Alien vs Eraserhead

leading from

a) Giger the Eager
Giger was very eager to be involved in David Lynch's production of Dune. 

Through friends he asked Lynch if he was interested in his cooperation but he never heard from him after that. 

Later Giger came to know that David Lynch was upset because he thought that they had copied the chestburster in Alien from his monster baby named Spike in Eraserhead and it was filmed exactly as his was. 

It seems as if everything that Giger had heard from David Lynch came through another person, so we might wonder what David Lynch and Giger might have talked about it face to face in a happier way.  

Since Lynch said that he loved Giger, we might wonder if there was perhaps even one or two paintings by Giger that Lynch had some sort of approval of. 

As a public person, David Lynch back in 1985 was not open to directly pointing a finger at Giger about copying his film. 

b) Advice from Mati Klarwein while in New York
In 1977 Giger travelled to New York with his friend Bijan Aalam who owned a gallery in Paris and artist Sybille Ruppert, to take part in an exhibition at the Bronx Museum called "Images of Horror and Fantasy" being shown from November 15th to December 30th of that year, organised by Gert Schiff. 

During the trip, Giger payed a visit to the artist Mati Klarwein (well known for album covers like Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" who advised Giger to go and see David Lynch's Eraserhead shown regularly at midnight at a downtown theatre. 

According to Klarwein, 'Eraserhead" depicted Giger's world as if it were made for him. 

So Giger saw the film was one of the highpoints of his trip, and a milestone in motion picture history.

c) Ridley and Eraserhead
By the time of Alien,  Ridley Scott had not seen the film at the time but at some point Giger told Ridley that he should see the film but Ridley never did as far as Giger knew.

d) Parallel ideas?
David Lynch was aware that people were making a connection between his film Alien and Eraserhead that one might have been inspired by the other. 

He thought vaguely himself that they might be right there, but he was not the one to judge while he knew that Giger once said that Eraserhead was one of his favourite films. 

He would later speak of his own sort of connection with Giger's art, that one night, in his dreams or reveries and went to the place where Giger's ideas came from. 

Also David Lynch thought that the feeling that he got from his time at Philadelphia was close to Giger's art. 

David Lynch came to understand the experience that David Cronenberg and Dan O'Bannon talked about which was the idea that more than one person would have the same idea at the same time. 

However, it seemed that Cronenberg found it hard to distangle himself from the experience of Alien having close parallels with his own movie Shivers.  

e) Alternate explanations?
It wasn't HR Giger who came up with the final idea for the chestburster and he didn't come up with the initial concept either, as it was presented in Dan O'Bannon's script.

Perhaps Dan had seen Lynch's film since he was a keen movie goer and this sort of thing was the sort of thing he might have seen. 

A fair amount of the discussion about who thought what and why remains in a blur.

Dan O'Bannon died without being interviewed about the matter, but if he had, there were numerous other inspirations for Dan's creation. (See: Birthing the chestburster

