A Tribute to Terry Rawlings: A Discussion of How He Edited the Sci-Fi Classic Alien and Why it is a Perfect Horror film…

Warning! Warning! This following discussion contains extensive reference to Alien along with other related movies, series and novels, contains major spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk…

Editing is one of the most important parts of film-making. Much like I talked about the fantastic sound design in my Wall-E post from April, Terry Rawlings perfects the craft of editing both Horror and Sci-Fi. He takes each element slowly and builds atmosphere throughout the course of the film. He masks great SFX shots to make they even more realistic and fluent throughout the film. To edit something like Alien and Blade Runner is a momentous task. This is what I would like to break down for you today. If you could break down film into six main elements, they would be: Writing, Cinematography, Actors, SFX, sound and Editing (most important to this discussion). Even if you don’t have sound or special effects, you at least need good cinematography, acting, story and editing.

Those four elements are the very ground work of a film no matter what era you look at although all of these six elements together make a full and complete film, by today’s standards. Editing in particular is so important because it is what puts all these shots, SFX and sound together, because they are often shot out of sequence, multiple takes going into one scene. I shouldn’t forget, however, how a director is important in controlling each of these elements, especially someone as driven as Ridley Scott. It determines the pacing and the tone of the film, it is used to put the story together and show the watcher elements that are important to the film and the characters. It’s something that we often don’t recognise as so important and that is honestly quite disappointing due to how important it is. This is why I want to focus on Terry Rawlings today and how he edits the film Alien, my all time favourite movie.

I’m going to preface this discussion, however, by saying that I am no way a skilled editor myself so I don’t have much of the first-hand knowledge of the craft. I do have good knowledge of how the process works in a more theoretical way which is based more in research, watching the films and digging into interviews and documentaries on the process. This is a learning experience for me so if there is anything I get wrong then I will correct it asap. Mostly I want to discuss the editing of Alien here and more specifically how it is crafted in such an amazing, creepy and terrifying way. I also wanted to pay tribute in someway to both the editor and the fact that Alien is now 40 years old this year. I do have a list of important terms I will use throughout the post in the paragraph below that may be useful if you want a description of what exactly I am talking about. Now without further ado, let’s move onto the post.

There are several main techniques that are incorporated throughout the editing process. Here’s a list of a few before I talk about his process so if I mention any of these terms you won’t have to look them up individually. There is continuity editing which is form most common in the process where shots are edited together to give the sense of time moving, very important for getting into a film. There is cutting, a simple transition of one shot to another. There is cross cutting, a process of cutting between two individual sequences to signify they are happening in tandem to each other. There are montages which I won’t describe because of every comedy or sports movie has basically used them. Matched cut which is basically transitioning to another image in a similar area such as when the bone in 2001: A Space Odyssey changes to the ship in space to signify the change in time. Establishing shots (very important to this discussion today) which are basically when you show the area where the scene is taking place. There’s shot, reverse shot which is as simple as it sounds and is mainly used in dialogue scenes. You then have cutaways which is when you focus on a sequence which then you cut away from the main action. There are split edits where the sound from one shot seeps into the other in a transition. Finally, there are eyeline cuts which show what the character is seeing within a scene.

So we should start with looking at some of the previous work he edited before Alien, particular the well known animated film, Watership Down. Here you can see the main start of his career and style of editing. His editing takes in more of the isolation and the atmosphere; the fear and darkness rather then scope or drama of the situation. He doesn’t dawn away from more horrifying imagery which I will talk about more later but can definitely be seen in this film and even the original edit of Blade Runner for the 1982 theatrical release. You can see his horror roots creeping into every film he has supervised or edited directly from The Sentinel in 1977 to his last film Phantom of the Opera in 2004 which whilst not well received was his last film and so is a notable mention when looking at his career and his editing style, (although as I am not the biggest fan of musicals, I will not be watching it for this post today).

