Most of you will know this, but don’t-call-me-Sir Ridley Scott is returning to the career-making universe of Alien this week – with the worldwide release of Prometheus (our review HERE and heavy, spoilerific analysis HERE). It feels fitting at this point to have a retrospective on the cigar chomping auteur. In a legacy that spans 35 years, 20 directorial feature films and countless production credits, Scott has demonstrated a raw and animalistic fervor for filmmaking: and he shows no signs of slowing down!
Growing up, kids around me always had a favorite football player, or Power Ranger, or superhero, or (in the more tragic case) Eastender’s character. I on the other hand, had favorite directors. Whilst my friends would talk of Eric Cantona and Tommy Oliver (the white Power Ranger), I’d gush about Spielberg, Hitchcock, and more notably, Ridley Scott. To answer your two questions: Yes, I was a very peculiar and often ostracized child. And yes, I was also the go to guy for film suggestions at sleepovers – Scream with a chaser of The Shining or Carrie was an often-popular recommendation. Years before Gladiator became my favorite film of 2000 to 2005, id developed a deep respect and love for Ridley Scott.
I first saw the master’s hand, when I accidentally sat to watch Blade Runner on television. Switching on the channel I saw The Ladd Company logo, and had come to associate this with Police Academy, so I stayed and watched. But instead of being met by Robert Folk’s brassy upbeat theme tune, I heard the dirty synthetic electronica of Vangelis’ soundtrack. I found the dusty neo-noir aesthetic of a future L.A to be utterly engrossing. One month later, I outsmarted a young and tired babysitter and stayed up late watching T.V. Suddenly something mesmerizing came onto my screen. I sat in awe as a terrifying sci-fi film washed over me. I will never forget that moment when I witnessed the pure terror of the Nostromo crew as a small anemic creature burst from John Hurt’s chest. I had just discovered Alien. When I saw the director’s name, I recognized it from Blade Runner. This guy, this Ridley Scott, was a legend in my eyes…and even more so after seeing his other film, Legend.
But anyway, this isn’t about me, this is about the man of the moment. What follows are 6 films which I consider to be landmarks in Scott’s career. For better or worse, these 6 celluloid outings work together as a collective to provide a complete representation of a cinematic icon.
1. Alien (1979)
There are films that become relevant to the history of cinema, and there are films that literally change the course of film as a whole. Alien is the latter. Yes, ok so The Duellists got him noticed, but Alien is the film which he will always be remembered for. Many people make the mistake of assuming that Scott ‘created’ Alien. But in true form to the director, the truth is actually much more matter-of-fact. Scott saw Star Wars, realized high concept sci-fi was the way to earn money, got offered the gig directing a super nerdy script written by Dan O’Bannon, and took it.
The genius of Alien comes from Scott’s cool distance from the story, and lack of interest in adhering to sci-fi geek law. The basic story of Alien was already in place – that is what the script was for – Scott just came on board with a suitcase full of artistic ideas; “I knew exactly what to do with Alien, it was funny.” The mixture of sexuality, horror, confusion and mystery was revolutionary and even now, what is so striking about the film is how quiet it is. This use of sound as a character within the film’s universe became a staple technique for the director, and completely rejuvenated the relationship between film and diegetic soundtracks.
Claustrophobic sets and dystopian influences turned low budget restrictions into big budget ideas. Ultimately, Scott ended up doing to extra-terrestrials what Spielberg did to sharks, and the world still hasn’t quite recovered. Alien is striking, absorbing, immersive and hypnotic. Scott would go on to become well versed in creating worlds that felt somewhere between consciousness and dreams. But this was the first of the bunch, the grandfather to many. Alien is a literal embodiment of nightmares, but in a most glorious and fulfilling way.
Original Critical Responses:
“At its best it recalls “The Thing”, though the Howard Hawkes film was both more imaginatively and more economically dramatized.”
-Vincent Canby (New York Times)
“…this film attempts to crossbreed the scare tactics of Jaws with the sci-fi hardware of Star Wars. The result is a cinematic bastard, and a pretty mean bastard at that.”
-Frank Rich (Time Magazine)
Supplement Your Viewing With:
- 8 Actresses Who Tricked You Into Thinking You Saw Them Nude
- 11 Irresistible Movie Moments That Wore Out Your Pause Button
- 100 Things Wrong With The Dark Knight Rises [Video]
- 10 Scenes You Won't Believe You Missed in 2012
- 10 Most Infuriating Movie Cliffhangers
- 10 Major Plot Holes You Probably Missed
- 10 Happy Movie Endings That Probably Had Horrific Consequences
- 12 Ruthless Movie Villains Who Were Defeated By Complete Fools