Checked out Tony Scott’s The Hunger for the first time in lovely HD, then watched his brother Ridley’s Alien on blu-ray the same night for a SCOTtober double-feature.

The Hunger (1983)

Cool looking movie with Nic Roegian editing – and I noticed this before listening to Tony Scott’s commentary, where he admits to being Roeg-obsessed. Scott worked in commercials, and brings their slick-as-snails visuals to a noirish vampire flick, opening with a Bahuaus video intercut with agitated lab monkeys. If that sounds like something that might not fly with the public, it apparently didn’t.

The eternally-youthful Catherine Deneuve is a centuries-old vampire living with true love David Bowie. Bowie seems like perfect casting for a vampire movie, but something goes wrong and he starts rapidly growing older (it’s perverse to hide Bowie under age-makeup), trying at the last minute to get help from blood specialist Susan Sarandon, and eating a neighbor kid (soap star Beth Ehlers) in a panic.

Aged Bowie:

Master vampire Deneuve is used to this sort of thing, stashes Bowie in the attic with the other aged corpses of former lovers, and begins seducing Sarandon. But Dr. Susan is too self-aware for vampire life, kills herself, and the zombie lovers rise up to destroy Catherine.

No fangs – our vampires use ankh-shaped knives to bleed their victims. A bit too many slow-motion doves flying but mostly the style works in the movie’s favor. Not according to Ebert, who called it “agonizingly bad” but enjoyed the sex scene. Played out-of-competition at Cannes, where Bowie’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence was competing with L’Argent, The King of Comedy and Nostalghia.

Scott later directed two episodes of the 1990’s anthology horror series The Hunger, hosted by Bowie. Enjoyed seeing Dan Hedaya as a cop but I missed Willem Dafoe’s cameo. Sarandon’s lab coworker Rufus Collins had previous vampire-film experience in Warhol’s Batman Dracula, and her other coworker Cliff De Young starred in Pulse and Dr. Giggles. Writer Whitley Streiber explored werewolves in Wolfen and aliens in Communion.

Alien (1979)

Has that Star Trek: The Motion Picture tendency to slowly bask in its models and space effects. The creature puppets weren’t as dodgy-looking as I remember them (though there’s such a bad edit right before Ian Holm’s disembodied head starts talking).

Spaceship control room looks like a sound booth with Christmas lights:

After watching this and Prometheus on blu-ray within a couple months of each other, I don’t get why people think there needs to be more connection between the two – one seems to be referencing the other pretty clearly to me.

There’s this thing:

And this guy:

And dudes who touch things they should not be touching:

And an android who does not appear to have everyone’s best interests at heart (his orders end with “crew expendable”).

You don’t think of Tom Skerritt as being the first-billed star of Alien, but I guess Weaver was an unknown at the time (or they didn’t want to telegraph who will survive from the opening credits). Veronica Cartwright had been in Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake the year before. Harry Dean Stanton doesn’t do much horror but Wise Blood and Fire Walk With Me might count. Yaphet Kotto starred in Larry Cohen’s Bone and lived through Freddy’s Dead. And John Hurt has appeared in Hellboy, Only Lovers Left Alive, and something called The Ghoul.

Runaway train movie. Surprisingly there’s no evil plan by a criminal mastermind to steal the train for terroristic purposes, just an incredibly dumb move by Ethan “It’s Not a Schooner” Suplee that sets a train with explosive cargo at full throttle with no driver or brakes.

Suplee, typecast as an idiot:

The final of around 20 features Tony Scott made. I saw a string of his 90’s movies: The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, then tried to avoid him, but after his death Mubi cranked the level of their Scott-appreciation posts to unavoidable levels (see: my rant at the top of Death Race) so I reluctantly rented this for a memorial screening. Verdict: he’s very good at putting together a high-energy sweeping-camera-movements action scene with lots of blur-motion without sacrificing clarity – a rare and valuable skill. But it’s impossible to watch his particular brand of straightfaced action after seeing Hot Fuzz, which perfectly parodies this sort of thing. And despite the skill behind the camera and two top-notch lead actors, it’s pretty slight for a big action film: the nearly-real-time, based-on-true-events story of a veteran and a rookie train operator who manage to stop a runaway train.

Also there are lots of helicopters:

Denzel Washington and Chris Pine are earnest characters who we want to succeed (yay!), watched closely (via TV news coverage) by Denzel’s daughters and Chris’s estranged wife. Their manager Rosario Dawson and a helpful inspector (Kevin Corrigan, Jerry Rubin in Steal This Movie) and a truck-drivin’ dude named Ned are risking lives or careers trying to help stop the disaster (yay!) while some corporate boss (Kevin Dunn, Shia’s shameful dad in the Transformers movies) tries to minimize financial risk to the train company (boo!) and Schooner Suplee (boo!) prays his blunder won’t kill thousands of people.

From the writer of the fourth Die Hard and the Total Recall remake.