So I’m going to start with looking at the movie Alien as his third and most well-known film he edited. There are two versions of the movie Alien, the theatrical edit and the directors cut which are both great edits of the film. There is not much difference in fact between the two apart from some added sequences in the director’s cut and some shortening of longer scenes within the theatrical although the essence of cutting and continuity within the film is kept precisely the same. Whilst I watched both versions of the film, the theatrical cut is the main version I will be focusing on. What I will mention, however, is the strange nature of the director’s cut before I dive into the editing proper.

So the director’s cut was only created because the request by 20th Century Fox (now owned by, film industry absorbing, Disney). Due to Ridley Scott thinking of the original cut as the perfect version of the film didn’t need to change anything in the film although in 2003 when the quadrilogy was about to be released, the studio, in order to match the rest of the movie’s each having an extended or alternative cut, paid Ridley Scott to create his own cut of the film. What it turns out is an inferior cut to the original with one or two alterative scenes and shortening or extending slighting in some shots or sequences. Basically not much is changed apart from five minutes of extra footage added although it is still a few seconds shorter. It seems watching both versions again as a very weird version with some pointless editions and cuts made. The only notable scene of the new add in is the torching of Dallas when he is found by Ripley. Whilst it adds to the lore, it cuts from the smooth edit of the film. A weird thing to mention but I thought I should before I look at the editing of Alien and Blade Runner properly.

So to begin, I say you know what Alien and Blade Runner are about so I’m just going to jump into this. If you compare the films of Alien and Blade Runner you can see a similar sense of editing and tone. Both have a underlying sense of tension, between both versions of the theatrical cut (minus the producer changes of the happy ending and the horrible narration in Blade Runner) linger on the horrifying and lingering on a sequence or a shot establishing the scene. But if I am to do this properly, I want to breakdown a few scenes from Alien and Blade Runner respectively.

So with Alien, I want to look at several of the most important scenes from the film. The first establishing shot of inside the ship, the egg opening, the Chestburster scene, when Brett gets killed by the Alien, Dallas travelling the vents, Ash being revealed as an android, Parker and Lambert’s death scene, when Ripley tries to turn off the self-destruct and ending sequence. Here I will be linking each scene and dissect through them in the paragraphs below. So let’s just jump into this.

So this particular scene I found extremely difficult to find on YouTube to show the clip but basically, I am talking about the exterior shot of the ship and the slow-moving establishing sequence within the Nostromo itself. What I’m going to mention here is how Terry Rawlings uses a reluctance of cuts to allow the excellent cinematography to breathe and add a foreboding sense of atmosphere. As the first shot of the film opens, after the credits, a description of the ship can be seen, a small form of exposition as we see it in the distance. As we move through the ship, get to know how huge but rugged the ship looks. This is before we come inside to meet the ship’s interior which is very industrial and aged.

How it goes to the front of the ship, to the computer before cutting is great piece of sound and sequence editing itself before we cut to black screen that lights up to reveal a corridor. We track this to the cryogenic chamber, the cleanest part of the ship, where we meet our main characters, the crew of the Nostromo. What is so brilliant I would say about this cut is how he lingers on these shots, the consistent use of sound and music throughout these scenes. They move slowly, letting what is shot go without any quick cuts as you would probably see in modern Horror films. We get a sense of being out in a space where no one can hear you scream, alone in space. The lack of cuts allows for a smoother transition throughout the ship. What I value in a great editor is someone that makes the shots flow together smoothly, where you don’t notice when it cuts and when it doesn’t.

If I was to compare it, it is the opposite of the opening to the original Star Wars opening (1977). Instead of following a ship as it drifts slowly through space, we follow it in mid-space battle which is then tracked through the ship shortly before all hell breaks loose and the stormtroopers invade. Whilst the editing in Alien allows for the scenes to breathe and minimal cuts are made, the editing in Star Wars is much more rapid and flashes quickly from one shot to the other, showing what is happening as Vader looks for the Death Star plans. This is of course because Star Wars is an action space adventure whilst Alien is a gloom and slow paced sci-fi horror but it is an interesting parallel to make. How the shots open in a vaguely similar but very different way for an alternative tone and purpose. It’s not just the way that either of the films were shot, the music or the tone that make it different, they are edited in very different ways.

