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All kids love Alien

It was 1979; I was nine years old.  It was a Sunday morning and my parents were leisurely enjoying the Sunday paper.  I could see there was a front page story, illustrated with a massive photograph of what appeared to be the wreckage of a crashed spaceship on the moon or something.  I don’t remember the headline exactly—something to effect that a person (Scott-something, or something-Scott) had discovered alien life.

My heart quickened a bit—somebody’s actually discovered evidence of other life in the universe?  But also complete bafflement—this was huge news, and why weren’t my folks showing any interest in it?  As far as I could tell, they weren’t even reading this story.

My dad explained that this wasn’t the front page of the newspaper, it was the front page of the Arts section of the newspaper.  Ridley Scott hadn’t found alien life, he’d made a movie about an alien.  This was just an article about the movie, to get people to go see it.

My bubble burst, but I didn’t feel any disappointment.  My excitement just shifted.  I went from being excited about the prospect that we were not alone in the universe to being excited at the prospect of seeing this movie.  Because, oh man, did it look awesome.

ALIEN v4 Silver Ferox Design

My father, being the kind of parent who believed you shouldn’t take children to see R-rated horror movies unless they asked nicely, happily took me—and it was indeed every bit as awesome as that hard-hitting piece of Pulitzer-worthy investigative journalism made it out to be.

Now here’s something you should know about 1979-me.  I was an avid collector of franchise-tie-in action figures.  I treasured my Mego action figures of Batman, the Hulk, Star Trek, and Planet of the Apes (I still do).  Playing with Kenner’s line of Star Wars toys was almost better than watching the movie.  Any store I went to, I always made a bee-line to the toy department to scope out what I needed to start begging my parents to buy me.

But when I came face-to-face with this, my brain convulsed into pretzel-like contortions trying to make sense of it:

kenner_alien2

What were they thinking?

This is a toy.  It’s sold in the toy section, to children.  What children are going to want to play with a replica of the most terrifying movie monster ever conceived? From a movie so nightmare-inducing that only profoundly irresponsible parents like mine would ever even have allowed them to know existed?

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A similar thought process hit me when Disney’s Great Movie Ride opened, with an audio-animatronic xenomorph threatening an audio-animatronic Ripley on a silly low-speed amusement park ride aimed at families on vacation.

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Really?

It simply never occurred to me that not everyone saw Alien at a midnight screening when they were nine years old.  That maybe the world was actually full of people who enjoyed Alien without ever having been deeply terrorized by it, and who could encounter reminders of it without that triggering visceral panic attacks.

I mean… think of all those poor people, denied the full experience of this powerful film.  I have to tell you, seeing Alien for the first time at midnight at age 9, when you are still innocent enough to half believe it to be a documentary about the actual discovery of real aliens, it’s the only way to go.  If you at all have the option of doing it this way, I highly recommend it.

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Because 35 years later, Alien hasn’t lost any of its hold over me.  I just watched it on Blu-Ray with my son (he’s 14, but he saw it the first time when he was 9 or 10.  Like father like son) and I still got the sweats.  It’s one of those movies I own a stupid number of copies of, but I don’t regret any of them.

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The only thing I do regret is not getting that 18’ Kenner action figure back in 1979 or 1980.  I just couldn’t bring myself to ask for it—I was unable to fathom having that thing anywhere near me.  (Nowadays it goes for hundreds of dollars on eBay).

16 Responses All kids love Alien
Posted By Dennis : July 5, 2014 9:19 am

Still one of the greatest horror/sci-fi films of all time. Truly a classic in every sense of the word.

Posted By Doug : July 5, 2014 2:28 pm

Funny how things coincide-just this morning I was thinking about Alien, specifically how Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto typified the working class regular joes who just happened to work on a spaceship.
And here David posts on Alien.
I’m a bit older, and was in the service when Alien came out,but as a kid I LOVED the scary movies that we could could stay up to watch on New Years Eve. I guess the TV station did it as a baby sitting service, giving the kids something to watch while the parents were out making merry.
Aside from a few long gone comic books, I never had any movie tie-in collectables, as Star Wars hadn’t happened yet. But I can appreciate how kids would enjoy having a tangible ‘something’ to play with connected to their favorite movies.
I’m guessing that the toy “Alien” might have been used to scare a few (mean) sisters, who might find it in their sock drawer, or next to their face when they woke up.
In the early ’90′s I was working in Vegas at an office/warehouse complex and we had to clean out a business that had skipped.
There were over 100 “Star Wars Tie Fighter” models still in their boxes-I knew a guy with a store who bought them from us for one dollar each. We didn’t get to keep the money, but that was okay-I just didn’t want them to be thrown out.

Posted By DevlinCarnate : July 5, 2014 3:08 pm

it amazes me to think that a toy company was so eager to cash in on the Star Wars craze that it would release an action figure based on a design by H.R.Giger,…i know it’s a collectors item now,but at the time those things were falling off the shelves and it was considered a disastrous failure

Posted By Marjorie Birch : July 5, 2014 4:07 pm

I saw the poster and couldn’t bring myself to see the movie. That, plus the tagline “in space, no one can hear you scream.”

Posted By ReAction Action Figures Every Horror Fan Should Have | HorrorFix – Horror Movie News Reviews and More! : July 5, 2014 7:19 pm

[…] All kids love Alien […]

Posted By george : July 5, 2014 7:32 pm

“This is a toy. It’s sold in the toy section, to children. What children are going to want to play with a replica of the most terrifying movie monster ever conceived?”

Well, kids of the ’60s built Aurora plastic models of the Universal monsters (and King Kong), and they were reading Famous Monsters of Filmland. I think kids can often handle “scary” things better than adults, once they know it’s not real.

