I love movies.
Ever since a magical weekend where my father rented a laser disc player along with Superman 1, 2, Star Wars and Raiders of The Lost Ark, I’ve had a love of genre films. There’s something about the film making process that just seems like sorcery to me. Sure, I now know how it works but even still, it seems like so much work goes into putting a film together.
It’s because of this that I tend to love hear the stories behind the film making process. I’m the guy who buys the multiple disc sets of films. The Extended Lord of the Rings? Got’em. Escape from New York double disc set? Yep, watched it a million times. The 5 disc version Blade Runner that came in a replica briefcase? Sitting on my shelf.
But I have very few books on the subject. I tend to find them to be too factual based (I could care less what type of lens Carpenter used for the title sequence of Halloween) or too gossipy.
One of my favorite films of all time is Alien. I love the look of the film, the cast, the story, the whole nine yards and for Christmas, my sister got me the recently published Alien Vault, a look into the making of Alien.
There have been a rash of these “vault” books over the past two years. For those unfamiliar, they are kind of like scrap books; you get pull out maps, art work, replica postcards, etc and they are usually tied together in the book by a half-assed collection of thoughts on the making of the subject of the book. Do I really need another reprint of Action Comics #1 in one of these things?
Ian Nathan and publisher Voyageur Press however did a bang up job assembling this book. While Alien enthusiasts might not find much in the way of new information on the making of the film (if you have any version of the Alien quadrilogy and have watched the documentaries on Alien, it’ll be a familiar story) but the story of the film is well written if not a little brief. It runs at 176 pages and a good chunk of those are filled with pictures, art, etc. I did like the style of the writing (direct and to the point) and the fact it showed a lot of points of view, from director, producer and actors was also nice. Alien (like most of Scott’s films) was not without issues and the book does cover most of them even if it is briefly.
Where this book shines is it’s extra contents and how it’s packaged.
Not content with a few Giger postcards or pre-lim art, Alien Vault runs the whole table of goodies. There are schematics of the Nostromo, Giger art, Japanese film poster replicas, and much more all of which of been reproduced in a high quality manner. Other then the paper folds, a lot of the material would almost be suitable for framing. The book itself is a nice slipcase design and well constructed. The little folders that hold the extra materials do feel a little flimsy but I have yet to rip one. I’ve read in other reviews about how they wished there was more costume design stuff or there should have been more specs for the refinery but it really comes down to personal choice and for me Alien Vault had the right mix of extra materials.
Is this the best possible book about Alien there could be?
A lot of the photos in the book have been used before in other publications and there are a few things I’ve seen floating around the net that could have been added. Other pieces of the film’s story could have been gone into a little more in-depth as well. As just a side note, it does briefly mention the importance of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed Dune adaptation a little more in-depth then other books have and it really makes me want to see a book on that subject as well.
That being said, it’s a great book on the film and I’m pretty confident in saying that it’s probably the best book on Alien currently out there. If you have a love for the film, it’s worth picking up (currently on sale at Amazon.ca for $25.00)
Next week, I’ll try to do a whole column without mentioning Ridley Scott.