  1. HR Giger: I have just seen a movie in New York called Eraserhead. This is one of the best films I have ever seen. (Quote from an unnamed American magazine in Giger's Biomechanics)
  2. HR Giger: He told me that he was convinced that we had been inspired by his movie Eraserhead to do Alien! The fact is that during the shooting of Alien, we acknowledged Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a movie which Ridley Scott wished had a larger audience. I like this movie a lot, by the way. It's really strange to find myself working on Poltergeist II which  happens to be the sequel to a Tobe Hooper film (Giger's Biomechanics)
  3. Cinefantastique: You made designs for DUNE (CFQ9:1:35 and CFQ14:4/5:33) for two aborted productions, but when David Lynch finally filmed it, you were not involved. Why?
    HR Giger: I was very eager to be. Through friends I asked Lynch if he was interested in my co- operation. I never heard from him. Later I came to know that he was upset because he thought we copied the chestburster in ALIEN from his monster baby in ERASERHEAD, which was not so. Ridley Scott and I hadn't even seen that film at the time. If one film influenced ALIEN it was THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. I would have loved to collaborate with Lynch on DUNE but apparently he wanted to do all the designs by himself. I think he did a great job. I admire Lynch tremendously. I think he's one of the greatest film- makers and I would very much like to work for him some time.
    Cinefantastique: Do you see any points of comparison between your work and Lynch's oeuvre as a director?
    HR Giger: Sometimes elements in my paintings resemble the technology of the last century, similar to Lynch. I use tubes, pipes, and broken down machinery.
    Cinefantastique: Can you name yourfavorite films and directors?
    HR Giger: Lynch's BLUE VELVET. Ridley Scott. I'm not crazy about fantastic films. I prefer reality. (Cinefantastique, vol 14, no 4, May, 1988, p35)
  4. Swiss artist and designer H R Giger, who toiled on Alexandro Jodorowsky and Ridley Scott versions of Dune (1984), denied the alleged influence of the Eraserhead baby on the baby alien Œchestburster¹ in Alien (1979), for which Giger won an Academy Award. "I¹ve been told that [Lynch] thinks we stole his Eraserhead baby the the alien chestburster, but that¹s not true," Giger, whose designs for Dune were rejected by Lynch, told Fear magazine. "I told Ridley Scott that he should see [Eraserhead], though he never did. David Lynch said that it was filmed exactly as his was, but it couldn¹t have been, because Ridley hadn¹t seen it!" (The Complete Lynch, David Hughes, 2001)
  5. HR Giger:  He was not pleased because he thought we had stolen his "Eraserhead" baby creature for "Alien." But it can't be true because Ridley Scott had never seen "Eraserhead." I saw it, but I don't know. Maybe he was jealous. But, I think, it's unnecessary for him to make such statements because he's so good. I like all of his films so much. I am a great admirer of David Lynch and I would very much like to work for him.(EasyReader_14Jul1988)
  6. TIP: It surprised me that you didn`t collaborate with Giger, because Giger`s work is close to yours in a way. 
    Lynch:Yes, I love Giger. We considered working with him. But the "Alien"-movie and Giger`s style was still far too present in the people`s minds.(tip Filmjahrbuch Nr. 1 (1985) 
  7. robot9000: Mr. Lynch, what do you think of HR GIGER and his work and the fact that Hollywood gives the man no props!
    johnnyz [8:21 PM PST]: david - Giger has seen the depths .... his work is quite extraordinary .... (, chatroom, 12th February 2002) 
  8. wmmvrrvrrmm [6:57 PM PST]: I thought about the comment you made last night that you once went to the place where Giger got his ideas from. But then Giger when he first saw Eraserhead thought it was a homage to his own paintings. Maybe you've been there more than you realised. although Giger's world has nothing to do with Philadelphia.

    wmmvrrvrrmm [7:00 PM PST]: That's a nice thing to say. I want to tell Giger something in his guestbook that will make him smile when he hears your name in an interview
    (, chatroom, 13th February 2002) (comment had been entered into the guest book but it was unlikely to have grabbed the attention of anyone associated with GIger)
  9. Fear:  You've said before that David Lynch's Eraserhead is one of your favourite films, and that you'd like to work with him. A lot of your rusty, steamy machinery is reminiscent of his work
    HR Giger: Yes, that's true. People have asked him about me, but he isn't really enthusiastic about my work. I've been told that he thinks we stole his Eraserhead baby for the Alien chestburster, but that's not true. I told Ridley Scott that he should see the film, though he never did. David Lynch said that it was filmed exactly as his was, but it couldn't have been because Ridley hadn't seen it! Lynch talked like it was some sort of homage to his work. I don't know why he's like that. Probably jealousy - I don't know. I worked on Dune and then finally he got it. He doesn't seem to want to be friendly to me, and I don't know why. It's stupid. (Fear, December 1990, p21) 
  10. See Necronomicon II, p56, New York City 1977
  11. TIP: When I watched "Eraserhead" for the first time, I thought the guys filming "Alien" were inspired quite considerably by "Eraserhead".
    David Lynch:You might be right there. But I`m not the one to judge. Giger once said that it´s one of his favourite movies.(tip Filmjahrbuch Nr. 1 (1985)


