HIDDEN GEMS: 23. ALIEN

Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. This week science fiction horror ‘Alien’. You’re welcome.

Science Fiction and Horror? Together? Crazy I know, but that’s the premise behind Ridley Scott’s little known science fiction horror film Alien. The story was simplicity itself. The crew of an intergalactic truck awake from hyper-sleep to investigate a distress signal on a remote planet. Here they encounter a new life-form which attaches itself to a crew member. On board the ship, the crew member (John Hurt) seems to recover, only to get the worst indigestion of his entire life. And before you know it an alien creature with acid for blood is running around the ship killing crew members one at a time.

It’s easy to see why it wasn’t a great success. Gory and dark and all the backstory was to do with company bonuses instead of the characters endlessly talking about what they want out of life. The Alien itself looked like a penis mouthed bone cage with a cycling helmet on.  And that tag line ‘In Space, no one can hear you scream’!? We can hear spaceships explode and what not. Why not a scream?

Still, Ridley Scott’s second film deserves a re-watch – if you can dig up a copy. The performances are amazing – Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm, Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Koto and Harry Dean Stanton all deserved to be name-checked. Scott in collaboration with Swiss nutcase H.R. Giger gives the film a nightmarish strobed look. The blue collar industrial spaces of the space ship take on a dripping lost in the woods and down the rabbit hole feel.

Scott went on to a highly successful career. And yet I can’t help but wonder if he ever feels like returning to this early work, what marvellous possibilities there might be.

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RIDLEY SCOTT TO DIGITALLY DE-AGE RIDLEY SCOTT

HOLLYWOOD – Blade Runner and Alien director Ridley Scott says he’s open to de-aging himself.

Thelma and Louise and White Squall director Ridley Scott could digitally de-age himself. Scott revealed in an EXCLUSIVE interview with the French magazine Chapeau that he would be willing to undergo digital de-aging.

Of course I would. Why not?

I thought it was a digital process that was only appropriate to actors.

So did I. Then I thought I want to have a go. Think about it. I’ve made so many good films, but the best ones were when I was a young man, or at least a younger man. I’d like to ahve that energy again and that originality. The last few years all I seem to do is try and remake my old successes. But if I could be young again, I’d break out into something really different.

Like what?

The Duellists 2. Harvey Kietel and David Carradine de-aged, me de-aged, we’ll even de-age Vangelis and get him to do the music.

The revolutionary process involves 3D printing the subject and then having the original killed to avoid legal wrangles. The only center that currently operates legally is in Zurich, Switzerland and is run by Christopher Nolan’s brother Jonathan.

The Duellists 2 will be released in 2018.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO CATEGORY ANNOUNCED FOR ACADEMY AWARDS

HOLLYWOOD – A new category and anew award for the ‘Oscars’ or the Motion Picture Academy Awards as they are sometimes called: The Leonardo DiCaprio Award.

Announcing the Award, Motion Picture Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said that the award would be given annually:

It will seek to recognize brilliance and exceptional talent in a motion picture actor, who features in a motion picture in the last calendar year. Although the award will be open to all actors, we are looking to focus on those seasoned performers who have for some reason previously been neglected or disappointed by the Academy. We’re thinking of people like Edward Norton, Tom Cruise, Glenn Close, Johnny Depp, Sigourney Weaver, Harrison Ford, Ed Harris and of course Leonardo DiCaprio.

When asked whether Leonardo diCaprio would win for The Revenant, President Isaacs had this to say:

There is a very good chance Leo might win the Best Actor nomination and eventually the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance. I couldn’t possibly speculate. However, we do know that if he doesn’t, then there’s an even better chance he will win the Best Leonardo diCaprio Oscar. If, that is, Matthew McConaughey doesn’t pip him to the post.

The Oscars will be broadcast on February 28th, 2016.

47 FILMS: 20. 1492: THE CONQUEST OF PARADISE

In our continuing series of ‘47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams‘, we look at Ridley Scott’s dark take on the New World: 1492.

Medieval Spain is a harsh place. The Inquisition burns heretics at the stake and following the fall of Granada, the most Catholic Majesties reign confident in their pomp. An Italian sailor with a bad temper and a yen for exploration seeks funding for his latest venture: an attempt to find a Western passage to India.

Following the success of Thelma and Louise, Ridley Scott managed to get financing for this bold historical epic. Competing with a lighter and more swashbuckling take on the Columbus story (starring Tom Selleck as the King of Spain), 1492 is a strange beguilingly dark and twisted historical piece that gets lost and tortured but turns into something quite extraordinary somewhere along the way. It’s a big budget companion piece to Werner Herzog’s Aguirre: Wrath of God and – although not as fully accomplished as that masterpiece – has much to recommend it.

Featuring a rare English language performance from a hulking Gerard Depardieu as well as sterling support from Sigourney Weaver and a growling Gothic villain in Michael Wincott’s Moxica, the film is a Conradian take on the savagery at the dark heart of the civilization project.  As ideals of adventure and discovery give way to murderous injustice, conquest and vicious exploitation, 1492 is an epic deconstruction of the usually benign heroic take on what for many populations actually represented an apocalypse. A score by Vangelis and Scott’s sumptuous visual style make this an unforgettable film.

