Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


Review – Memory: The Origins of Alien – “A worthwhile watch for Alien fans”

Released in the UK on the 30th of August, Memory: The Origins of Alien tells the story behind the creation of one of the best and most iconic science-fiction films ever made: Alien. Written and directed by Alexandre O. Phillipe (78/52), Memory features newly-filmed interviews with Alien cast members Tom Skerritt (Top Gun) and Veronica Cartwright (The Witches of Eastwick) and archive material featuring director Ridley Scott and H.R. Giger.

Following an odd and nearly off-putting opening that awkwardly and unconvincingly tries to link Alien to the Furies of Greek mythology, Memory uses a wide-range of talking heads to quickly explain Alien’s historical context before taking a half-running time deep dive into Alien’s writer Dan O’Bannon

We learn all about his early life and influences and how growing up he was afraid of insects, secretly reading science-fiction and even faked a UFO landing with his dad that was convincing enough to receive press coverage. Grown-up and following a bad experience on the first feature he wrote – Dark Star – O’Bannon decides to make his own sci-fi movie – but make it scary, not funny.

O’Bannon is quoted as saying “I didn’t steal from anybody. I stole from everybody” and it is a lot of fun seeing how his script for “Star Beast”, later Alien, was conjured from influences including Lovecraft’s ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, an eight-page EC Comics tale, various old sci-fi movies, his Suffering from Crohn’s disease, and an obsession with the idea of hosts and embryos that all came to a head when he worked with Jodorowsky on Dune who gave him an HR Giger book.

All of the Giger related material that follows is fascinating and leads to Memory’s other main focus: the chestburster sequence. This infamous scene’s cultural significance is examined in detail which is a bit dry to be honest, a bit of a problem throughout, but there are gems of behind the scenes gossip like Veronica Cartwright disputing the common-held story that her reaction in the scene is because she didn’t know what was going to happen, and tales of John Hurt being plied with red wine and fags all-day to keep him from getting peeved at being strapped to a table and covered in offal all day.

But the rest of the film is then skipped over in a few minutes with little to none of the previous microscopic analysis. This makes things feel disparate and strangely unexpanded, which is odd as if Phillipe just wanted to make a film about just the chestburster scene he surely could have – this is exactly what he did in 78/52 – but about the Psycho shower scene.

New theories, such as the Egyptian influences are cool and interesting, and once you are aware of the recurring crescent moons – an Egyptian symbol of death – throughout, you will forever be seeing and counting them. But some like the Greek mythology-Furies stuff whiffs of gubbins and seems thin and forced and a bit Room 237.

At times it is too fusty and too faux high brow, but Memory: The Origins of Alien still has plenty of amusing moments, such as a pair of production designers who previously worked on 2001 bitching about the unrealistic fluttering papers and rain (“FROM WHERE?!”) dripping on Brett. This kind of thing evens out the tinfoil hat parts and makes the documentary a worthwhile watch for Alien fans.

Next PostPrevious Post


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.