a teacher in California.
Before Aliens he was one of the main protagonists in Terminator opposite Schwarzenegger. Hits have been few and far between since but his most memorable performance was as Johnny Ringo in Tombstone alongside Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer.
He is an acclaimed writer, actor and stand-up comedian who has been in both Beverly Hills Cop movies and One Night at McCool’s. He is best known for his long-running sitcom Mad About You with Helen Hunt and his production company is currently developing a number of TV shows.