Memory: The Origins of Alien is a new documentary on Ridley Scott's Alien and it made its debut at Sundance earlier this week. One of the scenes that has been talked about from the awesome documentary by director Alexandre O. Philippe is a rather long portion that goes into the origin of the Chestburster alien, which reportedly looked a lot like a penis in the initial designs. Phillippe goes into detail about what it took to make one of the most iconic scenes in sci-fi/horror history.
The crazy scene stars John Hurt as Kane, the unfortunate officer who becomes the host for the Alien. Everybody is sitting around enjoying dinner and having a few laughs when all of a sudden, Kane doesn't feel so good. He flops on the table and to the shock of the rest of the crew, an alien rips through his chest, takes a look at them, and then slithers off. Apparently, a lot of hard work went into the scene, which is explained in Alexandre O. Philippe's Memory: The Origins of Alien documentary.
In addition to being an iconic scene from Alien, the Chestburster is terrifying. Nearly 40 years on, that little alien is scary as hell, but it wasn't always that way. A woman who worked on the movie recalls that one of the first designs looked like "a penis with razor-sharp teeth." That doesn't sound very scary, but in the end, they obviously worked out all of the kinks. Other early designs of the alien puppet were compared to a plump featherless chicken and a small dinosaur. The final product is based heavily on Francis Bacon's 1944 painting Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion.
Once the Alien design was set in place, making the puppet come to life was a whole other task. Crew members recall that John Hurt spent most of the time on his back drinking red wine and smoking cigarettes while the crew tried to get the Chestburster puppet to work. They stuffed Hurt's shirt with cow organs that were bought from a local butcher shop in order to make it look like Kane's guts were spilling out. Veronica Cartwright, who played Lambert, remembers that it all smelled awful and that the fake blood was really slippery.
This wasn't the last time that John Hurt ran into trouble with a Chestburster from Alien. Mel Brooks' Spaceballs expertly lampoons the iconic scene when Lone Starr and Barf stop by Gus' Galaxy Grill for lunch. Hurt's character has the Space Special and the alien pops out of his chest again, except this time, he puts on a hat and sings a song before running off. Alexandre O. Philippe's Memory: The Origins of Alien documentary currently does not have a release date set, but that information should be announced shortly since it's been getting such great reviews. You can get more information about the documentary over at the Sundance website.