Let Me Paint You a Picture

Movies were made to be shared

<i>Aliens</i>
Aliens

Seeing Other Cinemas

There was only one cinema in Macclesfield. As in most crumbling post-industrial towns in the north of England, entertainment choices were in short supply. The Majestic was an old-fashioned, family-owned picture house, with a single screen in a gently dilapidated auditorium and a sound system with the audio clarity of a tin can phone. If you did not like the one film showing that week, then tough luck. So when the management decided they would not be screening Aliens, I was gutted. Alien had been a near-mythical movie to me: One classmate of mine had taken a vacation to the U.S. in the summer of 1979 and had seen the original in a cinema. I had always wondered whether his stories about facehuggers and chestbursters were accurate, but, due to the unforgiving "no kids allowed" British film certification system, I had to wait until the film scuttled out on VHS like a dirty secret. Aliens was a chance for me to rewrite that unfairness and see H.R. Giger's Freudian nightmares on the big screen.

So my sister and I drove to the unknown territories of the Davenport theatre in Stockport, a whole 12 miles away. It almost felt like disloyalty: Practically every Friday since the first Star Wars film screened, I had handed my pocket money over to the Majestic. Sure, there had been some dalliances with the Cornerhouse in Manchester, but that was daytime, arthouse fare, and this was a Friday night movie. It was raining outside, so the roads were slippery and unnerving. Inside, the cinema was mostly empty, and the film was every bit as taut and gruesome and unpredictable as I had dreamed. One alien had been traumatic enough; this had dozens, and they were kicking the U.S. Colonial Marines' collective ass. This was the era of one-man armies, of Rambos and Top Guns. Yet when posturing poltroon Bill Paxton's Hudson squealed, "Game over, man – game over," that narrative imploded. This was subtly subversive cinema, and I loved it. When Sigourney Weaver's iconic Ripley took on the alien queen, she did not use her guns or grenades or flamethrower; she used a power loader. She was a blue-collar action hero, grabbing the first tool that came to hand like a sci-fi Rosie the Riveter. The film cracked open the idea of cinema for me: The idea that a sequel without a Jedi or a bullwhip-cracking archaeologist could be as good as the original was unprecedented enough. Years later I would hear that there were missing scenes, so waiting for the director's cut to arrive, complete with sentry guns and inseminated miners, felt like one major step toward understanding film. Still wish I could have seen it at the Majestic, though.


Aliens screens Thursday, July 7, 9:25pm, and Friday, July 8, 7pm.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Richard Whittaker
Hello to New Friends Again, Down in <i>Fraggle Rock</i>
Hello to New Friends Again, Down in Fraggle Rock
Behind the scenes on the revival of the beloved puppet show

Jan. 21, 2022

Riley Stearns Helps Karen Gillan Look Herself in the Eye in <i>Dual</i>
Riley Stearns Helps Karen Gillan Look Herself in the Eye in Dual
Riley Stearns' new sci-fi drama makes its world premiere at Sundance

Jan. 21, 2022

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle