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The Beast Within: Making Alien is a 2003 documentary directed by Charles de Lauzirika that details the production of the 1979 film Alien. Created for the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set, it uses extensive interviews with the film's cast and crew, as well as a wealth of behind the scenes footage and imagery, to examine all aspects of the development, filming and release of the movie.

Overview

The documentary is divided into nine separate chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of Alien's production. As with all of Charles de Lauzirika's documentaries on the films in the Alien series, it features no formal narration but instead relies on newly-filmed and archive interview clips to tell the story of the film's development, interspersed with behind-the-scenes footage and images.

Star Beast: Developing the Story

The first chapter covers the creation of the story that would become Alien, beginning with writers Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett discussing how the plot was conceived and developed. It also covers how many of the production crew on the film, especially with regards to the concept artists, first met (chiefly as part of Alejandro Jodorowsky's cancelled Dune project). The development of the script, which was at times a battle of wills between its original writers and the production team, is also detailed.

Includes interviews with writers Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, producer David Giler, conceptual artist Ron Cobb, associate producer Ivor Powell, and 20th Century Fox executive Alan Ladd, Jr., as well as an archive interview with producer Gordon Carroll.

The Visualists: Direction and Design

The second chapter covers the search for a director, with Giler and Carroll eventually settling on Ridley Scott, touching on the extensive storyboards he drew up for the film. It also covers the hiring of the film's key design and conceptual crew, including H. R. Giger, whose hiring was initially resisted by Fox.

Includes interviews with director Ridley Scott, Don O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, David Giler, Ron Cobb, Ivor Powell and Alan Ladd, Jr., as well as archive interviews with Gordon Carroll and Alien designer H. R. Giger.

Truckers in Space: Casting

The third chapter covers the search for stars to play the roles, including the decision to cast Ripley, who was originally supposed to be male, with a female actress to make the film more noteworthy. Jon Finch's casting as Kane and subsequent departure due to illness is also covered.

Includes interviews with Ridley Scott, Ronald Shusett, David Giler, actors Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and John Hurt, casting director Mary Selway, Ivor Powell, and Alan Ladd, Jr., as well as an archive interview with Gordon Carroll.

Fear of the Unknown: Shepperton Studios, 1978

The fourth chapter looks at the commencement of filming at Shepperton Studios, shedding light on the intense studio oversight and the pressure this placed upon the crew, in particular director Scott. In particular, the segments looks at the rigors of filming in the cumbersome space suit costumes and the tricks employed to realise the climactic confrontation with Ash. Included are many previously unseen alternate takes of scenes from the final film.

Includes interviews with Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, David Giler, Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ron Cobb, production designer Michael Seymour, art director Roger Christian, director of photography Derek Vanlint, Ivor Powell, and Alan Ladd, Jr.

The Darkest Reaches: Nostromo and Alien Planet

The fifth chapter covers the design and construction of the various sets used in the film, in particular highlighting the contrast between the human sets of the Nostromo, designed by Rob Cobb, and the alien planetoid and derelict, designed by H. R. Giger. It is mentioned how several of Giger's set were comprised by budget restraints, while light is also shed on the battle over the enormous Pilot set, which was deemed an important part of the film by the senior crew but an unnecessary expense by the producers.

Includes interviews with Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Veronica Cartwright, Ron Cobb, Michael Seymour, Roger Christian and Ivor Powell, as well as archive interviews with Gordon Carroll and H. R. Giger.

The Eighth Passenger: Creature Design

The sixth and longest chapter deals with the design of the Alien itself, including all of its various life stages. Particular attention is given to the filming of the Facehugger attack and Chestburster scenes, explaining how the sequences were created and dispelling the myth that none of the cast were aware what would happen during the latter. The design and construction of the adult Alien suit is also covered, with particular focus on the mechanics of the animatronic head used for shooting.

Includes interviews with Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, David Giler, Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ron Cobb, Michael Seymour, Roger Christian, special effects supervisor Brian Johnson, Alien head creator Carlo Rambaldi, Derek Vanlint, and Ivor Powell, as well as an archive interview with H. R. Giger.

