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StarBeast — Alien, the Chestburster

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THE ALIEN, SECOND PHASE: Once the Alien (First Phase) has attached itself to the face of a victim, it lays eggs in the victim’s stomach, and the egg grows into the Alien (Second Phase). This is a small creature which bites its way out of the victim’s body.

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

With the Facehugger dead, the crew of the Nostromo has one last dinner before returning to cryosleep; unexpected to them (besides Ash), a creature violently erupts from Kane’s chest. To first conceive the appearance of the baby Monster, Scott directed Giger at Francis Bacon’s painting Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944). Giger told Cinescape: “Bacon did a crucifixion in [1944], and there is a kind of beast in it that has a head that is only a mouth — Ridley said he wanted something like that. It was logical; this beast has to come out, to chew and claw its way out suddenly, unerringly.” The first concepts, however, proved to be underwhelming; Giger himself was unsatisfied, labeling them in retrospective as “chickens without feathers.” Dicken, who had been assigned the construction of the Chestburster, was also less than impressed. “To me, it looked like a plucked turkey,” he said, “a veined, repulsive-looking thing with fangs. I said: ‘you want me to make this? It looks like a turkey.’ And they said, yes, that’s what they wanted. Well, there wasn’t a need for anything very complicated, since all it had to do was force its way out of the chest and then flop onto the table; so we figured the best approach was to build it as a hand puppet, about three times life-size so I could get my hand up into the neck. Obviously, you couldn’t get something the size of a large turkey out of a human chest, but initially they were going to cheat it somehow.”

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StarBeast — Alien, the Egg and the Facehugger

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When Hans Ruedi Giger was finally hired as a designer for Alien, he was assigned the task to conceive all the otheworldly aspects of the film — the planetoid, the Derelict and its Pilot, and the Alien itself in all of the stages of its life cycle. Obviously unable to also construct all the needed creature effects within the tight schedule of the production, Giger was aided by special effects veterans attached to the project. First hired was Carlo Rambaldi, in the wake of his special effects work on John Guillermin’s King Kong. Though enthusiastic about the project, Rambaldi’s availability was limited, due to having already committed to other projects (such as Nightwing). Also hired was sculptor and model maker Roger Dicken, who had collaborated with associate producer Ivor Powell during the production of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Dicken also provided some of the sound effects for the Alien, in collaboration with Percy Edwards.

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Monster Gallery: Alien (1979)