For more of our 47 Films Click Here.

THE MAKING OF ALIEN

HOLLYWOOD – In the latest in our celebrated Making of… series, we look at the behind the scenes drama that went into the making of Ridley Scott’s Science Fiction Horror film “Alien”.

The Idea

Dan O’Bannon had been writing Science Fiction scripts for some time. He had scripted and had a small part in John Carpenter’s debut movie “Dark Star”, but O’Bannon wanted to branch out and make a realistic drama about truckers driving across America with a cargo of coal. He wrote to his agent John Stutter:

Dear John,

Please find enclosed the treatment for the new screenplay “Alan”. The story is simple. A trucker called Alan is taking a cargo of coal across America. I see this as very much “Convoy”, but with coal and not as escapist as that film. Let me know what you think.

However, Sutter had not properly read the treatment and his note to O’Bannon was apologetic.

Dan,

Sorry to tell you this but I just glanced at the title of your treatment and got straight onto the phone with Fox. I thought the title was “Alien”. I think it was an ink smudge. Bad news, when I read the treatment I thought it deadly dull. Good news, Fox are sold on having a script from Dark Star writer Dan O’Bannon entitled “Alien”!

A disgruntled O’Bannon got to work and he re-used several characters from his coal convoy story along with the grungy feel he had been aspiring to but he resolutely refused to add an Alien which saw the script taken out of his hands and given to Ronald Shusett who added the Alien. Walter Hill’s production company got involved and a British commercials director who had just made an atmospheric Napoleonic drama called “The Duellists” was also interested.

Pre-Production

The key to the film was thought to be the creature of the title and Jim Henson, the puppet master who created the Muppets, was called in. Following Ridley Scott’s instructions to ‘go dark’, Henson produced the face-hugger, the fetus and the final creature in one 48 hour bout of creativity. However, fearing for his child friendly reputation he hired Swiss artist H.R. Giger to present the work as his own, a decision Henson would bitterly regret for the rest of his life.

Production

Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright,Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto were all cast after Ridley Scott got stuck in a lift with them in a Casino in Las Vegas and was impressed by the way they reacted diversely to the claustrophobic emergency. In keeping with the sense of immediacy Scott attempted to maintain a sense of spontaneity throughout the fourteen week shoot which took place between July 5 and October 21, 1978. Scott gave the actors only selective pages of script and would frequently spring surprises on them. The chest-burster scene was so disturbing that Yaphey Kotto pissed himself with fear. Harry Dean Stanton recalls:

The urine was everywhere and we were skidding around on it and almost falling on our asses, but Ian and John came from the British theater tradition and so they carried right on. And that was the take that Ridley used. Some of the looks of disgust on Veronica’s face for example, are because of the urine on the floor as much as the special effects.

Later filming the final sequence, Sigourney Weaver would shit her pants, though this was later revealed to be a prank she played on the rest of the cast and crew.

Reception

The advertising campaign for Alien was widely seen as one of the most successful of the late 70s although there is some controversy about who came up with the final tag line. Salman Rushdie claimed that he was the author and Gabriel Garcia Marquez said the line was his own. Scott settled the argument when it was revealed that Julian Lennon, son of Beatle John Lennon used to say to his father every night before he went to bed, ‘Remember dad, in space no one can hear you scream’ which would cause some of John Lennon’s most violent ‘bad trips’. The film was deemed a success and in 1987 the library of congress hired a video cassette of it and forgot to take it back the next day, which is considered by some to be the highest mark of honor.

Alien was released in 1979.

For more of The Making of… CLICK HERE.

NEW ALIEN FILM WILL ALSO STAR SPIDER-MAN

HOLLYWOOD – District 9 and Elysium director Neill Blomkamp confirms that his new Alien film will also feature Spider-Man.

How the ubiquitous web-slinger will be joining the Xenomorph has not yet been made clear, but Blomkamp tweeted an image which shows clearly some concept art featuring Spidey’s mask pasted over a hunter xenoform’s body, apparently from Aliens. Alien watcher Emily Zapatta said:

This is a very exciting prospect.  Neil Blomkamp is someone who obviously loves mixing up genres. The documentary style with the alien film in District 9. The good film at the beginning of Elysium with the awful one that just goes on and on with the rest of the film. So Spider-Man fighting Aliens or even being an Alien… Why Not?

 Neill Blomkamp spokes with Studio Exec EXCLUSIVELY:

I didn’t really want to put Spider-Man in my film but the fact of the matter is we’re going to be releasing it in 2017 and there is a rule that any film post 2016 has to have a Marvel character in it or it won’t be distributed. I hear Star Wars are going with The Guardians of the Galaxy.

But how is that going to make sense with the original series?

Sense? Ha! That’s not considered that important any more. Look we’re trying to get Sigourney in but apparently she’s going to have to dress as a Ghostbuster.

But how does that…?

Don’t ask! I mean, it makes me want to go and do something less morally dubious. Design and sell chemical weapons to Third World dictators.

The Amazing Alien will be released in 2017.