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The commercial spaceship Nostromo is heading for home when it begins receiving a repetitious signal from a nearby planet and is obliged to detour and investigate. On landing, Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by an alien that attaches itself to his helmet and the scouting party returns to the Nostromo, where the octopus-like alien quickly asserts itself as an indestructible life-form adapting to its environment. Any environment. The crew is killed off (not always by the alien) until only Third Officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is left to defend the Nostromo and try to save herself – and the ships’ cat, Jones.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Better than most of today’s big budget sci-fi/horror films, Alien became a classic the moment it was released. (My definition of a classic is one that you are happy to see many times over – it is of lasting value and interest.) The reasons are many, but primarily it’s the screenplay and the direction. Performances are always important, but there are films with great performances that simply don’t work. An acting workshop isn’t necessarily good cinema. 

Alien is a genre film at its best: the structure is clean, the dialogue sparse, the characters two dimensional (which is all we need) and the threat is made real. The original was so damn good, who needs a director’s cut. Well, it’s just an excuse really to show off the digitally restored version on the big screen, and very welcome it is too. Not only has Ridley Scott added a few bits, he’s also cut a few. That’s right, he’s trimmed entrances and exits to keep the pace tighter than originally, and the few extra seconds are well used with a scene near the end, during Ripley’s frenzied rush for the escape vehicle, where she comes across the remains of Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) and the captain, Dallas (Tom Skerritt). Alien delivers its payload with enough punch to make it a hit all over again.

Review by Louise Keller:

One of the best sci-fi thrillers of all time, Ridley Scott’s Alien (Director’s Cut) is spectacular on the big screen, immaculately restored, with remixed sound and inclusion of never-before-seen scenes. Scott readily admits that he rarely revisits his films, but embarked on the preservation and adjustment process when he realised that the film looks ‘as good as it did 24 years ago – maybe better’. Original footage that had been stored in a London vault was carefully assessed and the new scenes included in this director’s cut went through the same restoration process as the original film. 

An influential film of its time, but one whose impact remains as strong today, Alien’s story skilfully weaves its tale of horror with an economical script, exquisite production design and best of all, a group of enticing characters who each have their own individual appeal. Jerry Goldsmith’s unsettling score haunts as evocative musical passages chill us to the core. Never manipulative, but overtly enhancing, the motifs claw us like a phantom, reflecting the infinite nature of space. Marking the film debut of Sigourney Weaver, whose Ripley has become one of the most memorable screen characters with images of tight close-ups fraught with expressions of terror, Alien also has become the springboard from which evolved a franchise. Of course, it is impossible not to look at Weaver, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm and the others without noticing how young they look. Scott’s direction enhances both the physicality of the film, as well as the characters. 

The claustrophobic, clinical interiors of the spaceship Nostromo are intimidating and made very real. Designed by Swiss surrealist painter H.R. Giger, the metallic coldness of the production design is a sharp contrast to the humanity and warmth of the characters. It’s as though time stands still in this giant metallic purpose-made vehicle that has no soul. From the dark shadowy interiors of the ship, we first meet the crew as they wake from their white cocoon-like cradles after their space-sleep. Whether this is the first time you have seen Alien, or the third or fourth, like me, you will never forget that first terrifying moment as the alien makes its presence known. The tension never abates – the film never lets you off the hook. There may be moments of levity – such as the mood during the first meal after Kane’s ordeal. But it is short-lived and we quickly realise that there is much more to come. 

We feel the chill in the air, the hairs on the back of our neck stand up and our palms are dank. As the countdown to dread begins, our imagination is left to its own devices with the help of dark shadows, tingling metal and the sound of incessantly dripping water. The special effects are awesome and we feel the devastation as Ripley learns the truth and the agony is prolonged as we see what she sees. Startling new scenes include Ripley’s discovery of the remains of Brett and Dallas, as she is frantically heading for the escape vehicle, with cat in hand, and a memorable shot of the alien hanging from chains prior to its capture of Brett.

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(US) - 1979

CAST: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto

PRODUCER: Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

SCRIPT: Dan O'Bannon (story by Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett)


EDITOR: Terry Rawlings, Peter Weatherley

MUSIC: Jerry Goldsmith


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 13, 2003

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