The visceral impact that Ridley Scott's "Alien" had in 1979 can never quite be recaptured, partly because so many movies have adapted elements of its premise, design and effects over the last three decades -- from John Carpenter's remake of "The Thing" (1982) to David Cronenberg's remake of "The Fly" (1986) to "Species" (1998) and "Splice" (2009). No movie had ever looked like this. And it still works tremendously -- but let me tell you, in 1979 a major studio science-fiction/horror film that hinted darkly of interspecies rape and impregnation was unspeakably disturbing. (It got under my skin and has stayed there. We have a symbiotic relationship, this burrowing movie parasite and I. We nourish each other. I don't think Ridley Scott has even come close to birthing as subversive and compelling a creation since.)
The thing is, the filmmakers actually took out the grisly details involving just what that H.R. Giger " xenomorph" did to and with human bodies (the sequels got more graphic), but in some ways that made the horror all the more unsettling. You knew, but you didn't know. It wasn't explicitly articulated. Dallas (Tom Skerrit) just disappears from the movie. The deleted "cocoon" scene (with the haunting moan, "Kill me...") appeared later on a LaserDisc version of the film, and then was incorporated into the 2003 theatrical re-release for the first time. The deleted footage:
• Video by Kevin B. Lee • Text by Steven Boone
German Expressionism, Soviet Montage, Italian Neo-Realism, the French New Wave , the Japanese New Wave, the Australian New Wave, Cinema Novo, the New American Cinema, Cinema du Look, the Black Pack, Dogme 95, mumblecore...
In the cinema world, film "waves"--movements of like minded filmmakers bound by generation, nationality, stylistic tendencies or social/political position--rise, crest and fall away every decade. But the latest wave is something different.
The French word frisson describes something English has no better word for: a brief intense reaction, usually a feeling of excitement, recognition, or terror. It's often accompanied by a physical shudder, but not so much when you're web surfing.
You know how it happens. You're clicking here or clicking there, and suddenly you have the OMG moment. In recent days, for example, I felt frissons when learning that Gary Coleman had died, that most of the spilled oil was underwater, that Joe McGinness had moved in next to the Palins, that a group of priests' mistresses had started their own Facebook group, and that Bill Nye the Science Guy says "to prevent Computer Vision Syndrome, every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking 20 feet away."
I was born at the center of the universe, and have had good fortune for all of my days. The center was located at the corner of Washington and Maple streets in Urbana, Illinois, a two-bedroom white stucco house with green canvas awnings, evergreens and geraniums in front and a white picket fence enclosing the back yard. Hollyhocks clustered thickly by the fence. There was a barbeque grill back there made by my father with stone and mortar, a dime embedded in its smokestack to mark the year of its completion.
There was a mountain ash tree in the front yard, and three more down the parking on the side of the house. These remarkable trees had white bark that could be peeled loose, and their branches were weighed down by clusters of red-orange berries. "People are always driving up and asking me about those trees," my father said. He had planted them himself, and they were the only ones in town--perhaps in the world. They needed watering in the summertime, which he did by placing five-gallon cans under them with small holes drilled in their bottoms. These I carefully filled with the garden hose from the back yard, while making rainbow sprays over the grass around.