It was unique to me to see how both O’Bannon and Hill-Giler set up the tension (I think almost all of it was O’Bannon in the original script).
The Nostromo (originally the Snark) has only so much in terms of food, oxygen, and water. The reason is – it’s a sleeper ship. The supplies are enough for them to get the ship on course, go to sleep, do the mining, get it back on course, go to sleep, then wake up at home, very rich.
There’s a time element to the movie. What happens if they don’t get the alien on time? They die from lack of oxygen.
There’s also the element of the Alien. They can’t kill him – he has highly concentrated acid for blood.
And very quickly in the script, the Alien breaks into the food stores locker and eats their food. I kind of missed that part in the movie theater, but it’s in there.
Captain Dallas is killed, and only he has the code to unlock the computer. Supposedly.
In the shooting script, Ash is getting more and more secretive as it goes along, and now you’re getting tense, wondering what he’s up to.
Plus, they have to get the Alien before he kills all of them.
In both scripts, there’s an incident where the airlock is opened, and something blocks it open. In the first script, it’s the body of a crew member crushed by the door. In the shooting script, it’s an air cylinder.
Now they have much less oxygen – less than twelve hours. Times running out… and they’re running out of crew. It’s the “three little indians” scenario – they’ve got to get the monster, and as more people die, everyone begins counting on someone else to die so it buys them more time.
And Ash goes wild and tries to kill them, after Ripley uses the data key and figures out the code. THe computer tells her Ash is protecting the alien, so now they have to fight a robot.
Ripley hears the last of them killed, finds Dallas, but he’s about to release another alien. She kills him, and now has to hurry onto the lifeboat.
And the Alien is on it.
No wonder the movie was a hit.
Why did I stop to read a script that is 38 years old? Because Karl Iglesias recommended it in one of his books! Apparently, the narrative stacking method pioneered in that Script (or at least made famous by it) is now the preferred method by Script Readers. And whatever makes Script readers happy… gets you sold!
And out of your day job.