Alien (1979) Programme Notes

March 1, 2019 12:02 pm Published by Leave your thoughts


Ridley Scott’s Alien returns to the big screen to mark it’s 40th anniversary. Screened across the UK and selected international territories.

Go and see the film,

Year:                                                1979.                                                  
Rating: 18
Running Time:                              117 minutes, colour.                          
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi.

Directed by                              …         RIDLEY SCOTT.
VERONICA CARTWRIGHT    …         Lambert.        
IAN HOLM                               …         Ash.
JOHN HURT                             …         Kane.              
TOM SKERRITT                        …         Dallas.
HARRY DEAN STANTON       …         Brett.             
SIGOURNEY WEAVER              …         Ripley.


A movie master piece” – Empire Magazine [1]

The 1970’s had been a time of immense turmoil across the US, with the economy suffering frequent periods of recession and high unemployment [2]. The 1979 Three Mile Island accident, the most significant accident in US commercial nuclear history [3],  had sparked a sense of uncertainty in the public consciousness about the reliability of new technology. This uncertainty and turmoil formed part of the backdrop to Alien, which was released in the US on May 25, 1979 and received its UK premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival on September 1, 1979.


On their voyage home to Earth, the crew of the deepspace tug Nostromo are awakened from stasis when their ship’s computer detects what is believed to be an alien distress signal coming from a nearby planet. While investigating the desolate landscape, one of the crew is attacked by an alien creature that latches to his face and is rushed back to the Nostromo to receive medical treatment. Ripley, the ship’s warrant officer, advises that her injured colleague can’t be brought aboard due to quarantine regulations – but her orders are ignored, inadvertently bringing the Nostromo under threat from a mysterious extra-terrestrial life form with violent and lethal survival instincts. [4]

A sci-fi thriller of palpable, nerve-tingling tension, with Sigourney Weaver — playing warrant officer Ellen Ripley — in stunning form.” – Daily Telegraph [5]

Critical Reception

“There is an explanation for this, you know”

Described by Film4 as the “benchmark of extra-terrestrial horror” [6], Alien plays out somewhat as a cerebral and rather dark documentary, rather than pure escapist entertainment. It was awarded the 1979 Academy Award® for Best Visual Effects (and nominated for Best Art Direction) and won the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film.  It has since been considered “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” by the National Film Preservation Board of the United States (2002) [7].

“This revolutionary “haunted house in space” thrill-ride is the classic business, stunning you with shock after shock, even when the fascinating monster is exposed in all its hideous glory.” – Radio Times [8]

Production Design:

Film Quote: “Alien life form. Looks like it’s been dead a long time. Fossilized. Looks like it’s growing out of the chair”

 Alien remains timeless – both for its unique visual aesthetic, and in its exploration of the dangers of discovery – in space and beyond.  Its foreboding mood has haunted audiences for four decades – not least because it spawned a media franchise of games, merchandise and three sequels. It was also Sigourney Weaver’s first lead role – and her character’s (Ellen Ripley) encounters with the Alien went on to become the narrative core of the original sequels (Aliens, Alien 3, Alien Resurrection).

For years, these Xenomorphs have wreaked havoc, with the unique combination of Ridley Scott’s visionary direction, H.R. Giger’s biomechanical, industrial designs and Dan O’Bannon’s nail-biting screenplay have created a powerful filmic and cultural legacy.  

Both crew and audience cannot escape from the deliberately claustrophobic and pressurised environment of the Nostromo.

So, as you navigate your way through the decks of electric blue light, remember: in space, no one can hear you scream.


[2] The Balance.

[3] Backgrounder on the Three Mile Island Accident”. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.






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This post was written by noxford

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