Alien: Giger's chestburster concept

leading from


a) Giger's bloody plucked supermarket turkey
Giger's first design for the chestburster based on this had more than one mouth. 

The mouth was the most important thing because it had to come out of the human body, to chew and claw its way out suddenly and unerringly. 

He thought that they looked like chickens without feathers and wasn't happy with them and then he tried to build the thing.

Giger's drawing was his interpretation of a Francis Bacon type thing and it looked very hideous indeed. 

It was covered in blood and hand a large underhung jaw with some really lethal teeth on it,, Ridley found it totally obscene and very frightening. 

Giger created this chestburster puppet and showed it off to Ridley with dismay.

Giger appeared with great frustration in Ridley's office with a large black bag over his arm, obviously hiding something.

Giger said "So I've done it"

Ridley responded "Whats it look like?"

Giger then said " you want to see it now"

Ridley replied "Sure, okay"

Giger thn slowly peeled back this black bag and it actually looked like he stuck his hand, up the backside of a turkey, and there was this lumpy turkey with these teeth at the end and Giger looked at Ridley saying "No good, uh?"

Ridley responded "Don't think so. I"m trying to work out how I get that inside John Hurt's chest"

To Ridley it looked like a twenty four pound turkey

Giger responded " Okay, it's impossible,  I must concentrate on the other things."





Giger's Chestburster concept painting


b) Roger Dicken takes over
The job of creating Giger's approved design was soon handed over to Roger Dicken who was not too happy about it. 


Dicken said "You want me to make this? It looks like a turkey."

And Ridled and the others said "Yes, that's what we want"

To Roger, it looked like a plucked turkey, a veined repulsive looking thing with fangs, and indeed that's what they said they wanted. 

There wasn't anything too complicated in the design though since all it had to do was force its way through the chest and then flop onto the table, so they decided that the best approach was to build it as a hand puppet, about three times life size, so that he could get his hand up into the neck. 

Obviously though, you couldn't have something the size of a large turkey coming out of a human chest but they would cheat the shot somehow.

H R Giger's sculpture for his chestburster design.
(Source: H.R.Giger's film design)
c) Dicken working from his house
He worked out of his home in Pangbourne, that was about an hours drive from Shepperton where the studios were. 

Dicken began work on the chest burster in Mid-March, sculpting it out of plasticine, and then casting it in foam plastic with a latex rubber skin. After spending about three weeks on it, he took it into the studio for a trial run. 

H R Giger's sculpture for his chestburster design.
(Source: H.R.Giger's Alien Diaries)

d) Dicken finishes Giger's initial concept


However Dicken reproduced it very faithfully and what looked great on paper didn't translate itself very well into Dicken's puppet making. 

Dicken normally worked everything like a glove puppet and he brough this thing in and propped it on his knee. 

While he was talking, he kept moving the head around so the thing kept looking back and forth across the room, from Gordon to Carroll to Ridley and then up his nose. 

The thing looked winkled and ancient looking like a malevolent Muppet. 

The way Ridley talked about was Dicken was doing with it on his hand might make one think about the old Rod Hull and Emu act. 

So the whole thing was entirely comical for Ridley and the thing looked like some kind of plucked demented turkey. and Ridley feared getting a giggle at this time in the film and so they ditched the whole concept and started again.



H R Giger's sculpture for his chestburster design

e) Giger never gives up
Despite the fact that Dicken had nearly finished the smaller Alien forms, Giger still wished to create his own versions to make sure that everything looked the way he wanted, while he was working on the big alien,  on his work bench were his versions of the facehugger and the chestburster. 

Dan O'Bannon indeed thought that they were better than what was used on the film, especially the Chestburster. 

It was much larger in proportion to the rest of the body and the teeth were like oversized fangs, fully extended, a set on both top and the bottom, and it was certainly something design for biting its way out. Dan could imagine those fangs going through a piece of steel.
 


