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The Alien Vault by Ian Nathan

1/09/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy The Alien Vault in the USA - or Buy The Alien Vault in the UK

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pub: Aurum Press. 175 page illustrated hardback in slipcase. Price: GBP30.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84513-667-3.

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It’s always a bit worrying when authors admit to being too young to see a film the first time around and then write a book on the subject. At my age, I’ve seen many films the first time around, not to mention owning the books associated with them. ‘Alien’ included, so I know a lot about the subject.

‘The Alien Vault’ has to be an automatic sell to anyone with the slightest interest in the 1985 film. A book containing bits and bobs from and about the film as well as a selection of photos I haven’t seen before, many from behind the scenes, is a sure-fire winner. It’s also contained in a slipcase so it’s a book you’ll give a lot of respect to. Don’t be too hasty to leave it on your coffee table because it would also be a sure bet that your so-called friends aren’t likely to return the book to you in a hurry.

OK, so let’s pick out some highlights.
There’s an interesting photo on page 45 showing the the cyrochamber facing the door, mostly to show Lambert (actress Veronica Cartwright) with white tape covering her nipples as a studio directive to ensure no nudity or miss being shown in five countries. Saying that, there was a photo in the ‘Alien: The Illustrated Screenplay’ book showing Sigourney Weaver barely covered by similar tape, so this is the matching photo. If you watch the scene closely, you can match Lambert’s position to the photo and the places of the rest of the crew. Still a puzzle why Dallas is furthest from the door. I mean, it isn’t like they were expecting anyone to come through the door, is it? You would have thought the captain would be the first up, not his first officer, but then, he probably gets paid what’s in the contract, like everyone else. Speaking of strip-tease, Ripley would also have been more naked on the Narcissus except for American puritan attitudes at the time, too, according to director Ridley Scott.

Odd facts discovered was the docking ring of the Nostromo was made from the spare R2-D2 feet. A blueprint of the Nostromo, made after the film and probably after ‘Aliens’, lists the initials of all the crew except Ash.

One puzzle that has been resolved is what happened to Kane’s inner helmet between wearing it on entering the alien ship and his arrival back on the Nostromo and his space helmet removed and the facehugger on his face. Seems Ridley Scott wanted the alien ship to have a breathable atmosphere and then had second thoughts which turned into a continuity glitch. Mind you, the real problem would have been how do they put Kane’s space helmet back on over the facehugger which sticks out through its visor so it was probably the right choice, except putting back on the inner helmet. If he had it on, who would have known which actor was behind the facehugger? Looking at the film again, Kane’s inner helmet was loose so maybe it got pushed off back into the helmet when the facehugger made its egg-laying kiss.

I’m not sure if I agree with writer Ian Nathan’s remarks that the Nostromo was working against the crew and Ripley by not turning off the automatic detonation. If MU/TH/UR was doing that then it wouldn’t have allowed the detonation to happen in the first place.
Something that is interesting is Ridley Scott’s choice of cast of people not readily associated with being in Science Fiction as in turn, they themselves have become the stereotypes of modern SF films. Would we have had, amongst others, the likes of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’, Samantha Carter in ‘Stargate SG-1’ and Aryn Sun in ‘Farscape’ without Ripley? There is a lot of information on how Sigourney Weaver joined the cast, loved to have seen her in those boots, but as she was in all four films that should be expected. The information, not the boots, that is.

Although it isn’t given explicitly, have a look at the Nostromo registration number on their emblem and think date. There’s a bevy of alternative ‘Alien’ posters before the egg one, including one that looks like it was based off the second ‘Invasion Of The Body Snatchers’.
I did find it amusing how much the Americans were wimps at the test screening. We British and bear in mind we didn’t know what to expect when we had it shown in the UK just got on with enjoying the experience. Ridley Scott’s ‘false ending’ was something that was probably designed for us. Over here, we regularly had people leaving before the film credits to avoid the ‘rush’. They still did with ‘Alien’ which meant they ended up having to come back again.

Two books were missing from the almost comprehensive bibliography is the ‘Alien Movie Novel’ and the aforementioned ‘Alien: The Illustrated Screenplay’ but then chicken teeth are more common and with one of them, a lot cheaper. Even so, this is where age has its advantage and Ian Nathan should have recorded that one of the Space Jockey models was burnt in a fire at the film premiere display. There were a couple books I’ve missed also and judging by how one of these has suddenly vanished off a certain river long seller on the Net suggests I’m not alone amongst the reviewers out there picking up a copy – I’ll fit in a review once I’ve had a chance to read it.

Despite minor criticisms, this is actually a very good book and I hope Aurum intend to do more film based books like this one to maintain the momentum. Be warned, after reading this book, you’ll want to watch ‘Alien’ again and that can’t be a bad thing.

GF Willmetts

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