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Alien (1979) is the first film in the Alien film series; it stars Sigourney Weaver and was directed by Ridley Scott.The crew of a commercial freighter spaceship stop admist a trip back home to answer a Distress Call from an uncharted moon; while searching for the source of the signal, one of the crew members gets an alien organism attached to his face and goes into a coma. The next day, an alien embryo explodes from the crewman's chest and rapidly matures into a savage monster. As the alien stalks through the ship, the crew desperately tries to find a way to fight back.Writer Dan O'Bannon based the film on a Black Comedy sequence from his previous film Dark Star, in which a beachball-shaped alien runs amok on a spaceship and tries to push an astronaut down an elevator shaft.The Alien Monster and several other elements were designed by H. R. Giger, whose sexualisedbiomechanical style influences science fiction movies to this day.
This film provides examples of:
Action Survivor: Ripley, who is only a terrified woman struggling to survive.
Science Officer Ash is programmed to put his mission above the lives of his fellow crew members. He ends up going berserk when Ripley discovers the truth. It's played with in the sense that he's not really going rogue, and is perfectly following his given orders. They just come from the Company, not the rest of the crew.
Parker: The damn company. What about our lives, you son of a bitch?! Ash the Android: I repeat, all other priorities are rescinded.
Ripley attempts to abort the self-destruct sequence, but the ship's computer 'Mother', refuses to acknowledge the cooling system has been activated in the nick of time, and is giving priority to the denotation sequence, she initiated.
All Webbed Up: In a deleted scene, Ripley found Dallas and Brett completely cocooned, and slowly transforming into more Alien eggs.
Anyone Can Die: The characters died in more or less reverse order of how famous the actors playing them were (in 1979) - Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, and even Veronica Cartwright were all familiar to audiences, while Sigourney Weaver was the only entirely unknown actor in the cast, with just four minor credits. The deaths of the characters felt like a downward spiral, and Ripley's demise seemed inevitable. The tension of the last ten minutes (with the ship's computer voice counting them off) was almost unbearable. Ripley's survival was, for the era in which the film was made, shocking (a lot of 70s-era horror movies had downer endings), and until the end credits rolled, the audience still expected the alien to pop up somewhere.
Arbitrary Skepticism: Ripley wants to get rid of the Face Hugger carcass, because they already know that the alien creature bleeds acid and have no clue what will happen after it's dead. Ash counters this by snarking at Ripley that it probably isn't a zombie.
Bittersweet Ending: Not only a rarity for 70's horror movies, but a double whammy in that only Ripley survives and she is the one that no one in the audience expected to survive. Ripley kills the Alien by blowing it out the airlock of the escape shuttle- but is deeply affected by the loss of her friends and crew.
Bizarre Alien Reproduction: A deleted scene shows Ripley finding a nest that the Alien created on the Nostromo and shows that the dead crew members have each been turned into some kind of alien egg. This implies that the Alien is capable of asexual reproduction which completely defeats the concept and purpose of the Alien Queen.
Book Ends: The film starts and ends with a spaceship silently drifting into space, with the crew in artificial sleep.
Dilating Door: The sections of the air duct system on the starship Nostromo are seperated by dilating hatches.
Distress Call: The organic ship's signal which turned out to be a Warning Beacon.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: During Lambert's death, the Alien's sinewy tail can be sliding up between her legs. All that's known from her death are the strangely sexual grunts (of pain) heard by Ripley over her radio.
Lambert: [about the lousy food] You pound down the stuff like there's no tomorrow.
Parker: I'd rather be eating something else, but right now I'm thinking food.
Do You Want to Copulate?: A scene in the original script had Ripley casually stripping off in front of Captain Dallas saying "I need some release." Although the scene was used in the audition, it was never filmed.
Early Installment Weirdness: This is the first and only time we see the Alien as a slow-and-shambling creature; every other installment from Aliens onwards, it is a blindingly fast runner and jumper. It's also the only canon material (not counting comics, video games, etc) where the Alien demonstrates overtly malicious behavior, specifically Lambert's implied death by rape. Later films would generally present the creatures as somewhat intelligent but ultimately dangerous animals concerned only with survival.
The escape shuttle even has buttons to release steam into the cabin. Ripley makes use of this when figthing the Xenomorph.
Subverted a bit when a steam burst that is annoying Ripley is actually shown to be under Parker's control.
