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HR Giger – The man behind the art of Alien…

There are some movies that have such a definite visual style and atmosphere, once you’ve seen them it’s impossible to imagine them looking any different.
The current fascination with remakes, reboots and “re-imaginings” of old (and not so old) films demonstrates the wisdom or otherwise of attempting to capture the spirit of the original, whilst adding a new cinematic spin to the story.
After all, for every Batman Begins there’s a Batman and Robin and for every Star Trek there’s a Miami Vice, so it’s a brave director who tackles a recognised classic by putting their own spin on it.

It says a lot about the way a movie should look, that the many subsequent incarnations of classic 1979 sci-fi/horror masterpiece, Alien, owe so much to the vision of one man, who died this week.

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H.R. Giger: 1940 – 2014.

Born in 1940 in Switzerland, Hans Rudolf Giger studied as an architect and industrial designer, but his main interest was surrealism, something that was influenced by his meeting with one of his artistic heroes, Salvador Dali and by his long friendship with ’60s psychedelic experimentalist, Timothy Leary.

Originally his art was a form of therapy, to help him cope with and articulate the night terrors from which he suffered since childhood and which informed the large majority of his dark and sometimes disturbing work.

July 1977
Giger was very nearly responsible for bringing his unique style to the first film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, Dune, which he was to work on with director Alexandro Jodorowsky, but which failed to go ahead when Jodorowsky couldn’t get backing for his trilogy of films.
Fortunately, soon after the film was shelved, the man who was to be responsible for special effects on Dune, Dan O’Bannon, approached Giger about another project.
Giger remembers reading from O’Bannon’s notebook:
“Seven astronauts, two women and five men, are in the spaceship Nostromo on a return flight to Earth. On the way they come across a planet unknown to them and decide to make an unscheduled landing to explore it…”

He had of course just read the opening lines to the very first draft of a film that he would indelibly stamp with his dark vision, Alien.
O’Bannon suggested to Brandywine Productions (Walter Hill’s production company, who were to put up money for the film) that Giger should create the alien monster that would play such a central part in the story and he began work on concept art for the film straight away.

He’d been asked for designs for the three stages of the alien’s evolution; “Facehugger”, “Chest Burster” and “The Alien” – along with landscape modelling, the Nostromo models and the giant, derelict alien ship – and what he took to the first meeting with the studio blew them away.
The only concept that didn’t make the final cut was his design for the alien “eggsilo”, the giant breeding chamber where the deadly pods are first discovered, rejected as being too costly to construct.

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Eggsilo – HR. Giger

After Giger delivered his artwork to the studio they said they no longer require him on set, as the models are to be built by their own staff.
Unhappy with this development, Giger returns to Zurich to begin work on the three-dimensional versions of his drawings, convinced the studio set technicians will not manage to interpret his work accurately.
He soon sends slides of the initial pieces to 20th Century Fox for approval, the first of which is the alien hieroglyphics panel.

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Alien hieroglyphs – HR Giger.

On his return to Shepperton studios after an enthusiastic call from Brandywine Productions however, Giger is considerably less than enthusiastic about the set builders’ efforts, declaring himself “appalled by it”.
His displeasure must have been evident to the studio bosses though, because they asked him if he would prefer to model them himself.
From Giger’s diary;
“It’s clear to me that, unless I do, it won’t go the way I want it, so I take the work over. I ask them to obtain as many different bones as possible, and a supply of plasticine, before my next visit”

Returning a week later, his requests catered for, Giger began work on modelling the landscapes and interior sets, sawing up bones and rejoining them, with plasticine, various tubes, pipes and pieces of machinery integrated into the structures, which were then moulded and reproduced in plaster of Paris, clear polyester and latex.
This exemplifies the “biomechanical” style that pervades all of his art and which gives the film such a unique visual style.

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Bones being prepared for moulding.

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A finished section of alien ship corridor.

Work soon started on the models of the derelict alien craft and the dead “pilot” figure in the cockpit…

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Giger (far right) at work in the “Monster Department”.

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Working on the “pilot”.

…while Giger refined the designs for the monster’s three incarnations.
Firstly the two smaller versions;

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Alien Egg – HR Giger.

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Facehugger – HR Giger.

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Facehugger on astronaut – HR Giger.

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Chest Burster – HR Giger.

He then began to create the star of the show, simply known as “Alien”, modelled around the imposing figure of 6’10” Bolaji Badejo, spotted in a bar by director Ridley Scott and hired specially for the part.

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Making a mould of Bolaji Bodejo for the Alien suit.

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Alien – HR Giger.

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Alien wardrobe – Latex Alien suit components ready for use.

HR Giger’s brief (from a letter from Dan O’Bannon) had been;
“…The creature should be a profane abomination. Our producers have suggested that something resembling an oversized, deformed baby might be sufficiently loathsome. In any event, we wish you to feel free to create your own design”

“Oversized, deformed baby”?
I’m glad Giger had ideas of his own, otherwise who knows what film we may have ended up with.

