Three decades ago, a loathsome, worm-like parasite burst from the chest of a hapless spaceship crew member — an electrifying moment that made cinematic history, as well as the reputations of pretty well everyone concerned. Sigourney Weaver, playing beleaguered Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley, had previously best been known for a minor role in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, and director Ridley Scott for his work in British television commercials.
The creature was designed by Swiss artist H. R. Giger based on the nightmarish creature that had appeared in his then just-published art book, Necronomicon (Masks Of The Dead), which director Scott had seen. Together the two conferred on what the parasite should look like when it erupted from its human host’s body. Giger readily admits he was influenced by another artist. “It was Francis Bacon‘s work that gave me the inspiration,” Giger said, “Of how this thing would come tearing out of the man’s flesh with its gaping mouth, grasping and with an explosion of teeth … it’s pure Bacon.”
Giger didn’t directly work on any of the sequels, and his subsequent Hollywood experiences were not always salutary. Though Alien brought him worldwide renown and an Oscar in 1980 for best achievement in visual effects, the filmmakers continued to use variations on Giger’s original creature without involving the artist. “With the fourth Alien film, they just took my creations, they used my ‘chest-burster’ and they didn’t even give me any credit. It’s offensive. I mean, one of the reasons the film became so famous was because of my Alien, wasn’t it?” The question is rhetorical. He pauses. “For the fourth Alien film, Sigourney Weaver got US$11 million. I received nothing.”
A chronicle of the life, work and mind that created the Cthulhu mythos. Featuring interviews with Guillermo Del Toro, Neil Gaiman, John Carpenter, Peter Straub, Stuart Gordon, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Ramsey Campbell, S.T. Joshi, Andrew Migliore and Robert M. Price. (Official site)
Image at left: An interpretation of Cthulhu in the sunken city of R’lyeh via Wikimedia Commons.