Pruning a Lilly

One of my guilty passions is the original movie ALIEN guilty passion, because being both horror a science-fiction it falls in to the nerdy genre.  However, as a movie I believe it to be a piece of art and I hope that the Director Ridley Scott is never tempted to do a George Lucas and re-edit his original masterpiece.  It would be like Michelangelo returning to the Sistine Chapel to update his ceiling.

Just recently whilst idly browsing YouTube I came across a number to deleted scenes from the original picture that Scott decided not to use and so fell to the cutting room floor.  These include a scene where the character, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) discovers the living but cocooned ship’s captain (Tom Skerritt) along with the second victim of the Alien, Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), who was killed and his body taken by the monster and now appears to be dissolving and being ingested into another leathery egg.  Also a longer scene of the final moments of Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) which shows the monster in more detail.

I believe Scott was correct in removing these scenes from the picture.  Firstly the audience did not need to know the fate of Cpt. Dallas or Brett body for the narrative.  Furthermore, what I found most scary about this movie was the way the monster was never fully revealed to what it looked like until the end scene.  Only parts of its body was shown at any one time and for very short periods and with contrast lighting to confuse proper identity.  If something new is shown to an audience like an alien, something that can not easily be identified, categorised or familiarised then this stirs up feelings of discomfort, fear, and anxiety.  something that is shown in it’s full may at first shock and frighten but the next time the audience can expect what is shown and the shock is lost and with familiarity a certain sense of control is restored in the audiences mind and so the fright factor is considerably reduced.  I recall leaving the cinema that first time I saw the movie still a little uncertain as to what the monster was of looked like this maintained a sense of unease as I travelled home and the scar factor lasted much longer than other horror films I saw before or after.  This is true art.

Hollywood is in it for the money, this is both good and bad, good because gems like Alien could not exist without this motivation, but bad because once a movie is made and keeps in a large profit Hollywood must maximise this opportunity for further profit by making sequels.  Although some of the sequels have been very good and entertaining they have began to water down the original story with explanations.  I don’t believe we need explanations, where the crashed alien ship came from? Why it was there? Why were the monsters in or under the belly of the ship? How do these creatures survive and reproduce? Where did they come from? etc, etc. are all irrelevant to the original storyline.  We the audience are invisible witnesses to an event and that’s all.  Like time travellers on an uncontrolled journey through time and space in which we are permitted to view an event from beginning to end then being whisked back to our own lives.  We see the events just as witnesses may see an accident or an act of terrorism and like those witnesses we are not privileged to have seen the proceeding events nor necessarily what happens next to the surviving victims.  My point is that less information is more impact for a story such as this.

The lesson to draw from this as a film-maker is to be brave and cut, certain scene filmed was influenced by the original book that the screenplay was drafted from.  The Director then considered his work in the editing suit not from the point-of-view of the novel and script but from a visual view-point and concentrated on pace and keeping it lean.

By discovering these lost scenes, I can only appreciate the original movie even more and if a Director can achieve that in his work then that’s the best.

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