|Kane unwisely peers into an opening egg.|
“IT SEEMS TO HAVE LIFE.”
We are in the belly of the derelict. The floor of this cavernous grotto is littered with alien pods. They look like eggs. As Kane reaches out and caresses a glistening surface, one opens. Four segments peel back in unison (there’s a hint here of the Nostromo’s yawning cryochambers), with a noise like angry static. A glutinous residue splits and globs like treacle in the torchlight. We await its seduction, this Venus flytrap on another world. And even as we entreat Kane to stop, retreat, and return to Earth intact, the Nostromo’s executive officer, the innocent fly, takes his first look at a new life form . . .
• • •
Ever the provocateur, H. R. Giger had chanced a “Catholic Cross”-shaped opening for the pods, but the producers weren’t willing to play devil’s advocate. Another looked more like a vagina, leaving Ridley Scott howling with laughter. “I had lovingly endowed this egg with an inner and outer vulva,” reports Giger, nonplussed. In the end, Scott decided on the “flower-like opening” operated via a crafty system of hydraulics.
In a certain light—the kind Scott specializes in—one might consider the contents beautiful. They even went by a pretty north-country nickname: “Nottingham lace.” But there was no avoiding the fact that what’s revealed as the camera peers into the alien egg is the freshly steamed intestinal lining of a sheep, crosshatched in white veins like a quilt. “Almost gossamer,” delights Scott. What could look more organic than genuine innards?
"We would have Kane hanging
there like some beautiful chandelier."
-- Ridley Scott
there like some beautiful chandelier."
-- Ridley Scott
The producers had tried to restrict Giger to only six eggs. Thankfully, Scott had intervened. Giger was coming to understand his director—he was highly creative but no-nonsense. “If he said ‘interesting’,” smirks the Swiss artist, “it was code for ‘shit’!”
They would enjoy lengthy discussions from which Giger emerged inspired, clear that he and Scott were simpatico. The production team ended up making 130 eggs in total, exactly to his specifications. In the moistened gloom we presume there to be thousands more.
In the scene, Kane has been lowered into Giger’s “eggsilo” via a throat-like vertical passageway—a scene for which Dan O’Bannon had originally conceived an elaborate pyramid. Scott, for his part, had envisioned Kane cutting through a membrane and descending into the blackness; to counter the dark, he would switch on thousands of pea lights stitched into his suit: “We would LIGHT HIM UP LIKE A CHRISTMAS TREE and have him hanging there like some beautiful chandelier.”
|The womb of the derelict, the 'eggsilo' as H.R. Giger called it, consisted of over 130 purpose-built eggs.|
We see Kane (now Hurt) negotiate the gnarled floor. The spheroid room appears to be encased entirely in bones, outsized femurs, ribs, and tibias from a lost race of giants. Nothing is mechanical, not by any human register. Film writer David Thomson calls it “one of the great sets in film history.” We never forget it, this citadel of our subconscious. “It’s like the goddamn topics in here,” complains Kane. The scene twitches like a midnight jungle, all this chittering life. We will never know the source of the heat, but as Thomson notes, there is the suggestion of Joseph Conrad’s feverish destinations.
A veil of blue light skims the nursery. As Kane wades into the beam, it gives off a nasty electric crackle. They had The Who’s Roger Daltry to thank for the lightshow: the singer and his crew were in a villa next door to Shepperton experimenting with laser beams for a forthcoming tour. What this cloak of electric-blue signifies is also never defined. Scott favors a protective shield; once broken it would stir the facehuggers from their hibernation. They have been lying in cryo for centuries on this godforsaken rock, awaiting contact.
As Kane—ever more curious, ever more reckless—shines his torch-beam upon the nearest egg, there comes the first lurch. The briefest shiver of alien movement from within—AN EVIL HICCUP OF THINGS TO COME. Then he reaches out, stroking it, and, after an angry bark on the soundtrack (is Kane aware of all this ambient chatter?), the flower unfurls. Inside is the beautiful Nottingham lace.
The squall of movement is too fast to take in. The sound is an angry shriek: the hiss of a cornered animal, the shrill whirl of unspooling wire. Then we see it, yes, hugging Kane’s visor. It could almost be comic, a custard pie from hell. Except it isn’t funny, and we must remember to breathe.
We cut to the exterior of the derelict, smooth like an ancient bone, more mausoleum than spacecraft. It’s a blessed moment of peace to steady our nerves. Then on to the Nostromo assaulted by an instant blizzard—the planetoid is expelling its visitors, their purpose served.
“What happened to Kane?” Ripley asks from the bridge, her face as cold as the atmosphere. There follows an edgy debate: Dallas wants to get Kane to the autodoc. Try and remove this thing clamped to his face. Try and save his life. Ripley is reluctant to open the airlock. She knows quarantine law. This threatened all of them. Her determination is like a chilling prophecy. “What kind of thing?” she presses. “I need a clear definition.”
Opposite: Preparations for the heart-stopping facehugger scene. A human hand was among the least startling things to be ejected from the egg.