Thursday, 10 November 2011

Unit 2: Space - Review - Ridley Scott's Alien (1979)

Figure 1. Alien Poster Art

Alien is an interesting take on the standard “Haunted House” sub-genre with evocative corridors & a monster in the midst. Pregnancy is the films epitome which is a unique experience for the male demographic, leaning into expressionism of the visceral with terror reborn into the realms of sexual violation. Each film set is based on H. R. Geiger’s psycho sexual medium bringing a sense of insecurity to every dark alley, abandoned street or commercial space cruiser.

•Directed by: Ridley Scott
•Written by: Dan O’Bannon
•Cast: Tom Skerritt as Dallas, Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, Veronica Cartwright as Lambert, Yaphet Kotto as Parker, Harry Dean Stanton as Brett & John Hurt as Kane.
•Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
•Duration: 117 Minutes (aprox)

Figure 2. "3, 2, 1 Disengage"

As the feature opens the audience are introduced to the atmospheric ship the “Nostromo” for what seems to be isolated albeit sophisticated. We are finally introduced to our cast one by one as they emerge from Hibernation pods. It does not take long for our salvage crew to detect a signal and vacate their ship into the unknown angst of an interplanetary plane. The crew stumble upon a ship which contains alien life forms and a haunting icon named by the film’s production staff “the space jockey”. From there one of their team gets attacked by the metaphoric female appendage known by many as “the face hugger”.

The enslaved team mate is brought back onboard the ship against quarantine regulations and inevitably erupts internally unleashing an alien life form onto the ship. The crew are picked off one at a time leaving one female – Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) to deal with the shrouded alien. The monster itself is shot in bits and pieces to make the experience unreal requiring the viewers to visualise the rest of the monster in testament of their own fears.

“But the sheer starkness of the filmmaking, Scott's brutal, inventive use of light, space and sound, and the stripped-down storytelling make this a classic nonetheless. Nearly every shot is lit from either behind or beneath, making it look like everyone's sitting around a campfire telling horror stories with the flashlight held just below their chin.” (Anderson: 2003)

Figure 3. "I could lie to you about your chances"

The most basic phrase to describe Alien is “fear of the unknown” prior to the film’s release the cold war was recent. The American nations were in fear of communism which could have been a political downfall for civic societies. Despite being a sci-fi film set in the future a lot of the points were closer to home allowing audiences to develop a bond with their cast, who were at the time experiencing a different form of monster – a political one.

“The problems and issues facing the nation in 1979 changed the way Alien was received by audience. Overall it made the movie resonate with people more because they could identify, at least conceptually with what the characters were facing.” (Michael: 2011)

Figure 4. "The ship will detonate in T-Minus 10 minutes"

Ridley Scott’s decision to incorporate a female lead was a bold move for the director to action which one could argue was in light of the feminist movement. To convey Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley character in such a strong light would have been misunderstood and unappreciated to the same audience years prior. The bill allowing women the right to abort unplanned children was passed in 1973 one could argue that this is why Ripley was the untainted heroine, to express her right to choose the life she desired.
We felt physically vulnerable, as rape statistics rose and women's bodies were exploited in advertising and entertainment. The external world's disparagement of our abilities was compounded by the extra cruelty that our bodies were at risk as well, from violence without and invasion within. For an unplanned pregnancy felt like an invader, an evil alien bent on colonizing one's body and destroying one's plans. (Greene: 1992)
“My painting is not violent; its life that is violent.” - Francis Bacon

The design of the chest busting alien was inspired by Francis Bacon’s painting “Three Studies for Figures at the Base of the Crucifixion”. From these designs one can see a pigmented pale creature against a strong orange backdrop. This image clearly states the anxiety of man being foreign and vicious much like their own tendencies. One could not help but relate the fear of “Alien” to the mythical “Vagina Dentata” as a graphical discourse of rape. The character of Ripley was the force of what women had become; against all odds she knew this beast and how to stop it.


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Alien Poster Art. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on:10/11/11)

Figure 2. 3, 2, 1 Disengage (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on:10/11/11)

Figure 3. I could lie to you about your chances (com) [Online image]. At: (Accessed on:10/11/11)

Figure 4. The ship will detonate in T-Minus 10 minutes (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on:10/11/11)



Anderson, Jeffrey. (2003) Alien Nation At:
(Accessed on: 10/11/11)

Unknown, Michael. (2011) Alien: Historical & Cultural Context At:
(Accessed on: 10/11/11)

Green, Frederica. (2011) Abortion: Women’s Rights and Wrongs At:
(Accessed on: 10/11/11)


  1. lots of fascinating arguments here - the abortion/right to live particularly. However, what this review needs, if it is to deepen, is supporting evidence to scaffold and corroborate some of your analysis.

  2. Regarding this Phil, was just wondering if I could have a small chat with you about this kinda stuff. Dont want my writing to let me down because I enjoy doing it.

    I read your feedback about my essay (I knew it would suck), not gonna make excuses... I'm just going to tell you that I will bust my back to fix it for the next essay (and perception).

    I went to make an appointment with tracey the other day but she seems pretty full leading up to our crit day... she has a back log for this week.

    Was just wondering if you could give me a few pointers (things you've noticed I do or did and should never do)...

    Your feedback on the Unit 1 form is noted and appreciated. I want my essays to fly!

    Anyway just incase you dont read this Ill ask Monday or something. I wont waste too much of your time, I know your a busy guy.

    Thanks for this Phil

  3. Hey Stitch - just caught up with your feedback on my feedback. Yes, Tracey is awash with students right now, but play the long game - get an appointment and build a relationship with her - she's great. In general terms, you have a great vocab and a poetic touch, but I'd just like you to get your technique finessed - so, while you do use quotes and choose some good ones, I want you to work with evidence in a more integrated way - so, introduce your quote for example, i.e 'As Roger Ebert observes "blah blah blah" - and then, after the quote, reflect on the content of it, unpack it, and then apply it to your ongoing discussion - at the moment, you're floating them, as opposed to tying them into your argument. Let's start there... :)