After about a year’s worth of speculation and debates, the truth is finally out there: Prometheus, director Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to science fiction (opening in theaters nationwide this Friday), is indeed a prequel to Scott’s 1979 sci-fi/horror classic, Alien. But aside from a few narrative connections, the two films couldn’t be any more different. Prometheus, with its starry cast (which includes Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender), lavish visual effects, and expansive ideas rooted in religion and existentialism, is an extravagant spectacle of the highest order; Alien, by comparison, feels like an expensive yet subtly rendered art-house movie.
Released on May 25, 1979, Alien took a simple plot and shot for the stars. A ragtag crew of space miners, led by female hard-ass Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, in a career-making role), gets an order to detour from its trip back home and stop on an uncharted planet, from which a mysterious signal has been received. Once there, the Nostromo crew’s members fall, one by one, to a variety of extra-terrestrial threats, namely a tall, lanky, reptilian beast with no eyes and acid for blood.
Scott, in a real master’s stroke, spreads the flick’s scariest, most intense bits apart, opting for a calculated and undemonstrative style that’s the polar opposite to the louder, showier aesthetic used in Prometheus. His less-is-more style resulted in two Academy Awards, one of which led to a victory in the Visual Effects category.
With the release of Prometheus, there’s no better time to revisit the film that started it all. It’s certainly one boasting a fascinating back-story, covered excellently in a pair of 2011 non-fiction books, Ian Nathan’s exhaustive Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film and New York Times critic Jason Zinoman’s ’70s genre cinema investigation Shock Value: How a Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror.
Using those two rich texts as resources, we’ve combed through the film’s history to assemble the following list of 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ridley Scott’s Alien, assuming you’re not a longtime aficionado. If so, it can’t hurt to re-learn all about the masterpiece’s dramatic saga.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)