After months of tantalizing teasers and trailers (and teasers for teasers and trailers for trailers) for Ridley Scott's new science-fiction film Prometheus, the unofficial (or, rather, officially unofficial) precursor to his iconic 1979 Alien is finally just over a week away from its U.S. opening. And aside from rewatching the other movies (except the dreadful, embarrassing Aliens vs. Predators and its follow-up), we can think of no better way to both pass the time and get even more pumped than by perusing The Book of Alien, released today by Titan Books. Originally published in '79 as an official tie-in to the first movie, this slim but oversized tome written by Michael Gross and Paul Scanlon eschews hyperbole for a journalistic (albeit authorized by the studio) narrative about the conception and creation of a future classic -- a status that nobody interviewed within its pages could've anticipated at the time. If you care at all about Alien, or are simply curious about Prometheus, here's why it's worth a look:
The Origin Story
From the ashes of the aborted '70s adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune to an old Dan O'Bannon script called Memory to a reworked version co-written by Ron Shusett entitled Star Beast, this book neatly traces the fascinating behind-the-scenes evolution of Alien, and who contributed what to the final product. (For example: producer Walter Hill, best known for directing flicks like 48 HRS, was largely responsible for adding an android to the crew of the Nostromo -- a decision that would have huge ramifications for the Alien canon, most recently in the form of Michael Fassbender in Prometheus.)
What really makes The Book of Alien a must-own for fans of the film are the pages and pages of sumptuous concept art by Ron Cobb, Chris Foss, Moebius, and, most of all, the legendary H.R. Giger, whose "biomechanical" illustrations and sculptures are at the twisted heart and soul of Alien. The appeal and longevity of the entire franchise can be traced back to the drawings compiled in this volume, many not available anywhere else. Part of the joy of watching Prometheus will be spotting their influence on the visual design, and even plotline, of the new movie.
One piece of Giger art collected in The Book Alien deserves to be singled out: a full-page hieroglyphic depiction of the reproductive cycle of the alien, which was supposed to be included in a long-discussed pyramid sequence that was eventually dropped from the final script. Simply put, it's jaw-dropping. (And yes, a pyramid-like structure has been spotted among the Prometheus teaser footage.)
The rare original edition of this book used to go for $45+ on eBay and other online sites. This new printing -- identical except for the cover, and in pristine condition to boot -- is a mere $14.95 (or less, on Amazon). Game over, man, game over.
In addition to The Book of Alien, Titan Books has also republished Aliens -- Colonial Marines Technical Manual, an exhaustive, incredibly detailed guide to the guns, vehicles, ships and personnel of the U.S. Colonial Marine Corps introduced in James Cameron's Alien sequel. Buy it here.
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