Directed by Ridley Scott, starring Sigourney Weaver, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton and John Hurt.
There was much to agree with and grumble about on Channel 4's recent '100 Greatest Scary Moments'. At times it felt like it was compiled by people with fantastic taste ('The Wicker Man', 'Don't Look Now', 'Halloween') while at others you wondered just how timid the general public could be (a Prodigy video? 'EastEnders'? 'Brookside'? Hmmm, quiet haunting). 'ALIEN', however, was one of the cases where justice was done. It came in at Number 4 and watching this Director's Cut just reinforces the argument that time has done nothing to dull the impact of John Hurt's onscreen gastric gyrations.
When people compile lists of the great 70s movies 'Alien', by virtue of timing, is one that regularly misses the cut. Released in 1979, its influence on every science fiction, horror and action movie that has followed can't be overstated. It was one of the first mainstream films to promote the female hero. Following on from 'Star Wars', it broke new ground in special effects (an evolution that would continue in Scott's 'Blade Runner'). And aside from some onboard instruments that now look as sophisticated as cash registers, 'ALIEN's vision of a future of multinationals, genetic research and expendable workers is more uncomfortable now than on its first release.
For fans - many of whom were too young to see it on the big screen - this version is an absolute must and for a new generation, it shows just how shortchanged today's horrors leave them. The alterations in the film's first hour are minor (the crew of The Nostromo land on a planet, deal with one of their number being attacked and, on returning to their mothership, face the ever spiralling horror as the entity evolves onboard), where Scott's new cut comes into its own is when the action heats up.
As crewmembers are picked off there are scenes which add much to the terror and give the story a fuller feeling. Better still is to come when Weaver's character, Ripley, is the last woman standing and she finds out the fate of some of her workmates. We also get to see more of the Alien here - a design so ahead of its time it proves a 7ft tall man in a rubber suit can work better than any amount of CGI. Even taking inflation into account, the fact that this entire film cost much less that today's effects budgets shows that while the productions may have got bigger some imaginations have shrunk.
The digitally remastered print is fantastic, the sound adds even more eerieness to the screams and silence aboard The Nostromo and returning to this film and feeling the same thrill is a pleasure that will be hard to come by with much of today's output in years to come.
Nearly a quarter of a century down the line, a great film has been made greater.