01/07/2012. Contributed by Andy Whitaker
pub: Titan Books. 112 page softcover. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-85286-483-5) .
check out website: www.titanbooks.com
With the release of Sir Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus' film there has been renewed interest in the original film that sparked all the fuss: 'Alien'. 'The Book Of Alien' is a movie tie-in to the 'Alien' film and provides an insight into the creation of the story and the film. It was originally published by Star in the UK in 1979 so it is quite an old book and a useful reminder of how far camera technology and special effects has developed in those thirty years.
The book describes the processes involved from the original idea through to the final shooting of the film. There are interviews with all the main players, including Dan O'Bannon, H.R. Giger and, of course, Ridley Scott. It describes the initial beginnings of the idea behind 'Alien' and how this idea changed over time as different people became involved. There are lots of original conceptual artwork included which help you to get an understanding of how peoples thoughts of the look and feel of elements of the story evolved over time. The spaceship Nostromo features heavily but so does the alien creature. The use of concept artwork is mixed with shots from the actual film and photographs taken of the sets and cast. Many of the photographs are in black and white, which adds to the brooding atmosphere.
As the 'Alien' film makes extensive use of visual special effects, there are useful passages describing how specific effects were created. It highlights the skill and ingenuity of the backroom team as they created everything from sets to costumes and models. The moment when the alien bursts from John Hurt's body is described in detail and hints that there were a few trial runs in the workshop before they did the one and only take with the cast. It seems the special effects guys were initially over-enthusiastic with the blood and guts in the early trials and had to reduce it for the final version we see on film.
One area that could have been expanded was how the actors were selected for the roles. This is barely mentioned in the text if at all for some roles. While talking about the bad points, the book layout seems wrong. It looks to my untrained eye like the copy sent to the printers was in one format (US Legal perhaps?) but printed in another with no reformatting. This has resulted in the bottom of the pages being cropped. There are no page numbers, some pages have photographs or pictures cropped at the bottom while in written passages the text is laid out to the very bottom of the page with perhaps a 2 millimeter margin. It also uses a very coarse font, which does not help. Also detracting from the content is the poor quality paper used. It is very thin and just turning a page can crease it.
However, this book has a lot of interesting facts and provides an interesting insight on what was required to get a film created in the 1970's. It would have benefited from being revamped, reformatted and then re-released to cash in on interested generated by Prometheus but as it is, you do get a lot of fantastic artwork and history for £ 9.99.
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