In space, no one can hear you scream plagiarism. A flood of imitators followed in the wake of Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi/horror masterpiece, from cheesy Italian gorefests to classic Roger Corman quickies. Here are five notable examples…
ALIEN 2: ON EARTH (1980)
There’s no place like Rome when it comes to cashing in on an American box office hit. This no budget Italian effort audaciously attempts to pass itself off as a sequel that brings the alien terror home, but it isn’t fooling anyone. A space shuttle returns to Earth minus its crew (cue NASA stock footage) and strange glowing rocks start appearing across California. Cut to an underground cavern where a group of cavers are picked off by a rubbery alien, before returning above ground for a daft climax in a bowling alley. Bearing little resemblance to Alien (aside from the cheeky title and a faceburster), this one’s an interminable bore.
Another from Italy, albeit much more fun. An abandoned cargo ship arrives in New York, its hold full of glowing melon-like eggs that cause human chest cavities to explode upon contact. No facehuggers required! The eggs turn out to be part of an insidious plot to take over the Earth by a Martian known as the ‘Alien Cyclops’, which is controlling the mind of a former astronaut. Full of splashy gore, a funky score by prog-rock group Goblin, ludicrous dialogue (”Help, there’s an egg!”), and a ridiculous rubber monster, Contamination fully deserves its status as a cult favourite. “Without the existence of Alien, we could not have made this movie at all,” says director Luigi Cozzi, who also gave us the cheesy Star Wars knockoff Star Crash. Bless him.
The title and the tagline – “A far from human birth”– reveal the agenda of this particular alien. This British production from B-movie merchant Norman J. Warren involves a team of archaeologists on a frozen planet, who unleash an alien horror that impregnates one of the crew (To Sir, with Love star Judy Geeson). She subsequently develops a taste for human flesh in order to nourish her alien twins, which emerge in the traditional way – no chestbursting here. Featuring lots of lurid lighting effects and a dreary synth score, Inseminoid is a better title than it is a film.
FORBIDDEN WORLD (1982)
Of course Roger Corman got in on the act, producing this insane Alien rip-off that also plays on the title of a certain 1950s sci-fi classic. On the remote planet of Xarbia, an experimental life form created to solve the galactic food crisis gets hungry and goes on the rampage, chomping through the crew while gradually transforming into a cheap likeness of you know what. Also known as Mutant, this guilty pleasure also features a loveable droid, ample nudity, and a truly bonkers solution to the alien threat. Pure Corman in other words.
Rival US and German companies competing for manufacturing materials find more than they bargained for on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Spoiler alert: they discover an alien creature. You can guess the rest. William Malone’s film not only rips off Alien – the monster is a clone of H.R. Giger’s iconic design – but also the ending of the original The Thing. But it does have a decent budget, exploding heads, and the legendary Klaus Kinski as a sleazy scientist. He’s more of a threat than the creature; groping the female astronauts and turning into a zombie.
For some authentic Alien action, check out Alien: Covenant in cinemas May 11.