The next is one of the most iconic shots in the entire film and some excellent piece of editing. On the planet Lv426 we follow Lambert, Dallas and Kane as they explore a crashed ship, what they find is a large dead alien sitting motionless at a turret and an opening beneath where strange eggs make their home. If there’s one perfect sequence in this movie, I would say this would be it. Cutting to John Hurt’s character Kane, the walls of the ship, his hands before he falls into the pit (a cut where he actually tripped) to cutting between his expression of looking closer at the egg as something moves inside it. It’s one of those scenes that is truly terrifying even in a rewatch because we have that pure sense of dread that something bad is about to happen but it only works so well because we see every emotion and moment of the sequence.

Terry Rawlings doesn’t choose just to focus on a few shots, we see a POV from Kane, a shot reverse shot on the egg and Kane and a set of quick cuts of the facehugger popping out of the egg itself giving the puppet a terrifying sense of life. It’s truly a scene that is fantastic but would definitely be as effective if done by a different editor or with a different director or team in charge. There feels like there is not just a different feel to both environments and style but also a different way the sequence on the planet is shot and edited. Instead of the clean and smooth feeling of on the ship, you have a dirty and dark documentary type of film-making which shows back and forth from the planet and the crew exploring it. The sound editing, music and design is also fantastic at making the world feel so desolate and foreboding. May I also say that the shot that is cut in where Kane is exploring the egg and water drops flow upward is an incredible piece of subtle design that helps the other worldly feel of Lv426. But I’ve talk about this excellent sequence enough for now so let’s move on.

We now move on to the scene that is most well known from the film, the chestburster. What can I say, it is a perfect scene from the excellent shots and special effects to the brilliant acting and editing. How minimal cuts are used in the beginning of the scene to focus on the crew enjoying a meal, we cut between a shot of Kane, Parker and Dallas to Ash and then to Lambert as the normal conversation between the group occurs. The cuts between then and Ash analysing Kane is honestly fantastic, we see Ian Holms excellent performance that you wouldn’t notice on the first viewing.

As the scene progresses, the camera zooms to Kane and we get the feeling something isn’t exactly right before he begins to choke, he seems to have a seizure. The editing becomes more erratic, we still see the reactions of the members of the team although much quicker as we see the horror of Kane being ripped apart and the chestbuster blasting its way out of his body. An excellent use to cut to Lambert’s reaction to the blood that splattered from his is also a great choice, a actual reaction actress Veronica Cartwright had during the scene (and I might as well mention how fantastic the practical effect work is as well).

What Terry Rawlings, the actor and the cinematographer do so well is giving you this great attachment to these character, making the scene feel like real people talking before you notice something just isn’t right and the Horror begins. Shots are held on although cut in a way that you get to see each of the characters reactions although specifically focusing on Ash and Kane throughout the scene. What I keep saying and will keep saying is that Terry Rawlings has the great skill as an editor to know when to hold on a single shot, when to linger to create tension but also create a smooth sequence.

This can be especially seen in the last shot of Ash following the Xenomorph run away from Kane’s dead and lifeless body and a final shot of the crew just stunned at what has occurred, scared for what might happen next with Parker looking at Ash, Ripley and Brett looking off in the direction where the alien fled and Dallas just looking off into the distance fear and shock in his eyes, the 100 mile stare. It’s just one of those absolutely timeless scenes, even as something so short at around 3mins in length. Nothing less then truly iconic.

The scene where Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) is killed and the Xenomorph is first revealed is incredibly important to the story as the second kill (the first being Kane played by John Hurt, both actors having died sadly in 2017). The scene makes an excellent use of cutaways as he finds the cat and the xenomorph slowly descends upon him, piercing him and dragging him back from the vents from whence it came. This is probably one of the points that really shows the Horror of the film. How Terry Rawlings cuts to the full action of the scene but shows the reactions, creates human characters and an environment that feels real. Again much like just before Kane is attacked by the facehugger, the sequence is laced with POV shots but this time no just from the member of the crew but the cat (Jonesy) as well which adds to the perspective of the shot, an animal watching another as it hunts for its prey.

