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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SciFi Horror masterpiece, 30 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Alien [DVD] [1979] (DVD)
What more is there to say about Scott's masterpiece that hasn't already been said? Not a lot I suspect. Basically, it's `an old dark house' murder mystery but set aboard a monstrous spacecraft, `Nostromo', returning to Earth from the farther reaches of the galaxy laden with 20,000,000 tonnes of mineral ores from distant planets. The inhabitants are in suspended animation allowing them to survive the equally monstrous periods of time involved in traversing such mind numbing distances. In the opening scene we, the ghostly viewers travel through the vast ship along empty corridors, accompanied by the almost subliminal sounds of the ship's engines and machinery, until we reach the life support chamber in which the crew sleep unsuspectingly. There is one jarring moment here: no-one else is on board and we, the omniscient viewers, do not have to open doors through which to travel and yet, in order to enter the chamber in which the crew are ensconced in their life support systems, doors slide open with the faintest of sounds as if air has entered with us, and then close behind us! It's a minor thing but jarring none the less!

Slowly, within their life support pods, the crew begins to stir and the second in command, Kane (John Hurt) is the first to awaken from his enforced slumbers. The pod canopies open. He sits up, slowly opens his eyes and then gets up. Gradually, the others begin to show signs of life. Cut to the next scene in which the crew is at breakfast sharing cereals and coffee and chit-chatting about mundane things like bonuses, which is a particular `beef' with maintenance engineer, Parker (Yaphet Kotto), and his side kick, Brett (Harry Dean Stanton). In the midst of this ordinary domestic scene, in which navigator, Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) has a towel draped around her neck as if just having left the shower, the ship's captain, Dallas (Tom Skerritt) is alerted to a signal from the ship's computer, Mother, by Science Officer, Ash, (Ian Holm). He goes to investigate. Upon his return he tells the other members of the crew that the ship is only halfway home and the crew have been woken to attend to a signal of unknown origin coming from a strange planetoid, which has a gravitational field 0.86 that of Earth's. They land about 2000 m from the signal origin during severe weather sustaining damage to their landing gear and we learn that the ambient conditions are dreadful with a primordial atmosphere and temperature well below zero. Nevertheless, the captain decides they have to investigate, since it's part of their contract, and assigns Kane and Lambert to accompany him.

It is then that the film's title registers in our consciousness. The alien ship from which the signal emanates is like nothing the crew or we have seen before. This feeling is enhanced when we get inside. The alien ship, created by the Swiss artist, H. R. Giger is cavernous, of enormous proportions and has a strange unearthly geometry, reminiscent of that described by H. P. Lovecraft in his weird tales, principally, The Mountains of Madness. Eventually they find one of the ship's alien crew members, presumably, in the main deck area. The crew member is also enormous by human standards and, with a huge open gash in its abdominal region, looks as if it has been dead for a very long time. They leave the main deck to investigate elsewhere, which is where they find what appear to be hundreds of large leathery pouches beneath a blue gaseous haze. This scene, which shows Kane descending on a line into the vast cavernous chamber containing the `pouches', is truly awesome evoking that upon first seeing the inside of the Krell's huge machine in `Forbidden Planet'! Of course, we now know the results of Kane's curiosity and its implications for him and the rest of the crew!

On their return, third in command, Ripley (the superb Sigourney Weaver), back up in the main deck area, can remotely operate the air lock to allow them entry. Sensibly she refuses citing the standing orders regarding quarantine. Ominously, Ash overrides her objections by manually operating the doors to the air lock - and the rest is (movie) history!

The film has everything including a few irritations; for example, in addition to that mentioned earlier, there is the sound of the ship's engines outside in empty space where we should hear nothing. This is annoying since the movie makes a big deal of the fact that `in space no one can hear you scream'! But these are minor compared to its many accomplishments. The opening title sequence vividly sets the tone, the screenplay is brilliant, the editing taught, the acting excellent, the production design literally out of this world and the twist towards the end that is no longer quite so surprising still manages, also quite literally, to pack a visceral punch! And then there is the brilliantly evocative score by Jerry Goldsmith that incorporates, seamlessly, passages of Howard Hanson's 2nd symphony, The Romantic.

Along with Scott's other masterwork, released three years later, Blade Runner, this should be on anyone's list of all-time great SiFi/horror/fantasy masterpieces.

I'm only really concerned with the original movie and can take or leave the sequels but the Blu-ray 4 disc anthology, for the price, is also ridiculously inexpensive too!
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