Sunday, March 24, 2013

Alien Vault

“Alien Vault” is an in-depth book chronicling the LONG creation of the original Alien film. The book starts with two friends wanting to write a simple monster story and it ends with the release of the most artistic science fiction/horror film of all time, not to mention a mega franchise that has turned those two friends into millionaires.

The most interesting element of "Alien Vault" is that the film would have been a fraction of what it eventually became if the two friends stayed selfish, held onto their vision and thought of themselves as “auteurs”. Thankfully they didn't. One of the friends, Dan O’ Bannon had just come off an insane collaboration with Alejandro Jodorowsky and several European artists on the cancelled film adaptation of Dune. He took that teamwork concept with him to Alien.

O’Bannon and his co writer Ron Shusett wrote a B movie with a simple but effective concept. It was nothing exceptional and they had a deal for Roger Corman to produce (with O'Bannon directing). But almost immediately O’Bannon enlisted H.R Giger for concept art, which got them into a lot of doors in Hollywood and well beyond the offices of Mr. Corman. 

Once Fox bought the film the producers, namely Walter Hill, rewrote the script inserting the now famed “truckers in space” tone that has made Alien stand apart from every sci fi/horror film ever made. Later in the book O’ Bannon and Shusett try to down play Hill and Company’s contribution, but it is pretty clear; Ridley Scott would have never agreed to direct the film if he read the original draft. I am not down playing O’Bannon and Shusett’s involvement. The two were so collaborative Fox decided to keep them on as associate producers, acting as creative consultants to Scott and the crew. This move was unprecedented. Scott even admitted that O’ Bannon was the one who introduced him to artists like Giger and Moebius and started him on a lifelong obsession with their visual concepts in his films. Scott also wound up fighting for Giger’s designs for the Alien when the Fox executives started to get cold feet during pre-production. They wanted the alien to be more "monster-like".

The final film is darker, classier and stranger than any alien-on-the-loose movie before or since. “Alien Vault” gets into the relationships between the creative crew members, and the uncertainty of the ensemble cast. All the while showing a brooding Scott trying to keep the ship afloat, and refusing to let the movie descend into any recognizable B movie cliches.  "Alien Vault" is not only an exploration of a great film, but an excellent example of how simple ideas were turned into a singular masterpiece. It is a amazing book.

Below are scanned images from the book. There are early concepts of the alien, costumes and sets. There are also behind the scenes photos of the production and obscure or unused promotional material created during the marketing of the film.

Moebius costume designs:

H. R. Giger developing the Alien (and its many stages):

The Space Jockey was always the Space Jockey. Ridley Scott saw this and wanted it immediately in the movie.
The first Face-hugger design Giger did for O' Bannon. Later they decided to make it smaller and less "prawn-like".
Giger's next attempt at the Face-hugger was very human.
Giger's crazy idea for the Chest-burster.
The final alien with suite actor.

Behind the scenes:

More designs:

The forgotten pyramid:

One reason to be jealous of Ridley Scott, he draws his own storyboards:

Seldom seen promotional material:

The entire book has MANY more photos and details. This review is just skimming the surface. The book is as anal retentive about details, facts and dates as Ridley Scott's notes, which I did not post here because you can get lost in them for hours. Seriously just get the book.

Chris_Gormley OUT.