Released in 1979, Alien was a film with a lasting impact for many young geeks. Hollywood was experiencing a mini-Renaissance of science fiction and the movie was grittier than most. Following the previous year’s awesome remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Tinseltown was learning that sci-fi could be truly horrifying too.
Alien was just Ridley Scott’s second film as a director, yet it managed to gain both critical acclaim and box office success, as well as launch Sigourney Weaver’s acting career. The movie made such an impact on American culture that it was added to the Library of Congress’s National Fim registry in 2002. Now, there’s a book from Voyageur Press that celebrates the making of this groundbreaking film.
Alien Vault is “the definitive story of the making of the film.” The book is 176 pages and comes in a nice slipcase to protect the contents inside, which is helpful because there are roughly a half dozen sleeves throughout the book that hold everything from miniature movie posters to blueprints of the Nostromo.
The pages describe the lengthy pre-production and provide early sketches of the alien before H.R. Giger‘s xenomorph was chosen. Also of interest are the considerable number of photos from the set, which illustrate Scott’s dedication to setting the mood of being adrift and alone in space and making the movie as realistic as possible. Of spectacular enjoyment is the telling of how the chestburster scene was filmed.
In addition to photographs from the set, the book is illustrated with storyboards from production, set sketches, Polaroids, and lots of Giger drawings. There’s also an appendix that provides a guide to the ship’s passengers, arranged in the order of their deaths, with special notes about differences to the characters in the director’s cut. And, finally, the book touches on sequels to the movie, but the consideration is only a glancing one.
There are plenty of new stories about the production, not found in other material before, but I’d stop short of endorsing the book as the definitive guide, since it doesn’t contain the high level of detail and interaction with the crew and cast that we’ve come to expect from truly definitive behind-the-scenes books. Still, there are enough stories, images and extra goodies to make Alien Vault worth the price of admission.
Disclosure: Geekdad received a review copy of this book.