Prometheus, aka the prequel to Alien, is Coming Soon!

Look, the Reader needs the traffic, so you’ll have to go here to watch the amazing H.R. Giger double feature that I’m referencing in this post.  The first part is an autobiographical bit, and the second is about the making of the original Alien costume and set.  The latter bit is the more entertaining, but the former is more…illuminating.  I pulled a few fun excerpts, because while I still think that E. Michael Jones overreaches when he claims that Alien is all about contraception, there’s no doubt that it’s in the mix, starting with the man who made the monster…

“What led me to paint these repulsive children’s heads which frighten all women? What scares me most is overpopulation, with all its horrifying side effects such as epidemics, mass hysteria, famine, and total environment destruction. For me, the greatest criminals against mankind are those who, with the help of religion, or false ethics, forbid the pill, prevent abortions, and hinder old people from dying.”

But apparently, they don’t frighten all women – certainly not this mommy, who bought the painting…

“We bought this picture because it fascinated us, and not, as so many people claim, in order to provoke them.  This picture expresses everything for me which a woman can feel for a child.  Birth, contraception, overpopulation, infection, and plague…In any event, one can do something against the abscesses and blood of the children in Mr. Giger’s paintings.”

She makes a good point there at the end.  Giger himself takes pains to note that he loves nature, and color – you know, the beautiful world.  He paints the things he does not because they delight him, but because they horrify him.  They are protest paintings.  You know, like this one:

That’s why, as this guy notes, the hippies love Giger – he’s wise to the technological horror show.

“When one has many opportunities to visit country communes in which young people are trying to develop a new lifestyle, one is struck by how often Giger’s posters are to be seen on the walls.  These people don’t even know who the poster is by.  The only explanation is that these images express something which is in us all today.  Something archetypical and primal that we long for or are frightened of.”

Some hint of Giger’s experience of that technological horror show slips out when his dad chats up the camera:

“Where does he get this fantasy?  From the mother, of course…Of course this fantasy is connected with an overdose of hormones at the time of nursing, in infancy.  When they started testing these products, it didn’t come from mother’s milk alone.”  What hormones?  Testing what products, exactly?  Yeep!

Giger addresses the strapped-in, restrained character of his figures – in particular the children, but maybe also some of the ladies? – by a reference to his childhood:

“Sometimes, when I look at my paintings, I ask myself, what led me to such things?  For example, these strapped in children who have to play Indians.  Children often have to play roles, probably because their parents wanted it that way.  Duress of this kind in youth follows you into old age.  I still remember very well how my mother packed me up in a kind of overall, which closed with a lot of buttons or a zipper at the back.  This caused difficulties when I had to go to the toilet.  I despaired when I realized that I could not piss and shit at the same time, because the construction of my suit only allowed one of these activities at a time.  So I had to squeeze both of them in and wait until evening when I was freed of my straitjacket.”

Childhood also contributed to the prevalence of (frequently invasive) tubes in his work  Surprise, they’re not penises – they’re worms!  (Well, okay, sometimes they’re penises.)

“Among the elements which repeatedly appear in my paintings, it is above all the worms and the snakes which horrify me most, and I think to find a worm in excrement or vomit is the most horrifying thing I can imagine.  In my pictures, worms take the form of technical elements, such as tubes and hoses, and that reminds me of this.  Once at Easter, I had to look after my grandmother’s grave together with my mother.  When turning over the earth, a thick worm crawled out and I thought, ‘My God, that’s part of my grandmother.  I let the spade fall and ran out of the graveyard.’”  Death, baby.  Death.

As I said, illuminating.  But the Alien stuff is the fun stuff, of course.  Love this bit on the eggs:

“The original idea for the eggs’ opening was a kind of mobile elastic slit, but the production felt that this was too directly reminiscent of female sex organs and worried about possible censoring in Catholic countries.  So we settled on a similar but crosswise shape, which satisfied both the Catholic countries and my own sense of forms.”  Who knew Catholic countries had such clout?

But the best bit?  The really fun bit?  “In another studio, Carlo DiMarchi (sp?) is working on the facial musculature of the monster.  Because the creature is able to perform real movements, these have to correspond optically to the facial muscles.  For this work, we’re using contraceptives.”  That’s right, they cut up condoms to make the Alien’s mouth.

The amazing awfulness of the translucent skin pulling back from those teeth?  That’s a prophylactic in action:




  1. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    Not directly relevant, but not sufficiently irrelevant not to post:

    ‘All ill comes from man’, [architect Otto Friedrich Silenus] said gloomily; ‘please tell your readers that. Man is never beautiful; he is never happy except when he becomes the channel for the distribution of mechanical forces. […]’

    Professor Silenus watched the reporter disappear down the drive and then, taking a biscuit from his pocket, began to munch.

    ‘I suppose there ought to be a staircase’, he said gloomily. ‘Why can’t the creatures stay in one place? Up and down, in and out, round and round! Why can’t they sit still and work? Do dynamos require staircases? Do monkeys require houses? What an immature, self-destructive, antiquated mischief is man! How obscure and gross his prancing and chattering on his little stage of evolution! How loathsome and beyond words boring all the thoughts and self-approval of this biological by-product! this half-formed, ill-conditioned body! this erratic, maladjusted mechanism of his soul: on the one side the harmonious instincts and balanced responses of the animal, on the other the inflexible purpose of the engine, and between them man, equally alien from the being of Nature and the doing of the machine, the vile becoming!

