Alien: Horror in the Witch House:
Giger, Scott and Carroll visit Dicken's Studio

leading from

a) Car Journey:
On the second of June 1978, 10.30am ,Ridley, Giger and Caroll drive off see Roger Dicken's work, at his studio in Maidenhead.

The place itself because it's an old building, would be labeled by Giger as the Witch's House.

On the way there, Ridley gives Giger a few warning tips because Dicken appears to be a difficult character, and above all, Giger must not criticise his work.

As far as it sunk into Giger's mind, Dicken had once 'given birth' to some dinosaurs in one of these monster films and this didn't interest Giger very much apart from the problem about how this effected the work that he did on the Alien which was not intended to be a dinosaur movie.

Giger realised for a long time that he would have to model the various aliens by himself.

b)  Facehugger:  
Seeing Dicken's work, Giger realises that the best work has been done on the Facehugger even though it looked too much like a spider which is largely due to the thickness of the legs.

Giger's thoughts on top of that were that he also intended to make a cast of the tail of the spine of a small animal, to insert ribbed tubes and wires in the mold, and to cast it with transparent latex.

Having generally let go of the idea for his own personal design that he came up with while at home in Switzerland, perhaps he was wondering what he could do to adapt this Facehugger that Dicken had made, although this human flesh was something that Dan O'Bannon appeared to be happy to go with once he saw it.

The Facehugger in Roger Dicken's studio with Ridley working on a Ridleygram.

c)  Chestburster:  
The second stage of the alien, which is known as the Chestburster is a catastrophe.

Giger felt that not only was Dicken who was working on it was a bad artist, but he couldn't even reproduce models accurately.

On instruction from from Scott, who had given Dicken plate 303 from HR Giger's Necronomicon, which would mean that it was the head Necronom IV to work from.

Dicken had made a premilinary model from plasticene with an interior framework of aluminium, The creature has a long section ending in an attached tail.

These extremities still reminded Giger of dinosaurs and he didn't like them at all.

Since, as far as Giger could determine,  this man was creating dinosaurs and so he could see no similarity with what was in his own sketches.

Giger thought that it would be better to shorten the forelimbs and scrap the hind feet altogether, so that there would be no sort of resemblance to any known kind of animal.

With that the clay models also struck Giger as lifeless as if made to measure.

Dicken confirmed this impression confessing that he found Giger's creatures to be repulsive abortions and would rather make something beautiful.

In his place, Giger would have declined the commission, feeling that when one works on any object, one must love it and be possessed by it, otherwise one would never get good results.

Dicken had been working for three months and had not produced anything usable.

In light of this Giger was frustrated about the fact that they had him doing nothing in Switzerland for six weeks rather than dealing with this issue. 

Roger Dicken's chestburster with black eyes and
small arm
s (Source: H.R.Giger's Alien Diaries)

d)  Return journey: 
Gordon Carroll and Ridley in the car appeared to realise they made a mistake, and Giger lets them know about his disappointment telling them how Roger Dicken was an awful aggressive nut who couldn't take criticism and he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

This disappointment turns into a silent and holy rage that stimulates Giger to model the monsters himself and he tells Ridley Scott and Gordon Carroll of this spontaneous decisions.

Gordon Carrol stares at Giger with amazement and asks if he has the technical skill for it. Giger gulps, and repeats for the umpteenth time that he studied industrial design at Zürich Art School for four years and he was in no way ashamed to get his hands dirty at work.

With that it was decided that Giger should work on the Alien life forms. 

e)  Watching videos of clay models from Hollywood:  
Later that Giger with others looked at a video of a clay model of an Alien that was produced in Hollywood and its reminiscent of a dinosaur with a Disney-like look rather than his sketches.

He was sure that it would be possible to leave the Alien as he saw it to anyone else and he was just realising what he had let himself in for in the job of modelling the Alien monster himself.

He was unhappy about the way they wasted money and time on these experiments,

f) At the King's Head
Then Giger goes to the Kings Head pub with Mia to think about the whole issue about what he said when he went to see Dicken.  

The following night, Saturday 3rd of June, Giger spent a sleepless night working on sketches for the construction. 

