ALIEN (director: Ridley Scott; screenwriters: Dan O’Bannon/story by Mr. O’Bannon/Ronald Shusett; cinematographer: Derek Vanlint; editor: Terry Rawlings; music: Jery Goldsmith; cast: Tom Skerritt (Dallas), Sigourney Weaver (Ripley), Veronica Cartwright (Lambert), Harry Dean Stanton (Brett), John Hurt (Kane), Yaphet Kotto (Parker), Ian Holm (Ash); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Gordon Carroll/David Giler/Walter Hill; Fox Home Entertainment; 1979-UK/USA)
“It’s a chilling, slow-paced, space horror movie using the same formula as the B-films of the 1950s.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The film’s tag line in its promotions is “In space, no one can hear you scream.” British-born director Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”/”Hannibal”/”Blade Runner”) fashions the overrated surprise box office sci-fi hit from a story by Dan O’Bannon, who also wrote the screenplay with Ronald Shusett. It’s a chilling, slow-paced, space horror movie using the same formula as the B-films of the 1950s. Some even think it’s a ripoff of Edward L. Cahn’s “It, the Terror from Beyond Space” (1958). It’s rather vacant, relying on gimmickry photography to provide its low-tech shocks of mostly “boo” moments when something jumps out of the shadows.
The crew of seven astronauts of the industrial spaceship Nostromo, a rescue tow ship, is awakened from its hibernation by a message from the ship’s Mother computer to answer a distress signal from a nearby uninhabited planet. Capt. Dallas’ (Tom Skerritt) lands on the unknown planet and sends out a rescue team that discovers a bizarre pod field near the crashed spacecraft, and they cautiously go out to investigate. Soon a mysterious egg from a pod disgorges a multilegged lifeform that clings to the face of crewman Kane (John Hurt), who becomes unconscious. Against the advice of the second in command, warrant officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, her screen debut), and science officer Ash (Ian Holm), Kane is brought back to the Nostromo by the kind-hearted captain. The creature can’t be separated but soon disappears, only to turn up dead later as a now healthy Kane recovers consciousness.
The Nostromo takes off for Earth. While the crew is having its dinner, a snakelike creature emerges from Kane’s stomach and vanishes into the vast ship. Kane’s body is discarded and the perplexed crew searches for the menacing stowaway alien.
The search proves deadly, as crew members are killed. Warrant officer Ripley now takes charge in pursuing the seemingly indestructible creature and thus becomes one of the few female movie action heroes.
Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton put in amusing performances as two basement engineers who can’t stop bitching about not being paid for an extra stop on the mission. The final crew member is Veronica Cartwright, the excitable navigator.
The cheesy haunted house space film has its full quota of shock and schlock; it caught the public’s fancy to become an immensely successful cult film and, though not original, became a much imitated film.
REVIEWED ON 6/19/2009 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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