In 1978, a film was made – one that would go on to create one of the longest-running franchises in cinematic history. Often imitated, yet never surpassed, that film is of course Alien.
Directed by Ridley Scott, it is through his unique vision that Alien was brought to life. The Book of Alien documents the creative history of Alien, from Dan O’Bannon’s initial inspiration (where it was called “Star Beast”) whilst working on the first attempts at bringing Frank Herbert’s Dune to the screen.
Rather than examining the creative direction or narrative themes, The Book of Alien focuses on the imagery, from initial sketches to the final constructed modelling that was used to create the film. Given the uniquely stunning imagery throughout Alien, this makes for fascinating reading. In researching this book, Paul Scanlon and Michael Gross interviewed many of the creative forces behind this film, including HR Giger, Ron Cobb and Ridley Scott himself.
While the interviews make for fascinating reading, it is the stunning artwork that makes The Book of Alien that is the main attraction here. From the opening page we are presented with concept art, set photographs, screen-test sculptures, and finished designs. Of particular note were HR Giger’s initial concept drawings of the xenomorph, and the subsequent revisions as the design evolved up to the finished creation.
Despite being written nearly twenty years ago about a film made thirty-five years ago, The Book of Alien still remains of interest, as it highlights how effective the creature design and special effects were without relying on CGI technology .What was of particular interest for me is how some of the initial concept designs, which were later scrapped due to budgetary reasons, resurfaced in the recent Alien prequel Prometheus.