Alien: The Laser Placenta


leading from  

(from Alien Anthology blu-ray)

a) A mysterious film of blue light
In the silo, below the jockey's chamber, there are thousands of spores that must surely be as old as the Jockey's remains.

They are covered over by a film of blue light that is a laserbeam spread like a thin sheet which represented the placenta of the eggs, and there is a sound as the astronaut penetrates the laser beam's field as if a seal was being broken

(from Alien Anthology blu-ray)

(from Alien Anthology blu-ray)



b) Ridley's Storyboard

Ridley storyboard's had Kane going down a long tube and then emerging into this massive chamber through a hole in the ceiling, as if it were a vagina.

Before he does this, at the bottom of this tube he finds a very thin membrane which he cuts through, as if the egg silo were a virgin and a feint breeze drifts upwards as he spookily descends through the slit into the blackness.

Kane can't see anything, so he says "I'm going to light myself up, can you boost me?"

Ridley wanted around ten thousand tiny pea lights stitched into Kane's suit so they could light him up like a Christmas tree and have him hanging there from the roof of this cavern, like a beautiful chandelier.

He thought it would be a marvelous image, but the sequence was cut for budget reasons.


Storyboard - entering the silo shaft

Storyboard - piercing the membrane

Storyboard - entering the silo

Storyboard - lighting the suit up

Storyboard - reaching the ground

c) Seeking a new idea

By now, the egg silo and derelict had been merged into one, so Kane was being arguably lowered into the hold of the ship.

Ridley wanted something to replace the membrane, which he saw as a kind of a biological alarm which triggered a response in the eggs, where basically, they all come awake and sit waiting to be touched.

They finally settled on a laser which was mounted so it would scan just above the eggs and give us this sheet of blue light.

They could have done a lot more with it, but they didn't have the time.

As it was, they only had about half a day to test it and then another day and a half to shoot the whole sequence.

But Brian Johnson remembered that they shot several different sequences using the laserbeams but only the laser placenta scene was finally used in the film.


(from Alien Anthology blu-ray)


(from Alien Anthology blu-ray)


d)  The scanning laser
It was a fairly strong scanning laser.

It belonged to "The Who" rock group, and it was used in pop concerts, run by Anton Furst who developed and designed "The Light Fantastic," a holography show that became the touring light show for the band.

It operated with a mirror inside oscillating about three thousand cycles per second with a sweeping arc of about fifty or sixty degrees.

If you could stop the mirror you'd get a single point of light, but when it's moving it's not dangerous because you're subjected to the power of the laser for shorts bits of time.

Since the laser's scanning so fast and the camera's only running at twenty four frames per second, there are only a number of scans on one image.

Ridley never thought it would photograph, because the light level is very low, though, so everything in there had to be shot absolutely wide open

Somehow, with the wizardry of Derek Vanlint's cinematography, it worked.

They had to use a lot of smoke and dry ice fog; otherwise it wouldn't show up at all because the beam's only bright when it's actually touching something.

(from Alien Anthology blu-ray)


e) A protective ray or whatever
Despite the fact that the placenta had now become noticeably like a sheet of laser light which brought people to ask other questions about what it might in terms of something more technological, it remained as a placenta wall in Ridley's mind.

Meanwhile Brian Johnson thought that it worked as a weird protective ray but ultimately he wasn't sure what it was supposed to be.

(from Alien Anthology blu-ray)