As with the chestburster scene, it begins (although the start can’t be seen in the clip) with a lack of cuts to establish the area and create tension but as it culminates it uses fast cuts between are used to show each angle of the xenomorph as it descends and drags Brett away (only to be seen again, in the director’s cut, cocooned in the engine room). It’s honestly a fantastic piece of Horror film making that seems to have had a huge influence on Western Horror film-making with a similar use of cutaways even to this day even with today’s modern use of jumpscares as a crutch in most of the mainstream stuff (the conjuring franchise being a main example of an awful use of jumpscares). Although films such as Halloween used similar techniques the year prior, it is a great example of mastering those techniques. Apart from the excellent shots and practical effects that are used throughout the xenomorph’s reveal, I will also mention the great diegetic and non-diegetic sound that is used through the scene with the sounds of the chains and the hissing of the mixing of the alien pairing excellent with the music, the trumpets used to signify the overpowering and towering nature of the Xenomorph as a foe against this crew, in this case Brett who has no way to defend himself as the creature attacks him.

Oh damn, what a brilliant scene. Honestly, fantastic, it may be my absolute favourite scene in the whole movie but let’s dive a bit into the editing and structure. If I was to say something that this scene does perfectly is cross cutting between the main scene in the vents with Dallas trying to track the Xenomorph and the main crew. The scene is short and tense with very swift cuts to show each side of the action. We have close up and medium shots of Ripley, Ash, Parker and Lambert, you then have close up shot and cutaway edit of the tracer before cutting back to Dallas as he explores the vents. We get a real sense of the dread and urgency they have in trying to kill the alien lifeform. All before they lose the signal and the dark music swells as we see Dallas trying to light up the vents using the blowtorch and reactions of Ripley as all she can do is listen to the scanner as the creature comes closer and closer to him. This is all before a frightening cut back to the action as he moves down the vents to get away only for it to be waiting for him. The rest of the scene is based more in a form of shot reverse shot of meeting up after Dallas has been taken by the xenomorph, the only thing left being the flamethrower he had took down with him into the vents.

Although simplistic, it allows for the actors to shine in each of their characters with Ian Holms giving a great distance in his role of Ash as an android watching the scene, Sigourney Weaver’s great thoughtful performance of Ripley as she tries to stay control of the situation, Yaphet Kotto as Parker who gives this intense performance as Parker, a man who tries to hold it together by letting anger take control whilst Veronica Cartwright as Lambert is losing control, she shows utter fear and could be seen as the opposite of the more emotionally reserved character of Ripley. Each of their performances are fantastic and really tie the whole scene together.

I haven’t mentioned the fantastic acting much so far but I thought of it as important to mention not just due to how the perfomances are fantastic but because of how an editor must not just find the best shots throughout each scene to add to the story they must also find the best performances over the many takes each scene has been filmed. This scene in particular showing off some of the best editing and performances in this entire film and whilst I could probably say that for this whole film, I absolutely mean it here. You can see just some perfect work from Terry Rawlings in creating some fantastic tension in some excellently subtle ways throughout the cutaways and crosscuts. If I was to edit a Horror movie, this and the death of Brett are most likely the choices I would make to analyse and try and replicate similar sequences. Although I am not done looking at the editing in Alien yet as I have several more of the films best scenes to look at, the next being the fantastic reveal of Ash as an android this whole time.

If you remembered only a couple of scenes from this absolute classic one of them would probably be this one. One of the biggest twists in the film, Ripley finds out The Company (not yet know as Wayland Yatani in the franchise’s canon) has set a secret mission to retrieve an alien specimen from Lv426 locked under ship protocol but that isn’t the biggest twist in this scene. Ash trying to silence Ripley but she and Parker fight him off only to reveal he has been an android this whole time.

He has been orchestrating everything with the information provided to him. Whilst some of the special effects are janky by today’s standards even compared to the xenomorph in this film but they do the best with what they have although they are more noticeable in the next scene when Ash explains what the plans where and his admiration of the alien (a trait in androids you can see such as in Prometheus or Alien Covenant, although I will discuss those films some other time and I have a lot of…thoughts). Although I could talk about the excellent dialogue and acting in the next scene, including one of the most well known quotes of the whole franchise “I admire it’s purity”.

