In space, no one can hear you scream. We all know that. But on the radio, everyone can. To promote the 1979 release of Alien at London’s Odeon Leicester Square theater, 20th Century Fox created a series of haunting radio advertisements. It’s an obvious understatement to say that selling a film like this purely through audio was a challenge. These ads use music, snippets of dialogue and ominous sound effects ripped from the film to create a real sense of aural terror. Take a listen:
Over four decades later and Alien remains as haunting as ever (despite Ridley Scott‘s recent prequels, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, that seem determined to remove all the mystery from the saga). Listening to these ads is fascinating because no one was sure exactly how the movie would be received by audiences who were, at the time, more into the upbeat sci-fi of Star Wars than the grim nihilism that Alien offered up. With the benefit of hindsight we know how this turned out. But back in ’79, things could have been very different. Fortunately, audiences embraced Alien…and science fiction has never been the same since.
This article originally ran in 2019 and is being reprinted today as we celebrate Alien Day.