Three Important Scenes Deleted From Alien (1979)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is alien-posteredited.jpg

Dear Sci-Fi nerd nation, apparently my Alien knowledge is less substantial than I thought. The film is edited with extreme precision, and that’s without question or hesitation when you watch the deleted scenes (which I never did until recently). Most of the scenes were worth cutting and would have created lengthy, extended sequences. BUT, there are a few that I singled out as significant to the film’s monster and Ridley’s ability to slice footage creating greater suspense molding together the ultimate nightmare.

Ellen Ripley Alien
Mother Computer Alien 1979

Lambert’s Death

Veronica Cartwright Alien

It’s a surprise that Veronica Cartwright’s character (Lambert) nearly made the great escape considering she was the emotionally weakest character in the crew. If only she had moved out of the way as Parker insisted before meeting her grim fate. Lambert’s death is one of the more chilling death sequences, because we all know she won’t make it, but her paralyzed reaction felt like a nightmare where you scream and nothing comes out.  Cartwright genuinely appeared petrified on camera; however, her sequence is cut short and wraps quickly…for good reason.

Lambert's Death Alien 1979

The extended version of this scene is a wide shot of Lambert tossing the oxygen tanks toward Parker in preparation for the shuttle evacuation. Here we see a closer look at the creature–it’s lanky body, it’s whipping tail and an awkward crawl sequence that is almost laughable. The deleted scene kills the ultimate terror of suspense that the edited version creates– the shadow of the creature, Lambert’s slow turnaround to the inevitable and a quick glimpse of the creature drooling it’s acidic slobber before it coils it’s tail around her. The less you show, the more terrifying the expectations become. Less =  More.

The Cocoon Cave

Alien 1979 Escape

Ash classifies this creature as the perfect species; the perfect specimen with an acidic blood-like defense mechanism that renders it impossible to kill without killing yourself. The crew figures this out quickly after attempting to remove the parasitic face-hugger entangled around Kane’s face. What we don’t learn about the creature is the reproductive cycle through the human host. We only understand that they come from eggs, attach to their victims and implant something through the face that causes the animal to grow and pop out.

Alien 1979 deleted scene

Ridley completely omits a scene toward the end that gives further insight to the reproductive cycle with the usage of human hosts. Ripley climbs down to a lower level of the ship trying to escape the alien where one question is answered…what happened to Brett and Dallas? We see them get captured, but there’s no sign of death. The scene gives a glimpse into the reproductive life cycle of the xenomorph where Dallas and Brett, barely alive, are glued into eggs as hosts. I’m not sure if this scene should have necessarily been cut, since it gives closure to what happened to lost members of the crew, but the less = more theory still holds true. Plus, omitting this left James Cameron ample means of interpretation for the sequel.

Brett’s Death [Updated: 9/29/16]

Brett's original death Alien

One of the greatest components of Brett’s death is that it’s the first time we (almost) see the full-grown alien…and he’s BIG. In the theatrical sequence, Brett turns around abruptly to be faced with the alien. What happens next is very quick and (apparently) heavily edited scene where we barely get a glimpse of Brett being taken upward to one of the tunnels where he presumably cocoons him. But we don’t know.

In the original cut, the encounter is much more violent, graphic and unsettling. The alien strikes Brett’s chest and removes his heart. Parker and Ripley then find Brett dead with the open cavity in his chest.

“Also, at this time I didn’t have the alien take Brett away. I wanted it to remove his heart. When the others find him and turn him over, there’s a huge cavity in his chest, reminiscent of the hole in the Space Jockey. But that was too much like Kane’s death, so we eventually changed it.” Ridley Scott via Scified

brett's original death Alien

The scene that was filmed, that would later be heavily cut, showed the alien touch Brett’s head inquisitively, then begins to crush Brett’s skull as blood pours down his face.

Most of the cut footage, including Brett’s death, was cut to refrain from revealing too much of the creature. Ridley’s less is more tactic proved to be scarier in the long run.

A genuinely terrified Veronica Cartwright thanks you for your time
A genuinely terrified Veronica Cartwright thanks you for your time

59 thoughts on “Three Important Scenes Deleted From Alien (1979)”

  1. Great article! The cut scene for Lambert’s death literally saves this entire movie. That 51 seconds is so out of place with the rest of the film, and that ridiculous “crab walk” the Xenomorph does is completely awkward and the furthest thing away from being scary. Totally right, less = more. It’s amazing how much a short scene can make or break a film. Again, great stuff!

    1. I agree. That scene definitely made it look like a man in a costume (well, so does the quick glimpse in the air shaft when it gets Dallas), so I agree completely. I’m not sure if the other scene was worth cutting? I’m undecided on that.

  2. Agree that the Cartwright scene was correctly deleted. The cocoon scene w/Dallas should have stayed. It added more emotion and dread to Ripley’s plight, as now she sees what her fate holds for her if she doesn’t escape. Still, one of the greatest sci-fi horror films evern made.

