Raw Alien 20th Anniversary DVD Ridley Scott Commentary

leading from 

As transcribed by Wmmvrrvrrmm, 24th October, 2011

1 Hieroglyphic Titles; HAL vs Mother

Hello, I'm Ridley Scott and I'm going to be talking about Alien, um, which was the second film of my career, which followed The Duellists. I made this film in the year 1978 which was released in 1979 Uh, the er, title sequence, I invited, erm, erm , very well known graphic designer, in fact, graphic designers, Steve Frankfurt and Richard Greenberg to come into the, er, to help-me, erm, er, where we really were only talking about the, er, poster and er, and presswork, um, but when I saw their proposal, I then asked them if they would come into actually uh, get involved in the title sequences, because I always felt that title sequences somehow never echo the artwork on the posterwork and my only brief to them was I,   I kind of wanted a hieroglyphic that would come up at the beginning because I always wanted to sss... infer or suggest that this alien, were, could have been a.. from a sophisticated society, obviously not comprehendible by us, but I think the more sophisticated we made them, the more frightening they would be, and so they came up with what I think is really one of the best title sequences I've seen in years and still have seen in years since the great Saul Bass, so the film was always going to start in rather (2:00) a somber low key fashion, and I always remember having this argument with the... some of my colleagues at that particular time including the studio where they kept saying "but nothing happens for forty-five minutes" and I said,"well that's the whole point 'cause once it starts to happen I think we should have them, and I think er, while forty-fff ... while nothing happens in the first forty five minutes, it's ... it's revealing the world that these, err, workers in space function in and it's very interesting today in 1999, we're now talking about deep mining ideas in space which of course, in, as, as, as part of the description of the Nostromo is in fact involved in just that, mining in deep space. So the title sequence continues to unfold revealing what is the Nostromo which suggests some kind of freighter, aircraft carrier , refinery where we gradually come to, come to, erm, what would be regarded as the living quarters, erm, and , I always wanted to pull of this idea of that, that kind of crazy bird in the middle of the kitchen which is dipping into water, erm, because I was going to use that later, just prior to the ex, the Nostromo exploding, I'll explain that later. Yeah, we begin really with morning on this ship, whatever morning means in this no-time in no.., no-time in space, um, but we're witnessing a spaceship waken up, or in fact be woken up by its central drive computer which we call Mother. Er, Kubrick had already found a great name for his computer which was called HAL (4:00), I couldn't think of anything but to say MUM, or Mother, erm and the sinister idea of having the screens reflected in the faces of what were essentially emergency helmets which are always in position on the back of two seats seemed to be a great way of , er, opening the film. Er, I came up with that idea when I actually saw the set coming to-

2 On Jerrv Goldsmith; Casting

-gether, and so the addition of the helmets talking to each other was late in the day, but I think it worked pretty well.

(entering hypersleep chamber)

Hypersleep on long stretches, and probably used as a hospital when they're all up and about. I always thought that Jerry's music here was absolutely, to use a hackneyed word, poetic, and when I mixed it, it always brought a lump to my throat, on this cue right here.

(lids opening)

So there we are looking at seven babies, all slumbering, unsuspecting, I love this piece of score here. it's fantastic. Jerry's one of those musicians who really watches the actors and er reflects what's going on with the performance.

(John Hurt getting up)

To be totally realistic, I always wanted all the crew to be stark naked. Of course they would be if they were lying in any form of hypersleep, they would be, erm, naked, erm, but for obvious reasons I couldn't do that particularly this first shot, otherwise I have a particularly extraordinary view, um , and at one stage (6:00), it was, the discussion.  I said, I'm amazed, but the women may as well be you know topless because that's what it is, I wanted to have a total sense of reality and rawness to this whole film because the rear, realer and truer you get, then I think the scarier it gets later, but I lost that argument for obvious reasons, so. l think I remember now, I did two versions, and I was told I can't use, I gotta use the covered up version'

(eating at the table)

It's a very nice segway into them all being up, and er, in this mix here, we're obviously meeting all the characters, but I wanted it to be in fact, normal, early morning chatter bearing in mind they've probably been asleep for eighteen months, and so that's why they're eating rather uninteresting looking food because all the food would actually have to be, it would be the first food to enter, the first real food to enter their bodies in months, and er, the scene also of course is intro, introducing, ehhh, the characters, the below decks which are Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto, already complaining about their deal, and er, we never know whether that's serious or whether that's a continual erm discussion between them and captain.

(control room and Dallas going through the rituals of going into the Mother
computer room)

and the captain. Erm, I also mixed it so there's a lot of erm, overlapping dialogue because I didn't want people to get clearly what every body was saying because I wanted everybody talking at once,
er, thereby unhelpfully getting the audience to feel uneasy. I always feel, get stressed when everybody is talking at once and (8:00) I can't actually differentiate between.. between who's saying what, so on the real mix on the, which was even on the six track dolby, er,  it was quite loud and quite aggressive. That was intentional.

And then you have the peace in the chamber where, erm,  the captain, Tom Skerrit, wants to find out why they've been woken up. Ah, obviously the sets have been designed for total claustrophobia with low ceilings and sealed corridors, and sealed chambers. And they're all pretty well four sides with ceilings and er, it was quite a task, challenge for the lighting cameraman who , er, l think, I believe until recently has never ever done another feature film but was a great colleague of mine where we'd done many television commercials together, called Derek Van Lint. Erm, and I still think, that er, when you see this erm, in DVD, it will recapture what the original print was like. Erm. And I think Derek did an absolutely wonderful job, erm, probably one of the best looking films that I've done , erm, where oddly enough, looking at it again, er, it really hasn't dated, which is kinda nice, which is a great reflection of the designers, um, and Derek's work. I love the dialogue here which is basically gobbledigook, but it sounds like it makes a lot of sense, and we have a nice connection with Earth, but with Sigourney's reference to Antarctic or Antarctica. so they're getting close, probably, er, many million miles, but still close (10:00) . I always, what l thought about this crew in the way they were characterised is that, er, we were always told just enough about them so we knew what, knew classically who they were, ah, who the troublemakers were,  who the politicians were, er there was a very, there was already a class system. below deck and upper deck.

Jerry Goldsmith was a Musician who's kind of a formidable musician, erm, that I approached to, er.  see if he would actually take this on board and he was immediately enthusiastic about the whole notion, the whole genre, and the whole, you know, description of the atmosphere that I had to verbalise to him at that point, um, and I still think for me, this is one of the best scores I've ever been involved with. lt was a real contribution to the sense of foreboding, particularly at the beginning of the film where the fear, 't's one point in the editing of course is the not happen, happen, nothing's happen for forty five minutes. But I think Jerry's music sustains tension so that when something does start to happen, I think hopefully, I think it was successful, the audience was so spring loaded that the rest was easy, it was rock' n' roll

Yeah, the casting process, um, was er, what I now discovered like all my films took a long time, I select very carefully, um, where eventually, it's a gut reaction to saying , it's him or it's her, erm, it's a combination of various things, obviously acting capability, but also it's a physical thing and then you've got a , you're mixing these, putting all these people together, and er, so the process took quite a lot of time (12:00) because from a director's angle, I think that if you cast right, you've got so many other problems, you're actually in the process of filming that the actors are really there to help you and the better you cast...

