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Robert Peters has been a US fan of Alien since it first came out in movie theaters, and like me, was too young to get in to see it without help from someone older. His memories include a very nice sensory appraisal of the Nostromo, and include a story of how Navy ships are creepier than you might think…
Why I love the Nostromo
When Alien first came out in 1979, I was 15 and lucky enough to have an older brother who took me to the movie. No other movie has affected me the way Alien has. I think it was because of my age and how they kept the ‘Alien’ a mystery until the movie came out. I feel bad for the fans who will never get to experience the wonder and mystery that I had that summer. However, one of the things that made Alien even more endearing to me was the Nostromo herself.
I loved that ship. There were just so many things about it that have made it my favorite ship of any Sci-Fi movie. What I love most about it is the attention to detail throughout the ship. There are pipes lining the walls, mechanical devices jutting out all over, and how cramped it all seems to be. Then there is the bridge itself. Just as cramped as the rest of the ship, no extra space for our passengers.
This is a working ship with no room for anything that isn’t necessary. Not only is space scarce on the Nostromo, but so is light. The only place I saw a lot of light on the Nostromo was in the corridor connecting the ‘freezers’ and the cryo room itself. The rest of the ship was dimly lit and the lower you went the darker it got. It reminded me of going down into your basement and was just as scary. Things hide in the dark and director Ridley Scott made key use of light. His use of blue cathedral lighting was pure genius.
Not only did cramped quarters, lighting, and technology make the ship so interesting… but so did sound. The ambient sound of the ship’s heart beating is heard and is just wonderful. Then there is the sound of the Auto-Doc in medical. I just love the sounds of that ship. I even have hours of ambient sound from the ship recorded from a YouTuber who made a recording of it.
Unlike many ships you see in movies the only windows we see are on the bridge and even those are small and deficient. This increases the feeling of claustrophobia as if being in a submarine. All of this adds to the fear factor once the Alien is introduced.
I was also fascinated by the landing leg room that Brett was killed in. In the book, and seen in the movie, the room was so large that it actually had it’s own weather. That is why it is raining in there at times. I loved all the chains hanging and the sound they made as they rattled against each other. They even created a small working model of a land rover that you only see for a moment or two!
The last part of the Nostromo that I love so much is the shuttle. You first see it when Dallas is sitting in it and taking a little break listening to classical music. In the book Dallas makes sure to leave the door open so no one would be nervous seeing him in there. Wouldn’t want the Captain abandoning ship now would we? The shuttle itself has a very interesting shape to it. I remember having a model of it on my desk when I was younger. It had a very long sloped front end that made the window on it seem very odd. I just loved how much it looked like the Nostromo itself inside with pipes running all along it’s bulkhead and how cramped it was made to feel.
My favorite part is in the very beginning of the movie when the camera glides down the empty corridors of the Nostromo. Even though you knew there was no Alien there now it seemed very foreboding to me and creeped me out a little bit. Maybe because they were empty and devoid of all biological life.
While in the Navy I was on an aircraft carrier and we once spent a few months in drydock. Most of the crew stayed ashore and at night there would only be a skeleton crew on board. I was one of those that stayed onboard and at night I would go down into the bowels of the ship to the empty engineering section and pretend I was on the Nostromo. I actually scared myself silly a few times because I kept pretending there was an Alien hunting me and after a while I would start hearing and seeing things and creep myself out.
The Nostromo will always be my favorite ship from the movies. It was great looking and provided a perfect cramped and claustrophobic place for the Alien to inhabit our nightmares for a very long time to come.
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