Partly justified after Ripley sets the Self-Destruct Mechanism, which involves turning off the cooling units of the ship's reactor. The ship's systems are automatically venting in an effort to cool itself. However, logic suggests there are better places for the coolant system to try and dump excess heat than into crew spaces.
Expositron 9000: The Nostromo ship computer, which tells Ripley the real goal of the mission.
Failed a Spot Check: Ripley failed her Spot Check at the end, as she sits down face to face with the alien in the shuttle, hidden amongst the pipes and valves on the walls she's facing.
Failsafe Failure: The Nostromo's self-destruct fail-safe mechanism is virtually impossible to initiate by accident, but it is just as fiendishly obtrusive to abort it. There is no quick reset button. It will not override without first manually disengaging safety interlocks and inserting the rods back in. If a last-minute-decision was ever made to abort, you're basically screwed.
Fanservice: Ripley spends a number of scenes walking around in her underwear.
Combines with Tempting Fate. Second officer Kane is the first crew member to die.
Kane: Oh, I feel dead.
Parker: Anybody ever tell you you look dead?
Dallas and Lambert note that the space jockey's ribs seem to have "exploded" from inside and wonder what could have caused it.
Ash never eats. The only thing he consumes is some milky-white fluid. He's later revealed to be an android, with white liquid for blood.
"Where's the rest of the crew?" is a very good question that's never brought up again, but a deleted scene shows that the xenomorph has a habit of turning its victims into more eggs.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: When the camera whips back and forth when Ripley dashes into the shuttle before the ship explodes, you can actually see the Alien already camouflaged against the wall. Unless you've seen the film at least once already, you probably won't be able to make it out.
The alien egg which spawns the facehugger opens up with vulva-like flaps.note Originally there were only two flaps, making the vaginal allusion even more obvious, which led to fears that the movie would be banned in Catholic countries, so Giger added two more lobes The alien is put into a human body by the Facehugger, whose reproductive organ looks like a vulva with mandibles and a prehensile penis. Its spawn, the Chestburster, looks like an erection with teeth. And the long, eyeless head of an adult Alien is obviously phallic. The Alien was based on a painting◊ by surrealist artist H. R. Giger, whose nightmarish work is very sexualized. Giger wanted the Alien to be the embodiment of the fear of rape.
A Deleted Scene in the first movie showed Dallas and Brett being "converted" into Chestburster eggs - they're double rapists; a man is disfigured into a feminine construct, and dies "giving birth" to something that does the same thing only quicker.
Maternal symbolism: the AI of the spaceship in Alien is called "Mother." The organic alien ship is entered through vulva-shaped doors.
Instant Cooldown: Averted. The Nostromo's self-destruct reaches a point where it's too late to stop it from exploding even if the engine coolant is turned back on.
Irrevocable Order: Ripley sets the self-destruct for the Nostromo in order to destroy the alien when fairly certain that she can safely get to the escape shuttle. However, along the way, she finds that the alien is lurking in the only corridor to the shuttle. She tries to go back and shut down the self-destruct, but misses the "point of no return" time by scant seconds.
It Can Think: How did the alien know to hide in the sole working shuttle?
Laser-Guided Karma: Dallas and Lambert demand to be let in, and Ash violates quarantine and opens the door. All three die as a result of this. Ripley, who didn't want to let them in, survives. Parker, in a deleted scene, says that maybe Ripley was right not to let them in, making him an aversion when he is killed.
Laser-Guided Tykebomb: The alien species is implied to be this, bred for the sole purpose of violence. Many thousands of eggs were preserved in the biomechanic derelict, and director Ridley Scott even said the derelict was a bomber - it was designed to bombard planets with Alien eggs.
Last Name Basis: All of the main characters are referred to by their last names. Apparently the original script didn't even list their genders. Even Jones the cat only has a last name!
Last Words: Ash the Android specifically asks for some final words before he is unplugged. He uses them to taunt the remaining heroes.
Let's Split Up, Gang: After a Cat Scare Brett is told to catch Jones so it doesn't happen again. He wanders around going "Here kitty kitty" without the slightest apprehension, as at this stage the crew think the alien is no bigger than the ship's cat. He discovers otherwise.
Another example is when Lambert, Parker and Ripley decide to take their chances in the shuttle. They had to split up in order to prepare the shuttle for escape and retrieve coolant for the air filtration system. Of course, things went down hill fast.
