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Monster Gallery: Alien: Resurrection (1997)

StarBeast — Alien: Resurrection

Amalgamated Dynamics returned to provide the creature effects for the fourth chapter in the Alien series, complete with the usual tight production schedule. Tom Woodruff Jr. explained to Cinefex: “production told us that, due to Sigourney’s schedule, we would have to be ready to start shooting with a very short prep. We did a breakdown of the script and realized that the job was enormous — just way too big. And then that original shooting date came and went. Unfortunately, when they came back later, it was the same story. We were very worried about having enough time to do the job right. We knew that if we rushed it, the work would look bad, and we’d be the ones who ended up hurt. So we outlined some cuts, identified what was needed up front when Sigourney had to start, and pushed all the other stuff to later in the schedule. It was understood that we’d be showing up literally two days before shoots with very little time for tests or changes.”

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Monster Gallery: Alien³ (1992)

StarBeast — Alien³, the Dragon

 

Alien³ was a troubled production from beginning to end, and the creature effects department was no exception: the artists were plagued by constant changes in direction and contradicting studio decisions. Gillis recalled in an interview with Fangoria: “Fox never had a problem with coming back and saying ‘sorry guys. We know you built these things, but there’s a new direction, and we’re not going to use them’. We had to keep ourselves and the crew orally afloat, because people put their blood, sweat and tears into the stuff, and have a tendency to get upset when an effect’s cancelled. There were six stages of Aliens, count them! But we’re not griping about the script changes, because any story should constantly be honed. That only shows us the film’s getting better, and if the effect doesn’t serve the plot, then there’s no reason for it.”

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StarBeast — Alien³, the Beginning

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Alien³ underwent a long, articulated creation process — which saw several scriptwriters elaborating their own screenplays, only to be replaced — one after the other. Going from William Gibson to David Twohy, the film only began to develop to the next step with Vincent Ward and John Fasano’s script. It was based on that story that concept artists Stephen Ellis and Mike Worrall elaborated their own designs for the creatures, which included a woolly Chestburster born from a sheep, and an adult Alien whose origin was left unexplained. Those very initial concepts were conceived more as placeholders to illustrate certain sequences in the script, rather than actual designs.

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StarBeast — Aliens, the Alien Queen

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A PIERCING SHRIEK fills the chamber.

She turns. And there it is.

A massive silhouette in the mist, the ALIEN QUEEN glowers over her eggs like a great, glistening black Insect-Buddha. What’s bigger and meaner than the Alien? His Momma. Her fanged head is an unimaginable horror. Her six limbs, the four arms, and two powerful legs, are folded grotesquely over her distended abdomen. The egg-filled abdomen swells and swells into a great pulsing tubular sac, suspended from a lattice of pipes and conduits by a web-like membrane as if some vast coil of intestines was draped carelessly among the machinery.

-James Cameron, Aliens draft, 1985

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Monster Gallery: Aliens (1986)

StarBeast — Aliens

Aliensfire

Promotional stills.Hans Ruedi Giger, the original Alien designer, did not return to work on Aliens. None of the filmmakers involved in the project contacted the artist, whom at the time was attached as a creature designer to Poltergeist II. “we didn’t know exactly how long that commitment was, but we heard that he was busy,” director James Cameron said. “But honestly, I think that if we had really wanted to fight for him, we could have worked around it.” Giger himself recalled in The Alien Saga documentary: “I was a little depressed because nobody asked me to work on this film. I was in Los Angeles at the time working on Poltergeist II, and I asked around about Aliens. For me, it would have been the most logical thing to work on that film. I was very anxious to collaborate, but nobody called me. I’d much rather have done a second Alien than a second Poltergeist — because, naturally, I felt more related to Alien. Perhaps the Poltergeist II people wanted to keep me away from Aliens for fear of losing me. I inquired everywhere, but no one could or would inform me about it.”

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StarBeast — Alien

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THE ALIEN, THIRD (MATURE) PHASE: Having left its victim, the Alien promptly grows to man-size, whereupon it is terrifically dangerous. It is very mobile, strong, and capable of tearing a man to pieces. It feeds on human flesh. This creature should be a profane abomination. Our producers have suggested that something resembling an over-sized, deformed baby might be sufficiently loathsome. In any event, we wish you to feel free to create your own design.

-Dan O’Bannon, original letter to H.R. Giger

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StarBeast — Prologue: Alien, Dan O’Bannon’s Cosmic Horror

The final Alien design.

The Alien story begins with Dan O’Bannon, a Hollywood writer with a taste for Lovecraft and the sci-fi of old. It was during the pre-production of the ill-fated Dune directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky that O’Bannon had a fateful meeting: a Swiss surreal artist by the name of Hans Ruedi Giger. Giger had been hired by Jodorowsky to conceptualize Giedi Prime’s architecture and barren landscapes, as well as Arrakis’ Sandworms. The peculiar airbrush paintings portraying grotesque amalgamations of organic and mechanical parts (what Giger called “biomechanics”) made an immediate impression on O’Bannon, capturing his imagination. He recalled in his essay Something Perfectly Disgusting: “[Giger’s] visionary paintings and sculptures stunned me with their originality, and aroused in me deep, disturbing thoughts, deep feelings of terror. They started an idea turning over in my head — this guy should design a monster movie. Nobody had ever seen anything like this on the screen.”

Years before, O’Bannon had written They Bite, a script featuring ancient parasitic insects that could assume traits of their victims after consumption. Whilst the project would never see the light, certain ideas within that script influenced what would become Alien. “The producers I showed it to felt it was too weird,” O’Bannon related, “and that it would be too expensive to do because of the special effects involved. But they all did admit that it frightened them. When I got ready to write Alien, I pulled a couple of concepts from They Bite and put them into deep space.”

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