Future Tense: Editing and Music

The seventh chapter features Terry Rawlings discussing his work editing the film, touching on some of the deleted scenes that were removed from the film during post-production. The segment then moves on to Jerry Goldsmith, who describes the process of composing the soundtrack for the movie, and also shares his dissatisfaction with the way some of his score was used.

Includes intervenes with Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, David Giler, Tom Skerritt, editor Terry Rawlings, and Ivor Powell, as well as an archive interview with composer Jerry Goldsmith.

Outward Bound: Visual Effects

The eighth chapter covers the miniatures used to depict the Nostromo in flight, including Ridley Scott's often drastic last-minute alterations to the models. Eventually, all of the original footage filmed by the visual effects department was scrapped and Ridley oversaw reshoots personally.

Includes interviews with Ridley Scott, David Giler, Brian Johnson, Derek Vanlint, model supervisor Martin Bower, and Ivor Powell.

A Nightmare Fulfilled: Reaction to the Film

The final chapter covers the release of the film, including the reaction to previews that led to the film's violence and gore being toned down. Cast and crew then reflect on the film's general release, sharing their own experiences from screenings around the world. The movie's advertising campaign is also touched upon. Finally, members of the crew briefly share their personal ideas for where the Alien franchise could go in the future.

Includes interviews with Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, David Giler, Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt, Ron Cobb, Roger Christian, Derek Vanlint, Terry Rawlings, Mary Selway, Ivor Powell and Alan Ladd, Jr., as well as an archive interview with Gordon Carroll.

History

Originally presented in a 4:3 full screen aspect ratio for the Alien Quadrilogy box set, Lauzirika elected to "rebuild" the documentary for the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set as a 16:9 widescreen presentation. This conversion essentially entailed the cropping of the interview and vintage on-set footage to the new widescreen format, while the various title graphics were replaced with newly rendered equivalents.[1]

Enhancement Pods

For the Alien Anthology Blu-ray set, several previously-unreleased "Enhancement Pods", essentially deleted and extended scenes from the main documentary, were made available for the first time. These cover a wide range of topics, many of which are already mentioned in the documentary itself, and provide additional detail and trivia. Unlike the main documentaries, these did not undergo conversion to a widescreen aspect ratio.[1]

  • "Conceiving the Alien Lifecycle"
  • "The Influence of Jodorowsky's Dune"
  • "O'Bannon Working with Shusett"
  • "Ridley Scott's Epiphany"
  • "Jon Finch Sets the Record Straight"
  • "Finding the Right Ripley"
  • "Actors as Props"
  • "Sigourney Weaver Learns the Ropes"
  • "The Functional Art of Ron Cobb"
  • "Dailies: Parker and Brett Ad-Lib"
  • "That Used Future Look"
  • "Bolaji Badejo Alien Movement Tests"
  • "Discovering Bolaji Badejo"
  • "Giger on Giger"
  • "The Distrubing Brilliance of H. R. Giger"
  • "James Cameron Dissects Alien"
  • "Cocoon of Love"
  • "Jerry Goldsmith Recalls Alien"
  • "Goldsmith on Silence"
  • "The Pros and Cons of Temp Tracks"
  • "Same-Sex Relationships in Space"
  • "Toy Birds of Destruction"
  • "Oscar Night Memories"
  • "Test Footage: Nostromo on Forklift"
  • "End of a Genre"
  • "First Impressions"
  • "O'Bannon's Fight for Credit"

Trivia

  • The archive interview clips featuring H. R. Giger that appear in the documentary were originally filmed for The Making of Alien3, while the clips of Jerry Goldsmith were filmed for HBO First Look: Alien Resurrection - Behind the Scenes.
  • The title of the first chapter in the documentary, "Star Beast", is a reference to the original name of the script that became Alien.
  • Similarly, the second chapter's title, "The Visualists", is a reference to Ridley Scott's first ever motion picture, The Duellists.
  • The title of the sixth chapter, "The Eighth Passenger", was a subtitle for Alien that was used in certain markets.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Digital Bits - Blu-ray Review: Alien Anthology". Retrieved on 2016-01-11.