Alien: The Archive: The Ultimate Guide To The Classic Movies (book review).

This book has the WOW! factor! I have most of the ‘Aliens’ related books and there are photographs and designs in ‘Alien: The Archive: The Ultimate Guide To The Classic Movies’ that even I haven’t seen before.


How’s that for an opening paragraph? If you can only select one film book this autumn, then this surely must be the one. From the minute you look inside the cover, which if you’re in a shop you’ll have to hope the owner has taken the polyfilm off at least one copy, this book pleads buy me. Although there is text and interviews, the majority of this book is taken up with photographs, behind and in front of the camera, and designs from all four ‘Alien’ films that will have your jaw-dropping as you either hand over your cash or spear the book-seller with that tongue of teeth that you try to conceal.


There is so much information to be learnt from here. An extended interview by Mark Salisbury with actress Sigourney Weaver about how the ‘Alien’ film changed her life and ambitions and a reference to a fifth film that is still locked in a drawer. She does want to do another one but not set on Earth but off to where the aliens came from. Let’s hope someone at the studio pays heed and brings Ripley back for that film before she needs a zimmer frame. It isn’t as though being a hybrid that she can’t have an extended life and time to do the research to match Weaver’s own age and a lifetime of searching.


If you ever wondered why the cast didn’t know what exactly was going to happen to Kane at the dining table, it was because Ridley Scott didn’t have any rehearsals for any of the film. Weaver, from an stage improvisation background had less problems with that than inadvertently starring into the camera lens.


Seeing the space jockey being built is a strong reminder that there are a lot of photos that are new to me and if they aren’t, they’re certainly bigger. I think this is the first time I’ve seen John Hurt watching them at work.

Betcha didn’t know that the space jockey room was reworked into the egg chamber? Come to that, the reason Mother was called Mother was because Ridley Scott saw it as the womb of the Nostromo. Considering designer H.R. Geiger’s perchance for certain orifices in his designs, the entire film could be considered a reason for birth control.

AlienArchive-4 copy

Speaking of which, those of you who know that the first alien originally had eyes, seeing one photo before the shell was added makes it look like the version from the fourth film. Interestingly, the pipes along its back, apart from giving the alien an odd look was also to aid the balance of the tall Bolaji Badejo inside, who description gains or loses a couple inches.


Seeing the Nostromo’s flight deck laid out, there’s still a touch of Starfleet in the way the crew is spread out. Not that I blame Ridley Scott for that because there are limits to where you can put people. I have a suspicion that should we ever develop interstellar spacecraft, this will be a truism in that people like to face forward when flying any vehicle and have a few windows as well as instruments to see where we’re going.


When it comes to ‘Aliens’, where do we start. I never saw Vasquez and Drake as delinquent murdering lifers brought in for combat duty. At least where Vasquez was concerned, I just saw Hudson’s remarks as a touch racist. Being reminded how the hypersleep deck was a bit of a cheat because of lack of budget and you’re seeing more than you think. When you consider how effective it looks, you’re seeing some real film magic. Jim Cameron’s design involvement with the queen alien, powerloader and a little with the dropship clearly indicates directors on the ‘Alien’ franchise should know their way around art. Speaking of the powerloader, seeing the close-up stills of the miniaturised version in battle with the queen alien makes you realise how much work goes into such things.


Unsurprisingly, ‘Alien 3’ has the least material, but you do get an opportunity to see some of the designs for its near director Vincent Ward in having a wooden asteroid. Looking at the pictures, I couldn’t help feeling that it looks like a disarmed Deathstar. Even so, I’m glad it was given a miss because a wooden planetoid doesn’t fit into this reality.


‘Alien: Resurrection’ not being filmed in the UK was Weaver’s decision, although designer Nigel Phelps key came across and there are some interesting realisations from. American stage builders have a tendency not to build reusable sets until he suggested it. Have another look at and compare the basketball court and the birthing chamber. French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet found that his American crew didn’t reveal they had a particular underwater camera until they were asked. No wonder British crews appear more helpful.

My jaw still hasn’t stopped dropping. This is a magnificent book. If you love the ‘Alien’ franchise you’ll be buying this book automatically. If you just like the films, then you’ll still love this book. We need more books like this one.

GF Willmetts

October 2014

(pub: Titan Books. 319 page large hardback. Price: £35.00 (UK), $50.00 (US), $55.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78329-104-5)

check out website: www.titanbooks.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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