5 Essential Books About the Alien Movie
?The Alien’s had a rough time of it recently. He hasn’t had his own movie since 1997. In fact, two of his four movies — a full 50% — kind of suck. He’s been stuck in double-billing with Predator in the not-good-at-all Alien Vs. Predator movies. And his one shot at redemption, the currently-in-production Ridley Scott movie Prometheus, has changed from a direct Alien prequel to a movie about the giant alien people in the crashed spaceship from Alien instead. That’s just insult to xenomorphic injury.
It can be easy to forget that when Alien first debuted, the Alien was the scariest motherfucker in the galaxy. A time before Alien was over-exposed, a time when the Alien remained a frightening and mysterious enigma.There have been several must-have books focusing on the original Alien — books which celebrate the making of this classic film, and further explore the movie’s universe. Here are five I consider essential for any fan of the film. If you remember a time when Alien was still alien, you might, too.
5) Giger’s Alien
?If your were among those who found the film’s otherworldly visuals inherently unsettling, just wait until you get a further look inside the mind and imagination of H.R. Giger, the creator of the alien design. In fact, Giger may be the single most important contributor to the success and power of the film; he’s at the very least on par with screenwriters Dan O’Bannon and Ron Shusett and director Ridley Scott. For Giger delivered a creature the likes of which no one had ever seen… or was even remotely prepared for.
Writer Dan O’Bannon was never sure just what he wanted his alien to look like until fate brought him together with Giger on an unrealized adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. It was during this period that O’Bannon saw Giger’s otherworldly paintings in a collection entitled Necronomicon. Immediately O’Bannon knew he’d found his alien, and director Ridley Scott soon agreed. The book chronicles Giger’s key designs for the alien egg pods and silo, the face-hugger, the space jockey and of course, the alien itself. They are all here, showcased in all of Giger’s uncomfortable, nightmarishly dark glory. There’s no question that the filmmakers struck gold when they selected Giger for these design duties. It seems unfortunate that Giger’s unique visions were never put to as good of use in future films. It’s available in paperback here.
4) Alien: The Movie Novelization by Alan Dean Foster
?A prolific author, Alan Dean Foster probably should need no introduction to sci-fi buffs. After all, besides being an accomplished author of original flights of fantasy, Foster served as the ghostwriter for George Lucas’ Star Wars novelization as well as the follow-up book Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. He’s also responsible for the adaptations of John Carpenter’s Dark Star, The Thing and Starman as well as a slew of other popular movie tie-ins, including Clash of the Titans.
Like many movie adaptations, Foster’s Alien was written while the film was in still production, which usually leads to a lot of deleted bits of business appearing in the book and some scenes playing out slightly different than on screen. This of course, made the novel quite interesting to fans of the film. In a time before deleted scenes where readily available and were usually the stuff of myths, a novelization could serve as a key source for discovering the details surrounding said scenes. On the whole, Foster does a good job of fleshing out the characters and situations and making the Alien novel a compelling, if breezy, read. His Alien novel is long out of print, but can be found pretty easily used on Amazon or eBay.
3) The Book of Alien by Paul Scanlon and Michael Gross
?Originally released in conjunction with the 1979 release of the film, this book provided a tantalizing look at the painstakingly detailed art and design that went into the creation of Alien. Re-released in 1993, The Book of Alien features a thorough, if somewhat brief overview of the film’s production. However, what ever the book lacks in text, it certainly makes up for in illustrations and photographs. It is quite a spectacular “art of” book providing an in-depth look at the fabulous work of conceptual artists Ron Cobb, Chris Foss, Moebius, and of course, H.R. Giger. This is a volume you will spend hours on end with while pouring over the detailed graphics of the many talented individuals that helped bring Alien to life. By the way, you may call me a nostalgic fool, but I prefer the funky ’70s cover shown above to the later 1994 re-release (readily available used) which uses the same glowing egg as the novelization above. At least it’s different.
2) Heavy Metal Presents Alien: The Illustrated Story by Archie Goodwin & Walter Simonson
?Simply put, this book ranks as one of the greatest graphic adaptations ever. Goodwin closely follows the tone and story structure of the film while Simonson’s artwork and layouts are nothing short of spectacular.
?See? I recall for most kids at the time, this was the only way they familiarized themselves with the story of the film. Most parents weren’t as lenient as mine, you see.
1) Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film by Ian Nathan
?Is this volume the final word on the making of Alien? Probably not, but it does provide a rather definitive look at the making of the film. Chock full of never before seen photographs, storyboards, designs and fun pull-out supplements, this book is an Alien enthusiasts dream come true. It dissects the entire creative process, beginning with Dan O’Bannon’s very first “Star Beast” script treatment and how he cannibalized certain plot devices from another of his languishing scripts entitled “Gremlins,” a story about said creatures viciously attacking a World War II B-17 bomber, a story which was eventually revised and adapted for the animated Heavy Metal movie.
The book includes detailed schematics of the Nostromo, sticker representations of the crew patch, Japanese poster reproductions and so much more are included as pull out enclosures. Fans will be hard-pressed as to whether or not to keep the book intact or make use of these gems. Some of my other favorite tidbits include Giger wanting the translucent dome on the alien’s head to be filled with worms and maggots to serve as the creature’s writhing brain. Or how Sigourney Weaver wanted to be completely nude during her final confrontation with the Star Beast. She’s something, that Sigourney!
All in all, the Alien Vault is a fitting testament to a film that has not only fresh and frightening in the 30-plus years since its original release, but has rightfully become a cinematic classic. Plus, it’s actually available new and not just used!