Alien: Hypersleep chamber

leading from

Early Ridleygram for the hypersleep vault



a) Ridley's ideas
Ridley settled on the idea of a hypersleep chambers, which was based on the notion of cryogenics in terms of possibilities although he had never quite bought into it, he thought it might happen one way or another in the far future.

It would be used for long stretches across the galaxy, in this case a stretch of sleep that might have been around two years, and it was probably used as a hospital when they're all up and about. As seen in the film, the crew would look like seven babies all slumbering unsuspecting.
 
In his original storyboards,  he wanted a closeup on a nostril and would pull back to reveal a row of sleep chambers , later he went for a set of sleep chambers arranged as a lotus flower. 



  1. Ridley Scott: To be totally realistic, he originally wanted all the crew to be stark naked in the chambers, he wanted that rawness but for various reasons he lost the argument to have it that way and so he couldn't. He did actually film two versions but he had to use the covered up version. In the end they all wore shorts and the women had their breasts taped over.

    We went through to a huge nostril, which would have been timed to coincide with a music cue. Liquid would pour down and out of the nostril meaning that the crewman, Kane, is defreezing in the life-supported sleep chamber.  (Fantastic Films #11)
  2. Ridley Scott: (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' (Alien director commentary)
  3. (5:02 / 5:09) Ridley Scott: Little details like this where you get negative air, and that door opens there's the negative air, which is protecting them inside from bacteria and er,  it's all, not really scientifically thought through, it's viscerally thought through 'cause of, I'm too much of a logician , that's the problem, and I have never quite bought yet into the notion of cryogenics in terms of its possibilities, I'm sure it may one day happen but I think we're a long way off. If you think about it carefully it doesn't make sense but I think we er, got away with it, and Jerry particularly helped here with a… one of the best parts of the score in the film, from that waking sequence, I really loved (00:06.00) that, erm, somehow helped to convey everything and allay all the doubts and insecurities I had about "How do you bring somebody round, having been asleep for two years?" (00:06:00)  (Alien Blu-ray commentary)


b) Pushing to get it made
Les Dilley and Roger Christian thought about getting Benjamin Fernandez on board from Madrid. He was a brilliant young Spanish art director who had worked with them on The Last Remake of Beau Geste, a film released in 1977 starring Marty Feldman.

Roger thought that the way that Benjamin worked was similar enough to their way of thinking and so they wanted him to draw up various sets that were to be eliminated, because Peter Beale would deem them unnecessary and the biggest loss would be the hypersleep chamber. It had been in and out of the script several times due to budget cutting and this was one set that got put under the hammer each time as being too costly.

None of them wanted to give up on this set synonymus with sunrise and awakening, and it helped accent the idea of the crew waking up from a long hypersleep. The idea of sleep chambers opening like flowers at dawn light was one of the only light moments really in the film, helping the film to be seen as a major movie.
However they figured that if they revamped another set and used found objects, they could get it built for Ridley who felt that it would be essential for the drama to work and they were determined to give Ridley what he wanted.


c) Creating the room
Benjamin and Roger went to see Nicky Allder as Michael Seymour and Les Dilley decided with Roger that they could find another way to adapt what they had already purchased for the film, they could make something work for Ridley.

Nicky showed them several hydraulic rams that he bought but was not using in any sets. They could be used to open the flower-like pods. He also had also PVC canopies and they were enough to create something in secret so that Peter Beale wouldn't realize what the art department was doing.

An octagonal chamber was designed with each wall perhaps perhaps five foot wide. The flower formation would be arranged like an eight petaled flower but with one petal missing where a control panel would be placed, facing the doorway.

Comparing to Ridley's storyboard, the final hypersleep beds are arranged as petals of a flower but on the floor instead of the table like set-up seen in the storyboards

They would use an existing set and revamp it when it had been finished with. Benjamin went to work and drew it up, using anything he could find to keep the cost to a minimum.

blueprint for the hypersleep vault (Source: http://hollywoodrelics.com/)

Low resolution image of the plan for the A deck as a film set.
In this plan, the hypersleep chamber would be the octagon shape at the very top.


Kane sitting up in his bed.

Corresponding final storyboard for scene 5 showing the interior of the Hypersleep Vault

detail of control panel with Ron Cobb's semiotic standard pictogram for Cryogenic Vault




Ron Cobb's artwork for the Cryogenic Vault pictogram

  1. Roger Christian: Les and I suggested we get Benjamin Fernandez on board from Madrid, the brilliant young Spanish art director who had worked with us on The Last Remake of Beau Geste. We persuaded them to hire him when it was suggested we needed another hand in the art department. We needed someone to draw up sets like the hypersleep chamber )the 'flower-opening' scene). This set had been in and out of the script several times due to budget cutting, and this was one set that got put under the hammer each time as being too costly. We figured if we revamped another set and used found objects, we could get it built for Ridley, who felt it essential for the drama to work. We needed someone who could think like us and take this set by the scruff of the neck and get it made (Cinema Alchemy)
  2. Roger Christian: We were determined to give Ridley want he wanted. Benjamin was put to work to redo those sets that were to be eliminated, and find ways to keep them in, by reusing other set materials already made and props and dressings. The biggest loser in this, I remember, was the hypersleep set as we see it with the opening 'flower petals'. This was deemed too expensive and one that Peter Beale kept targeting as unnecessary. It had been through several designs to make it work, and was down to a simple inexpensive set. If Pete Beale has his way and unless it was simplified it was in danger of eliminations. Benjamin and I went to see Nick Allder as Michael and Les decided with me that if we could find a way to adapt what we had already purchased on the film, we could make something work for Ridley. None of us wanted to give this up; the set is synonymous with sunrise and awakening, and helped accent the idea of the crew waking up from a long hypersleep. The idea of sleep chambers opening like flowers at dawn light was one of the only light moments really in the film and was important, we thought, to be able to deliver to Ridley. Plus it was another memorable set adding a huge production value to the film, again all helping the film to be seen as a major movie. We decided to try to make the set the way I had been dressing the rest, using airplane parts and found objects.(Cinema Alchemy)
  3. Roger Christian: Nick showed us seven or eight hydraulic rams he has bought was but was not using in any sets. These could be used to open the flower-like pods. They also had the PVC canopies so these together were enough to create the basis of a set. This would have to be built in secret so Peter Beale didn't realize what the art department was doing, and use an existing set and revamp it when it was finished with. Benjamin went to work and drew it up, using anything existing he could find to keep the cost to a minimum. (Cinema Alchemy)

     
Kane sitting up in his bed

Scene 7: Lambert sitting on table
In the final film, Kane is the only one seen in a closeup sitting up in his bed
A side view of Ridley's intended hypersleep table .Scene 11. Hypersleep vault

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