3 Low-Tech Effects; Camera Operating

(Shot of underbelly of Nostromo travelling through space and crew approaching
the planet, viewing navigation screens)

you've got fifty percent of your problems as far as they're concerned over on the day. They, they can help you as opposed to, be opposed to you. And this crew were great, they work very well as a team, and I think they all got a sense probably from the first day, maybe it's something to do with the sets or something like that happens and it had the whole atmosphere and I think they all, we all felt that they were making something special. And it's quite difficult, don't forget in these days where, you know, none of them have done or had experience in Space films and therefore we were having to experiment and find ways of doing things to make that control room feel and be alive as if you're really in an aircraft or a spacecraft, so, I had to ask them to do various silly things such as..

(Nostromo begins to undock from the refinery and then descend)

I was trying to work out how do you, which we will see in a minute, that as they're coming in, if you really analyse it, these planetoids have no atmosphere, but I wanted a vibration and therefore I put in paint mixers under the seats of the actors, so they were juddering, and then I discovered they were juddering too fast, so if you watch carefully, you'll realise the actors are doing most of the work which is... it's very difficult to say to an actor "listen, will you judder and shake as you're saying your lines."

(Nostromo fires off in the direction of the planetoid)

I'm still impressed by some of these models which were made by er Nicky Alder and his crew and this was the time of no-motion-control. We didn't even have motion control rails, we had to rig it out of scaffolding tubes and was interesting (14:00), I just tell Nicky what I wanted, he said "No problem" and one day I walked in his office and found him ordering six basic computers, teeny ones, simple, today's primitive in today's.. by today's standards. I said "what are you doing?", he said "l want one to tell me, tell the model to turn left, another to turn right, the other up, the other down", so he was doing this incredibly basic lash-up, but i think the end result is just.... still stands up there. lt's really good.

(Nostromo comes into land on planetoid)

We shot in, 'n' got in close on the Nostromo, err, cheated like hell 'cause I was giving it atmosphere. I guess they may have gas , that this would be gas, it wouldn't be atmosphere, it might be gas, gaseous Here we go,

(strange whining noise, "what the hell was that")

there's a bump, er , so that's the camera wobbling and the actors complying with the wobble, so I was yanking the camera all over the place, I think this was, the first time we were getting into wobbly cameras so this precurses rock videos.

The graphic design, I always thought was great because it wasn't over designed, if you were in a cockpit now of a very sophisticated fighter, it's amazing how basic they are, and I didn't wanna go into overkill, I wanted it just to feel raw and real.

(underside of Nostromo as it finally lands on the planetoid surface)

All this is just the camera, as the Nostromo sinks, it's just a dollie craning up in a smoke room. So none of this is CGl, it's all just literally shot. lt always bothered me that the lights underneath it, we couldn't get in a straight line. And that drove me crazy but eventually we had to shoot. But that model there is only four feet long, I think it looks pretty big.

I always thought the exhausts (16:00) were dodgy so the exhausts are getting blown by the propellers I'm trying to get the sense of movement of the, the air around it or the gas around it, but I guess you can buy it.

(Shot of landing leg landing on a rock)

That leg is about a foot across. so...

(fire in the cockpit)

Now the fire here was because we had... we were on a pretty tight schedule on this film, I think. The total schedule was about 12 weeks, so this fire had to be shot in a day, it was a real scramble, but with sound effects and shooting of the lights, and of course the actors, I think we conveyed the sense of chaos and I love this cut, straight out of it into, "let's face the music and see what kind of trouble we're in."

(darkness in cockpit as they asses situation)

Part of the reality was actually, you know I think in hand held cameras, shooting at the lights and things like which I've been doing a lot of in commercials, and I was always an operator, so , I just find operating is the best job on the floor, and you know, if you've got your eye in the view finder, you know you've got it. erm, Now we have visit-video-assist, and therefore it's less necessary, but I still love the process of operating, 'cause you can invent while you're doing it, and er, I was always told in early days, actors don't like it if you operate. Well this is not true, I've discovered. ln fact, there's a, there's a... seems to be a stronger camaraderie, and a closer contact 'cause they feel you're really really watching them, and the connection is very strong when you're operating.

(exterior shot of observation window at the front of the Nostromo, followed by shot in cockpit)

Again a great cut from this, er, deafening roar which on six track dolby is deafening to almost to an (18:00) ear popping air conditioned silence when you're looking, er, when you come into the cockpit and she's, and D.. and Veronica is reflectively looking out at this unfriendly planet. Ah, it's almost as if she knows something, almost you feel that she is sensing that this is not going to be a good trip.

(Kane, Dallas and Ash look at the screen readouts)

I love Tom Skerrit's layed back quality, erm, when he could play this as a noisy, you know, aggressive, macho pilot, but in fact he's a, he's actually he's almost like Chuck Yeager, huh. Very interesting alpha numerics, er, gobbledigook we put on a green and yellow screen rather than black and all this stuff here with the... you've got to have Ian Holm as the geologist speculating on the mysterious chemistry of the planet, great stuff, great acting.

(exterior shot of the Nostromo again, we see the window and the nose of the ship in relation to the rest of the shop at the shot is slightly further back)

There's a little shot where we see the scale of the nose and we see her walking across the

(Ash is seen to be sitting and then standing to do a quick moment of running on the spot, followed by spacesuited crewmembers at the waiting for the entry hatch to open)

A first sign here that... that Ian isn't neccesarily what you think he is. ls he arthritic, is it something else or is... are years in space have got to his joints

4 Children ln Spacesuits ; The Derelict

(astronauts waiting for airlock to open)

so that was the little, that was the little suggestion by him which I thought was great. I said "what a great idea, so there you a, an actor reatly thinking through the whole idea and the, uh,  getting into the notion of realities of science fact and not science fiction. (20:00)

(ash sitting in his chair at the observation window)

Love this cockpit, somehow it's very fascist,

(astronauts going down elevator)

this shot here actually is three children made in miniature spacesuits that we, uh, I... who are my two sons and the cameraman's son. erm, I had small costumes made for them so the landing legs look look bigger. So if that was an adult, those legs would look half the size, but they're children overcranked.

(ash looks at the video camera shots from the astronauts, leading to shot of astronauts walking along the surface)

This was shot direct link, down below on a camera up on the monitor, I'm blowing the mikalite through the air which hurt like hell, so I had to wear goggles and breathing mask, because the
mikalite is basically chipped up teeny bits of plastic

(Ripley, Harry and Brett in engine room)

Ah, the idea of making the hero a heroine I think was a masterstroke because we truly expect Sigourney probably to be the first one to go and of course the story is different.

(Ripley:You're guaranteed by law to get a share
Ripley:Why don't you just fuck off

We had a whole armory of CO2 because of course any scientist would look at this and say "what the hell have they got CO2 there for?", but I just liked it so here we use CO2 for the first time, and he switches it off. Just a great dramatic end to the scene.

(planet landscape, and shots of Sigourney and Ash)

Sigourney was great because she has such a...a.. presence and authority as the officer who is most likely to irritate, ah, which she really gets (22:00) up Yaphet Kotto's nose which was a great kind of....um... subtext, er, so she's... even here you have... even at this time in the future you still have the male chauvanism.

Clearly we wanted to begin the tension between her... Sigourney and... er ... Ian. Even that exchange is,... there's that... there's tension in it. Aah, there's a subtext there that we don't quite understand,  but clearly he doesn't like her and she doesn't like him.

We're about to come to err, the landscape, which is Giger's work, which is of course carried out by, absolutely brilliantly by Les Dilley. lt's worth mentioning here that , erm, there's a great sculptor that l think we introduced to the film industry called Peter Boysey who unfortunately has passed away but was absolutely brilliant.  And, he did all... worked all the models of the spacecraft, erm and then worked closely with Les Dilley and eventually worked quite closely with Giger, in helping the process of sculpting.

