Alien (1979)

Alien (1979), directed by Ridley Scott.

I saw Alien 20 or 30 times the summer it opened. Really. I was 24, a serious life-long SF reader and had a big circle of like-minded movie-going friends.

It was the best opening night ever. Audience is essential and we had a packed, motivated crowd. As was my habit for big films I'd arrived early at the fine Cinerama theater and bought about 15 tickets, handing them out to friends who saved me a seat. During the film all the tough "show me the monster" guys were running from the theater, crying. After the whole wrenching experience we drifted out to Howard Hanson's Symphony #2 ("Romantic"). Other friends were waiting in line for the second show and we just couldn't speak to them. Then down to King Ying Lo's to talk it all out and take our revenge on shellfish.

When everyone else was out of town I'd drive down the interstate to the grand theater and sit through double showings. I had this old junker vehicle with a rag stuffed in the driver's side vent. One night, driving back after a double showing, I felt a blast of cold air and this thing scuttling up my leg. You think I didn't scream and scream and scream? Just like a little girl.

It's not the same with home theater.

Any genre film is going to have fans who enjoy that genre. We were desperate for seriously toned SF and although this is in large part a monster-in-the-closet horror film, we were nuts for it anyway. But its genre should not obscure what fine movie-making we have here. Lighting, tone and music were influential for years afterward.

Tremendous cast with no obvious leading character at the outset.

Jerry Goldsmith's score is an absolute barn burner. People were terrified even before the action started. Who invented that "blowing over bottles" sound effect?

The color scheme on the Blu-ray is distinctly more blue than I remember, and in this case I remember it pretty well. The change makes the image brighter, cleaner and less grungy, unfortunately subtracting what we used to call the "Giger-green", named for the principal artist. That's the unwholesome biomechanic color of the Alien itself; now it is just a neutral, much safer color.

The stereo track sounds most like what I remember, but that could be my ears or the theater where I saw it.

Finally: that screech the chestburster makes? I encountered that in nature once and learned where the effect came from. You might say I jumped.