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Alien

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A legendary fusion of science fiction and horror, Alien (1979) is one of the most enduring modern myths of cinema - its famously visceral scenes acting like a traumatic wound we seem compelled to revisit. Tracing the constellation of talents that came together to produce the film, Roger Luckhurst examines its origins as a monster movie script called Star Beast, dismissed b A legendary fusion of science fiction and horror, Alien (1979) is one of the most enduring modern myths of cinema - its famously visceral scenes acting like a traumatic wound we seem compelled to revisit. Tracing the constellation of talents that came together to produce the film, Roger Luckhurst examines its origins as a monster movie script called Star Beast, dismissed by many in Hollywood as B-movie trash, through to its afterlife in numerous sequels, prequels and elaborations. Exploring the ways in which Alien compels us to think about otherness, Luckhurst demonstrates how and why this interstellar slasher movie, this old dark house in space, came to coil itself around our darkest imaginings about the fragility of humanity. This special edition features original cover artwork by Marta Lech.


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A legendary fusion of science fiction and horror, Alien (1979) is one of the most enduring modern myths of cinema - its famously visceral scenes acting like a traumatic wound we seem compelled to revisit. Tracing the constellation of talents that came together to produce the film, Roger Luckhurst examines its origins as a monster movie script called Star Beast, dismissed b A legendary fusion of science fiction and horror, Alien (1979) is one of the most enduring modern myths of cinema - its famously visceral scenes acting like a traumatic wound we seem compelled to revisit. Tracing the constellation of talents that came together to produce the film, Roger Luckhurst examines its origins as a monster movie script called Star Beast, dismissed by many in Hollywood as B-movie trash, through to its afterlife in numerous sequels, prequels and elaborations. Exploring the ways in which Alien compels us to think about otherness, Luckhurst demonstrates how and why this interstellar slasher movie, this old dark house in space, came to coil itself around our darkest imaginings about the fragility of humanity. This special edition features original cover artwork by Marta Lech.

30 review for Alien

  1. 4 out of 5

    Murray Ewing

    I like these little BFI books, but sometimes you’re rolling the dice a bit. Some authors present a wide-ranging critical companion piece to the film in question, others pick a single interpretation and hammer away at it, and if their particular take doesn’t click, you can end up wondering if they’re talking about the film you expected to be reading about. I’m glad to say Roger Luckhurst’s look at one of my favourite films takes the former approach. Concentrating on the original 1979 film, with on I like these little BFI books, but sometimes you’re rolling the dice a bit. Some authors present a wide-ranging critical companion piece to the film in question, others pick a single interpretation and hammer away at it, and if their particular take doesn’t click, you can end up wondering if they’re talking about the film you expected to be reading about. I’m glad to say Roger Luckhurst’s look at one of my favourite films takes the former approach. Concentrating on the original 1979 film, with only a brief look at the sequels (in a section wonderfully titled ‘Did IQs drop sharply while I was away?’), Luckhurst doesn’t go into a blow-by-blow account of the making of the film — a subject adequately covered in other books, as well as DVD and Blu-Ray extras — but provides a brisk critical commentary on various aspects of the film, including the evolving state of cinema at the time, and science fiction and feminist criticism, among other things. He even ends with a brief look at how the whole film might best be viewed as starring Jonesy the cat. Finally, there’s a more personal afterword on the film franchise’s place in his own life, which underlines his credentials as a fan as well as a critic. Overall, one of the better BFI Film Classics books I’ve read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Patrick McCoy

    Roger Luckhurst's BFI: Alien (2014) is yet another outstanding entry in the series. After the introduction, Luckhurst discusses the development and context of the film Alien in the section titled "What's the story Mother?" It seems the script went through several rewrites and was connected to several directors before it landed in Ridley Scott's lap. It seems some credit should be given to art designer Hans Rudy Giger who came up with most of the alien designs and many of the interiors and other Roger Luckhurst's BFI: Alien (2014) is yet another outstanding entry in the series. After the introduction, Luckhurst discusses the development and context of the film Alien in the section titled "What's the story Mother?" It seems the script went through several rewrites and was connected to several directors before it landed in Ridley Scott's lap. It seems some credit should be given to art designer Hans Rudy Giger who came up with most of the alien designs and many of the interiors and other design features in the film. in the section "Nostomo" Luckhurst discusses the film in context of others and points out the Gothic elements present in the film as well as the Conradian references such as the ship's name, but points out that Scott found Conrad "hard going" and was not particularly a fan. Then he discusses the plot of the film by analyzing each spaceship member's death chronologically. However, in the middle there is a sort of diversion in "An Alien Primer", where Luckhurst analyzes the role of the alien as well as offering some theoretical applications of the meaning of the alien in the film. Whimsically he ends the book with a section about the spaceship's cat in"Jonesey" as well as a final world on the subsequent less interesting sequels and spinoffs in '"Did my IQs drop sharply while I was away?" the sequels, prequels, the franchise.' It was an informative and provoking look at one of my favorite science fiction films of all-time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Maas

