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ALIEN is the ultimate monster movie. Like JAWS, ALIEN benefits from creating a sense of fear by not showing the central creature except in small glimpses. Mechanical problems with the shark were probably the best thing that could have happened to JAWS as it would have been a much different movie if the shark were seen all the time. Just like the ocean, the commercial towing vehicle Nostromo, with its vast and seemingly endless hallways, provides the ultimate setting for a diabolical game of cat and mouse. It is difficult to think of another film in the last twenty-five years that has benefited from the creation of such an atmosphere as is prevalent in ALIEN. The only film that comes to mind is John Carpenter's THE THING, probably the last great monster movie ever made. Thank God none of these films were made now. They would all be CGI messes.
The ensemble acting in ALIEN is terrific. All of the characters are likeable and the best part about it is the slow, deliberate build up to John Hurt's death scene, which comes out of left field. It's truly a shame that current filmmaking has abandoned this approach in favor of the fast cutting that has virtually lopped all films into one cookie-cutter formula.
I was ten when ALIEN was released in the summer of 1979. No one would take me to see it. I caught up with it on video in 1983 and even on a lousy 13" color TV the film's power came through. I watched this film over and over again.
The film received flak at the time for its bare-bones plot and some plot holes, the most significant being the "company's" knowledge of the existence of the alien. I guess that you could interpret ALIEN as a sick joke about corporate America � it certainly seems fitting in these times of the Enron and WorldCom debacles.
But like most art, ALIEN can been seen as what we want it to mean: it's either a great monster-on-the-loose movie, proving once and for all that curiosity killed the cat, or it might very well be the most anti-corporation film ever made!