The rest, of course, is cinema history.
A film much-copied, never with the same impact, never having the same brooding feeling of primal terror, the sense that something terrible and merciless is silently waiting in the shadows, something unknowable and Alien.

HR “Ruedi” Giger leaves behind him an extraordinary body of work, filled with grotesque beauty and beautiful horror in equal parts, a man at peace with the darkness in his art and one who will be remembered as an exceptionally talented artist with a unique vision.

{All artwork and photos taken from “Giger’s Alien” from Titan Books, copyright HR Giger / 20th Century Fox}

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VISIT THE GIGER WEBSITE.

You can also watch a short clip of Giger at work on the set of Alien HERE.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Arts, Films, Photography

 

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The Sunshine Award. (7 degrees of separation)…

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I’m delighted to say that I’ve just received another blogger award.
This time it’s the Sunshine Award, presented to me by Lanthie at Life Cherries and as usual it comes with some pass-on-the-award-to-other-people-and-give-some-facts-about-yourself type rules.
But if you’re a regular reader then you’ll know that I try and do something a little more interesting with my nominations, so with that in mind jet me introduce you to my new award.

All seven people nominated are of course automatically recipients of the Sunshine Award, but in addition they will receive my brand new accolade. (along with bespoke Ho artwork)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Tenuous Lynx Award.

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Here’s the idea. We all know we can connect ourselves with each other via six degrees of separation but I thought I’d go one better and connect the seven blogs I’m nominating for my newly minted award by seven degrees, all via stuff I like, thereby giving you that all-important insight.

Just because, alright?

(It would please me greatly if you attempt something similar when you pass it on to whomever you choose, but feel free to just bestow the Sunshine upon them if you so wish)

Let us begin…

☆★☆★☆★☆
Life Cherries gave me the award.
Cherries have stones.
The Rolling Stones recorded a song called Mother’s Little Helper, about housewives getting pills from their doctor.

The Doctor is soon to be played by John Hurt in the 50th anniversary episode of Dr Who and he was also in classic sci-fi horror masterpiece, Alien
4º …the second sequel of which stars a host of British actors, including Charles Dance.
5º Charles now stars in the TV adaptation of George R.R.Martin‘s brilliant Game of Thrones.
6º Game of Thrones has a plotline involving dragons..
…bringing me to my first nominee, windhound’s colorful and experimental Dragon Shades blog, featuring beautiful abstract digital art and photography.

☆★☆★☆★☆
Dragon Shades brings colour to life.
Living Colour were a heavy rock band from the late ’80s who I once saw at Reading Festival.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol is a poem by Oscar Wilde.
Wilde was played by Stephen Fry in the film of his life.

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Stephen Fry – Wilde man.

Fry used to be in a double act with Hugh Laurie.
Laurie has found fame in America both through his music and as the unconventional doctor in the title role of House.
House Music is often accompanied by elaborate computer graphics and digital video effects.
Which are just the sort of things that are on display on the blog of my second nominee, Waking Spirals.

☆★☆★☆★☆
Waking Spirals combines cutting edge art with literary quotes and philosophical musings…
…as does Waking Life, the extraordinary film by Richard Linklater who also made A Scanner Darkly.
Scanners is a film by David Cronenberg who also made disturbing dystopian hi-tech nightmare Videodrome, starring Debbie Harry
..who was in Blondie.

Blondie began their career at CBGB, along with other punk legends The Ramones and Talking Heads.
Talking Heads made my favourite concert film of all time, Stop Making Sense..
…during which David Byrne wears a giant white suit…
..and what do you have in the back of a suit?
A Vent, that’s what. Which is what Ron calls his blog, and he’s nominee number 3.
Check out his take on life in the big city, it’s faaabuuloso.

☆★☆★☆★☆
A vent is something you would use to release air.
Air are a French electronica band whose first single was the sublime Sexy Boy

…from the album Moon Safari and when the Apollo 11 mission went to the moon they planted a flag.
Flagg is a character in many Stephen King novels including The Stand, many of which contain monsters..
…and Stand is a song by R.E.M.
..who recorded an album called Monster.
6º  They also had a massive hit with Everybody hurts.
And what do you have if everybody hurts?
A World Of Pain, that’s what. Adam’s blog is funny, clever, thought provoking and occasionally mischievous. Go and take a look, you won’t regret it.

☆★☆★☆★☆
A World Of Pain’s Golden Face Palms are raising a lot of dough for cancer charities.
Dough is what bread is made of and Pain is the French for bread.
Pizza is also a dough and Pizzaman is one of the many aliases of Fat Boy Slim.

Fat Boy Slim’s real name is Quentin and Christopher Walken appeared in one of his videos.
Walken also appears in another Quentin‘s film, Tarantino‘s Pulp Fiction.
Tarantino’s films frequently contain prolonged shoot-outs, much like those favoured by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Spaced.
Someone else who was severely spaced was Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams’ fantastic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which he and his friend stick out their thumbs and travel round the universe..
…as opposed to Quillan and Angela at Toemail, the fourth of my award recipients, who travel round the world and send back stories with photos attached, all of which contain a toe or two. Go dip a toe in their blog.

