I saw two of my favourite sci-fi genre films back-to-back at Vue last night: Ridley Scott’s “ALIEN” followed by James Cameron’s “ALIENS”… WOW, what an experience!!
ALIEN made the most lasting, influential, cinematic impression on me as a lover and writer of science fiction. I first saw it on VHS video in about 1985, some six years after the original cinema release.
I remember being:
* captivated by the sense of realism that flowed from the harshly industrial Nostromo sets,
* enraptured by the balletic orbital manoeuvring of the landing sequence (so beautifully enriched by Jerry Goldsmith’s music),
* totally drawn into the sense of being on a different world as the crew walk towards the derelict, before
* being increasingly terrified as the film accelerates with tense horror after the infamous ‘chest-burster’ scene.
Few films have managed to combine such wonderfully innovative scriptwriting with world-class acting, a haunting score, game-changing realism in set design, with a genuinely unique vision of horror (Giger’s monsters – apparently when Dan O’Bannon first showed Giger’s paintings to Gordon Carroll, the producer recoiled saying ‘This man is sick’).
One quote I really like is the foreshadowing of Brett’s death:
Parker: If they find what they’re lookin’ for out there, that mean we get full shares?
Ripley: Don’t worry, Parker, yeah. You’ll get whatever’s coming to you.
Brett: Look, I’m not gonna do any more work, until we get this straightened out.
Ripley: Brett, you’re guaranteed by law to get a share.
And wow, did he get a share!
When James Cameron’s ALIENS came along in 1986 I was old enough to see it in the cinema. I remember enjoying the film as more of a sci-fi adventure yarn than a horror movie – after ALIEN that was a surprise.
The biggest shock was that The Alien was no longer invulnerable: as long as you had enough firepower you could survive contact with ASH’s “perfect organism… [whose] … structural perfection is matched only by its hostility”. Cameron had obviously taken the franchise on a completely new direction.
Whereas Scott’s ALIEN is full of memorable settings and relentless tensions, Cameron’s ALIENS runs on a full tank of memorable dialogue and one-liners. Some of my favourite quotes from the second film include:
On the Sulaco, shortly after the marines have woken from hypersleep:
Hudson: Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?
Vasquez: No. Have you?
and also… with the marines preparing for the drop:
Ripley: I feel like kind of a fifth wheel around here, is there anything I can do?
Apone: I dunno, is there anything you can do?
and of course… in the APC after the marines barely escape from the Aliens’ surprise attack:
Vasquez: Okay. We have several canisters of CM-20. I say we go back in there and nerve gas the whole fuckin’ nest.
Hicks: It’s worth the try, but we don’t know if that’s gonna affect them.
Hudson: Let’s just bug out and call it even, man! What are we even talking about this for?
Ripley: I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.
Hudson: Fuckin’ A!
The second movie was fun and memorable, and spawned some computer games I have enjoyed playing, but its lasting impact was very much less for me (I actually prefer David Fincher’s ALIEN 3 to ALIENS).
I’d always wondered what the Big Screen experience of ALIEN was like. I’d heard and read the legendary tales of people vomitting in the cinemas when it was released and I felt intimidated to try it for myself. I’m so glad I got brave enough to try it (with some friends for back-up) – it was AWESOME and the experience will stay with me forever!!