Erm... er,  this is on the biggest stage in Shepperton, on H... erm, the stillness I think, which is underscored by the music, and the plumes from the top of the helmet are great.

(shot of the derelict on the landscape)

Theres the long shot of the derelict, and the very unfriendly, very Giger-esque planet.

(Dallas: "Ash can you see this?"....Ash"Yes I can".... video shots of derelict etc. Ash:"I've never seen anything like it")

I decided to shoot the view of the spacecraft through a monitor because, our, (24:00) for financial reasons, our model didn't stand close examination, not of the spacecraft, but in fact of the planet itself. So suddenly it made sense to actually shoot. And I had a old domestic video, we made this up on the day. I got an old domestic camera and filmed everything hand held like this, chugged towards the actual model and then ran it back through the monitor and just filmed it, and then of course this link to the actors voices, err, plus their stentorian breathing, and then Ash saying "say that again" okay, and then glimpsing this massive titanic shape worked really great rather than just... and there we just see it through, there we see Peter Boysey's model, and those three little characters at the bottom are one and a half inch high lead soldiers on a little rail, going..sss... working with a little electronic vice that makes them go from side to side so that you see a sense of movement. But this model of Peter's was really only four feet long, but it looks great. Still looks great. And I took the drawing for the space ship off a section of one of Giger's paintings because we couldn't work out what the hell the spaceship was going to look like. And so I was staring at this book Necronomicon and he'd drawn something up that looked almost like a musical instrument, so I kind of drew around that and said :"what about this?" lt looks like a giant croissant, but actually it worked, you know, like a boomerang.

(Ash loses screen contact with the astronauts on the surface)

Now he's lost them

(Entrance tunnel in the derelict)

This is what I mean between execution and artwork, this could easily have ended up looking like some bad coffee bar in the fifties, right, and in fact, it looks real, it looks organic, and it looks, l think, as spooky as hell. (26:00)

And again Jerry just hit the underscore with such delicacy, it gives a sense of scale, architecture, and civilisation, not as we know it.

(ascending the tunnel side to the platform)

I always wanted to go back and make an Alien 5 or 6, er... where we find out where they came from and go there and answer the question, who are they. Mars, Mars is too close so they can't be, they can't be gods of war, but the theory was, in my head was, this was..

5 The Space Jockey and Giger's Mind

a... an aircraft Carrier, a battlewagon of a civilisation, and the eggs were a cargo which were essentially weapons. So right, like a large form of bacteriological stroke biomechanoid warfare. Once again you can not, you just can not beat this score, it is great. And again the set is pretty spectacular really.

John's beginning to condense up there. I think the old breathing apparatus ain't working too good but actually, I like the condensation because once again, it gave you the idea that you know, even then, everything doesn't work perfectly.

(Dallas:...."fossilised") (28:00) (" looks like it's grown out of the chair")

This space jockey is, I've always thought was the driver of the craft who is now after many ages, of course it would be dustless but has started to look like a perfect example of Giger's mind which is 'where does biology end and technology begin?' because he seems to have grafted the creature into what was essentially was let's say a pilot's seat. But clearly from here, this is where the transmission would emanate from, probably in a, in a automatic trans, transmission, so this creature had obviously experienced the... maybe one of the eggs had been disturbed and a creature had got out, had attacked the rest of the crew, don't ask me where they got to, but he's pretty gruesome, but let's say he's part of the civilisation he came from and now had melded into his seat

I love this cut here, Dallas looks back at the... the cavernous head of the creature and then you go back to spaceship. Nothing. They don't know what's going on.

(Ripley:" I'm going to go out after them" Ash: "What's the point? I mean, by the time it takes to get there, you'll, they'll know if it's a warning or not, yes?")

So now we have a tension once again from Ash that will later pay off. We'll understand why he's in a predicament and what's going through his mind.

At the moment, we just think he just doesn't like her, probably because the idea that she's a overzealous officer. (30:00)

6 Cow Stomachs and Sheep lntestines
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 matt 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
(Kane crouches down to look a closely through the laser sheet as possible)

Like a seal.
(Kane:There's a layer of mist just covering the eggs, reacts when broken)

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. Though it's interesting we did pickup on the egg later, and if you watch the egg closely on the closeup, you'll see that the liquid in it is going upwards and the drops are going upwards not downwards (32:00). we did that by turning the, the camera upside down basically, indeed.

I always love this moment, this is great. There, you see the drops going upwards' so now  he's triggered it. Inside there, that movement are my hands in a pair of rubber gloves in a fiber...fiberglass erm, it's clear fiberglass and they're hands in a rubber glove, there you go, er,  because, you know,  I aw...I always believe if you can do it physically, do it. You could just spent a hundred thousand dollars on that movement, it's ridiculous, you don't need to. But that top opening is hydraulic and that looks serious. If you put your hand in there you're going to lose it. Unfortunately nothing looked right so, I would have somebody visit the meat market every morning and they would come back

(Facehugger erupts from egg with high pitch squeal)

with fresh meat which was... the lacework you see there's called Nottingham Lace, which is basically the skin from the stomach of a cow, which when they pull it off in a slaughterhouse, you have this beautiful, er, filigree of lace which is lining the stomach. So we layed that over the top, and then the thing that snaps up and hits them in the face is the...an intestine of a sheep which has all been steam cleaned and.. immaculate. Just put an airline on it and just went, I just, I used to have rubber gloves on, a white coat and I had to dress it for every shot. I felt like a surgeon, and then the airline went on and bang. And it, you know, works.

(they get Kane back aboard the Nostromo)

I guess if you spend a lot of time together in space, the camaraderie will gradually disappear and er, each (34:00) person will become isolated with their own thoughts and their own memories of where they've been and where they're going to. And therefor all the characters are designed as not really being comrades. It's... There's a kind of cold relationship amongst all of them, and an interesting point is that at the end of the film, Sigourney does the extraordinary thing of going back for a cat, where maybe her only real relationship on the space ship is the cat. So Sigourney here you see , an officer who wanted to go by the book, even countermanding the wishes of her captain, so now she's now taking over, she's being right to do so.

7 Kubrick's lnfluence ; Production Design
(cutting open Kane's helmet with a laser scalpel)-

It only they just stayed with it, there'd be no problem. This always spooked the audience totally, the very simple thing. The, the, um, the tail of the face hugger tightens on the man's neck. That's my favourite reaction in the movie.

( "my god")

" my god" , 'n' there it is. Now that's just a rubber tail with a bit of line on it, we just pulled it tight.

(Dallas:What the hell is that?)