  1. "Eraserhead" is one of my favorite classic horror film. And I will surely feel bad if I found out that this movie was copied.
    I can feel Lynch feelings because he did this movie for about 5 years which made this film become one of the Hollywood Movies that Took Too Long to Make. And I think the duration of film is all worth it because the outcome for me is really amazing. I just hope that Lynch is wrong for thinking that his movie was stolen. And it would be great if he should watch the movie first before saying something anything about the film. Though I also never got the chance to watch "Alien" but I will surely buy a DVD's for this and watch it as soon as possible.

    1. Well, David Lynch's comment in the David chatrooms about a decade indicated that he understood the idea that both he and Giger's ideas come from a similar place in the collective consciousness. Unfortunately Giger never found out what David Lynch had said there by the looks of it which is a little bit sad, but there you go. It was a strange situation to have arisen. But that's the collective consciousness for you and they all understood the phenomena. But I think that in terms of the idea of a creature ripping itself out of a human body, everyone can stand back and honour Francis Bacon who got there first with his paintings Head 1 and 2 from 1947-48 if you ask me.

  2. "about a decade" = "about a decade ago"

  3. What a insightful comparison! I think Lynch and Giger both were inspired by the same idea. Giger's art, including and specially in the movie Alien, is full of a metaphysical (yikes!) discomfort with human sexuality. The same discomfort dominates Eraserhead's atmosphere. Spike seems to epitomize it. I'm getting too complicated (English is not my mother tongue!). It might be redundant for a fan like yourself, but I recommend you Stephen Mulhall's book called On Film. There he reads philosophically the Alien franchise, including Prometheus in the last edition!

    1. I'll have to take a look at that book. There is still quite a big question about what Dan O'Bannon had been watching when he wrote the Alien script. No one appeared to ask him about Eraserhead in interviews, but both Alien and Eraserhead have bloody scenes at the eating table involving a chicken sized creature, and perhaps that's a coincidence resulting in what they were responding to in society with their ideas. But indeed Giger and Lynch appear to tune into almost similar in their art. The basis of what's going on in Giger's art is another thing that I'm trying to get to the route of and what exactly was developing there. I suppose that both Lynch and Giger have had some perplexing situations to deal with in their lives linked with their own experiences with hypersensitivity as well. Wonderful questions to think about!

  4. Stole the "Eraserhead" baby for the chestburster? #1 the "Eraserhead" baby never bursts from anything - in fact it can't even move and we never see it below its neck until it's bisected at the end. The Eraserhead baby in fact looks exactly like the middle panel Fury in Francis Bacon's iconic 1945 painting, "Study for Three Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion #2 The Eraserhead baby has eyes, the Alien famously does not, the Alien baby has a tail, teeth, and hauls ass #3 Whose to say it wasn't Giger that influenced Lynch? Granted, Giger's Necromonicon came out the exact same year as "Eraserhead" but for years up until that point Giger had a noticeable presence in art galleries, underground fringe art, had designed the ELP album cover... someone like Lynch would've been familiar with him and Giger's art famously has babie sand fetuses amid industrial gloom. If Lynch had any aversion to him I think it's from too much similarity. Frankly, I think Giger can out-Lynch Lynch any day of the week, and it's Lynch's loss on "Dune" because had he used Giger's far-out renderings for the Harkonnen world and the worm, they likely would be the only good thing about Lynch's "Dune" today.

    1. Well a lot of confusion did happen there between the two, but David Lynch managed to let go of it. Enough of this imagery all probably stems from Francis Bacon's work anyway. I like the little skull with teeth erupting from Bacon's paintings Head 1 and 2 done in the 1940s. But Giger didn't design the actual chestburster anyway, although it was based upon his imagery and we can see a number of different things from where Dan O'Bannon's idea for the chestburster came from. The 3rd Stage Guild Navigator's head looks roughly inspired by a puffed out face with horns from Giger's Morder VI, but that might be Rambaldi's fault.