Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas (dir. Wim Wenders, 1984)

Harry Dean Stanton has been a prominent presence in American cinema for sixty years. In the early days he haunted the margins of classic films like Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II (1974) where we glimpse him playing pool, or sitting behind Frankie Pentangeli during an FBI hearing. He is unforgettable as the grumbling engineer in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), “right”? And it didn’t take long for this masterful character actor to find his way to the forefront. My favourite Stanton performance is his role as the lead in Wim Wenders’ 1984 film Paris, Texas. But there are also noteworthy appearances in several David Lynch projects: from Wild at Heart (1990), Twin Peaks: Fear Walk With Me (1992), to the ailing brother in The Straight Story (1999), to his appearance in the wilfully bizarre short film The Cowboy and the Frenchman (1988). And that’s to say nothing of his work with directors like John Huston or Martin Scorsese. An impressive body of work. Happy birthday!

Save

In his critical introduction to the Gothic, Fred Botting explores how Ridley Scott’s films engage with its major themes and motifs…
Sigourney Weaver and Ridley Scott on the set of Alien (1979)
Sigourney Weaver and Ridley Scott on the set of Alien (1979)

In Alien (1979) other Gothic associations are brought to the fore. The wrecked alien spaceship and the bleak planet suggest the gloom, ruin and awful desolation of Gothic architecture and landscape. The coded message the spaceship transmits is not a distress signal, but a warning which goes unheeded by the human cargo ship that attends the call. Unaware of the dangers that their employers, another sinister and powerful corporation, have put them in, the crew are unwitting victims of their attempt to secure the power and profit of possessing such an efficient and utterly inhuman killing machine. The horror of the alien lies not only in its lethal power: its parasitical mode of procreation, using human bodies as hosts, means that it is a threat that emerges from within. (more…)