The movie Alien, which came out in 1979, was a strange beast. Star Wars fever was still in the air and science fiction was huge with kids. You had your Battlestar Galacticas, your Buck Rogers, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Alien seemed like it was of a part with these, but it was rated R. It was a horror movie with tons of gore (or so it was said. By today’s standards it’s not terribly gory save for the chest-burster scene, and it doesn’t seem like it was any worse than the rest of the splatter-seventies) and something most kids, who wanted spaceships and alien landscapes and that amazing creature itself, wouldn’t be able to see. It was sci-fi but aimed at grown-ups, and that was weird.
But Kenner had the license, and they were going to give it a go. And we kids, even if we couldn’t get into the movie itself without a hat, trenchcoat, and friend, also gave it a go.
Probably the most famous of the Alien toys was the 18″ action figure itself. I can’t at all imagine my parents buying me this thing, yet I had one. It was amazingly detailed, had some cool features, and was totally out of scale with every other toy on the market, making it actually tough to play with. With nothing else for the 18″ Alien to interact with, you could only do the adventures of the Alien, and the Alien’s adventures consist of interacting with other people to kill them. By the time I was doing my own Doctor Who adventures with my Star Wars figures, though, the Alien had a role to play. He was — anyone want to take a guess? — that’s right, he was Sutekh the Destroyer.
For kids who wanted to know more about what this thing did in the movie, and take a little taste of the forbidden fruit itself, Kenner also had the Alien Movie Viewer. This hand-cranked viewer showed a couple minutes of looping scenes from the movie, including some pretty scary ones. (Note that the box above recommends it for ages 5 and up!) I was hoping someone would have digitized the contents and put them online, but no luck. There was also the comics adaptation, which was published by Heavy Metal, which was an “adult” magazine and may have also been out of the reach of kids. Topps had trading cards, though, which were easy to get hold of and also let one sort of experience the movie.
But the ultimate experience, short of seeing the actual movie (which HBO would eventually enable) was the apparently rare movie novel. I’ll go into more detail about “fotonovels” in a future entry, but this was a book with hundreds of photos from the movie and the dialogue running underneath. Once again, I have no idea how I got my hands on this thing (I did have an allowance by this point; maybe I saved up) an its departure was equally mysterious. It was just gone one day (and I believe it vanished while we were visiting my Aunt in Vidalia.) Just disappeared. I strongly suspect my mom found it, discovered its contents, and made it vanish, but I’ll never be able to confirm that.
I had all of these things, because for there to be a cool science fiction movie that I couldn’t go see was Not Fair.
When did I get it? During the Alien mania of 1979.
Do I still have it? None of it. I read the comics adaptation to shreds and recently re-bought it. I think I somehow broke my original 18″ Alien and when there was a similar re-release several years ago I bought one, but it went out with the Nerd Box. Never did replace the movie novel.