Tuesday, October 18, 2005

KBT Presents: ALIEN

"The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility. I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality. "

I can't think of more apt words for Ridley Scott's sublime cinematic blend of hard science fiction and haunted house horror. Absolutely a perfect Halloween film.

For many years now, fanboys have been weighing in with what Alien picture is the best of the expanding franchise, which now includes 5 films of widely varying quality. While I feel the third film is over-maligned and unfairly hated, a choice for best picture really does boil down to just two films which are as different as two franchise films can be. (And I don't mean Highlander vs. Highlander II: The Quickening). James Cameron's Aliens is all action, black humour, testosterone loaded bravado, and intense emotion, capped off with an momma-bear estrogen chaser. I find it fun and well made, but not iconic. It just doesn't hold a candle to the first big-budget masterpiece, the original Alien whose the perfect tagline proclaimed: "In Space, Nobody Can Hear You Scream."

In this film, it is really just a few working-stiff professionals who have limited means to understand both what is happening, and how to deal with it, but go about the task with a determined (if fear-laced) professionalism. The heart and soul of the film lies somewhere between the scientific method and common sense. (In fact you could read that Aliens is a corporate and military arrogance warning and AlienĀ³ is a spiritual crisis...the fourth (sadly, considering it is J.P. Jenuet at the helm) and fifth (which I have not seen precisely because of it's hack director) entries in the series are not even worth bothering.

I also like the gradual pace of the original. There is a certain sense of craftsmanship in the deliberate set-up in the first hour of the film. The crew wakes up, grabs a cup of coffee, and goes about mundane tasks before finding that they are not in fact home, and now have to investigate a distress beacon on a planet none of them wish to visit. ("Let's discuss the bonus situation.") The slow decent on the dark seemingly uninhabited moon and the creepy abandoned space ship. These locations have depth, weight and a sense of presence that is just lacking from most modern science fiction. And while I'm on the subject, other than the computer monitors, this movie hasn't aged a bit. It looks as simultaneously futuristic and run-down as it did in 1979. Choosing to make the Nostromo essentially an inter-galaxy 18-wheeler (Harry Dean Stanton's Brett even wears a trucker hat) was an interesting move which has really helped the film age gracefully. The story and the science hold up as well, a tough thing for a 25 year old sci-fi flick.

Ridley Scott wisely kept the creature hidden during most of the film. It unfolds its graceful body, which exists in the H.R. Giger-world of sexually melded flesh and machine, deep in the shadows, and reaches out to claim a victim then practically vanishes into the moist pipe-encrusted bowels of the Nostromo. It was refreshing (and probably a bit surprising to the 1979 audience) to see a woman be the voice of reason and the most coldly competent character, even if the film started a modern cliche that a genre heroine must at some point nervously strip down to her underwear while battling whatever has to be fought (see also Deep Blue Sea). Ian Holm, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto all make up one of the finest ensemble casts to ever grace a genre film, giving further weight to the film in that it is the hardened adult working class which will be exploring space, not hee-haw farmboys (Star Wars), white collar suits (2001: A Space Odyssey) or manly matinee idols (Star Trek).

Come see the original Alien, certainly a classic in both horror and science fiction, how it was meant to be seen, with a very nifty 5.1 remastered THX certified soundtrack, and on a big screen (It is criminal to try to view it pan & scan on a TV set, which can somehow make this fantastic film look cheap and boring). Also, there was a directors cut released in 2003 with some extra scenes added, and several of the 'slower' scenes made shorter. It was a bit ill advised, and ultimately inferior to the 1979 theatrical release, which will be the version being screened.

Note the slightly earlier schedule: Come by for Drinks at 8pm, I've got a lot of new trailers, so I'll show a few of them starting at 8:15. Showtime at 8:30pm


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