Despite being almost 40 years old, Alien is just as suspenseful now as it was when it was released. A timeless horror classic that has endured and will continue to endure.
Today's Millennial techies have seen Alien on TV many times and have no doubt been desensitized to the film. It is a pity that those watching Alien today cannot see it through eyes of a person who saw it for the first time in 1979.
In 1979 there was nothing to prepare a movie goer for what they were about to see. Nothing was like it before and films like it after are, to some extent, an homage.
Star Trek and Star Wars projected a futuristic view of a Utopian world so far advanced and different from present day life and science. The Star Wars spacecrafts had clean futuristic lines and the costuming and gadgets were wonderous
A Horror movie in space was essentially new territory. 'The Thing' was perhaps most similar to Alien and has been said to inspire the story. The isolation and foreboding of the Arctic was similar to the emptiness but at the same time claustrophobia of space travel.
Except for the suspended animation chambers in the beginning of Alien, this future is unremarkable and not very awe inspiring
The ship is a hulking unimpressive bilgy utilitarian vessel not unlike a present-day cargo ship.
The crew is not a well-honed team but a scowling, complaining bunch putting in a day's work. Their dress and appearance convey how unremarkable and undisciplined they are, as is their attitude.
There is no endearing android like R2D2 or CP30 here either. These clearly are not the buck Rodgers, Han Solo heroes that we had come to expect from our spacemen and women prior to Alien.
They are not much different from us which, perhaps, makes Alien even more frightening.
In 1979 there was no CGI remotely like what we have to day. The dark steamy hell of the planet and the Alien were created with 1970s techniques and yes, meat parts. The music by Jerry Goldsmith is perfection in building nerve grating tension. The sound affects are the little mentioned costar of this movie. The jarring and ominous computer sounds set the uneasy mood. The subtle organic sounds of the movements of the Alien made it that much more frightening.
Unlike todays incredible CGI video games, Apple II and Atari crude video games like space invader and Asteroids could never have prepared us to what we were about to see in this movie. The original Alien trailer was perhaps one the most effective trailers ever produced.
It gripped TV viewers to the extent that it created anticipation and tension even before going to the theater.
I often wondered how Alien would differ if it were filmed in Black and White. It is primarily filmed in disturbing muted color; essentially Film Noir. I have intentionally viewed it in B&W only and believe me, it adds a whole new dimension.
I can remember when Alien was first reviewed. One reporter interviewed people who had walked out of the movie because they were so disturbed by it. The tension was too unbearable to them.
I wish that new viewers could see Alien the way we in 1979 did... never experiencing anything like it before... and not desensitized and maybe jaded by the following 37 years and 21st century digital wizardry.
The Next Time Alien is on your TV, turn on your sound system and transport yourself to a theater in 1979 surrounded by nervous movie goers already squirming as they view the famous slowly appearing fragmented title sequence. People already started to squeal during the opening scene and sound effects of the ship awakening even before a character was seen or a word of dialog was said.
Try to block out the following 40 years of Hollywood high tech and yes try turning off the color for a different film Noir experience.