  3. Ah yes, these are well known among Alien enthusiasts. I believe the second one was even in Director’s Cut of the movie. The first one was deleted because it was so evident that it’s a guy in Alien suit.

    1. I’ve clearly never seen the directors cut, because I was blind-sighted by this. I’ve seen the directors cut for the sequel though, which also has a few key scenes I thought should have been left in the theatrical version.

      1. I actually liked the omission of the cave in Alien, I thought it made the movie more claustrophobic and condensed. Never seen Aliens DC, is it better than theatrical cut?

      2. I think I prefer the omission of the cave as well; it made her plight to get out more desperate and the tension greater not knowing what happened to the others. The directors cut, from what I remember, offers (again) another couple scenes that might have been worth keeping. Maybe I’ll add a post on that one too!

  4. Alien is my favourite film! As interesting as I find the cocoon sequence I think it was the right decision to cut it. As you said, less is more and it would have also killed the film’s momentum. Nice post!

  5. O.K. i’m an old fuddy duddy, a sci-fi purist, but the cocoon sequence SHOULD have stayed, I think it adds a layer to the overall awesomeness/threat OF the ALIEN. this is a creature that is a “perfect” engine, ‘sorry ash” it will NOT die, it will use EVERY resource to keep going, and re-creating, and its only ONE organism THE COCOON SEQUENCE EMBELLISHED UPON THAT. (JUST MY OPINION)

  6. The cocoon scene might have worked even better if placed directly after the discovery of Parker and Lambert’s remains,instead of during the ships 10 minute countdown,that way it could have been presented uncut with the rest of Ripleys edited dialogue.

  7. I’m really not a fan of the cocoon scene. Like you Courtney, I just recently saw these. I’m dumbfounded I just saw them. I’ve been a fan of Alien for 30 years and am just now seeing this. I was scrolling through the “extras” section of my DVD, which hadn’t paid attention to before for some odd reason that still baffles me. (I’ve had this DVD for several years now, go figure.)

    In biology, species procreate in the most efficient way possible. Along with the other movies in the series which show the Queen laying the eggs, it seems diametrically opposed to have humans become Facehuggers. That’s a redundant system of making eggs which isn’t efficient. Granted, humans becoming Facehuggers was actually first because it was a deleted scene in the original, but the Queen laying eggs has become a staple of the franchise.

    Also, how would you change the DNA of a human to make a Facehugger? How would you introduce acidity into their body function and change their DNA and shape when as a species humans weren’t made to be able to do those things. There are so many questions on a scientific level that I’m glad it was left out and left to the Queen to produce the eggs.

    To me, when considering what’s been posted above in the article itself and in the comments concerning less = more and scary =unknown, I tend to lean toward less = more and scary = plausible side. If something seems plausible, it makes it much more scary to me than something that isn’t believable. In my humble opinion, bees are a great example of what I’m trying to say. The Queen is born out of an egg, becomes the head of the colony, and lays eggs, as does the Alien Queen. It makes the Alien Queen laying eggs plausible and thereby very frightening because it’s something so normal that we’re used to which all of a sudden becomes an act that now invokes true horror.

    All this is just my two cents. In closing, thank you Courtney for a great article that has inspired great discussion without rancor. That’s something you don’t find on too many blogs today.

    1. Thanks for commenting! The genetic makeup of the organism is undoubtedly complex, and each films delves deeper and deeper into that. Obviously, there are some obvious loop holes and questions, but the overall concept is so fascinating AND terrifying.

    2. I dont know but how can a predator become an alien that opens like anything can become a alien does the predalien now have acid for blood does the alien then become part predator. Thats why I love the first two movies the rest are crap since if people are saying the alien queen is part human then why would the alien queen keep killing humans to survive since she can give birth now?

    3. I think they should have left the series alone or just stopped making it like humans are relations to the creature

    4. I never worry about scientific questions like that. It’s all magic. How does deep space travel work? Hypersleep? The Nostromo’s artificial intelligence or the utter realism of an android like Ash? You have no clue. And it doesn’t need to be explained—and the alien technology 𝘴𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥𝘯’𝘵 be explained. Ever read Lovecraft? We aren’t just dealing with a different species but a different form of existence whose biological functions are ordered by laws, needs, adaptations and environments that we cannot fathom. It’s one reason why I dislike this tendency to make prequels and origin stories for every goddamn movie. Ridley Scott is a genius, but he already made the definitive sci-fi horror movie. Like his fans, he needs to move on, because at best he’s just repeating himself…

      At worst, he’s competing with himself—and losing.

