Ridley Scott’s Alien came out all the way back in 1979, and the debate about whether it is horror themed science fiction or science fiction themed horror has raged ever since. It doesn’t matter, since it’s damn near perfect either way you look at it, but here we are, more than three decades later we’re still talking about the movie, which has become a modern classic.
And god bless YouTube, for without it, we wouldn’t have access to awesome videos like this vintage behind the scenes documentary, The Beast Within: The Making of Alien, about, as you most likely guessed, the production of Alien. As far as content is concerned, this is pretty standard stuff, it is extensive, but you’ve seen it all before. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching, it just isn’t going to shed any new light on the film you’ve watched dozens of times.
The documentary, split into two pieces—one is near two hours, the other just over 20 minutes—is super in depth, and covers damn near every aspect of the film, from the conception through the production process. There are in depth interviews with key players from the cast and crew—including actors, writers, studio executives, and producers—as well as extensive footage recording the action on set. The participants discuss how Scott borrowed suspense elements from filmmakers who came before him. Alfred Hitchcock is specifically mentioned as an influence, which you can clearly see in the finished film.
Screenwriter Dan O’Bannon, who looks like a wingnut Colonel Sanders, kicks things off by discussing the origins of his story. The script went through countless drafts, various different filmmakers and producers attached. You hear things like how Sigourney Weaver had to struggle for the role, which seems so crazy now because it’s impossible to imagine this entire franchise without her, she is that integral a piece of the puzzle. You’re also allowed to peek behind the curtain as to how they create the look of the film, including the creatures and the practical effects Alien is so known for.
While on a deep space mining mission, a ship called the Nostromo and her seven member crew, responds to a mysterious transmission. They probably shouldn’t have, because what they find includes aliens that attach to your face, lay eggs in your stomach, and eventually burst out of your chest. That doesn’t end well for anyone, except for the alien fetus, he scoots off on his own. Scott’s film gave birth to an epic, lucrative franchise, that includes numerous sequels, and even a bunch of comics and terrible Alien vs. Predator movies. As good as some of the installments are, Alien is the obvious high point.