Getting back to the editing within the scene between Ripley and Ash has more of the feeling of a serial killer movie more then of horror as you would see throughout most other scenes in the second half of the film. Instead of cutaways or crosscutting, there’s more of a shot reverse shot edit used throughout most of this scene between Ripley and Ash as he tries to kill her and prevent her from jeopardising the mission. There’s nothing flashy in the editing here, it is kept simple and that is what I think is so great about Terry Rawlings as an editor. He allows the shots to breathe, the he doesn’t need to show too much in this scene and so whilst it is simple, it is much more effective as a result. What I will say is that he cuts at the very right place to the special effects in this scene in particular, the scene just flows so naturally here without losing any main shot from the sequence.

It is surprising, it twists and turns and without how the editing and sound is used, it would definitely not have been as shocking. There’s a reason why this surprised audiences way back in 1979 and still shocks audiences to this day. It’s one of those twists that you don’t see coming (an inclusion that was actually made late into the script by the producers) and when you watch the film again, you realise that all this time that something has always been something visibly off about the character of Ash and his actions throughout the film. In that way I must commend Ian Holm’s fantastic performance throughout the film and how he really has a presence that you don’t really notice in the first viewing.

Much like with Dallas’ death in the vents, Lambert and Parker’s death scene is a excellent example to give when looking at cross cutting. In that way it is very similar to that scene, it cuts to the reactions at the other end of the action, specifically Ripley who has to listen to the remaining crew members being brutalised whilst she tries to get to them. It’s an absolutely incredible example of how to do suspense from the way it is shot and more important to this discussion, the way it was edited. The scene is masterful at not what it shows and what it doesn’t. This is the first scene we see with the full body of the xenomorph in motion although most of the horror we don’t see, it is cut quickly to Ripley as she runs through the excellent designed ship.

The scene is near enough left up to our imagination in what it does to Parker but more specifically Lambert as she is see strung above the ground (theorised as Lambert being raped by the alien creature as it wraps it’s tail up her legs, a death that would be too horrible to show in the film), which uses a great eyeline cut from Ripley to the dead bodies of her crew members that she couldn’t help. It’s a scene of pure fear, trying to fight something that you can’t stop and are too far away to get help. It’s also a great use of practical effects and close ups making the creature feel truly like a living and breathing organism. Where there is no one left but Ripley and the alien creature that stalks the ship.

How Terry Rawlings cuts in this scene is great at showing the hopelessness of the situation and the silence after a massacre as it cuts to the last corridor and all you can hear is steam and the footsteps of Ripley. It’s often a scene that isn’t mentioned but is probably one of the most horrifying in the whole film. How Terry Rawlings cuts this scene is masterful, it follows Hitchcock’s idea of suspension perfectly, he also has a great ear for sound when it changes from a mix of diegetic and non-diegetic as the scene begins and the alien enters the scene (the alien’s theme is heard) and as Lambert’s last screams are heard, there is no music, only background sound.

I keep watching this scene over and over, it is so horrifying but hard to look away, this is how you edit horror. It should hang you by a thread, let you know what is going to happen but let the deepest your mind do the work, imagine the dreadful acts that take place in the parts of the sequence that you don’t see and that’s what I feel is wrong with a lot of horror. It’s all based on tension, build up and a jumpscare at the end, giving its game away. An unfortunately common trope in modern Horror films whereas I feel this captures how to do a scene like this, leaving you tense, not relieving you but holding that fear until the very end.

So now there’s two last very important scenes that I want to look at from Alien and man, we’ve got some great ones. So let’s start with the auto destruct sequence. This scene encapsulates the tagline of in space no one can hear you scream. Ripley is alone with the alien in the ship following the previous scene although it isn’t just as terrifying or brilliant as the past couple scenes we have looked at, it is still a great scene to look at the editing. Due to none of the other crew members being alive, we are mostly focused on longer tracking shots as we follow Ripley through the darkly lit corridors throughout the ship. What I will say is that apart from the great erratic cinematography, Terry Rawlings make use of some great eyeline cuts along with cutting between Ripley and the alien as she slowly sneaks away from the creature that has killed the rest of the crew.

