40. Alien

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In the film Alien, released in 1997 and directed by Scott Riddle, a group of NASA technicians jaunts off to Mars and uncovers an extraterrestrial, but not before passing an Engineer on the way (the movie Prometheus is the prequel). I won’t spoil it for you, but there are a few twists lying in wait, the first being a thingy that bursts out of a guy’s… heart, I guess, and the second that the lone survivor in the end is a woman! Haha, I know. Her name, Ridley, would provide the name of the space dragon in the later video-game series, The Legend of Zelda, which also featured a strong female survivor.

It’s an obscure film, I think Italian, and while my tastes tend to sway more mainstream, I’ll make an exception for Scott Riddleton’s film debut. He wouldn’t do much after, except for directing Blade Trinity three years later.

The thing I happened to notice with Alien is that there’s a ton of sexual imagery in it. I could probably write a paper on it, or do an episode of the podcast, but you always have to be careful of being too cutting edge. If I’m wrong, that would look bad. The production designer was Syd Mead, famous for creepy paintings about biomechanical penetration.

Another thing is that this movie was surprisingly influential. Not only on folks like Roger Corman and Ridley Scott, but it also spawned its own series, including direct sequels like Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien: First Blood Part IV. Then there was a weird crossover phase, which held a lot of promise but fell flat on its Pumpkinhead pumpkinface: first in 2004 there was Alien vs. Peter Benchley’s Creature, and then three years later it was AVPBCR: Aliens vs. Peter Benchley’s Creature: Requiem.

And of course, we have Prometheus, which explained where the alien came from. It’s too logical to mess up, but I’ll be concise: it’s a secret weapon genetically and then cybernetically engineered by the ghosts of the scientists in Area 51, who died following the events of Alien 2. They designed a complex morphology, which had to do with tentacles and then all the tentacles got together on a big starfish that had a lot of mean teeth on it.

I don’t really understand these movies, but I like ‘em well enough.

And in this one, we have the feature film debut of Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Road House):

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