Lock and Load Montage: When Ripley, Parker and Lambert prepare to evacuate the Nostromo, Ripley is shown pulling some gear together in preparation.
The Mole: Science Officer Ash, who was brought in by the Company to make sure their hidden agenda was carried out.
Name of Cain: Played with. Second Officer Kane is a good guy, but he's the first to die and the person which the Alien births from.
The Needs of the Many: Ripley has a Sadistic Choice to make whether to A) immediately bring facehugged Kane back on board and risk the lives of all crew members or B) keep the away team in quarantine which might render Kane dead. She opts for choice B until Ash interferes.
The film focuses on the ever-present lurking threat of the eggs, chestburster, and adult alien rather than direct confrontations. The trailer for the film highlights the strategy, showing barely any of the alien and focusing on a terrifying montage of people reacting to what could be after them. The alien itself is only shown on-screen for less than four minutes total.
As a more specific example, Lambert's death. Nothing is seen of what happened, and even the aftermath is not seen clearly, we only hear it happening over the radio. It's probably the scariest death in the film. Given that the last thing we see of Lambert is the tip of the alien's tail moving up her leg towards her nether regions, and her corpse is stripped of pants and shoes, this is probably just as well.
Not in My Contract: Parker points out that he's in a commercial ship and that replying to distress calls is not in his contract. He'll be happy to oblige if he's paid more money, but he is promptly reminded that ignoring a distress call voids the contract.
Obstructive Bureaucrat: Subverted. Ripley quotes "24 hours for decontamination" regulations rather than allow Kane to enter the Nostromo for treatment. Of course, she turns out to be right, but by making her appear unsympathetic the movie conceals her eventual role as the heroine.
Only Sane Man: In spite of the anger it earned her from the rest of the crew for trying to enforce it, Ripley was absolutely right about the 24 hour quarantine. If everyone had listened to her, it's very possible she wouldn't have been the only survivor.
The Reveal: Several, but the two most significant ones are when Ripley finds out that the Company had planned the mission from the very start and considers the crew expendable, and when Ash is revealed to be a robot working for them.
Ash the Android: There is an explanation for this, you know.
Survival Mantra: "You are my lucky star... Lucky star, lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky."
Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: At the end Ripley blows up the Nostromo, finally begins relaxing, and just as she's plotting the co-ordinates the titular monster's arm swings into her face. However, it is subverted in that she survives the encounter.
There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Ripley sets the ship on self-destruct and escapes in a shuttle. The Alien escapes onto the shuttle, but now it can't hide away anymore. She dumps it out the shuttle's airlock, shoots it with a grappling gun when it grabs the opening, and then fries it with the engines when the gun gets caught in the door and it tries to crawl back into the shuttle.
Those Two Guys: Brett and Parker are usually shown together and griping about their lower position in the crew.
Too Dumb to Live: Brett, while looking for Jones the Cat, finds a room with water raining down from the ceiling (implied to be alien saliva). Rather than wondering where the hell this water is coming from since he's on a spaceship, he decides to take it easy and relax in the falling water which allows the alien to sneak up on him. Additionally, he's one of the ship's mechanics, so really seeing such a large amount of falling water should make him worried that there's a leak in the plumbing or something.
Toughest Chick Always Dies: Interestingly enough, the trope is inverted in the first film (whereas it's played straight in the second, even being the current Trope Namer): the easily scared and very feminine ship navigator Lambert gets killed off in the film's latter half (the original shooting script implied that the Xenomorph actually raped her to death), while cynical, butch, chain-smoking Warrant Officer Ripley survives and becomes the lynchpin for the entire franchise. This is because in the original script none of the characters were given genders, just names. Any character could have been male or female.
Turned Against Their Masters: It's implied that the Aliens were bred to be living weapons but killed their creators, the ancient "Pilot creatures". This was later confirmed in Prometheus. This makes the Company even more Too Dumb to Live, since they seem to be under the delusional impression that the unstoppable killing machine that leaves every encounter with a huge body count... can be trained. They also want to bring it to Earth.
Uncertain Doom: The fate of Dallas and Bret, unless you see a deleted scene in which their bodies are found.
Unexpected Character: Ripley really was not set up to be "the hero" or even the focal character in the film, or at least not be indicative of such. Dallas (played by Tom Skerrit) would have been expected to be the main character.
Up to Eleven: Rumor has it that the scene where Kane dies from a Chest Burster emerging out of him was so violent that several audience members fainted or started vomiting.