H R Giger's sculpture for his chestburster design
Source quote
  1. HR Giger: The chestburster, that was a very heavy scene, l think the strongest thing in the whole film. The idea came from a painting from Francis Bacon. Ridley Scott told me about this painting of '46 - it's just a crucifixion - and one of the members has just teeth and rats flesh... He liked to have the chestburster like that. l did some designs. They looked like chickens. Something like chickens without feathers, but l was not happy with them. And then l built up the thing, and it looked like a small dinosaur. That was awful. l said ''Cut the legs.'' So finally we only had the head and a tail, and that was enough. (Alien documentary on Alien Quadrilogy)
  2. HR Giger: "My first design of the chestburster had more than one mouth. The mouth was the most important thing because it had to eat out of his body. But we made it smaller and Roger Dicken built the small alien".  (Alien Collectors edition, p32) 
  3. Cinefex: Roger Dicken was given Giger's approved design for the intermediate form, which came to be known as the chest-buster. "To me , it looked like a plucked turkey, "Dicken remarked, " a veined, repulsive looking thing with fangs. I said: "You want me to make this? It looks like a turkey." And they said, yes, thats what they wanted. Well there wasn't a need for anything very complicated, since all it had to do was force its way through the chest and then flop onto the table; so we figured the best approach was to build it as a hand puppet, about three times life-size, so I could get my hand up into the neck. Obviously, you couldn't get something the size of a large turkey out of a human chest, but initially they were going to cheat it somehow."
    Working out of his home at Pangbourne, about an hours drive from Shepherton - Dicken began on the chest-burster in Mid-March, sculpting it out of plasticene, and then casting it in foam plastic with a latex rubber skin. After spending about
    three weeks on it, he took it into the studio for a trial run.

    "Giger's drawing was a kind of a Francis Bacon-type thing," Ridley Scott explained, " and it looked just hideous. It was covered in blood and had a large underhung jaw with some really lethal teeth on it - totally obscene and very frightening. And in fact, roger Dicken reproduced it very faithfully. The problem was that what looked great on paper didn't in actuality. Dicken normally works everything like a glove puppet, and so he brought this thing in and propped it on his knee. And while he was talking, he kept moving the head around so the bloody thing kept looking back and forth across the room - from Gordon Carroll to me, and then up his nose. The whole thing was entirely comical - it looked like some kind of a plucked demented turkey. I was frankly terrified at the thought of getting a giggle at this time in the film, so we ditched the whole concept and started again." (Cinefex 1, p43)
  4. Roger Dicken was given Giger's design and, despite his objections to it, he was asked to build it as Giger had painted it. Dicken constructed a hand puppet sculpted in plasticine, cast in  foam plastic with a latex rubber skin. Dicken showed Ridley Scott and the producers the finished puppet, and it was then that the decision was made to completely change the concept. (Alien Laserdisc Archive)  
  5. Cinefex: Once established on the Shepperton lot. Giger made a unilateral bid to reaffirm the intergrity of his highly personal vision by commencing to sculpt his own versions of the two smaller forms as well. - this despite the fact that Roger Dicken's renderings of both were virtually complete.  "He was trying to do all of them ," Dan O'Bannon affirmed. "He was, of course, working on the big one: but on his workbench he was also well underway on both the face-hugger and the chest-burster. They were exquisite pieces of sculpture, too. Better, I think, than that were used in the film. Especially the chestburster. Giger really gave that thing a nasty mouth. It was much larger in proportion to the rest of the body, and the teeth were like oversized fangs, fully extended - a set on both top and the bottom. I mean he was building something designed for biting its way out - those fangs looked like they would go through a piece of steel" (Cinefex 1, p47)
  6. Ridley Scott: And the only thing Giger had a problem with was the chest burster,
    And er, he designed some, one day with great frustration he appeared in my office with this large black bag over his arm, he was obviously hiding something and erm,
    "He said "so I've done it""
    I said er "
    whats it look like"

    And he said "
    you want to see it now"
    I said "sure, okay"

    So he slowly peels back this black bag and it actually looked like he stuck his hand, if you excuse the expression, up the arse of a turkey, and there was this lumpy turkey with these teeth at the end and he looked at me like saying no good, uh

    I said "don't think so. I"m trying to work out how I get that inside John Hurt's chest"

    It's like a twenty four pound turkey

    He said, "okay, it's impossible", I can't get.." I must concentrate on the other things."
    (RIDLEY SCOTT on ALIEN _ Little Beast _ TIFF, 2003)

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