There was a cut scene, we trimmed a scene where Veronica had a go at Sigourney basically with words, I...as far as I can remember, saying "you bitch. you were intending to keep us out there" and of course, Sigourney did absolutely the right thing by the book. She went absolutely by the book. And course now, here they are in deep trouble, and they don't know it.(36:00)

(Ash:we'll have to take a look at it inside)

This particular set here, where Ron Cobb had a... done a lot of visuals of the interior of the Nostromo, and now I'd say this is one of the most realistic and beautiful pieces of technology I've seen in a, well, you know, I think...um... the best ever technology ever presented probably was in 2001, Stanley Kubrick, and so it was very difficult because Stanley had done that, and it was and still is one of my favourite films if you had to say you know "what's your twenty favourite films?", that would have to be in there, and therefore it was tricky not to get influenced by what he done. Of course, what he had done, I think, A: had worked closely with finding out what NASA speculative designs were or would be, so when you think about 2001 and look at what's happening today, it still hadn't begin, right, and er... So we had to avoid that all cost. But inevitably, it's fair to say I was very much influenced by 2001 (long pause)

(Dallas: I'm willing to take that chance, now cut it off
Ash:You're willing to take that responsibility
Dallas:Yes, yes, I'll take that responsibility, now get him out of here
Scene with incision made in facehugger's finger leading to acid bleeding)

Boy that's effective, I forgot how effective that was. Now that's just polystyrene (38:00) on fairly  potent acid, and it surely goes through there fast. But it looks like, um, it, I thought, was a great subtle way of saying, that this thing is indestructable and has gone through metal, burnt through a boot. (long pause)

(scene where they find the acid has gone through the lower levels)

Hey, that's interesting to note here that the full realisation that er, there might be trouble here, is that you get a sense that they are beginning to work together for the first time, rather than being aggressive with each other, and unreceptive.

(Dallas decides that the blood is like molecular acid
Brett:It's using it for blood)

Bit of lrvine the explainer.

(Harry is handed the acid burnt pen)

Nice humorous moment, And of course Harry is up next

(Brett and Parker working away)

Here we are in the engine room. I liked a lot of the scissor arks which give you, I usually use for lighting... lightning, um, so it's introducing a lot of (40:00) familiar stuff but in unfamiliar surroundings, like the CO2, um, this technology of this spacecraft doesn't stand to close scrutiny

(back to the medical bay)

Yeah, this is a beautiful set

The idea of using these long shots I think are good because, it allows the audience to work as well, and it's knowing how long you should draw out the tension before they start to get fidgety. And of course, what helps enormously is the music, it keeps it alive. And it's a scene of silence, after all the noise running around, it's a kind of a...a relief. But there's a tension to this as well. Ian was always full of little ideosyncrasies. You see that little mouth movement he did, before he looked into the... the er...scope, and the little jump

(scene with Sigourney checking up on Ash)

I think I never got Sigourney on the day, we were running behind, I think the reason why was I never got round to her. It kind of works though because by holding him, you get a sense that there's a... something going on, there's a (42:00) duplicity to Ash that you can't quite work out, so it's a clue for  what you know later, what you'll find out later.

There's some great gobbledigook in this and I...I must hand it to the actors the way they pulled it off, and made it come alive.

(ASH:It's an interesting combination of elements making him a tough little son of a bitch
RIPLEY: And you let him in.)

So we have now Sigourney beginning to show authority, and she's suspicious.

So this scene, really we had to have explain, you know, the pecking order, the logic, and just explain why his argument about letting them in and her argument about saying "you disobeyed every, you disobeyed the first rule in the book", they should've quarantined them , have them kept them away from them', that would be in the book of space. Huh.

(Sigourney walks away and Ash removes his gloves)

One of the things that I wanted to remind people was that even in, let's say this film takes place in a hundred years time, or less, fifty years time the way that technology is moving, Mozart will still be played, Vivaldi will still be played,(44:00) and Mozart particularly who's the true genius of music, otherwise we, we wouldn't have rock'n' roll today without him. lt also lets you in a little bit on Dallas, shows the, you know, what kind of person he is. Ah, is he spiritual? ls he, he's certainly sensitive (pause)

8 A Cheap Shock ; On Dallas & Ripley

(crew come in to medical room searching for facehugger)

I made this handheld because of the slight movement, um, which again, you're wanting to make the audience uneasy, they know it's in there somewhere and they don't know what to expect. 'Cause I think even when a film comes out, and people get the heat from the movie and they want to see it, they still wont know where it's going to happen. So, this could be the scene, um, that scares the hell out of them. But l think we now have enough tension going. I was trying to work out of a shock  on the day and we couldn't so, so that's a cheap shock, (chuckles) but it worked. And I always felt this was a bit artificial, that , er, nothing really happened and yet on reflection,  actually it was actually good (46:00) because there was worse to come.

It's worth mentioning the sound man on this, Jimmy Shields. You'll notice that light even has a sound, right, so when you, if you listen to the track, you'll hear all kinds of weird and wonderful, very subtle sounds. In fact I did, I think four or five films with Jimmy who's still going strong. (clears throat)

That's the corner you expect and then it drops, that's the ... that's ... that's as good as we can do on the day and all ... all we could do was have the prop man drop it, (hahaha) so you're convinced that something is going to happen but Ian here. of course it's not...

(Ash prods Facehugger's body with stick)

good shot....

(Ash:That's a reflex action)

Now, the interior of this thing, we made a rubber case, and the inside of it there is all shellfish, they are, on the surface there, they are.. erm ... oysters, clams, so there's oysters and clams, all fresh, and every morning we'd have a bucket of oysters and clams, and I would just put them in with tweezers and just dress it.

But it kinda looks real, but is real

(Ripley:Ash, are you kidding, this thing bled acid, who knows what it will do when it's dead)

I like the three heads in this, I like Dallas just there.. absolutely staring in silence at it.

(Ripley confronts Dallas in a corridor)

This was interesting (48:00)because this scene at one stage had a suggestion tonally that she and Dallas have some kind of a relationship and we thought it didn't go anywhere and therefore it was puzzling, we withdrew it, we didn't need it. It was better to keep it all about business. Actually the scene we had, it was a good scene, and sometimes on reflection the innuendo of a relationship might have been been useful

9 Emotionally Bonding The Nostromo Crew
I like Tom's take on just the relaxed, um, pragmatist, and sometimes almost the voice, the only voice of reason, and refuses to get drawn into arguments and discussions. Very cool captain. Feels familiar, you know, so even in fifty years time, people are still the same. There's the old wobbly shot, nearly breaking the mounts on the panavision, huh

( Nostromo takes off, shaking interior of Nostromo's cockpit as the ship ascends)
This is just handheld. They're shaking. I've got two prop men shaking their seats, it was ridiculous, but it works, you know, whatever it takes, The problem is that you've got to get them into that mode to understand that it'll be fine.

I love this queue here as they they go through... what is it....as they come out, walk in the park, I think he says in a minute. Here. (50:00)Love this cue

(Parker:"walk in the park!")

there it is.
sigourney, a little glimpse of sigourney looking appropriately anxious and relieved. lnterestingly enough now, they seem to be emotionally drawn together through that rather anxious interlude, so they're kind of working in as a team, and er, I kind of like this, this element of humour in here. The idea being that they're going to go back home now. The problem is that they're going to have to go back into hypersleep which they don't like.

You find a lot of reference to oriental food in this and also the Hawaaian shirt of, er,  Yaphet, uh, sorry, Harry Dean who er who probably picked it up in some station way off, somewhere, just off Mars where they go into some gift shop. He gets cards for the kids that he'll probably see in four years time, and so he, and that's why he bought this Hawaaian shirt.

And we hit the breakfast scene before they're going to go back into Hypersleep. ln fact they'll probably be eating food in special preparation, so once they're in hypersleep they would, to be graphic, secrete or lose the food. lt'll become a liquid form.

(Scene where Kane is sitting on the bed and is surrounded by the crew)

This is a good scene to hear Jimmy Shield's sound effects. You can hear a, a hum which rises and falls, (52:00) which is always there, something is always there which makes you uneasy, because the sounds are almost organic. Jimmy used a lot of organic sounds.