      1. well he ruined Alien! Ruined it with David now wanting to fuck himself and creating the alien with Shaw

  8. Well, as many people said, I believe the first one would make “Alien” looks like a B movie so, gret they got rid of it.
    But the second one… well in my opinion is the scariest moment in the hole plot. The noises captain Dallas made at the beggining really gives me the creeps, and the way he refuses to be rescued and just begs for death shows how terrible fate was his and all the other victims. Also I think this concept of the Xenomorph lifecicle WAY batter than the queen’s stuff. That would reduce them to bugs and he is not supposed to be a bug; it is the ultimate holywood version for lovecraftian horror… and what more lovecraftian than watching your friends reduced to cocoons, unable to see or to talk, moaning for death?

    1. It’s interesting what gets left on the cutting room floor, especially in a movie like this one. In most movies deleted scenes are just ‘filler’ that doesn’t add much substance, but the cocoon sequence adds a whole other level to the movie. Thanks for commenting!

    2. The film works better without Ripley revisiting the cocooned Dallas. When Parker and Lambert are killed, she and Jones are the last survivors. From that moment on, the movie is about her escape from the alien and a ship about to self-destruct. It’s all about Ripley, which was quite a surprise when the movie first appeared. It was not obvious she would be the final survivor, not obvious at all. It’s just her and us (and the alien) from there. Scott drains every last bit of suspense and dread he can during this sequence. Adding this detour with new information about the alien’s life-cycle and the fate of Dallas and Brett adds time but not tension to the final quarter of the movie—which is to say, it drains the tension like slamming on the brakes. It’s utterly irrelevant what happened to them—if the alien hadn’t killed them, the destruction of the Nostromo surely did. They’re gone, that is all we need to know. Revealing new things about the alien worked perfectly in the sequel, which is where it should stay.

      The original cut of ‘Alien’ remains its finest.

      1. Exactly. seeing that those two were still alive would have been a complete tension-killer

  9. Dallas and Brett should have just been plastered on the wall. Cocconed but NOT turned into eggs. That makes no sense when we know the queen makes the eggs so it was great it was deleted. Hell with today’s technology one could edit out the egg shape and just make them look like they were stuck on the wall like in Aliens.

  10. Well both scenes had to go for good reasons. Yes Lambert death scene extension is less tense, and very awkward. Keep in mind that sci-fi stories often did well throughout the decades because less is more. Somtimes too much techno-babble is less helpful. Sometimes in a horror film seeing the monster or understanding the monster outright takes away the fear. Each installment has to give us something not given in previous. That is why omitting cocoon scene from first Alien was a good choice. Less opportunity to explore the creature in future, shows us too much and would ultimately have made the sequel we know and love not exist. If I had that choice I would have deleted both scenes. Those edits on Alien preserved the franchise and the sequel Aliens made the story a film franchise. Though the sequels are hit or miss after 2, it is still a well liked franchise and will hopefully see new a entry or two that are as smart and well handled as the first two.

    1. Yeah I do think we should have seen bits and pieces because the reveal kinda sucked. For Dallas I didnt want to see it.

  11. I think the film works perfectly in its theatrical cut, but I really love the composition of the very first shot of Lambert’s alternate death scene—the light from behind the alien casting that lens flare; the curious, almost meditative pose; the erect phallus-head. As an isolated image, it’s gorgeous.

    1. yeah but why do people continously say she was raped? I believe the actress when she said Lambert tore her pants leg or clothes to get away from the monster in the air duct or a hole

  12. Great scenes to highlight. Lambert’s death, which is tied so closely with Parker’s, still is the most emotionally chilling of the film, for me. The two trapped by their own reactions to this creature, seemingly tied by fate to what will happen to them. Parker instinctively trying to break the terrible spell with his calls throughout to get Lambert to move away from the threat. Only making a move towards it, perhaps in hopes of getting her to break away through distraction, and merely offering a futile sacrifice by the scene end. So glad Scott left this one on the cutting room floor. Wonderful look at this.

    1. Thanks! Lambert’s frozen reaction would be my reaction, which makes it all the more relatable and terrifying. You’re rooting for at least one of them to escape, and it’s just not in their fate…

    2. well I agree with Veronica Cartwright she died of fright and she was trying to get in the crack in the wall thats why her pant leg or shirt get ripped.

      1. I have just rewatched the film again and now saw this post in a different light, you’re absolutely right that showing less is better… One of many reasons why Covenant is such fail for me.

  13. Always hated the eggmorphing scene because it completely destroys any mystery or suspense about the missing characters. Allowing the protagonist to see that those that were taken earlier are still alive is a complete tension killer, and a strict no-no in my book

  14. Out of all of them, the first ‘Alien’ is still the best.

    The scene where the xenomorph crawls along the floor does look like a man in a costume, so it should have been cut.

    However, if this scene had been made another way, perhaps using an animatronic mechanism to recreate non human type movement it could have been truly terrifying. It would have been an alien movement.

    Without Giger’s influence this film would be a generic sci-fi film. Scott was wise to use him.

    1. I agree with the floor alien but if it was cut up like you couldnt see everything I think it would have been more scary you know

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