How it also shows an establishing shot of the outside of the ship and you see Ripley walking past through the smoke showing the gigantic size of the mining ship from even quite a distance way was a great way to show what she must now escape within the deadline which adds extra threat to the character. The cut backs to shots of Ripley and cutting to each of her action and eyeline really gets you into her character and how drastic her actions are to stop the override. How it only uses music when the alien appears also adds to the thrilling atmosphere of the scene as the sirens of the auto destruct become dimmer the further she moves away leaving for the presence of the alien as the main obstacle in her path, pulling her back to stop the auto-destruct.

The sound echoes the danger in either direction of her path. She faces one obstacle after the other, she is trapped alone on the ship with the creature and must use any way to get away in the shuttle. It makes her feel as if she is being pulled back and forward, her survival instinct, anger at the loss of her crew and pure determination being the thing that pulls her forward. Unlike many characters who would give up and admit, she pulls forward and becomes a character in Horror that isn’t just walking through the plot but is always a huge component of it, using any skills at her disposal to get her out, using her knowledge of the ship and quick thinking to work.

She is a well rounded and realistic female character and that’s what makes her great as a protagonist. She loses it all and she reacts to that, she has emotion but still gets back to the mission, she carries on. She’s a strong female character without showing anyone else up, or being sexualised, she is human and she behaves like any rational person would. She isn’t a caricature like something in the 2016 Ghostbusters remake/reboot, she feels real and learns from her experiences whilst not having to ditch feminine characteristics and that’s what I love so much about her and why she is probably my favourite film protagonist. Although I feel this goes off my main topic, it is necessary to point this out to why this works so well not just as an excellent Sci-Fi that tackles the situation of being contaminated by the alien creature but also the Horror of watching all your fellow crew members being slaughtered by a perverse creature that you can’t kill, something that is stated to be a perfect organism. I’ve talked about this scene for long enough so let’s get to the final one, as we look at the last scene in the film.

And finally we are at the last scene we are looking at and the final scene of the film. After the scene where Ripley escapes in the shuttle as the ship explodes, you would think the film had ended Ripley had killed the Xenomorph and was finally safe but the movie continues which seems to be a surprise. In fact, this wasn’t going to be the original ending for the film but was added very late into production as they felt it was missing something, one last scare, a shocking ending twist that wasn’t really seen in any movie before Alien and is now seen in most modern Speculative Fiction movies (being Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy). The editing in the scene similar to the previous scene we looked at where it uses some great cuts between Ripley and eyeline cuts of what she sees, really giving us a sense of her as a character and how she acts in survival situations.

What I feel the editing, acting and the cinematography in this scene really does well is establishing a sense of calm, it feels like the beginning of the film where shots are fixed on for longer periods of time, it parallels the scene where they first get out of the cryogenic pods, it has this sense of synchronicity between those two scenes. The lack of sound is also fantastic at enhancing this sense of calm rather which is broken when she finds the alien has crept its way on to the ship and sharper cuts and an overwhelming score take center stage as it pulls itself out of its hiding place. It is a hard cut from both a visual and auditory silence especially between the shots between Ripley and the alien creature. The silence is broken and she must take on the alien creature once more or die trying.

The last part of the scene mainly cuts between medium shots of the alien and Ripley as they struggle to defeat each other, it’s a simple reverse shot, you see every part of the action, linger on it, patient as Ripley is in her actions to blast the creature out of the ship. Again for the ways it works so simply, it is much more effective in putting us in the position of the character, her actions, how if she makes one false move she is dead and the alien drifts in her ship to be picked up by another crew. But as we cut back from Ripley to the xenomorph using an eyeline cut before cutting to her hand as it presses the button, fast movement and edits are used establishing this sense of shock and terror and she shoots it out of the airlock.

