There is a movie that I really like, I might even consider a favorite, but I can not make myself watch it that often. It’s one of those movies that you need to be in the right mood for, and that mood is unfortunately one of absolute lonesome terror where I don’t mind seeing a phallic looking monster explode out of someone’s chest. In case you are not picking up the subtle hint, I am talking about Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror classic, “Alien.” A film that would inspire many others after, as well as comics and video games, the original “Alien” used the groundwork laid out by Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and took things to a new level that made an unforgettable experience where, unlike in space, everyone will hear you scream when you watch it. If you are like me and want to get to know the behind-the-scenes story of this great movie, Quarto Publishing has you in mind with their book, “Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film.”
Written by Ian Nathan, who has also written the definitive textbook on the history behind the original Terminator movie and it’s sequel, this 176-page tome chronicles the entire process of creating this movie, which in 1979 was quite the feat. The amount of physical effects that had to be used along with the highly-detailed set and costume designs combined with the vision of Ridley Scott and his team led to a movie that created a new type of fear for the viewer and ultimately, a whole new genre for horror. Nathan’s research and interviews give us new insight on the stories that led to so many memorable moments on film.
The book is filled with added inserts, like posters of H.R. Giger’s artwork, pages of the original script, behind the scenes polaroids, international promo posters, and so much more. I love any book that includes extra bonuses like this, giving me something to read and something to hang on my wall after I am done. It feels like the book has helped me become a production assistant on the set, and I am part of the film crew that is making this epic space scare.
All of the questions you ever had about the movie are answered here. This includes the real reason that the aliens have acid blood, how they shot the chest-burster scene and how genuine the actors reactions were (hint: VERY), and who wore the alien suit. Hearing how the actors formed a true unit behind the scenes and their stories of working together showed how much these actors bonded and why they worked together so well on camera. I don’t want to ruin too much, but I really enjoyed the sections on Ripley’s character, especially with what was cut from the movie that you should read and I should do my best not to spoil.
One of my favorite elements of this book is all of the production artwork. I am a nut for production art, especially concept art and storyboards, and this book delivers on all fronts. While there are plenty of gorgeous full-color photos on set, it is hard not to love the work done by Moebius, Ron Cobb, Dan O’Bannon, and of course H.R. Giger. This movie would be nothing without the creative minds that propelled the ideas that Scott had and took it to a new level that he most surely did not expect. This is a movie about design as much as it is about fear, and the stage was set with every piece of the puzzle that the design team crafted.
You can order “Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film” on Amazon.com for around $20, and is an absolute steal at that price. Film making is an enigma, especially when it comes to creating intricate scenes with physical effects, and this book breaks it all down for us, as well as giving us the human element with the cast and crew who made this movie happen. This book is for any fan of the “Aliens” movies, as well as movie buffs in general whether you plan on becoming a part of Hollywood or just enjoy watching a great film.
It looks like I am going to have to put on my “big boy pants” and watch this movie again, now that I have a newfound sense of what went on behind the scenes. Will it make things any less scary for me? Probably not, and I certainly hope not, but knowing the story behind the story will give me a whole new way to admire this film.