I recently saw the film Prometheus, by director Ridley Scott, who also directed the original Alien movie.  The alien worlds created in these films, are beautiful and yet disturbing to the extent that the background is as memorable as the characters or plot.  What you may or may not know is that designs conceived by Swiss artist H. R. Giger inspired the dark nightmarish beauty of these films.  In fact, Giger’s designs of the alien and extraterrestrial backgrounds won him the 1980 Oscar for the Best Achievement in Visual Effects for the film Alien.  In the recent film, Prometheus, Ridley Scott had H. R. Giger create several big murals for the backgrounds of various chambers revealed as the team explorers an alien moon.

H. R. Giger Birth MachineCredit: H. R. Giger

H.R. Giger’s art lives in the world of fantastic realism representing human bodies and machines in unexpected combinations often described as biomechanical.  His body of work includes drawings, painting, sculptures, and even furniture.  Necronomicon is a book of his monochromatic paintings published in 1977 which includes the painting, Necronom IV, which was the starting point for the alien’s design.  Actually, the print varies very little from the monster brought to life in the film.  H. R. Giger’s artwork is very dark, cold, and disturbing yet also beautiful making it utterly fascinating.  Apparently, Giger’s fears of worms, snakes, and the cellar of his childhood home gave him night terrors which in turn provided imagery for his works of art.

I think that the alien from Ridley’s Scott’s film of the same name is one of the most impressive and powerful monster creations that I have seen on film.  For that I give most of the credit to H. R. Giger.  He dictated that it should not have eyes so that you would not be able to tell if the alien was looking at you, and his creation of a second set of teeth that protrude out from inside the alien’s mouth was so uniquely terrifying and unforgettable.  Even with all the advances in special effects, I’ve yet to see anything that is as horrific and beautiful as what comes from H. R. Giger’s imagination.  If you view some of Giger’s artwork, you will quickly see how important a role his artwork played in making these films.

There is an unfortunate side note to the use of H. R. Giger’s artwork in the sequels to Alien.  Director James Cameron decided not to work directly with H.R. Giger on Aliens, as he felt he should put his own stamp on the project, greatly disappointing Mr. Giger.  Then, in Alien 3 Giger felt his creative input was not used as planned leading to a lawsuit with 20th Century Fox.  In addition, his name was not submitted to the Academy for his effects work on Alien 3.  Lastly, H.R. Giger was not credited at all in the film, Alien Resurrection even though the film still used the original designs of the four stages of the creature’s lifecycle.