Director Alexandre O Philippe is a steady-handed dissector of genre cinema. To date, he’s beadily probed ‘Star Wars’ fan dissent (‘The People vs George Lucas’), the zombie movie (‘Doc of the Dead’) and the construction of the shower scene in ‘Psycho’ (‘78/52’). So, for anyone who’s grown up loving the Alien, Philippe’s examination of its gnarled and blackened roots, worming all the way to the murky, collective-unconscious depths of Greek myth, is surely a welcome prospect.
However, thanks to 20th Century Fox’s rich archives and the quality of the dark space-saga’s DVD/Blu-Ray extras, there is honestly not much in ‘Memory’ – named after ‘Alien’ creator Dan O’Bannon’s first title for the script – that warrants its claim to be the ‘untold’ story of its origin. Also, Philippe doesn’t entirely stick to his own brief. At around the film’s mid-point, it becomes more of a straightforward ‘making of’, stepping away from the fascinating characters of O’Bannon and artist HR Giger and their volatile brew of inspirations to dig into the oft-recounted production itself. There is such attention paid to the (admittedly epochal) Chestburster scene, you wonder if the documentary was originally intended to focus on that, ‘78/52’ style.
Even so, there is much to appreciate, with an array of experts (including ‘Alien Vault’ author Ian Nathan and horror director Axelle Carolyn) and ‘Alien’ creatives (Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, art director Roger Christian) deployed to articulately support Philippe’s bold, but reasonable, assertion that ‘Alien’ is as mythically ripe as its most ancient influences.