    Two hours later the foreman in charge of the concrete mixer came to consult with the Professor. He had not moved from where the journalist had left him; his fawn-like eyes were fixed and inexpressive, and the hand which had held the biscuit still rose and fell to and from his mouth with a regular motion, while his empty jaws champed rhythmically; otherwise he was wholly immobile.

    –Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall

    Happy Pentecost!

    • Matthew Lickona says

      The Korrektiv: posting the Not Sufficiently Irrelevant since 2012.

      Well done, Angelico. Now all we need is for JOB to drop in a line about the Cross and the Dynamo from The Education of Henry Adams, and the circle will be complete.

      • Matthew Lickona says

        Happy Pentecost to you, too!

      • First explain the overreach on Jones’ part then we’ll get to the Dynamo.

        I’m curious what he could possibly be stretching (besides the latex), given your own emphasis on the contraceptive contretemps in Giger’s work.


        p.s. This problem in dynamics gravely perplexed an American historian. The Woman had once been supreme; in France she still seemed potent, not merely as a sentiment, but as a force. Why was she unknown in America? For evidently America was ashamed of her, and she was ashamed of herself, otherwise they would not have strewn fig-leaves so profusely all over her. When she was a true force, she was ignorant of fig-leaves, but the monthly-magazine-made American female had not a feature that would have been recognised by Adam. The trait was notorious, and often humorous, but any one brought up among Puritans knew that sex was sin. In any previous age, sex was strength. Neither art nor beauty was needed. Every one, even among Puritans, knew that neither Diana of the Ephesians nor any of the Oriental Goddesses was worshipped for her beauty. She was Goddess because of her force; she was the animated dynamo; she was reproduction—the greatest and most mysterious of all energies; all she needed was to be fecund. Singularly enough, not one of Adams’s many schools of education had ever drawn his attention to the opening lines of Lucretius, though they were perhaps the finest in all Latin literature, where the poet invoked Venus exactly as Dante invoked the Virgin:—

        ‘Quae quondam rerum naturam sola gubernas.’

        – H. Adams, “The Virgin and the Dynamo” (XXV) in The Education of Henry Adams

        • Matthew Lickona says

          Because Giger didn’t write the movie; he just designed the critters. Giger’s interests and Scott/O’Bannon’s were not identical. Alien is about transgressive sex in general – homosexual rape figures in there pretty heavily, by screenwriter O’Bannon’s own account. He was seeking to make the BOYS in the audience cross their legs with discomfort, not the girls. One tip about Jones’ lack of care: he goes on and on about the how the alien is a clear return of the repressed, then takes another critic to task for her attachment to Freudian readings. But of course, the return of the repressed is itself a Freudian notion.

          • Matthew Lickona says

            p.s. Yes, I know about the fallacy of authorial intent, but I do believe that O’Bannon’s stated aim should count for something.

            • Matthew Lickona says

              p.p.s. For instance, a much more straightforward reading than Jones’ might go like this: Alien is indeed about the connection between sex and procreation, but it’s not an exploitation of feminist anxiety regarding same. Rather, it’s a feminist fable: “Hey boys, how do you like it? How does it feel when there’s a rapacious being out there that wants nothing more than to shove its seed into you, and in so doing, force you to carry its offspring, and in so doing, ruin your life? Not so good, huh?”

            • It’s only a fallacy if it can’t be proven true. And besides I rather think all bets are off with cinema – it’s just so excrutiatingly ambivalent that lit theory suffers inflation/deflation depending on the claim.


            • Besides, O’Bannon himself admits that at the point that he had no idea what the alien was, Giger gave him the answer, at least in part – so there might have been more collaboration of vision than at first might appear.

              O’Bannon on Giger: “His paintings had a profound effect on me. I had never seen anything that was quite as horrible and at the same time as beautiful as his work. And so I ended up writing a script about a Giger monster.”

          • Surely, Jones is smart enough to distinguish between repression (which Freud doesn’t have a monopoly on, does he?) and the strictly Freudian repression which has no metaphysics but the orgasm? Without being able to cite chapter and verse of Jones’ book at the moment, I would say his whole thesis on horror rests on the assumption that it’s rise is due specifically to the repression of nature/natural law both in society and in the individual.

            In that case, then, the feminist fable would not necessarily be contradicting Jones’ take – Mary Eberstadt make an interesting connection between homosexuality and contraception which points up the conviviality of the two perversions – any more than a homoerotic interpretation of Moby Dick would necessarily preclude a critique of the commerical republic.

            Rather (and here’s where JOB cleverly ties this back to Adams if not Adam), perhaps O’Bannon takes the Dynamic view of horror while Jones takes the Virginal view…


            p.s. Note, too, that Lifeforce could also be take as a feminist fable or a redux of the venereal disease-as-vampirism thesis Jones makes regarding Dracula.

  2. Great post and comments. Thanks to all of you egghead types.

  3. I actually enjoyed the AVP movies, especially the one with Brody.

    Did you see The Jacket? Now THAT was an interesting movie.

    Also, has anyone on this blog ever seen a Norweigen movie called The Bothersome Man. Wow.

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