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BOOK DETAILS
Released
08 September 2011
Author
Ian Nathan
Publisher
Aurum Press

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Alien Vault


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Review
“In space, no-one can hear you scream.” Even your mum knows what movie this tagline is from. So imagine how differently things might have turned out with these first-draft poster slogans: “Think the unthinkable. Speak the unspeakable. Suffer the insufferable.” Or, “Please listen, mankind, you have so little time.” Or even, “The universe trembles.” Such fascinating ephemera is littered throughout Alien Vault, quite simply the best book about Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi monster mash-up masterpiece to date. Written by Ian Nathan, who has jumped from the good ship Empire to the doomed ship Nostromo (registration no. 180286 — that’s the level of nerdvana the book attains), this is an impeccably researched, beautifully written and lavishly illustrated romp through the Ripleyverse. Its joys are simple to define but difficult to pull off. It takes something you know so well, love so deeply, then turns its insides out. Which couldn’t be more apt, really.

The challenge facing Alien Vault is that it is pitted against one of the most comprehensive, compelling set of DVD extras imaginable. Yet Nathan doesn’t merely rehash the same stories; instead he not only finds fresh meat (especially in the origins of the project), but interprets and extrapolates from the established ‘making of’ mythology, building up a vivid picture of how the movie actually came together. Nathan also draws out the truths within the tall “In space, no-one can hear you scream.” Even your mum knows what movie this tagline is from. So imagine how differently things might have turned out with these first-draft poster slogans: “Think the unthinkable. Speak the unspeakable. Suffer the insufferable.” Or, “Please listen, mankind, you have so little time.” Or even, “The universe trembles.” Such fascinating ephemera is littered throughout Alien Vault, quite simply the best book about Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi monster mash-up masterpiece to date. Written by Ian Nathan, who has jumped from the good ship Empire to the doomed ship Nostromo (registration no. 180286 — that’s the level of nerdvana the book attains), this is an impeccably researched, beautifully written and lavishly illustrated romp through the Ripleyverse. Its joys are simple to define but difficult to pull off. It takes something you know so well, love so deeply, then turns its insides out. Which couldn’t be more apt, really.

The challenge facing Alien Vault is that it is pitted against one of the most comprehensive, compelling set of DVD extras imaginable. Yet Nathan doesn’t merely rehash the same stories; instead he not only finds fresh meat (especially in the origins of the project), but interprets and extrapolates from the established ‘making of’ mythology, building up a vivid picture of how the movie actually came together. Nathan also draws out the truths within the tall tales that have been embellished over 32 years of retelling. The story begins with a gripping reportage-y account of shooting the chestburster — you can practically smell the offal doubling as Kane’s guts cooking under the studio lights — yet the myths surrounding the scene, like the one that the cast didn’t know what was happening, are royally punctured. This mixture of passion and clear thinking permeates the whole book.

As you would expect, every bit of Alien backstage lore is explored to the nth degree. The previous screenplay incarnations (Dan O’Bannon’s script had the Nostromo crew called Chaz Standard, Dell Broussard, Cleave Hunter), the crew dynamics (Scott would literally go out of his way to avoid a verbose Yaphet Kotto), the making of the monster (Scott considered strapping child contortionists to a man in a suit to act as the creature’s moveable extremities) and the reaction to the finished film (at an Academy screening, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty “screamed like little boys”) are all given fresh and thorough examination. Yet at every turn Nathan adds different dimensions. While this ostensibly is a ‘making of’ book, few behind-the-scenes journals evince quite so vividly the experience of watching the film, whether you saw it on video aged 14, as Nathan did, or if you’re an academic trawling it for psychoanalytic readings (Sigourney Weaver apparently keeps all the academic articles, especially those from Europe). There is food for thought — Alien is actually a period film. Discuss. — and close analysis — Alien is a film of “fateful awakenings”. Discuss. — on show that will enliven your next viewing of the film tenfold.

Produced with the full co-operation of 20th Century Fox, the studio archive has been opened up to reveal a welter of great unseen on-set images, Polaroids, script pages, Scott’s intricately detailed storyboards (aka Ridleygrams), and beautiful reproductions of the holy trilogy of Alien’s concept designers: H. R. Giger’s monster concepts, Chris Foss’ spacecraft and Moebius’ samurai-styled spacesuits. Yet the jewels in the crown are the reproduced artefacts enclosed in envelopes; from the Nostromo schematics, Space Jockey artwork to alternative posters, they bring the movie to life in a way a Kindle or a DVD extra could never do. Indispensable stuff.


Reviewed by Ian Freer


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Average user rating for Alien Vault (2011)
Empire Star Rating

Well that's my wishlist sorted for Father Christmas.

Looks like a very in depth book, looking foward to reading up on how Woodruff, Jr. & Gillis came up with the alien designs. Will say this though EMPIRE, this review must have one of the biggest typos I've ever come across! Shouldn't be hard to spot, just read the first two paragraphs. ;) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by LaughingNabashin at 20:35, 12 September 2011 | Report This Post


Well that's my wishlist sorted for Father Christmas.

Looks like a very in depth book, looking foward to reading up on how Woodruff, Jr. & Gillis came up with the alien designs. Will say this though EMPIRE, this review must have one of the biggest typos I've ever come across! Shouldn't be hard to spot, just read the first two paragraphs. ;) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by LaughingNabashin at 20:35, 12 September 2011 | Report This Post


Well that's my wishlist sorted for Father Christmas.

Sorry, accidentally refreshed the page 3 times hence the multiple posts. Guess we all make mistakes, eh? :P ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by LaughingNabashin at 20:35, 12 September 2011 | Report This Post


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