There’s so much awesome that goes into the making of movie props, and there’s no lack of drama either. From the 1979 film Alien, Strange Shapes recounts the making of the head that would drip acid and strike fear into Ripley and crew.
“I always like to have these big long heads for the monster,” HR Giger told Famous Monsters magazine in 1979, “because I worked as an industrial designer. Every object needs to have a function. So if it has a long head there’s space for a long tongue. And I also gave his tongue teeth. I thought it was very good as a filmic device.”
and director, Ridley Scott chimed in…
“It became apparent that we’d need some quite sophisticated mechanisms for the Alien to make his face work,” Ridley Scott told Starlog magazine. “We brought in Carlo Rambaldi, just by the skin of our teeth.”
But Rambaldi was only able to work on it several weeks, leaving David Watling, of Star Wars fame, to finish. Giger wasn’t impressed…
“Unfortunately you still can’t tilt the tongue,” the artist wrote in his diary. “I asked him whether he could replace the old jaw with the new one I’d made. He exploded.” Watling’s proposed Alien tail impressed Giger even less. “The mechanics of the tail consist of a bunch of pressure tanks, relays, hoses, and wheels,” he wrote. “Who knows how they’ll manage to stow all that away. I think the mechanics are too complicated.”
Image: Rambaldi posing with plaster model of Alien Head. Source: Cinefantastique, vol9 no1, p21