Thursday, November 14, 2013

In memory of Dan O’Bannon

That scene from Alien

While watching Alfonso Cuarón’s superb film Gravity, 2013's best film so far, I was struck by the way he paid his respects to other notable sci-films that preceded his, which is one of the reasons I revisited the movie Alien tonight. And watching it from the perspective of 34 years after it was made, I was struck by how dark it was, especially coming only two years after the far more optimistic Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The result I finally came to is that Dan O’Bannon, who conceived the story of and wrote the screenplay for Alien, never received the credit due to him. And I don’t know why that was so.

Screenwriter/director Dan O'Bannon
Well, maybe I do. I checked out O’Bannon’s bio on Wikipedia, and I found out he didn’t do all that much outside of Alien. Oh, he did write the screenplay for the 1990 version of Total Recall, which I also liked (and I guess he did too) as well as, somewhat earlier, John Badham’s Blue Thunder, which is also a guilty pleasure of mine (and a film Wikipedia tells me O’Bannon didn’t like because all of his political overtones were scrubbed from the final product).

He was also a director and his most notable achievement in that field was 1985's Return of the Living Dead, a movie that remains unseen by me for many reasons.

But even if he had done absolutely nothing else, O’Bannon would deserve a place in some science fiction-horror hall of honor just for Alien.

O’Bannon, suffered all his life from Crohn’s disease. If you’re not familiar with this, it is, again according to Wikipedia, "a type of inflammatory bowel disease that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract … and primarily causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting or weight loss." O’Bannon died from Crohn’s on Dec. 17, 2009. He was 63. It’s interesting to note that his battle with Crohn’s was the inspiration for the chest-busting scene in Alien.

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