Okay, here's the famous scene

10 The Famous Scene: 'Here it goes"

(Crew sit around the table having a meal)

I think that most of that food in there was muesli.
Little look from Ian there as the k'nd 'f a Doctor on the board, watch... still watching him closely obviously because he doesn't believe it's gone away

Dirty joke from Yaphet, huh

Here it goes

Well, I didn't ever show them what would come out. They never saw that, and we did all of this in one take, but with five or was it four cameras, with all the airlines prepared, so when he... once he's on the table, it's all preset to go. So all this is kinda one camera and he starts to thrash. lt's all hand held, and then you go to.. he starts to spasm.. boom, that's a airline inside his chest, inside his vest, now he's going into a spasm frenzy.

(54:00)Whoa...Wow , that's pretty good, ah, ah, (chuckle) that's pretty heavy, (chuckle) listen to the  sounds. lt's a baby, it's a boy, and I had to have a little railway track to cross the table to get rid of it, I didn't know how the hell to get rid of it. so we had to do a lash up of a railway track through all the debris on the table, and if you spot it, run frame by frame, after John hits his frenzy, his spasm. there's.. you cut in and then there's an artificial chest screwed to the table which was made in fiber glass, with a hole in it, his shirt draped tight ...  stretched tight over it, prepared we raised the fabric then saturated it with blood. When the ram happened, it would come through the shirt. And poor John is bent in an S bend underneath the table with his head sticking out of this thing holding him to the table, with his artificial chest on the table, so underneath, Roger Dicken had to crush in there, with John, with the little alien, and it was physically just rammed it through, physically, like, it was like a gun, and so the, the baby worked from a trigger, you could open the mouth and make it look around with a very simple trigger. The rest was blood and KY jelly.

11 Stretching Time For Tension
Going between the two engines, that shows the scale of the ship. I love the relentless score here and this.. I think it's 'cause I think, Jerry at that time didn't work much with keyboard, this is all... all orchestra, so now we're (56:00) at war, now they realise they can not go back in hypersleep, they have to do something.

They're obviously not prepared for, um, such eventualities and therefore they're having to use and adapt materials and.. and.. and.. er lash up weapons, including flame throwers to hunt and protect this thing, of course at this moment, they think it's tiny, but with this exotic biomechanoid, he's growing as they speak

("micro changes in air density")

Good answer...Huh

Dallas was always very cool, Yaphet was always great as the trouble maker on board the ship, and the day that Yaphet had to die, he said " I'm not going to die" he said "this thing can't kill me", so I had this... had to have this long discussion persuading him to die that day, huhuhuh, so here they are in the bowels

A lot of the stuff we used here, see that egg crating , that's all just standard, um, industrial pallets, we just created most of the sets out of the pallets, and the rest were tube and exotic looking pipe work and conduits from aircraft. In fact, at one stage, Roger Christian went off and bought two Canberra  bombers and just (58:00) dismantled them. And of course on each bomber is millions of parts.

These are jet engines standing on end. And we used all the stuff as essentially real, so I just got stuff. And this is like, I always thought was like Egyptian treasure.. treasure trove, this room, so I said the whole room should be gold, and so we made it, sprayed it all gold, and I got that really off the first moon landing vehicle which of course had all that, it looked like what I call in English Heath Robinson, kind of a simple lashup with a lot of copper, tin foil underneath to protect it and er, so we kept that in mind.

Even the simple store room is a great set. This is course where we bring the cat into play. I doubt that the ship like this would have mice on-board, but um, er, the cat really is the mascot of the ship. Again stretching out, time, the tension. Of course, when you've looked at this a few times, you start to think, erm, maybe we should get there quicker, but now I haven't seen the film for a few years, erm, I think it works.


I took these lockers off, erm, Giger's book Necronomicon. Giger is fascinated by, erm, machines and, and er, there was a marvelous photograph that he took of the back of a garbage truck in Zurich, which was kind of (60:00) somehow threatening and grim, and that's what really these lockers were taken from.

(cat leaps out)

I love this moment here. Huh! I love that moment with Yaph got really scared,  hah, Harry who may be a little slower doesn't realise what he's let.. what he's done, he's let the god damn cat go so now they can't pick up on a specific small movement.

12 Directing Jones ; Corporations ln 'Alien'and 'Bladerunner'

("here kitty, here kitty kitty kitty...what's this kitty crap, ...Jones!")

I love this cue here, love this cue, Now you know Harry's going to die.

You can hear the ship creaking. There's the treasure room. Yuh, we actually, because this is one of the equipment rooms, l just got fairly exotic looking digging equipment of the appropriate size, small bulldozers and small earthmovers. l just sprayed them all gold, and er, somehow it works as very high-tech pieces of equipment

(Close up of Harry)

Harry always loved that closeup, he thanked me, saw the premiere, and he came to me
and (1:02:00) said "Thanks for the closeup" ( laughing) And you hear the sound, yet that sound's organic again, now that sound, I think is a pulse. Now this is a combination of pieces of equipment of a...existing equipment tank tracks with some shell casings

(Harry picks up alien skin)

and there you have the pulse, which maybe very very pullback heartbeat and the skin, the
discarded skin like a snake would discard it's skin... of something.

Now we go into a room, there's a big argument about this room. They said "how would you have water dripping inside this room, And my argument was "it's condensation from the air conditioning" (giggle) but this is a landing leg room where the floor would open and that leg would down and, you know, support the ship.

(Harry walks into the next room and wets his face in the dripping condensation)

He knows he's in trouble, but after all, the object he's looking for is small, isn't it. Now, to get this reaction out of the cat, I had a leashed on my ad for all animal lovers because my cat wouldn't behave so I had a German shepherd behind a sheet of board on a leash, so it obviously couldn't get near the cat. l just raised the board and I got the reaction. (chuckle) The cat went
"what!" (chuckle) (1:04:00)

I always like this when he, and the sound on the peak.. on his peak... down his face, he's cooling off... silence again...long stretches ...leading up to something

(Image of the cat peering around the corner)
There he is

And here we have it

(alien descending)

There it is, perfect reaction, and there ... beautiful head, I wanted it to be beautiful, and I guess that's beautiful in a streamlined way, and the cat going backwards is perfect. And he doesn't know what he's looking at, no idea what he's looking at, and there's the famous mouth.

(jaw tongue comes out at Brett)

The uh, we used to have, uh, you know, Ripley and er, Sigourney and ...and er Yaphett rush in, but somehow that was too normal, it was more elegant to leave him to die in a lonely fashion and then come to them here. The cat was the only witness.

I think Veronica starts to evoke a more fragile human spirit who's now terrified, and she's
got the first sense of the reality of the situation that they're really in trouble (1:06:00)

("the son of a bitch is huge")

so this is suggesting they saw something, it was better not to see it, and Ash saying "Kane's son" is very interesting, because the whole notion of this you know was taken off erm a certain type of insect that, erm, will use, find a host for its eggs, and then in that host, which could be another insect, a grub preferably, it will bury its eggs and then of course the eggs will grow and then consume the host. So that's the logic of it all. Probably what makes a lot of nature go round.

(Dallas"... Parker, Lambert, you cover up that maintenance opening space")
Again great sound, great aerial sound, you probably wouldn't get sound in space but we decided to have it. A great, a great music cue there. The theme really

(Dallas in Mother's chamber)

Talking to the Company. Talking to Weylan-Yutani which I figured at that time, and in fact, it reflected it in Bladerunner that erm, the world eventually obviously is going to be run by companies and organisations, um, which seemed exotic, you know, eighteen years ago, but now, it's a reality, right. That's the way we're headed, um and so this was speculation at the time, but funnily, by
the time I got to do Blade Runner, the idea of the Tyrel (1:08:00) corporation was a mega mega company...

