Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Aliens on Screen - Part I
I have to say in advance, much as I usually respect Kermode's opinion, I'm not a great fan of some these choices...
The 10 best screen aliens – in pictures
With Ridley Scott's Alien prequel Prometheus set to land on 1 June, here are 10 others in the fine tradition of cinematic extra-terrestrials
27 May 2012
Island Earth (1955)
Few creatures typify the classic ‘bug-eyed alien’ stereotype better than the marauding lobster-handed ‘mutant’ seen terrorising Faith Domergue in publicity images for This Island Earth. Sadly, budget and time constraints meant he was only properly mutant from the waist up – the planned ‘weird alien legs’ were ultimately reduced to mere silver trousers on screen. The perennial favourite gave us a race of high-foreheaded brainboxes from the planet Metaluna. Their elevated hairlines would inspire the TV ads featuring the Tefal scientists, who briefly usurped the Cadbury’s Smash Martians as icons.
The Blob (1958)
Perhaps the most spectacularly simple space alien ever conceived, this gooey, gelatinous mass was originally backed by church groups who had been bamboozled into believing that its adventures were a Christian morality tale (sinners got glooped while the righteous endure). Starring a young ‘Steven McQueen’, this 50s classic featured special effects achieved by dropping slime over dimensionalised’ photographs and then filming it falling off in reverse. Simple but brilliant. The Blob even had its own catchy theme tune, co-written by Burt Bacharach.
Screenwriters Dan O’Bannon and Ron Shusett first got the idea for their chest-busting xenomorph after reading about wasps that paralyse their prey to create a living food-sack for their spawn. Pulsating eggs, leaping face-huggers and giant beasties with extending mandibles and acid for blood followed, as director Ridley Scott and Swiss artist HR Giger redefined the face of alien predators for years to come. Later instalments suggested the shape of each particular alien was defined by its host (human in parts one and two, a quadruped in Alien 3), upon which subject Prometheus may shed some light – or not!
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Steven Spielberg describes his melancholy masterpiece as ‘my most autobiographical movie.’ It tells the story of an anxious boy from a broken family (the dorector struggled to cope with his parents’ divorce), who forges a bond with a lost alien desperate to ‘phone home.’ Critics marvelled t the universal sympathy ET inspired in audiences despite an appearance regularly likened to a ‘walking penis.’ Powered by puppeteers, complex animatronics and (in some sequences) a dextrous performer walking on their hands, ET also famously employed the voice of actor Debra Winger to help create his extra-terrestrial croak.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The actual form of the aliens in Kubrick’s epochal masterpiece is never revealed, but their presence is signalled throughout by the appearance of a mysterious monolith. Originally described in Arthur C. Clarke’s short story as pyramid-shaped, it appears on film as an enigmatic oblong that functions variously as a teacher, an interstellar alarm, a star-gate and (ultimately) some form of rejuvenating deity. What it all means remains a mystery, though many have observed that the measurements of the monolith closely resemble the upended dimensions of a CinemaScope screen. Spooky!