That said, I was taken aback when Robocop and Rambo — characters from extremely violent, R-rated movies — were turned into Saturday morning cartoon heroes.

Posted By DBenson : July 5, 2014 8:39 pm

I was an adult in 79 and didn’t see “Alien”. Still an adult and still haven’t seen it. I’ve never been able to get into being terrified for entertainment.

I do remember all the Alien toys and marveling that an R-rated movie generated kid-targeted merchandise. I wasn’t alone. Eventually they began superimposing the words “CHOOSE MOVIES WISELY” or some such as a weird concession to parent groups.

Later, “Jurassic Park” generated some of the same response with a line of toys boasting “Dino Damage.” Each dinosaur (and one human figure) had a piece of plastic flesh that could be snapped off to reveal a gaping wound.

Going back to the 60s, the decidedly grown-up “2001″ had kid show hosts plugging the movie, and a brand of cookies had a mail-in offer for a model of the Pam Am space shuttle.

Earlier monsters aren’t a good comparison, The Universal monsters and Godzilla started out as straight grown-up chillers, but sequels quickly softened them for matinee crowds. And by the time they reached TV, even the early ones had aged to look pretty mild.

Posted By george : July 5, 2014 11:24 pm

“Going back to the 60s, the decidedly grown-up “2001″ had kid show hosts plugging the movie, and a brand of cookies had a mail-in offer for a model of the Pam Am space shuttle.”

I remember almost every kid at my elementary school being excited about seeing “2001,” even though it was WAY over our heads. It was the special effects, the spaceships and spacesuits that we wanted to see.

But this isn’t a good comparison to “Alien.” “2001″ was rated G and had no graphic violence. “Alien” was rated R for graphic violence, horror and profanity.

Posted By Mike : July 6, 2014 4:00 am

When I was 10 my parents took me and my cousin to see “Alien” thinking it was just another “Star Wars” rip-off. It was my first R-rated horror film and I spent much of the movie with my hands covering my eyes while my cousin tried in vain to crawl under his seat. It was terrifying and beautiful all at once and I could tell by the looks on my parents’ faces that they felt the same. I had nightmares for weeks and to this day “Alien” is one of my all-time favorite films.

When I watch it now I’m no longer scared or startled as dozens upon dozens of viewings have numbed me to the shock factor but I still appreciate the movie for its “realistic” portrayal of working men and women in space. I think that the effort that the filmmakers put into making life on a space ship seem so familiar and mundane really helped to notch up the horror in a way that too many movies in that genre fail to achieve.

Posted By AL : July 6, 2014 10:27 pm

The sequel ain’t so shabby neither…

Posted By Marty : July 7, 2014 4:16 pm

I took my young nephew to see Alien, first run.
So help me, at the belly burst, he screamed and ran up the aisle of the theater and out into the lobby.
I couldn’t talk him into going back in for the finish so I took him home and then I went to see it. It’s an extraordinary picture and I undestand that Geiger’s original sketches were truly horrifying — way more than what ended in the motion picture. But, I think it is a terrific picture.
Alien Resurrection is also an extremely good picture and I think Sigourney Weaver should have been nominated for an Oscar in that film.

Posted By Simon Tarses : July 9, 2014 4:59 am

Alien Resurrection is also an extremely good picture and I think Sigourney Weaver should have been nominated for an Oscar in that film.

Holy cow, a person that actually loves Alien Resurrection as much as I do! Amazing.

I wished that I’d brought the doll of Annalee Call (Winona Ryder’s character) as made by Hasbro (successors-in-interest to Kenner) a while back:

Posted By swac44 : July 11, 2014 5:13 pm

Alien was a major source of frustration for me, as it played in the one theatre in town that was a real hard case about the age restrictions, plus it was a single screen theatre, so you couldn’t buy a ticket to something else and then just sneak into the film you really wanted to see. I was only 12 at the time, and could get into adult rated movies elsewhere (as opposed to “adult movies”), but not Scotia Square Cinema (which also denied me entrance to The Shining…grrr…)

Plus in Canada, Restricted meant “no one under 18 allowed in” as opposed to the softer U.S. Restricted, which added “without a parent or guardian”. Even if my dad wanted to take me to see it, he couldn’t have. Maybe I should have tried the fake moustache trick, that might have worked.

I enjoyed Alien Resurrection as well, there’s a lot of quirky stuff in it that just seemed to jibe with me. The third installment though, was a disappointment at the time, although I have yet to watch the director’s cut version, and having become accustomed to David Fincher’s style, I might enjoy it more now.

Posted By robbushblog : July 11, 2014 7:14 pm

George – In addition to Robocop and Rambo, Police Academy was also made into a kids’ cartoon series. They skipped out on showing any nudity though.

Unfortunately, I was only 4 or 5 when Alien came out (depending on the month) and did not even hear of it until years later, maybe even ten or so years later. I was a sheltered child. I was however, scarred by seeing Kramer vs. Kramer in the theater in 1979.

Posted By Simon Tarses : July 13, 2014 1:23 am

robbushblog-I saw Kramer Vs. Kramer when I was a kid, too, but it didn’t scar me; different stroke for different folks, I guess.

swac44-Loved Alien³ then and now (although the death of Rebbecca ‘Newt’ Jorden’s hard to sit through, considering what happened to her in the Aliens comic book, her death was merciful) and thought that it had a great sacrifice for Ripley as well.

Posted By robbushblog : July 14, 2014 1:31 pm

Simon- I was just joking about being scarred by Kramer vs. Kramer. I just think it’s a weird film choice for parents to take a 5 year old to see.

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