The Chestburster scene in Ridley Scott’s “Alien” is a testament to the power of practical effects. While speaking with Empire, the filmmakers revealed that the scene was created using a puppet and animatronic chest, which they attached to actor John Hurt. However, the creators weren’t overly impressed by the prosthetics of the time period, so they acquired various animal innards to ensure the scene was extra gross.
“Once the creature was rigged up, they stuffed the chest cavity full of organs from the butcher’s shop,” screenwriter Dan O’Bannon recalled. “Then they ran a couple of big hoses to pump the stage blood. During all this, Ridley moved about, tending to the finest detail. I remember easily half an hour was spent with him draping this little piece of beef organ so it would hang out of the creature’s mouth.”
What’s more, the actors didn’t expect the sequence to work out as well as it did. Veronica Cartwright, who plays Lambert in the film, told Empire that she didn’t have to act to convey her character’s fear. The puppet bursting out of the animatronic chest and spraying goo everywhere caused her to have a visceral reaction on the set. The sudden shock even made her hit the floor, but she can appreciate the funny side of her reaction now that it’s all in the past.