In honor of the 40th Anniversary of “Alien”, we look back on how it all began and come face-to-face with one of sci-fi and horror’s crowning achievements.
April 26th has become a special day for fans of one of the most revered franchises in film history: Alien. Forty years ago, the world was treated to an incredibly well-crafted film. It was one that effortlessly blended sci-fi and horror, creating a truly unique experience for movie goers and subsequently spawning five more films and a legion of fans.
Now, in its fourth official year, Fox commemorates the seminal series with another stellar Alien Day celebration — named after the moon LV-426 that Hadley’s Hope was built upon. Continuing the relatively new tradition of Alien Day, several specials, offers, contests, screenings and releases from a variety of hosts and merchants are made available to the masses to help pay tribute to these astounding cinematic achievements.
This year, a new gorgeous 4K— Blu-ray of the original 1979 Alien has been released. Reebok unveiled the “Alien Stompers”, some rad shoes similar to what Ripley sports in Aliens. They come complete with a certificate of authenticity and protective bags to keep your stompers fresh. Funko recently released an all-new 2109 lineup of ALIEN Pop figures, including Ripley holding Jonesy! NECA and ReAction also chimed in for the celebration, with Upper Deck creating a series of trading cards highlighting Alien 3.
There are literally loads of offers in conjunction with 4/26 and you can check out the goodies at https://www.alienuniverse.com/post/alien-day-product-announcements.
Cinematic history in the making
I fucking love the Alien films. No other franchise out there has the number of insanely talented directors and their cast and crew taking the helm one after another to help further the love and lore of its narrative (the opening trilogy was headed by Ridley Scott, James Cameron, and David Fincher). This story was writer Dan O’Bannon’s baby, and he fought tooth and nail to keep the integrity of his creation in tact.
The seed of Alien was planted for the scribe back in his days with John Carpenter at the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles. A student film entitled Dark Star, which both O’Bannon and Carpenter worked on, quickly got out of hand, becoming way too much to be simply a student project. The production was scratched as a student endeavor and instead actually released.
O’Bannon said in the MAKING OF ALIEN documentary, “Instead of Dark Star being the most impressive student film ever made, we had the least impressive professional film ever made.”
The writer remained desperate to be able to make a movie in which an alien lifeform was scary, well conceived and well executed on film. After three months of writing and eating mainly just hot dogs, O’Bannon knocked out the first draft of what would become Alien.
A perfect storm was gathering.
It was a storm that would whip up incredible talents from across the globe and bring them together to help create some of the most important additions to cinema. Don’t think that there wasn’t any turmoil in doing so, though. O’Bannon’s script was terrorized in his eyes once other backers came aboard, and he felt that perhaps he could potentially lose his grasp on what he was so incredibly and rightfully proud of.
His strong friendship with producer and co-creator Ronald Shusett proved beneficial and calming, with Shusett definitely noting the tone his buddy intended to take with Alien. With some bickering, some rewriting, and a lot of potential, the key components were being addressed and the production was gaining momentum.
Roger Corman was at one time slated to head the ambitious sci-fi project, but the majority of the financial backers wished this to be an all-out affair and not a ‘B Movie.’ Even though this may sound pretty damn cool, we cannot deny what Ridley Scott brought to the table.
Once attached to the film, Ridley, a relatively unknown director at the time, was able to create some unbelievable storyboards that he passed on to the producers and creative departments. His enthusiasm for Alien and what he thought he could offer was undeniable. With almost one fell swoop of substantial storyboards, he secured damn near double the budget initially agreed upon. How could you not appreciate a man who wanted to do the Texas Chainsaw Massacre of Science Fiction?
The next issue at hand was how the fuck do they design a horrific, intergalactic, monster?
Enter Hans Ruedi Giger.
Dark, authentic artistic greatness is what created the Xenomorph. An alien lifeform whose sole purpose was to relentlessly eradicate inferior species by violently ‘impregnating’ them with its young. This fucking creature is downright terrifying.
Giger brought nothing but pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel to his artwork, which is precisely why he was chosen by many to be the architect of the killer alien.
But Fox executives weren’t too keen on the idea. They felt that Giger’s art was way too much, too dark. The persistence of several key players to hire the Swiss artist paid off, and despite the apprehensiveness of other crew members to be in his presence (he creeped them out a bit), Giger’s artistic merits flourished on set.
In an interview with writer O’Bannon on when he first met Giger, he noted that the artist offered him some opium. “Why do you take that?” asked the writer. “I’m afraid of my visions,” plainly answered H.R. Giger. I hope someone gave this guy a hug every now and then.
This one’s for the girls.
In addition to an absolutely astounding monster that damn near everyone feared, there were characters that resonated deep within us as an audience. And for me being a young girl when I initially took on these films, I could not help but notice the main protagonist was a woman. Not just any woman, but a fearless, resilient, and seriously fucking resourceful woman.
I was in complete awe, and it dawned upon me, even at an early age, that I had never come across such a character before. I cannot stress enough how damned important that decision was to make Ripley a lady. And to top it off, it wasn’t just Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal of Ellen Ripley. The entire series is home to a multitude of strong women. Case in point is Jenette Goldstein’s performance as Vasquez in Aliens along with Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw in Prometheus. A huge high-five to those involved to keep the positive flow of estrogen alive and well in the franchise.
A pilgrimage to Mecca
A few weeks ago, we made a trip to Los Angeles to hit up a few spots of interest. One that made the top of the list was at Dan O’Bannon’s old stomping grounds of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. To help celebrate the achievement of one of their own, the prestigious film school set up a very intimate, but extremely impressive display featuring all things ALIEN (It’s FREE and runs through May 12, 2019).
As we trekked through the perfectly manicured courtyards of USC, we found our destination within the George Lucas Building. As I entered the impeccable lobby, my sight immediately locking in on all that is Holy to me, I got a little choked up. It’s not every day you are literally inches away from mind-blowing movie memorabilia belonging to a lifelong favorite.
I was overwhelmed at first, taking it all in and realizing exactly what the fuck I was looking at. Screen used props, scripts, storyboards, costumes, photos…you name it; it was there and I was beyond happy. I didn’t care that tears were running down my cheeks and that all these USC film students saw me crying out of sheer joy. Maybe someone like me, sitting there being incredibly emotional over some films, could illuminate life differently for them. Reinvigorate how lucky they are to potentially be a part of the next wave of creators, movers and shakers.