Alien: David Watling's Alien Head

leading from 

Production crew member holding a remote control box Bolaji Badejo in his alien
costume on the Nostromo set. Does this photo show the remote controlled alien
head with the costume? (photograph source: ebay)
a) Remote controlled head
David Watling who created the remote controlled R2-D2 from Alien was responsible for  creating a backup version of the alien head just in case Rambaldi's alien head wasn't able to deliver.  
Although it was a very clever machine, Ivor Powell felt that it wasn't something they'd need because Rambaldi's head was just what they wanted for the closeup shots and a lot safer to use as it was manually operated.
The remote controlled box matches up with the Skyleader Clubman Super with all of the same extra nobs on the top (Thanks to Stuart Harvie Quinn for suggesting the name of the make) 
  1. Stuart Harvie Quinn: The crew member is holding *A* remote control box - that's a commercially available 27mhz unit - a Skyleader or Fleet unit going from the angle of the aerial and the probable colour ( yellow ) ( 9th March, 2021,
Skyleader Clubman Super (Source: ebay)

b) Buy British?
However Giger found this becoming an issue for emerging studio politics as the production manager who appeared to Giger to be an ardent nationalist.
Back in the seventies there was still quite a call to "Buy British". 
There were people were keen to keep Alien as a British project rather than unneccesarily outsourcing to foreign companies. 
It looked as if that the production manager wanted to push for the use of the British made alien head instead of the ones made by Rambaldi which were considered an Italo-American products. 
He offered Giger his support if he'd push for the use of David Watling's alien head.
Giger found that it didn't work very well and so found himself more impressed with Rambaldi's creation.

  1. Cinefex: When Rambaldi labored some seven thousand miles away, the producers commissioned David Watling to construct yet another head, identical in appearance and function, as a hedge against the possibility that Rambaldi's would not work satisfactorily or he would be unable to deliver in time. Watling whose engineering firm on the Shepperton lot had manufactured the seven R2-D2 units used in Star Wars, approached his tasking somewhat differently, however((Alien The Special Effects, p20, Titan Books,  and Cinefex 1)
  2. David Watling: Our brief was to articulate the head with the same movements as the one Rambaldi was making, buy by using a radio control system rather than cables. We therefore designed and built remote control devices which gave full proportional control to the lips and the position of the inner teeth mounted on the tongue. The main jaw and tongue were activated by air cylinders which in turn were controlled by radio vaves operated by the air supply and a miniature battery pack were mounted in the costume on the actor's back. (Alien The Special Effects, p20, Titan Books,  and Cinefex 1)
  3. Cinefex: The alien head constructed by David Watling's firm was virtually identical in appearance; and even though it had been completed and delivered more than a month before Rambaldi's, it was never used in the film. (Alien The Special Effects, p28, Titan Books,  and Cinefex 1)
  4. Ivor Powell:' David Watling's machine was very clever, but ironically , we never used it because there was no call to use it. Most of the shooting was finally done pretty close up, and therefore the cable system of Rambaldi's was much more practical. Remote control just isn't as subtle as a hand-operated mechanism. If we'd wanted a lot of long shots, though - with freedom from the cables - the Watling head would have been very useful.(Alien The Special Effects, p28, Titan Books,  and Cinefex 1)
  5. H. R. Giger (30th August 1978, Shepperton Studios): The production manager (Garth Thomas was production manager at the time) who is an ardent nationalist, finds these Italo-American products a thorn in the flesh. He promises me all possible support in my work if I will boost the homemade product, the engineer's Alien head that only half works, for use in the film. I wont do anything of the sort. I'm only interested in quality, no matter where it comes from, and in the resemblance of the head to my own design; not in this internal nepotism. (Giger's Alien, p70)

c) Head shows up at Propstore auction for December 2020

  1. lot will be sold on Tuesday, 1st December (day 1 of the auction.) Lots 1-463 will be sold on day 1 (lots 464-913 will be sold on day 2). The auction will begin at 2:00 pm GMT. Lots are sold sequentially so there is no preset ending time. A live streaming broadcast of the auction will be available on auction days.

    An H.R. Giger-designed special effects mechanical alien head from the production of Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror Alien. The Alien stalked the crew of the Nostromo, picking them off one by one after bursting through the chest of executive officer Kane (John Hurt).

    This head was constructed for the production by David Watling, who also previously worked on the mechanical R2-D2
    unit on Star Wars. Although Carlo Rambaldi was commissioned to make three mechanical alien heads, he was busy working on another film at the time, so Watling was asked to construct a back-up in case Rambaldi's were delayed or below par.

    Watling's head was intended to be operated via a radio-control system, whereas Rambaldi's was operated using hand levers. The head was based on H.R. Giger's iconic design and, judging by the piece's airbrushed paintwork, it was also likely to have been hand-painted and finished by Giger himself. Ultimately, Rambaldi delivered his three Alien heads on time as promised, and Watling's, though well documented in numerous interviews about it being built for production, was never used on camera.

    The head is largely made of resin and fibreglass, and has a moveable jaw and toothed 'tongue' that can protrude from the mouth. The front of the head is shaped like a human skull, as per Giger's original design, with resin teeth that are plated to look metallic. The back of the head is missing, with cables protruding, revealing where the controls were attached to manipulate the mouth. A headcap is fitted within, allowing the head to be comfortably worn by the Alien performer. The head shows wear from production use and age. The jaw and 'tongue' are both mounted on a slide mechanism, with the chrome plated teeth on the tongue spring loaded and mechanised. There are cracks and small holes in the resin, most notably on the left side. Some of the paintwork has chipped away, most clearly on the teeth. Dimensions: 83 cm x 22 cm x 36 cm (32 3/4" x 8 3/4" x 14 1/4")

    Special shipping required; see special shipping notice in the Buyer's Guide.

    Estimate: £40,000 - 60,000 (

1 comment:

  1. Updated "Alien: David Watling's Alien Head" today with the addition of the head from Propstore