Today’s Lockdown Rewatch is coming outta the goddamn walls as we celebrate (well, less celebrate, more “recognise”) so-called Alien Day with a viewing of James Cameron’s 1986 horror-action masterpiece Aliens.
A rare instance of a sequel being better than (or at least significantly different and brilliant to) the original, Aliens brings back Sigourney Weaver as the iconic Ellen Ripley, and teams her up with a cast of space marines featuring Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton as they make their way to LV-246 to investigate a potential Xenomorph threat – a threat so severe, the only way to be sure it’s dealt with correctly is to nuke the site from orbit.
James Cameron brought an overwhelmingly action orientated slant to his alien film; whereas in the original Alien there was one lone Xenomorph to deal with, Aliens brings with it an entire hive – and one angry bitch of a Queen to lead them. The film was released to universal critical acclaim, earned $180 million worldwide, and was nominated for seven Academy Awards with wins for Visual Effects and Sound Effects Editing.
But did you know…
1)James Cameron had just finished directing The Terminator when he took on Aliens, and didn’t expect it to be a hit: “I was thinking of Terminator as a movie no one would see, so I could work on some of the things that I would use on Aliens. I remember when I was shooting a scene where (the heroine) crawls through all this machinery, I thought, ‘This will make a good dry run… I’ll get some of this stuff worked out so I’ll know how to do it.”
2) The disused power station in London that was used as the set for the alien queen’s nest in Aliens also shows up in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman as Axis Chemicals, where Jack Nicholson’s Jack Napier falls into a vat of acid and transforms into The Joker.
3) There was trouble on set at Pinewood: a lot of the crew thought Cameron too young and inexperienced, and the British unionised crew were very different to the American, non-unionised ones Cameron was used to. The British crew would not work long hours, and also had regular tea breaks, much to Cameron’s dismay (George Lucas was similarly stymied by the British fondness of tea breaks while filming A New Hope at Elstree). At one point the entire crew downed their tools and refused to work until they had their grievances addressed. Upon completion of the film, Cameron stated, “This has been a long and difficult shoot, fraught by many problems. But the one thing that kept me going, through it all, was the certain knowledge that one day I would drive out the gate of Pinewood and never come back, and that you sorry bastards would still be here.”
The clip shows the Stan Winston Studio crew operating an early prototype of the Alien Queen puppet made of ski poles and garbage bags. Dubbed ‘The Garbage Bag Queen’ it’s an early example of what the terrifying creature will eventually look like.