Book Review: ALIEN VAULT
Jonathan Stryker (Facebook);
Oct 3, 2012 - 4:00:00 AM
Scott's ALIEN (1979) is one of those movies that I just never get tired
of. It is a film that I love
unconditionally because it not only is one of the few films that makes me feel
as though I am in outer space, but also because it is a perfectly made
film. The advertising campaign is one of
the most genius marketing schemes ever devised for a motion picture.
was too young to see ALIEN at the Menlo Park Twin Cinema where it opened, in
addition to 90 other movie theater screens, on Friday, May 25, 1979, before
opening to a wider 635 theaters four weeks later. My parents were not the type of people to
take me to see an R-rated science-fiction film as I was only ten and-a-half
years-old. I look back at this now as a
good thing, because as a sensitive child the movie would've given me a heart
attack. I was expecting ALIEN to be a
film along the lines of STAR WARS and apparently, so did toy manufacturers who
released board games, viewmaster clips from the film, posters, puzzles, and an
eighteen-inch plastic doll replica of the titular monster that is widely
considered to be the scariest toy ever marketed to children, and today commands
hundreds of dollars on Ebay. Someone at
Kenner failed to get the memo from Fox that ALIEN was an adult science fiction
are few films that I have ever seen that have affected me as deeply as
ALIEN. Anybody who has seen it cannot
deny the film's sheer, raw power. Is
there another film, with the possible exception of William Friedkin's THE
EXORCIST (1973) or Steven Spielberg's JAWS (1975), both of which, like ALIEN,
deal with a seemingly uncontrollable force, that has elicited such strong and
quite literally gut-wrenching responses from audiences?
didn't see ALIEN until the summer of 1983.
It was on a home video system called Capacitance Electronic Disc which
was manufactured by RCA. The movie was
essentially pressed into grooves on a 12-inch disc like a standard long-playing
record. The disc was housed in a plastic
caddie to protect it from human hands, much like the alien incubating inside
Kane (sorry, couldn't resist), and I spent the entire summer watching this and
other movies that quickly became favorites.
For some reason, the image of the egg was reversed on the cover.
retrospect, ALIEN is no different than its classic predecessors in that the
great fright films of our time were all badly or poorly received upon their
initial theatrical releases. To think
that ALIEN was brushed off by some critics almost makes you want to call them
out for being film snobs. Bosley
Crowther believed that Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO belonged in a toilet; John
Carpenter's HALLOWEEN was, in his own words, universally across-the-board
panned by every reviewer who saw it; even THE SHINING (1980) was met with
lukewarm responses. In the end it didn't
matter what the critics thought, because the best advertisement for ALIEN, even
more so than its brilliant tagline and equally chilling trailers and movie
poster art, would be the throngs of people waiting outside the theater trying
to get tickets to see the film.
that Ridley Scott directed PROMETHEUS, which is due for release on home video this
month, it is only fitting that we revisit his classic 1979 chiller. Super-ALIEN fan Ian Nathan, executive editor
at Empire Magazine, recently penned ALIEN VAULT, a book which boasts itself as
the definitive story of the making of the film.
While it is considerably smaller than the glorious "making of"
books on STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK by J.W. Rinzler, it is no less
audacious in its quest to act as a biography of the film itself. Ian knows this film inside-out.
VAULT is a definite must-have for fans of Ridley Scott's science-fiction masterpiece. While it covers material that is already
familiar to die-hard fans, it is still well worth the purchase. Starting with the late Dan O'Bannon, ALIEN
VAULT is an extraordinarily well-written account of the process of bringing
this brilliant film to fruition. This is
a very neatly put together affair that describes the main people involved in
the making of the film, crew members from the far corners of the world who came
together with their own perceptions, ideas, and pre-conceived notions about what
this film should be like, and how they were all put into a pot and mixed
together by director Scott to produce one of the most iconic and ultimately
most frightening motion pictures of our time, unequalled in this scribe's
access to Fox's archive of unpublished photos, in addition to his accumulation
of interviews over the past ten years, author Nathan has compiled a book that
cannot be experienced in digital format: there are pull-outs and pop-ups the
give the reader a deeper understanding of just how complex an undertaking
making this film was. Author Nathan
wanted this book to be the celebration of the experience of holding a physical
book in your hands.
The book has gone out of print fairly quickly, but
copies can be had from Amazon.com,
and Noble, and Ebay.
There is also a terrific website, Last Exit to Nowhere, that
features t-shirts based on fake corporations in genre films, and it features
logo designs based on the Nostromo and The Company, Weyland-Yutani:
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