Alien: Hero "ramming" Chestburster with articulating jaw and pneumatic "whiplash" tail from Alien....

  leading from


a) Close up of puppet

b) Photograph of the full puppet


c) Photograph of full puppet



d) Photograph of tail


e) Photograph of tail


  1.  Hero "ramming" Chestburster with articulating jaw and pneumatic "whiplash" tail from Alien. (TCF, 1979) The innocuous passage in the script read, "The thing emerges." Under the instruction of director Ridley Scott, the actors were told very little about how the most terrifying creature to grace the silver screen would makes its debut. What turned out to be the most shocking, visceral scene in motion picture history was designed to be just as shocking for the actors as it would be for the audience. Veronica Cartwright (Lambert) was hit with a stream of studio blood and passed out after cameras stopped rolling; Yaphet Kotto (Parker) was so disturbed by the sequence that he retreated to his room afterward. The cast arrived on set that day to find the camera and crew ominously covered in plastic sheeting. Castmate John Hurt (Kane) was lying in an artificial torso rig filled with blood (rigged with high pressure pumps), viscera and squibs. This Chestburster puppet, attached to a pneumatic mechanical rig, forcefully punched through the torso and t-shirt with its mouth articulating to open upon the action of bursting through. For the close ups, a different, more articulated hand puppet was utilized (built and puppeteered by Roger Dicken). As cited in the March 1980 article in Cinefex magazine (Issue #1): Although the original intent had been to use Roger Dicken's handheld chestburster throughout, Ridley Scott and the effects team had had subsequent second thoughts. "Roger wanted to do the whole thing by hand from under the table," [special effects supervisor] Brian Johnson explained, "but we figured by the time we got John Hurt in position, along with all the other gear we'd be needing, there just wasn't going to be enough room for Roger to get in there and exert the kind of pressure we wanted...So we decided what we needed was some kind of a hydraulic-type mechanism to get that initial violent thrust through the chest." Too, since Scott anticipated a number of retakes, he preferred the predictability of a device which could guarantee precision and repeatability, take after take. So Roger Dicken was contacted and asked to prepare a rigid version of the articulated chestburster then under construction. "I'm a loner," Dicken professed. "I like to work on my own; and I like to do the effect on my own, if I can....But I didn't want to be a bastard to work with, so I said okay. I made a slush rubber cast of the chestburster - without the tail - and filled it up with plaster and put a metal rod in it which had a hole on the bottom so they could bolt it into something. There was a loose lower jaw with a pin through it, and a piece of wire to hold it open; but that's all. It couldn't do anything else." This "ramming" Chestburster measures 12.25 in. long (including 3 in. steel armature which fastened on the pneumatic rig) and is crafted of rubber over a very rigid and durable plaster substructure able to withstand multiple takes of ramming force needed to punch through Kane's chest. Sharp gleaming steel teeth are installed in the mouth with the hinged lower jaw actuated by cable. The 26-inch long flexible rubber "whiplash" tail was attached to a high-pressure air hose that whipped around as the articulated Chestburster puppet quickly scurried across the mess table, parallel to the disembodied tail, via a slot cut into the platform. Both the "ramming" Chestburster and tail exhibit age yet remain in very good condition with expected minor cracks in the rubber at the pivot point of the mouth. Both items are mounted to a black wooden display base measuring 32.75 x 6 in. These items were acquired directly from the Twentieth Century Fox London based asset storage in 1993 by John Gorman, co-creator and proprietor of "Alien War", a London based attraction that was fully licensed by Twentieth Century Fox. The studio gave Gorman full access to numerous screen used props and costumes in order to use as part of the attraction experience. Provenance: Acquired from Twentieth Century Fox and comes with a signed letter of provenance from John Gorman (

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