13 Making Do With A Limited Set

which, at what stage does a company decide to have its own private army, it's own, or protection
service, right, and erm, I think , erm, at what moment does a company become more powerful
than a government, and so that was always the subtext here, and certainly was in Bladerunner.

(Dallas crawling along darkness of shaft interior)

This is where Dallas is elected to, ah, go into the vents because that's where they believe it is and, erm,  I always loved the use of.. we used just existing technology for the vents, um,  with the huge steel irises which I think have become a trademark since then in rock videos, huh, ah, but this is very simply shot. The set with the vent is tiny, and this was a big discussion and, ah, argument, budgetary argument about how I have some kind of set to shoot Dallas in the vent, and so was built on the edge of a set, and, I doubt the set was more than, mmm,  30 feet long tube with a T section in the middle so you have another up, down and a horizontal, and it was tricky for Dallas, because he was, A: he's carrying a light, B: he's, uh, got the flame thrower which is eating up his oxygen, so that's how you can hear him breathing heavily, which I think was always great. And of course that iris is very threatening.

I think again, this is where Tom's kind of, uh, underplayed character, who is... refuses to be phased, "Underplays" a bad word really, l think he played it brilliantly, where he's always cool, understated in a really terrifying situation. (1:10:00) You got a real sense of claustrophobia, and also Sigourney's sense of, er, doom. I think she feels, I think she knows that he's going to die. This is really a one way street, a real cul-de-sac. And you have Veronica being supercharged, convinced something awful's going to happen. And I always believe unless the actor's saying this to you, you're not going to be frightened as an audience.

(Lambert: I know it's down here somewhere, Dallas, you're going to have to be careful)

So then we get repetition of the same set, so there we get a sense of a whole complex. 'Cause this is where a mix is, sound mix is great because you can get a sense of the cavernous, um, interiors of all these tubes.

A lot of reverb on Dallas' voice. Again we keep shooting the same ladder, and the same
tube. lt's an exercise in using the same set many times'

Ah, first time I see Dallas bothered in the film. This is where he starts to feel that he's in trouble. There you get a panic reaction. Ah, it's an interesting scene here this, because, somehow Tom (1:12:00) really makes the audience feel put in the same situation ...er.... and we know he's going to die. Now it's inevitable, and you'd.. you get a sense of his feeling of panic as well which is wonderful

(shot of Ash's face)

and Ash waits for the inevitable

(Alien appears with a screech)

Oddly enough, that was a sequence that erm, we weren't really prepared for because we didn't really have what I thought was enough of a set, but again, when you're forced to be inventive, um, er, you know, the best comes out of it. It works very well.

Um, we had a scene in between this which was a scene between Sigourney comforting a terror... terrorised , erm.. Veronica, who is really the first member of the crew to begin to lose it. And also this is a very important scene because this is where Sigourney now is in charge. She's next in command and she's taken over from Dallas. And also it's a proving scene for Sigourney because you have Ash, you have Yaphet Kotto who are obviously wondering whether they can trust her judgement

I remember shooting this and er, and I remember talking to Yaphet, and saying to Yaphet which is a little unfair to wind up Sigourney and keep interrupting her, (1:14:00) and it was really great because she established her authority (chuckle) so I think you have a very good take over here by Sigourney and Yaphet backs down, and is obliged to accept the situation. This is really, the film in simple form, you could really argue, is the old dark house theory, erm, with seven little indians.

(Ripley"...just what you've been doing ash, nothing.")

Oop... felt that, that's a looped line, that's interesting. It was obviously an edition afterwards that we suddenly realised that we needed that additional line, and l just picked it up. Erm, we never covered that and so we've realised that was a little bit of explanation

(yaphet is leaping around a chamber with a flame thrower in his hand. Sigourney
enters computer room)

yeah,  here was a scene prepared where we were trying to and we couldn't afford to do it.
We didn't know how to do it in that point in time without CGI and all that assistance, but the idea
was to lure it into an airlock and blow it out the h.. the airlock, and er, it got jammed in the door and it started to burn a hole in the door, ah, and then it tore itself lose and then came back it, it would
have been nice sequence to shoot, but we couldn't afford to do that. We had to get extremely
financially practical at this point. (1:16:00)

Always this scene is peculiar because you wonder how Ash got in behind her. So now she has a block. She's not going to get any more information, and uh, she's dipping into basically company records and is not going to get the right answer. So this is where you get the duplicity of the company that has protection on all of its ships, and this is what I thought was really a great original idea, would plant a humanoid or robot to protect its interests, which is about to be revealed, and there, there he is. Now what was interesting here, I liked Ash reacting to human emotion by, he wasn't frightened of her, he was...

14 Galactic Souvenirs; Ash Attacks

...backing off, he didn't understand why she was crying, he probably, because he had never seen that before, so that was what ... you got that rather peculiar reaction from Ash as she shrinks away from her because it's not.... why would be be fearful, alright

(Ripley:"ash open the door")

Now we have malevolence, which is even stranger by just adding one simple thing which just came out in the day, there it is, he's beginning to perspire, and this perspiration is white.

(Ash attacks Ripley, throws her about, and then looks down at her unconscious body and begins to roll a magazine up to orally rape her, )

I filled the Nostromo with all these toys from all the various gift shops around the universe, wherever they've stopped off, and er, that's what these little toys were. I always figured that wherever you go, there'll be gift shops, so that's where, erm... that's how the Hawaaian shirt appeared, that's how the dipping bird appeared, and that's the toys.

(Ash begins to put the magazine into her mouth and she struggles.) 

Ah, I guess this is the closest thing to seeing a robot have sex , huh,

(Ash uses the other hand to grab Yaphet's chest)

I need to have some show of strength which was simple but violent. And I think here comes one of the really great ideas in the film which is having this character that you had on board who you had no idea what he really was, and here it's to be revealed, and it also makes sense if you have interests, financial interests like this, you've got to have something on board there to make sure you are protected. (1:20:00) So he's like a walking transmitter. You hear the death of Ash and the winding down , the whatever's driving him, that's Jimmy Shield's great sounds.

(Parker:"Help me get this fucking thing off!")

A lot of this stuff we had to make up on the day, virtually, So we couldn't work out how to kill Ash. So....

15. Shooting Ash's Head

we used up one of those cattle prods and also we left his interior to really be an organic choice rather than having, you know, steel pipes 'nd things like that and so I just requested really it would look like the food table, huh, and I loved the glass marbles on the strands and the teeny bits of fibreoptics and of course his blood.

Not a bad cut between a head that's not bad to the getting a head of Ash actually coming through a hole in the table .

(Ash:"Yes I can hear you")

Great voice, yeah we worked on that forever trying to find out what would the voice be of the dying robot. It almost is a doppler effect (1:22:00)  ... spooky

This was a speech about,  a really doomy speech about the indestructability of it and the perfection of what they had, what they were against, and this was a scene written during photography because we  never really happy about the dialogue we had and I think that Dave really had to work on this incessantly as we headed towards the actual day. I think we actually came up with the words that morning, huh, or David did.