He assumed that his decision lifted a weight off Roger Dicken. 

Roger carried on making the smaller life forms (the facehugger and the chestburster) but the big creature's production was taken over by Giger with a larger team, with Giger sculpting the main creature's body itself, and then Carlo Rambaldi would sculpt and mechanise the hero head based on the head that Giger had sculpted for the creature. 

  1. HR Giger: I sit in the garden at the King's head with Mia, thinking over what I said when I went to see Dicken. (Giger's Alien, p60,  2nd June, 1978)    
  2. HR Giger: After the disappointing results we got from Dicken and from a video-tape we've received from America (where they made an alien that looked much more like a dinosaur than like my sketches), I was sure that it would not be possible to leave the Alien as I saw it to anyone else. I'm just beginning to realize what I've let myself in for in the job of modelling the monster myself. Everyone agreed with my suggestion at once, and Dicken was presumably greatly relieved to be rescued from this phantom by my decision. (Giger's Alien, p60,  2nd June, 1978) 
  3. HR Giger: 2nd June 1978, Visit to Roger Dicken, the monster-maker, in his witches' den, with Carroll and Scott. During the journey Scott gives me a few warning tips, since this monster-Dicken is apparently a very difficult character. Above all I must be careful not to criticize his work. He had once 'given birth' to some dinosaurs in one of those monster films, and this has a distinct effect on the work he's done for us. Since there are no dinosaurs of any kind in Alien, I can see no great similarity to my sketches. These clay models strike me as lifeless, as if made to measure. Dicken confirms my impression when he confesses to me that he finds my creatures repulsive abortions and would much rather make something beautiful. If I had felt like that I should have declined the commission. When you work on any object, you must love it, you must be possessed by it; otherwise you will never get really good results. I'm disappointed, and let Scott know it. My anger over the six wasted weeks when I was paid off returns more strongly than ever. This silent but holy rage stimulates me to model my monsters myself. I tell Scott and Carroll of this spontaeneous decision. Carroll stares at me in amazement and asks if I've got the technical skill for it. I gulp, and repeat for the umpteenth time that I studied industrial design at the Zürich Art School for four years and I'm in no way ashamed to get his hands dirty at work.(Giger's Alien p54)
  4. HR Giger: Visited (Roger Dicken) with Gordon Carroll and Ridley Scott in his witch's house. I realized for a long time that I'll have to model the various Aliens myself. The best work had been done on the facehugger, even though it still looks too much like a spider. This is largely due to the thickness of the legs. The texture in the latex has to be more transparent. I intend to make a cast of the tail of the spine of a small animal, to insert ribbed tubes and wires in the mold, and to cast it in transparent latex.  The second stage Alien is a catastrophe. [Dicken] is not only a bad artist, he can't even manage to reproduce models accurately. he has already been working for three months and has not yet produced anything usable. Instead, they have me doing nothing in Switzerland for six weeks. I told the two of them later in the car, who realized that they'd made a mistake. [Dicken] is an awfully aggressive nut, who can't take criticism. He was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. [...] On our return, it was decided that I should start working on the Aliens. They hired Eddie, an efficient sculptor, and assigned him to me. Later, we looked at a video tape that shows the clay model of an Alien that was produced in Hollywood, and it is reminiscent of [....] in its Disney-like look. They could have saved the time and money spent on these experiments. My studio in the B stage is finally furnished. We decided to set the sculpting studio right next to it.      (Giger's Alien Diaries)
  5. HR Giger: Monday, June 5, 1978. Painted plaster models of the bone mountains. At 2pm, I was called to R. Scott's office to inspect the man, black, approx. 2.10 metres, who is supposed to play Alien III stage. Ivor made some black-and-white Polaroids following my instructions. His stature did not conform to the impression I had gotten from the bad plaster cast. He seemed too fat and built somewhat strangely around the hips. The impression arose because it took so long to make the mold and he had to stand the whole time. I will have a new cast made from the chest down. I think it's our man.. (HR Giger's Alien Diaries)

1 comment:

  1. "Alien: Horror in the Witch House: Giger, Scott and Carroll visit Dicken's Studio" was posted on Friday, 8th of March, 2019