Turn Back The Clock
Distributed By: 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
“In space, no one can hear you scream.” That was the tagline of the movie that created a whole new style of science fiction film – Alien. I missed the movie when it originally aired in theaters. I had heard terrific things about it – mostly that it was scary as hell. When the sequel, Aliens, hit the theaters, I made a point of seeing it. Finding myself loving Aliens, I simply had to rent the movie that started it all. Many years and numerous sequels later, Alien is still toted as one of the most ground breaking science fiction movies of all time.
Alien begins rather ominously with a tour of a seemingly empty space ship, a mining vessel called The Nostromo. The crew, in hibernation for the long journey back to Earth, is called to action after the autopilot comes across a strange message emanating from a planet moon deep in space. The mining crew’s contract obligates them to conduct an investigation. Ash (Ian Holm), the ship’s science officer, believes the signal to be an SOS from an unknown lifeform. Dallas (Tom Skerritt), the ship’s captain, and two other crew members conduct an expedition of the area.
Meanwhile, the ship’s second in command, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), has suspicions about the message. Further investigation reveals that the message is not an SOS, but a warning. The expedition soon discovers that the transmission is coming from an alien ship with a dead crew and a cargo hold full of leathery eggs. When one of the eggs hatches, the crew finally discovers just what that warning transmission was all about. The expedition returns to The Nostromo with injured crew member, Kane (John Hurt), in tow. Dallas breaks protocol and boards the ship with an alien attached to the face of one of the expedition members.
Every attempt is made to dislodge the creature. Unfortunately, not only is the alien sustaining Kane’s life, it also threatens it. Any cut or nick to its skin will cause its acid-like blood to flow. Any attempt to remove the alien’s legs from Kane’s face causes the tail to tighten around his throat. Dallas and Ash decide that it would be best to leave the creature attached, with Ash monitoring it constantly.
Some time later, the creature removes itself from Kane and dies. Kane seems none the worse for wear until his chest erupts, revealing an even more hideous creature that promptly leaps from his chest cavity and disappears into the bowels of the ship. As the crew prepares to hunt down this new creature, they realize just how little they truly know about it. The hunters soon become the hunted, the alien taking out each crew member one by one. As the crew numbers diminish, Ripley discovers that one amongst them is a traitor.
When Ridley Scott created this movie, I believe his intention was to scare the living crap out of his audience. The locales of the movie are intentionally dark. Anything can be hiding in any one of the impenetrable shadows and invariably, something always is. Loud, sudden noises are used to jolt the system causing a rush of adrenaline. Even the creatures designed for the film are designed to spook the audience. The initial alien creature that hatches out of the egg scuttles around on numerous legs, giving the impression of a crab or insect. The larger alien is just plain ugly, with a large, double row of teeth, a long pointy tail, no observable eyes, and a dark black, sleek appearance. Any area it has been in for any length of time is inundated with a slimy substance. Just plain gross. It moves in a deliberate slow manner, then pounces in attack mode, screeching in high pitches tones. Yikes!
As you watch the film, your adrenaline is pumping into overdrive. You’re looking for the creature in every shadow, flinching at every noise. It’s like you’ve become a part of the hunted crew members. You’re one of The Nostromo’s surviving members and you’re looking to stay that way. Ridley Scott is a genius! He’s involved you so deeply that you can’t separate yourself from the movie. This is no longer a film you are watching, but an adventure you are partaking in. This was something that was brand new to the science fiction genre and it is probably why the film is still touted one of the best of its kind.
I watched the film again just recently. This is probably my fiftieth viewing of the film, but I was gifted with the Alien Quadrilogy DVD set and I simply had to see what new things there were to discover. Inserting the DVD into the player, I was offered two choices – I could watch the original 1979 version of the film or the director’s cut which would feature deleted scenes inserted into the film. Naturally, I chose the latter version.
The deleted scenes were inserted flawlessly. They took nothing away from the movie. In fact, I think that the deleted scenes added more to the film…made it that much scarier with the extra moments of humanity thrown in. I do wish that the powers that be that put this film on DVD could have managed to shore up the audio quality. This was always an issue with me – the sound quality of the dialogue in the film left much to be desired. Otherwise, it was great to see Alien again in the director’s vision of what the original movie should have looked like.
The Quadrilogy set offers a second DVD comprised entirely of Alien extras – commentaries, documentaries, deleted scenes, artwork, you name it. Since I watched the director’s cut of the movie, I decided not to bother with the deleted scenes and went straight to viewing the various featurettes. While I found it interesting listening what went into the film, I found the featurettes to be rather dry. The film’s creators exhibited some very catty behavior when it came to discussing the various incarnations of the script. Apparently, the original writers of the script were not happy with what their movie sponsors wanted to do with the script. I did enjoy hearing how the look of the alien was discovered, but for the most part, I was completely bored by the featurettes.
Alas, I found myself wishing I had skipped the extras altogether and just stuck to watching the movie. To me, Alien will always be one of the most original and innovative science fiction / horror films ever created. I must recommend the director’s cut of the film to any fan of the original release version of Alien. I agree with Ridley Scott – this is a far better version of the film than the original. For anyone who hasn’t seen Alien yet, what are you waiting for?! This movie is a classic! You can not propose to be a science fiction fan and never have watched Alien!