Everybody has their own list of movies that they think are perfect, and right up near the top of mine is 1979's horror/science-fiction film Alien. It's a movie I first heard about when, as a kid, I asked my dad what the scariest movie he'd ever seen was—which meant, long before I'd ever seen it, Alien was already rich with the stuff of nightmares. Here was a movie that had scared my dad. It was years before I saw it, and a few more years until I managed to watch the whole thing without closing my eyes during the scene around the dinner table.
Now I have all the Alien movies on Blu-ray and I have a goddamn Weyland-Yutani pin on my computer bag. Which makes me a perfect mark for Voyageur Press' recently published Alien Vault: Written by Ian Nathan, the executive editor of Empire, it's a slick hardcover that digs deep into the difficult production of Alien, utilizing interviews, concept art, stills, production photographs, script pages, and impressive, pull-out reproductions of everything from director Ridley Scott's storyboards to artist H.R. Giger's creepy-ass concept art. Think of it as a solid, in-depth Empire article, but bundled with a slew of gorgeous images and slipped into a fancy-pants slipcase hardcover. At $35, it's a pretty solid buy for anybody into film in general, and especially this film in particular. Hit the jump for some images and a bit more commentary.
Here's the kind of stuff I got the biggest kick out of: The original concept art for the film, compared with how it actually ended up looking onscreen. Some of these are wildly divergent—some of Giger's original sketches for the chestburster look less like the serpentine final product and more like a mutant Thanksgiving turkey—but in other cases, you can see how fully-formed parts of Alien was before the cameras even started rolling. Here's the spaceship's medical bay, for example:
Alien Vault is interspersed with five vellum sleeves, each of which contains various reproductions of different artifacts from Alien's production: A typed-up script page that's been rewritten to hell with Ridley Scott's scrawl; Giger's painting of the mysterious alien "space jockey" (pictured at the top of this post), and maybe most impressively, a couple of fold-outs of Ridley Scott's storyboards for the film:
There's also shit like this for the truly obsessive-compulsive:
All of these additions would be mere curiosities, though, if Nathan's text didn't inform and entertain; thankfully, it does. Empire's a poppy and excitable but usually quite smart magazine focusing on genre film, and predictably enough, Alien Vault shares much of that publication's tone and enthusiasm. Vault pulls from all sorts of sources—the series' exhaustive Blu-ray commentaries and documentaries, the screenplays for Alien and Aliens, Giger's art books, interviews with the likes of Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver, and articles from Cinefex and (naturally) Empire. For those who've watched all the Blu-rays and dug through every yellowed issue of Starlog, much of this info will be familiar, but as a total experience—combining the stories of writing, producing, shooting, and editing the film, right alongside rare and frequently striking images from its preproduction, production, and marketing phases—Alien Vault feels more unified and cohesive than previous looks at the making of the film. Here's hoping Nathan has plans for a similar book—an Aliens tome in this format feels like the obvious next step, but I'd almost rather see Nathan follow Scott to the set of his follow-up to Alien: Another damn-near perfect film, 1982's Blade Runner.