    Great companion piece to the series from Roger Luckhurst, I recommend it

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    An excellent, if slightly peculiar, volume of the series. It improves by leaps and bounds once Luckhurst gets beyond his initial few pages, which detail the literal development of the film and the inspiration for its story. After that, what seems like a straightforward narrative goes a little weird, breaking into segments to examine the Nostromo itself and each member of its crew (counting them down in order of their deaths). This results in a lopsided but remarkably interesting series of semi-t An excellent, if slightly peculiar, volume of the series. It improves by leaps and bounds once Luckhurst gets beyond his initial few pages, which detail the literal development of the film and the inspiration for its story. After that, what seems like a straightforward narrative goes a little weird, breaking into segments to examine the Nostromo itself and each member of its crew (counting them down in order of their deaths). This results in a lopsided but remarkably interesting series of semi-tangents, from a look at the (potentially meaningless) references to Joseph Conrad, to the uselessness of the presumed masculine protagonist, to a theory that the film is really about Jonesy. Along the way, there are lashings of Kristeva, Freudian symbolism, "corridor anxiety," and a poem. It's a heady brew, but it's worth it for a number of sideways looks at an already well-documented film.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    I’ve read two of this series so far (the other “Brazil”) and both have been highly rewarding. This take on “Alien” was excellent. Very well written. Just academic enough (but not too). Insightful. Dotted with production anecdotes. A learned celebration of the Gothic horror and science fiction combine that is “Alien”. I’ll never forget seeing it at the tender age of 15 in the theater and being utterly blown away. Hell, I even remember the trailer and saying aloud to my friend, “what the fuck was I’ve read two of this series so far (the other “Brazil”) and both have been highly rewarding. This take on “Alien” was excellent. Very well written. Just academic enough (but not too). Insightful. Dotted with production anecdotes. A learned celebration of the Gothic horror and science fiction combine that is “Alien”. I’ll never forget seeing it at the tender age of 15 in the theater and being utterly blown away. Hell, I even remember the trailer and saying aloud to my friend, “what the fuck was THAT?!” How often does that happen?? There’s just something about this film......

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Walker

    Excellent discussion from the reliable Luckhurst, whose similar volume on The Shining is also recommended. I'll seek out more of his writing. Excellent discussion from the reliable Luckhurst, whose similar volume on The Shining is also recommended. I'll seek out more of his writing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Splenda

    Alien is arguably the greatest example of a perfect horror AND science fiction film. The two genres have gone hand-in-hand for years, but this was the first film to effectively blend the two in a way that didn't just produce giant humans or bugs of some sort. Although Luckhurst discusses the ideas of Darwin and reproduction with regards to this film's themes, it's interesting to hear about ideas connected to Francis Bacon and the parasitoid wasp (a major influence on the ideas surrounding the al Alien is arguably the greatest example of a perfect horror AND science fiction film. The two genres have gone hand-in-hand for years, but this was the first film to effectively blend the two in a way that didn't just produce giant humans or bugs of some sort. Although Luckhurst discusses the ideas of Darwin and reproduction with regards to this film's themes, it's interesting to hear about ideas connected to Francis Bacon and the parasitoid wasp (a major influence on the ideas surrounding the aliens' existence in this film). Additionally, the thematic explanations associated with each character in the movie is explained as they die off one-by-one in the movie (Agatha Christie also may have something to say about this). Overall, it is a very pleasant essay on this classic film that is a part of the canon in both the horror and sci fi genres.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Norton

    Jolly good summary of the film and the known and acknowledged sources. The trouble with Film Studies is that it's full of intellectually insecure writers who feel the need to take on Big Ideas and show they can chatter about them, leading to empty waffling about neoliberalism and Lacan; luckily the short format means it gets cut back here. Jolly good summary of the film and the known and acknowledged sources. The trouble with Film Studies is that it's full of intellectually insecure writers who feel the need to take on Big Ideas and show they can chatter about them, leading to empty waffling about neoliberalism and Lacan; luckily the short format means it gets cut back here.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ghislain

    L'auteur invite son lecteur à revoir Alien au travers d'un kaléidoscope analytique : script, décors, cycle évolutif du monstre, équilibre précaire de l'équipage du Nostromo. Très bon ouvrage qui aurait pu être plus développé encore. L'auteur invite son lecteur à revoir Alien au travers d'un kaléidoscope analytique : script, décors, cycle évolutif du monstre, équilibre précaire de l'équipage du Nostromo. Très bon ouvrage qui aurait pu être plus développé encore.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Bishop

    An excellent analysis of Alien as a gothic horror film. Plus in the footnotes you learn of a fan novel written from the viewpoint of the ship's cat. All in all, a great discussion of the sublime terror of Alien. An excellent analysis of Alien as a gothic horror film. Plus in the footnotes you learn of a fan novel written from the viewpoint of the ship's cat. All in all, a great discussion of the sublime terror of Alien.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    The first really poor book in this brilliant BFI Classics series. A disappointment, rather badly written, with limited interest in its insights and some pretty superficial politico/critical theory/psychoanalytical takes on the film.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Ford

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mylène CHOQUET

  14. 5 out of 5

    Noel

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matt Molloy

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark G

  17. 5 out of 5

    Erik Horned

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mike Perschon

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sean Wicks

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Aguiar

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian Mittelman

  22. 5 out of 5

    Josh

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  24. 4 out of 5

    K.T. Katzmann

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ian Casey

  26. 5 out of 5

    Conor Morgan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Gracey Elizabeth

  28. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shai-Ayne Shakir

  30. 5 out of 5

    James

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