(Ash: I admire its purity, a survivor, unclouded")


(Ash:" by conscious, remorse, or delusions of morality.")

kind of a great speech

(Ash:"I can't lie to you about your chances")

hmm great, thats a pretty tough piece of information at that point...huh huh.. so nowa, in a... really I think terrifying situation because big tough Yaphet has suddenly got his two women as part of his defence group, so boy, he must have been feeling really vulnerable.

There's so much you do which you keep really simple, you know the head on the table could have gone crazy with all kinds of (1:24:00) stuff underneath it but actually we, there was a very simple thing, we just ins... had the mask, finished with it, checked the rushes, went back and incinerated it. That was it, one shot. Today that would cost a million dollars (sniggering). I think it probably cost about two hundred quid.

This is where I wanted to change the colour of the corridors, I was getting fed up and so I had them sprayed metallic, ah, grey, gunmetal grey with a gold dusting and er just to change and make the corridors more threatening. So on the front of the every dollie, because we had a.. it had to be quick spray job and it went a bit flat and so I had this little box made in front of the dollie with gold and silver er...aerosols, so as I lined the shot up, I'd hoff off... hop off the camera and spray down all the paneling, wherever I saw it, on the spot.

(Exterior Front shot of Narcissus)

That was done with a little bit of 16mm'

16 Ripley's Softer Side ; Music as Motivation

We shot her in a little cockpit set and then simply popped it on the back of the err, miniature

(Yaphet and Veronica rush past an aerial vehicle)

This is an old helicoptor

(Veronica unloads gas cylinders to put on her trolly) (1:26:00)
Ah, yes Sigourney oddly enough, erm, going back for a cat, well, she's looking for Jones, is interesting because it shows a side of Sigourney which is er, softer and er, it's never really been introduced in the film up to now, but I think was interesting because you started to suspect the cat, so I wanted to keep the paranoia going in every direction now, particularly at the end because when you get to the end the cat is in the coffin with her or the hypersleep or the... with her... er one.... I think most of the audience were convinced that the cat had an alien...er the next alien inside it.

(Ripley enters the control room)

There's even low key life.. light levels, it's very tricky, because we're pretty well wide open on spherical...o-on I'm sorry, anamorphic, and erm, we saw a little bit of out of focus there. It just shows how few takes I was doing. At this point, I was really running against the gun. Great key now, we got a great cue coming in. And at.. course here, I wanted to promote the idea that Sigourney was next. It'sh is pretty obvious thing to be doing at this point. We want to put her in direct jeopardy, and I was always concerned about would the audience think, "why the hell is she going back for the cat?", but nobody seems to question it. Show's we got a whole bunch of animal loves out there. (1:28:00)

(Sigourney finds the cat)

She touched a seat button, that's what made the seat fly forwards, a cheap, a cheap thrill, but that's what this kind of genre needs, is you've got to keep coming up with original, ways of keeping sustaining of attention.

(Shot of Veronica and Yaphett loading more gas cylinders)

And that that cat, that cry of the cat there, the game was leading them deliberately to promote the idea was the idea "was the cat impregnated?" I wanted the alien to have certain kind of fascination and delicacy, er, like this massive toy coming towards her, erm, which was mesmerising, and I put this music up for her which seemed to help her so um. In fact when I got into the Nostromo, and the into the shuttle also at the end, I lined the side of the set with, er,  fifteen inch speakers and I played Tomita in the, in the um, in the er shuttle, absolutely full ball, so rather than silent set and me shouting action and Sigourney rushing around, um, in silence, I said "do you want some assistance?', she said "Yeah", and I said "well listen to this" and I had The Planets by Tomita, and, er, she liked that, because then it helped her, it just helped her to have the, that massive orchestration around her, and it was, we had it right up, yup.

(Yaphet has his skull smashed open by the Alien, Sigourney is running)

and of course making Sigourney a very lonely figure.

(Alien tale going in between the feet ol the legs that later turn out to be Veronica's
character Lambert's)

She can hear the death rather than see the death of the other two. (1:30:00) Her death is heard, and it's, er,  probably more frightening by hearing it rather than seeing it. That was a tough session in the looping stage, trying to get that kind of scream.

(sigourney running through corridors)

I think what we managed to do in the film here was always put the audience in the place of the individual about....

17 Blowing Up A Refinery ; Editing

....to die,

(Sigourney opens a hatch to get to a red handle to pull it)

so i think we somehow touched on something which makes them... audience very vulnerable to what's occurring which I think is why it's particularly frightening.

(Sigourney has opened a panel and pulls another handle)

So the invention of how do you blow up a refinery is er, you know, tricky, and should be complex. But also it's enormously frustrating. It's almost meant to be, this minute, this is kind of almost meant to be humorous, because here you are trying to read an instruction book, the time when you're about to meet your maker, and there's one of the... the fuses that I've got in the office which Nicky gave to me at the end of the movie. I've got this column

Nothing can be done by mistake here, this has got to be very deliberate, so in a way, it's got to be a one sided, one man way of being able to set up an atomic bomb. (1:32:00)

(Mother: T-minus 10 minutes, the option to override automatic detonation expires in T-minus five minutes)

There she hits the corridor so, this is very tough working in this CO2 because you, while it's kind of harmless, when you work in it, it sucks the oxygen out of the air, so you really get out of breath, makes you gasp

Yup, always loved this shot. She was never able to come from below because I hadn't,.. had no double decker set, but what I did was build enough of a.. that's why I had those high curves, so that she could crouch, put her hands on and pull herself up, we couldn't even afford a hole in the floor.

So hence, the design of the ladder and the base of the ladder, and I kind of got bored with the lighting after a while, whilst I think it looks great, we needed to start to escalate and I think on this film particularly... erm, there, I started to say "how do we assist ourselves by assisting Sigourney who's doing a fantastic job, but if the ship is going wrong, therefore the electrical systems are beginning to kick in to, " ah, " all sorts of emergency reactions. so we got some strobe lights", which i had attached to the front of the dollie, and I could actually adjust the knobs on the strobes to get the re.. amount of delay... and er, so that's why the whole thing was alive with the flickering light and god knows what else, which at the time was pretty new, now I think I've seen , you know many other films.

Curiosity from the alien for this creature, the cat, which ironically it leaves alone, but again,
it's another clue, (1:34:00) could it have done something later, when we get into the, em, shuttle.

Now she's got to come back and switch off the power, but she's past the point of no return.

There's one of our big miniatures, the engine room

When you get this played full ball, ahm, it's pretty intense actually, and interesting to see that that's the last 17 minutes of the film there is no dialogue except for utterances of Sigourney to herself.

Now you've got the emergency thing really kicking in.

You get this going six track dolby, big sound, it's a great mix.

There's she's got to go all the way back, And they've always wanted to cut this down and I've said "No, you've got to show the"... that flapping door there was actually a guy standing there trying to hide the light and ern, they wanted to cut it out and I said Nah, leave it in but actually there's a guy

So, interesting here that you have Sigourney about to lash out at technology that's going to destroy her.

It's nice to play on mother, calling her you bitch as well. (1:36:00) And these running backwards down a corridor with a Panaflex is murder, but I didn't want to use Steadicam because it's too smooth. It was just run-run-run-run-run and the thing was bouncing all over the place, but I didn't want to use Steadicam because it's too smooth.

I think I should talk about Terry Rawlings who is my, was my editor actually on five movies, hah, he was my music editor on Duellists, and so I invited Eric, Terry to become an editor and edit Alien which I think he did a really formidable job on , and Terry's knowledge of music was er was great, in fact he probably taught me all I know now about film music, or made me very conscious of score and the value of film music.