☆★☆★☆★☆
Toemail posts all feature feet.
A giant foot ends the Monty Python title sequence
…which is animated by Terry Gilliam who also made the dark and Orwellian Brazil
The original Orwellian nightmare, Nineteen Eighty Four revolves around the character Winston Smith.
The Smiths recorded a live album called Rank.

The Rank Organisation movies of the ’50s and ’60s opened with a man striking a giant gong.
The psychedelic band Gong recorded an album about a “Radio Gnome Invisible” who travelled in a Flying Teapot
…which would be an ideal accompaniment to my penultimate nominee, The Flying Fruitbowl, where you will find Aaron curating all manner of fabulous digital and fantasy art by new and exciting young artists.

☆★☆★☆★☆
A fruit bowl is an item favoured by artists painting still life pictures.
Still Life is an album by prog rock pioneers Van de Graff Generator.
The scientific apparatus, the Van de Graff Generator is used for making electricity.
Electricity was the debut single from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

…who also recorded Maid of Orleans, a song about Joan of Arc.
In Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Joan of Arc is played by Jane Wiedlin from The Go-Gos who had a hit with Rush Hour.

Canadian rock band Rush released an album called Moving Pictures..
..like the ones you’ll find on Sandro’s blog Life in Pictures, an eclectic selection of beautiful photography with something to interest and enchant everyone.

Which is my seventh and final Tenuous Link to an award nominee in this daisy chain of tangential twaddle. I hope you found something to entertain you amidst the forest of links and clips and if you are a lucky recipient, why not have a go yourself and pass along the Tenuous Lynx.

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{Ooh, and please link back to Diary of an Internet Nobody in your post. Thanks)

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Arts, Awards, Blogging, Charity, Films, Ho., Humour, Music, Music festivals, TV

 

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The Tina prize (part three)…

So, a final rundown of a few more things that I have decided deserve the recognition of The Internet Nobody Award.

I don’t go to see nearly as many new movies as I used to, and it’s not just the cost of going to the cinema that’s responsible either.
There just aren’t that many films that I would make the effort to go and see, let alone invent an award for, that I could then tenuously hang a blog post on.
At least with a DVD, if it’s crap, you can turn it off, and the whole thing has cost you two quid. If I pay for two of us to go to see a film, which is a £15 night out straight away, then I’m going to sit through the whole film, no matter how atrocious, just to get my money’s worth.

What this boils down to, is that I’d rather watch a film that I’ve really looked forward to, at home on DVD, in peace, with a drink and a smoke, and put up with the six month period of putting my fingers in my ears and going “la la la la la” to avoid hearing crucial plot details, after friends see it at the cinema.

This year’s ear-fingering wait was instigated by Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, the much-vaunted possible prequel to his 1979 Sci-fI masterpiece Alien.

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I have always been a massive fan of the original film, and especially of the look of the whole thing. This is down, of course, to the genius of artist HR Giger, and the fact that his work was not to be used on the new film made me apprehensive that it would be too stylistically different.
However, due to the clever separation of storylines from any previous timeline, Scott was able to give very obvious nods to Giger’s style, whilst still providing us with a new, rebooted vision of the future.

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The same vast sense of scale, so memorable from the original, pervades the whole film, dwarfing the human players into insignificance against the backdrop of hostile space, and the effects, CGI or not, are spectacular to say the least.

And no, the creatures do not disappoint.

I deplore spoilers, so I won’t say anything about the plot that you can’t gain from the trailer links above, except to say that if you’ve heard it’s a prequel to Alien, then you’re right…and  you’re wrong.

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Any album of the year that I pick as my favourite is unlikely to have featured in The Brits, and is also likely to be the sort of thing that would draw cries of “Turn that shit off!” from my workmates.
However, I am still willing to bet that some of you have some taste, so I would like to present for your consideration, in no particular order;

The epic new album, (III), from Canadian electronica duo Crystal Castles is a distortion drenched delight.

Nebula Dance from dubstep producer Ital Tek, takes the form into more melodic new territory.

An old favourite of mine for many years, Rush released Clockwork Angels, once again proving that, for a band that weren’t broke, they knew not to fix it…

…and a new band making an old noise, Golden Void take the Hawkwind love of Sci-fi lyrics – and their name from one of the space hippies’ old songs – whilst channelling the sound of Ozzy-era Black Sabbath.

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And finally, a quick mention for my favourite blogs.

I’d like to nominate myself, but that probably is taking bias a little too far, so I’ll just say that I have enjoyed posts from all of these;

Daina’s book

Zeebra Designs and Destinations

Cristian MihaI

Gman’s Galaxy

Brian Pigeon

and of course the ever reliable and always excellent Bohemian blog.

Which about wraps it up for my little end of year prize giving.

Hope you find something of interest amongst my recommendations, normal (i.e. who knows what’s next) service will be resumed shortly.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2012 in Blogging, Films, Music, Tina awards

 

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