source quotes :
  1. Ridley Scott: My original idea for the sequence was cut for budget reasons. My storyboard had Kane going down a long tube and then emerging into this massive chambers through a hole in the ceiling. Before he does though, at the bottom of this tube he finds a very thin membrane which he cuts through and this feint breeze drifts upwards as he descends into the blackness. But he can't see anything, so he says "I'm going to light myself up' - and what I wanted were thousands of tiny pea lights stitched into his suit so we could light him up like a Christmas tree and have him hanging there from the roof of this cavern, like some beautiful chandelier. I thought it would be a marvelous image. (Cinefex 1, p65 and Alien Special Effects, p37)
  2. Ridley Scott: But since the whole approach was out, I wanted something to replace the membrane, which I saw as a kind of a biological alarm which triggered a response in the eggs - they all come awake and sit waiting to be touched, basically. We finally settlied on a laser which was mounted so it would scan just above the eggs and give us this sheet of blue light. We could have done a lot more with it, but we didn't have the time. As it was, we only had about half a day to test it and then another day and a half to shoot the whole bloody sequence
    (Cinefex 1, p65 and Alien Special Effects, p37)
  3. Brian Johnson: It was a fairly strong scanning laser. It belonged to The Who rock group - they use them in pop concerts and such - and it operated at about three thousand cycles per second with a sweeping arc of about fifty or sixty degrees. Basically what's happening is there's a mirror in there that's oscillating three thousand times a second. If you could stop the mirror you'd get a single point of light, but when it's moving it's not dangerous because you's subjected to the power of the laser for shorts bits of time. Since your laser's scanning so fast and you camera's only running at twenty four frames per second, you get quite a number of scans on one image. The light level is very low, though, so everything in there had to be shot absolutely wide open. And we had to use a lot of smoke; otherwise it doesn't show up at all because the beam's only bright when it doesn't show up at all because the beam's only bright when it's actually touching something. (Cinefex 1, p65-67 and Alien Special Effects, p337-9)
  4. Ridley Scott: The sheet as I call it of the laser beam, this is a laser beam spread thin like a thin sheet, but it worked great here and I never thought it would photograph because it's pretty low key, but you know, with the wizardry of, of Derek, we got it. So this is all just handheld lay the sound on as you go through the laser beam, you can here, there's a sound to the laser beam, you can hear it now, like a seal. I always thought of the laser beam as the placenta wall for the, erm, eggs.(Alien 30th Anniversary Edition DVD
  5. Brian Johnson: We used the laser because Ridley wanted to do something different.  We looked at all sorts of lasers while we were at Shepperton Studios; there is a company there that has lasers for hire. We got one on stage and played with it - puffed smoke and dry ice fog through it. We shot several different sequences using it, but they were all cut out. Only the egg chamber sequence remains. I think it's effective as some sort of weird protective ray or whatever - it's perfect for the situation (Starlog, October 1979, p68)
  6. Ridley Scott: But there was an idea which was a nice idea of dropping down through a tube. Kane goes inside and finds a small housing and then goes down through a hole in the floor. I was doing this whole bloody thing as a vagina, going right through. And at the bottom is this membrane. It's like the pyramid is a virgin. I was going to have him slit the membrane and then gas or air or whatever would come wafting out. And he’s got to go through this spooky thing of going through this slit. That went by the way as well when the pyramid and derelict sequences were combined.

    That leads to the shape of him coming toward us down this tube. And he hangs in blackness. I was going to have a little pilot light ahead of him which winds down with a faint humming noise. It’s got a little sensor that looks around, so the thing spins, giving off readings.
     

    Fantastic Film: Essentially the same thing as in the helmet? To see what’s below?

    Ridley Scott: Oh, sure. Touch ground before he does. Well, he’s hanging there in
    complete darkness. Can’t see a thing. Then he switches on.

    Now this is an idea I wanted to do and we never again really got to develop it. But I wanted his suit to become a beacon light, illuminating what’s around him. So I wanted like 10.000 bulbs on the suit. He said, ”1 am going to light myself up. can you boost me?” And he switches on and becomes like a Christmas tree. Would’ve been great. Never got to it. We’ll use that again somewhere else. But it would’ve been really fantastic.

    And he then walks around the interior, slips and falls in. He finds he’s in one piece, so he doesn’t panic. But he’s curious about the large, egg-like things that fill the floor of the room he's in.


    All the time this is going on. he’s giving a report on his activities. He touches
    the egg and begins to examine it as it comes to life before him.   
    (Fantastic Films #11, October 1979)
  7. Ridley Scott: So, I don't know how many minutes we are in now but nothing's happened yet. You don't have to start rock' n' roll you know. So here's he's being lowered into the hold really, this would be argued as the hold of the ship. This is a combination of matte painting and er, hard set. I managed to get the use of laser beam, er, which I could spread in a thin blue sheet which just about photographed, and underneath the laser, I've... releasing, ah, er, smoke gently, so that's why it's behaving like that on the surface as it hits the light, the sheet as I call it, of the laserbeam.
    This is a laserbeam spread thin, like a thin sheet. But it worked great here, I never thought it would photograph because it's pretty low key, but you know with the wizardry of Derek, we got it. So this is all just hand held, lay the sound on as you go through the laser beam, you can hear it, there's a sound to the laser beam, you can hear it now.

    Like a seal.
    I always thought of the laserbeam as the placenta wall for the , erm, eggs' So now he's under, underneath, so now he's inside with'em.
    (20th anniversary dvd commentary)
  8. (00:31:00)Ridley Scott: The man running the laserbeams of this particular moment who had been doing rock shows and experimental laserbeams was Anton Furst who later became an art director and actually did films such as Batman, and erm , Anton was a , was great to work with, with his very small team, and I was absolutely literally blown away by the effect of these beams, because you know, we hadn't seen it before really, and I thought this would be very useful to me to create this skin, like a... (34:00) protection. As John says, a layer of mist, and then slips, goes through unharmed, but maybe that's what is like the membrane, or the.. em.. the protecting the eggs. So let's say he's broken the membrane, Maybe he's triggered something, maybe he hasn't. But if they're now sitting there, prewarned, and programmed , like org... organisms to react if touched.  (Alien commentary from Alien quadrilogy)

    (from Alien Anthology blu-ray)

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