For this article, we are going to take a quick look at Brett's original death scene. This article has been updated and redone after a small conversation over on the AVPGalaxy forums which re-sparked my interest in the scene. First, let's take a look at two of the earlier planned deaths for Brett.
Originally the Alien appears behind Brett, upon turning around the Alien stares at him and then strikes Brett's chest removing his heart. The others find Brett, and they see the hole which resembles the hole through the chest of the Space Jockey. This scene was Ridleygrammed.
"Also, at this time I didn't have the alien take Brett away. I wanted it to remove his heart. When the others find him and turn him over, there's a huge cavity in his chest, reminiscent of the hole in the Space Jockey. But that was too much like Kane's death, so we eventually changed it."
- Ridley Scott, Fantastic Films -- © 1979 James Dolan
After the false alarm with the cat on the tracker, it begins to beep again. Thinking it's the cat, they continue to track it. They end up near an airlock, nets poised; they get ready. Neither of them notices the movement above them in the airlock when suddenly the creature leaps down and grabs Brett pulling him closer and snapping his spine. Ripley and Parker turn in time to witness the creature bolt down the companionway with Brett's writhing body.
Originally, Brett's death was much more graphic to what we see on film. What Ridley had in mind from the start was to have the alien curled up, unfold then swoop down and quickly hoist Brett up into the shaft. However, during the shooting of the scene, Ridley had other ideas.
"Ridley brought me onto the stage and said: 'I want Brett to get it now, but I just don't want the creature to dart out and menace him to start with. I'd rather have it reach out and sort of caress his head -- almost kind of inquisitive at first. Then you see it squeeze up, and blood starts running down Brett's face, and it cracks his head open.' So we ended up doing it almost on the spur of the moment. We ran blood tubes up into Harry Dean Stanton's cap and through his hair. Then, when the alien started squeezing, we started pumping, and the blood ran out and down his face."
-- Nick Allder,Cinefex 1 -- © 1980 Don Shay
As Brett turns around the creatures, tail goes between his legs and up to his back. The end of the tail pushes into Brett edging him forward as the Alien begins to open its mouth and in a curious, fashion goes for his head. Once the creature has Brett's head it begins to squeeze causing blood to spurt. The alien then takes Brett up into the shaft just as Ripley and Parker run in to witness the creature taking him away.
"Not all the changes came about just in the script.The final cut of the film dropped several terrifying scenes. Walt Simonson who saw the rough cut of the movie before he drew the illustrated story for 'HEAVEY METAL BOOKS' told us in an interview about several blood-curdling scenes that were axed. When Brett first stumbled into the adult alien, he was shocked at its size.The adult alien has a mesmerising effect on its prey,like a snake hypnotising its meal. The alien slowly moved towards the paralysed Brett. It's long tail slithered between Brett's legs and up behind the human.On the end of the tail was a spike,which it drove into Brett's back.At the same time, it's talons reached out and grabbed Brett's head, squeezing it open with its strength.The tongue expanded from its mouth and then slammed into Brett's face."
-- Space Wars collectors edition-- © 1980 Mark Mathews
Thanks to Elmazalman from AVPGalaxy for the above quote.
Here's some production photos of the scene:
Photos from AVPGalaxy
What's interesting is that only a partial segment of the tail scene survived the editing process and was used during Lambert's death scene.
Scene used during Lambert's death
A lot of the Alien was filmed during this scene. Shots of the creature unfolding into a crucifix type position before swooping down towards Brett were filmed as well as close-ups of the alien rising up above Brett and the opening of the creature's mouth
A lot of footage shot of the alien was unused due to showing to much of the creature. Ridley was trying to avoid the problem of showing a man in a rubber suit so it was decided to use the less is more tactic when showing the alien to the audience.
Another idea Ridley had, which was abandoned was giving the creature's brain some movement. For this, Ridley used white maggots but the heat from the lights caused the maggots to sleep.
"At one stage, I wanted to have a kind of subtle movement in the creature's brain, so I thought maybe we could fill a pocket in the cranium with white maggots and let them crawl around in there. Even Giger went 'Eeyuk!' at the one. But I decided to try it, so I had these huge tins of maggots brought in. We couldn't make it work, though, because the heat from the lights would put the bloody things to sleep and they'd just lie there like spaghetti. We tried using Spanish fish -- which look kind of like wireworms -- but they went to sleep, too. So finally I had to give up..."
-- Ridley Scott, Cinefex 1 -- © 1980 Don Shay
When first hearing of the Directors cut in 2003, I was hoping some of Brett's original death might have made it back in. Sadly, none of the head crushing scenes made it in.