Now, how do we keep this going until we get her inside that shuttle where we think the film's over.

Interesting here because it's sustaining, everything here is sustained by of course, Sigourney, and the sounds of the ship about to blow, is all Jimmy Shields, it's really good. In fact this is where we're all heading towards the end of the movie, and I felt that the film could not end here, but there was a big battle about, this is it, film's over right, I felt the rhythm is wrong 'cause after all, rhythms the music, the music of the story if you like is not, is not right. You can't end the film here, it's not that simple. Because for....

18: An Ending on an ending

her to shoot and sit in the seat, take off, (1:38:00) just didn't make sense. So there was a big play of what to do. I know what to do and said the alien has to be in this craft, so it's like the fourth act. They felt it was overkill, and I said "really, you need overkill" In a film like this, you need overkill. And in fact, I think in recent years, films have come up with endings on endings on endings, right. And this , right, at first I got the im... idea that we really should have an ending on an ending, you know what I mean. And she's away. And that's the old shakin' the camera all over the place. It's the only way we could do it.

And what follows it just artwork, just painting on series of stills and intermixed between, literally in a laboratory we just mixed between one shot and another. That's all painting. Using the strobes on her which worked very well, I wanted to go for t... I think three bangs, because that was a big vehicle. In fact it's kind of silly because when there's an explosion like that, there'll be nothing left. But why does it explode three times, because it's better, why, three's always better. There you go, I knew there was three, and a fire storm. Bit dodgy but kinda good because it's really just artwork. That was, I think actually that was a little bit of slit scan. Great cue. Here's the cue. Now you know you're in trouble

(Ripley:I got you)

I got you, you son of a bitch. Now you know you're in trouble. (1:40:00) I think the music now is dialogue telling you it's not over. Here, it's a little bit there. So now we're tense again. Love that cut to the cat's, little squeal of the cat, and you think, you're convinced it has to be the cat, I think I'm correct, 'cause don't forget, we've invested in earlier shots of the cat wandering off by itself, and the alien looking down in the box. And now looking at this, I would almost put the box with the cat in it , before I go into the cockpit, so then you think Alien's in the cockpit, B, what did it do to the cat. Is that satisfaction or is it a threat. I wanted these hypersleeps eventually for the end of the film her, i wanted her to be sleeping beauty, hmm.

Now when you lose the music, funnily enough, it gets more tense, and the actual sound effects gets...

19 .Sound Effects Sigourney's Lucky Star

I think even more scary. So, you wonder what the hell's going on.

They kept saying, there's no sex in this movie. I said you don't need any but there's a good opportunity here to have a little bit of, you know, hinted at sexuality, and Sigourney is certainly the person to project that. (1:42:00) And like in these films what's interesting, and now I think about it, but, then nobody else does, she's just loshed, she's just lost six colleagues and she's going in to mode of how do I get out of here, right, how do I put myself into a position where I've got to reach Earth, maybe the network will pick me up and nobody ever raised that question. I do but I thought, well, if it's not broken, if it's not broken don't fix it, otherwise you're going to have a serious psychological blitz as she, you know, collapses mentally, because she's lost six colleagues.

Oddly enough there's a sensuality to this whole scene, errrrrrr, partly the silence. It's, um, subtly sexual, right, or is it just me, huh.

This is a tough shoot inside a tiny teeny cupboard, (1:44:00) and it's even tougher, how the hell do you get the helmet go on in one and the... and Nicky just did it, we just put the helmet on as it hit, the lights went on inside the helmet, and you just make a sound with an airlock and you've got the helmet on. Economy.

There it is, watch, simple. Beautiful helmets, now we used the same suits as the planet, and all we did was recycle and spray'em white. Trying to think of something other than a laser gun or a, you know, a weapon, and I thought a harpoon, so they were saying "harpoon, what would she use a harpoon for", I said "docking," and er, like a safety thing in case something, it's like a safety, a piece of safety equipment, because I thought that, because a harpoon is more lethal somehow and more, you know a gun is too easy

(Ripley:You are my lucky lucky star)

Now this is Sigourney's idea of saying "I want to sing, you are my lucky star,  like to keep myself, er,  concentrating, and not thinking about the worst that could possibly happen,  so we did it on the day and then there was this big rush to get it, the clearance of it.


I love the lighting here because it's very, ah, harsh in a way but beautiful.

And, shooting this with the strobes going, you're getting a, obviously stroboscopic effect on the alien, so, he's kind of jumping, because I think in the strobe you're losing some frames, it's an illusion but I think it helped. I love that as you see him slither out from the wall. Whilst it's humanoid it's spooky. They say you don't see enough of the alien, I think you see plenty of the alien, and besides he is humanoid, because if the alien had originally jumped on the cat, then the...the alien would have been, ah, a version of the cat, and so on.

All these things would have been done now in CGI, but they're tough to do physically, you know. This is all physical. So Roy Scammel is the stuntman who fell on elastic and then got pulled back up. There's the water effect of the engines going on which I thought was particularly successful, particularly there, that's like, they say what is that, I say, well you know, it's a plasma engine of course, huh, then you cut him loose and then drop, he's just clipped me, nearly knocked me out when they dropped him. And this shot oddly enough was spherical, we had to do it for technical reason, but I left it spherical , so you have the distortion on the body of the lense.

There particularly, that's beautiful

(Ripley: Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo. Third officer reporting. The other members of the crew, Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash and Captain Dallas are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, singing off)

Love these repetitions, this is Howard Hanson's music. And one of the reasons it really works beautifully, apart from going with the voice, goes into a hold in a second, beautiful.

(Close up on Ripley's face)

Here, I loved that holding pan

20 Final report

Interesting in a film like that, you end on a virtual silence. The, er,  art, the production designer on this, er,  was Michael Seymour, was an old colleague of mine from television commercials, and who, er, the, who had invited two, ye, ar, young art directors at that particular point to assist him, er, Roger Christian assisted him with the look of and the construction of the space ship Nostromo and Roger Christian's now director and has been for a number of years, and Les Dilley was in charge of everything to do with the alien, and therefore he would, er, carry out to Giger's drawings, remarkable drawings, er, and transfer the... translate those drawings into these giant sets which in (1:50:00)itself is a task. There's a big leap between a drawing and a set where it looks real and, er, looks, I should say viscerally real rather than just like a rendition of a drawing, i-it can easily fall apart between the, the, the, the art and the final construction


Yuh, I mean, it was er, er, I think I'd been pretty well used to a lot of film making at this point, er through advertising and then a film like The Duellists, er, so I knew the best, I knew I needed the best, erm, because I'm very demanding and er, at the same time I think I'm easy to work with and er, and the whole thing when you put a good bunch of people together , it all becomes very inspirational, and I think, er, above all, the thing if it's not fun you shouldn't be doing it, you know, so er, I love the process of film making, and erm, er, than...thank god I am able to continue making movies.


  1. This must of taken you ages to compile! Not listened to that commentary in a long time.

  2. I transcribed it a few years ago but was too uncertain about how accurate it was, lost the text file but had the transcription print out still around, I OCR'd it on the scanner a week or so before publishing and went through the whole thing of checking it and well I think it's near enough accurate to each syllable as far as I can make out. It's quite an adventure. I've got to transcribe the other DVD's commentary in good time.

  3. It's like climbing Everest, and each time reference given is like a marker along the route of the mountain side, or one of those hooks one has to nail into the side of the mountain for the rope. If you don't make sure they're correct, one could loose ones footing and get quite lost