OK, I have to admit I stole that line from my friend—he shrieked that his friend would “shit kittens” if she were to get her hands on the fancy boxed book Alien Vault. As it were, when I got ahold of a copy, I figured I would at least test its worth on a true Alien fan. So, I ordered pizza, and my friend came over with a copy of the movie. As we leafed through the book, we ended up so distracted by the photos and backstage stories that we almost forgot to re-watch the film itself.
Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film by Ian Nathan is one of those books that one might think only a true fan would love. However, I don’t think that is true. Any movie fan would appreciate such an ode to movie-making as this coffee-table centerpiece.
The book is full of behind-the-scenes photographs from the production of the film, like concept art, samples of illustrated storyboards, some of monster-mastermind H.R. Giger’s fantastic alien illustrations and models, and Polaroids of models of Ash’s gooey decapitated robot head. Mmmm… yummy. I was particularly taken with an image of beautifully lithe Bolaji Badejo, a Kenyan mime discovered in a bar who became the alien’s creepily graceful physical actor.
A couple nitpicky notes: The book contains a handful of “enclosures”—aka pockets that contain documents that are folded and tucked into the book. In theory, this is a nifty idea as you can pull out a print of an artistic Giger alien painting, or a blueprint of the ship the Nostromo, or a reprint of a Japanese film poster. But the thing is, most unfold to be only a little larger than the opened book, which kind of defeats the purpose. Also, with the folds, the folded documents end up not exactly suitable for framing.
The layout of the book is fantastic, and the writing is high quality. But, major oops, actress Veronica Cartwright’s name is spelled inconsistently throughout the book as “Cartright”, including, bam!, right there in a pulled quote on page 70. Since several reproductions of the original movie poster are included with the cast list clear enough to read, you’d think someone would notice this major gaffe. Kind of sloppy, kids!
Super-hardcore Alien geeks may clench their fists in frustration at such nitpicky issues in the book… But shoot, as a casual fan of the film, I found Alien Vault to be a fascinating peek at the all the creative work the went into the first true classic sci-fi horror film.