I’ve recently dived into doing ”best of’ lists, so as I’ve explained, I’ve decided to do my top 20 SF films. This is my personal list, so feel free to disagree with it and of course, you’ll be horribly wrong.
Previously at # 20, The Matrix, 19, Seconds, 18, A Boy and His Dog, 17, Sunshine, 16, Dark Star, 15, Rollerball, 14 Altered States, 13, Close Encounters of the Third Kind ,12, Forbidden Planet, 11, The Star Wars Trilogy, 10. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, 9, Dark City, 8, 12 Monkeys, 7, Starship Troopers, 6, The Day the Earth Stood Still ,5, Videodrome and 4, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Alien is one of my favourite SF films (and it also works as a horror film but stick with me here) because it presents a working future world, an alien planet and a species so totally alien to humans. It builds all this up so well that it provides a base for the horror film that breaks out around 45 minutes into the film. Without the world-building for the first part of the film we would be watching any B Movie for the 1950’s with a man in a rubber suit going ‘ARRRRGHHH’ at actors in jumpsuits.
The beauty about Alien is that it’s a bit like that but it spends the time, and more importantly money on exceptional talent to create what we’re seeing on screen in front of us, so by the time we get to that scene with John Hurt we’re sold. Once we see the monster in it’s shadowy glory we’re fascinated and scared silly at the same time because this really is about making sure we’re thrilled, but scared.
I love the film obviously, but it took me a while to see it. I was too young to see it initially at the cinema, though I do remember the queues snaking round the Odeon in Glasgow that seemed to last for weeks and weeks. The first time I saw anything of Alien was an edited Super 8 version (in the past before VHS or DVD this was often the only way anyone not stupidly wealthy could own a film) at a SF convention in Glasgow. Then I saw it on VHS, then on TV and from then I’ve seen it on a big screen at the cinema several times. I suggest taking the chance to do the same if you can.
Alien is almost perfect. It was however only a matter of time before a sequel pulled up and ruined it for everyone. Well, thankfully that bit is wrong….
Aliens is James Cameron’s excellent sequel. It doesn’t attempt to remake the original as many sequels do, no, he makes his own film which is the first real SF combat film that was rooted in real world battles.
I was at the opening of the film at Glasgow at the very first performance on the first afternoon with the rest of the lads (bar one or two) from the legendary comic shop, AKA Books and Comics. It was to this day an astonishing experience as we were all pumped up for this film after months of being teased by what little information and footage sneaked into the UK. This was before the age of internet spoilers so you really did walk into films not quite knowing every single thing which is going to unfurl itself onscreen in front of you. This was the case with Aliens.
After eventually leaving the cinema after toying to stay to watch the next performance (you could stay in an watch the film again back in the day) we decided to go out, get something to eat, and grab the stragglers who missed the afternoon performance so we could go back for the Friday night show, and this ended up being one of the best night’s I’ve ever spent in a cinema. The crowd were brilliant. They reacted at the right bit, and the tension in the air, especially at the end could be boxed and sold. As for the final victorious ending I’ve never had such a feeling of relief, and of course, exhilaration as then. Well, it’d be a few years til I did but that’s a story for another time…
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen both films. Every time I do they still seem as fresh as a daisy, and that’s the sign of a great film, and of course, a great sequel.
Next time, we go on the hunt for Replicants….