It is not over yet as it comes back and the shot briefly hangs on before cutting back to the alien outside of the ship as she must shoot it again, it’s as unrelenting as Ripley was, determined to kill as she is to survive the most primal urges of predator and prey. Cutting from the alien trying to enter the engine to Ripley’s face as she watches it and to Ripley’s hand as she hits the button is a great use of quick cross cutting to show the actions of both the hunter and target. It then hangs on to the reaction of her face after it shows several angles of the bottom of the ship as the engines turn on, blasting the alien way from the ship to drift out to space forever. Before a fantastic split edit between the ship and a great zoom into Ripley as she makes a voice log of all the crew she has lost. After that last quick battle with the alien she is finally done, she is to drift off into space until she is later picked up by another ship or she reaches Earth. There’s a small bit of catharsis as she defeats the alien, the music swelling but it is a bitter end. She has lost all her crew, she has lost the ship and barely escaped with her life only to drift in space (and if you want to bring in continuity, has to return to Lv426 only to face the xenomorphs again).

That’s why it works so well in a sense of editing but also in Horror. We are given a crew of interesting and actually relatable people, we see their expressions, what they are all like, they feel like real people and this creature tears them apart one by one. It has this mystery to the planet, what they are facing, it has a lot of presence and feels invulnerable but yet can die and has weaknesses. It’s a terror that keeps coming back but it’s not the same individual creature, it is an organism that mutates and survives. It is a perfect hunter, it is primal but even though it has no awareness, it is clever. It is about the fear of the unknown and that is at the end of the day what Horror boils down to. The fear of what is out there (with the Xenomorph) but what is also with us (in particular Ash). Although it just doesn’t just work because of the great story, it is great filmmaking that makes the film such a classic. It just feels real and keeps a sense of never relenting tension even to the very end of the film. The acting, the special effects, the dialogue, the way shots are composed but also the pacing and editing that are so incredibly polished. It has a fantastic mix of Sci-Fi and Horror between the world of Lv426 and the Nostromo, how different the worlds feel and why it enhances the subtext of our fear to reach into the unknown.

So I think this post has gone on for long enough, too long in fact and if you’ve read down to here I really commend you, thank you for reading my rambling on the editing in Alien. Originally I was going to look at Alien and Blade Runner but I feel if I dawn on Blade Runner and critiqued some of the editing choices in the film, I would be unnecessarily blaming Terry Rawlings for horrible choices that the producers made in the post production of the film due to some people not getting the film during a test screening. Those have been fixed in the later versions of the film although I feel like that deserves a whole different post on its own so that’s what I’m going to do future thinkers, we’re going to dive into the troubled production history of Blade Runner and the many problems it faced before becoming the cult classic that it is today.

Anyway, with that final note, if you read through all of this, you are amazing, future thinkers. This is probably the longest post I’ve ever done and I really didn’t mean it to take this long. I wanted it to be this short post looking at some of Terry Rawlings great editing work, in particular, with Alien (1979). As I wrote it, it really became more in-depth and much longer then I intended but I loved writing this so I feel the time it took was worth it. I probably won’t be writing a post like this in a while but I will definitely like to look at how some great Sci-Fi uses certain techniques such as cinematography, writing, visual effects (SFX), sound, etc. in the future which I feel will be a great topic to focus on. I love looking at topics like this as not just a Sci-Fi addict but also a film fanatic. But let me know what you thought of the post. Are there any scenes you wish I covered? Do you feel I looked at the topic in enough detail? Let me know, future thinkers, in the comments below…

Next time, we are about to see things you wouldn’t believe as we look at the classic film Blade Runner and it’s troubled production before it became the great film that we know today. The Star Army recommendation should be up by now as well so check that out, it’s a really interesting Sci-Fi forum that I love visiting. I will also have a review going up at the same time or after my next post which I have yet undecided. Stay tuned for that future thinkers and until next time…

Michael McGrady, Signing Off.

15 thoughts on “A Tribute to Terry Rawlings: A Discussion of How He Edited the Sci-Fi Classic Alien and Why it is a Perfect Horror film…

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