Carl jumps aboard the U.S.S Sulaco and travels to LV-426 to check out J. W. Rinzler’s incredible The Making Of Aliens book!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This review was written before J. W Rinzler’s untimely passing from cancer this past July. We at The Future Of The Force send our sincere condolences to his family at this sad time.
During the movie ‘Aliens‘, the character of Hudson, played by the late and much-missed Bill Paxton utters the immortal line “Game Over, Man!”. That throwaway line could also be used to describe J.W Rinzler’s book regarding the making of the film. Why? Because compared to other books dedicated to the making of a movie or show, Rinzler’s are the Rolls Royce standard. You just can’t get anywhere near him. And with this book, it really is game over for the rest. For this is a making-of book for the ages. Forget the gold standard, this is in a class of its own. Something to own, cherish and hold up to the world. Something to proudly declare that you own.
J.W Rinzler is a master with his books. He doesn’t just use information that is readily available in the public domain. He goes deeper into his research, digging out unknown facts to add to his writings. To bring maximum enjoyment to the reader and his fans. His ‘Making of Alien’ book, ‘The Indiana Jones Saga’, his books dedicated to the making of the original ‘Star Wars.’ trilogy. All are like bibles to film fans. To own one is a joy. Owning two feels brilliant. To own them all is almost like having a library all to yourself. But even he has surpassed his incredibly high standards with this volume. This book is almost like a religious text to all ‘Alien’ fans. It has everything that a fan could want in regards to James Cameron’s brilliant follow-up to Sir Ridley Scott’s original film. And here, he has surpassed himself.
THE MAKING OF ALIENS BY J.W.RINZLER
From the start, we know we are in for one hell of an enjoyable ride. It is ‘Aliens’ after all. But as soon as you hold the book in your hands (it is rather heavy, mind), you know that you’ll be engrossed in it from the start. The front cover features Sigourney Weaver as Ripley standing tall inside the power loader. She is ready to confront the Queen Alien head-on, looking mean and determined. Above the picture is the title, leaving the reader in no doubt what they hold in their hands. J.W Rinzler’s name appears on the bottom right-hand corner of the cover. The spine features the books’ title alongside the author’s name.
The back cover features all kinds of images, from production drawings. Behind-the-scenes photographs and the film’s poster featuring Ripley holding Newt in her arms with her hybrid Pulse Rifle/Flamethrower. It also features the alternative poster which adorns many of the DVD and Blu-Ray releases. It features the Queen Alien looking at us, teeth bared with the film’s title through the middle. We look at these impressive illustrations before we turn the book back over and open the front cover.
As we enter the world that James Cameron has created and covered in exhaustive detail by J.W Rinzler, we are struck by a still from the film. It features the dropship about to land inside the colony and delivers Ripley for her quest to recover the abducted Newt. Even now, thirty-five years after the film hit screens, it amazes us and takes our breath away. We turn the page to discover an exterior shot of the colony (nicknamed Hadley’s Hope). Here, we see the colony in all its detail, the atmospheric conditions swirling around it. This is followed by a shot of the Colonial Marines approaching the dock door to which they will enter into the nightmare contained within. Following this, we find a shot of a corridor aboard the U.S.S Sulaco, the ship which has traveled to LV-426. And the horror that will unfold throughout the film.
TITLE AND CONTENTS PAGE
We reach the title page featuring the book’s title imposed over schematics of the Sulaco. Following this, we are given a shot of Ripley lying inside her Hypersleep chamber, safe from the horrors she experienced some fifty-seven years previously. We also are awarded a picture of a Facehugger, floating harmlessly inside a stasis tube. We now come to the contents page. The book is broken down into ten chapters and an epilogue. Each chapter is dated. We start with the first, named Foundation Infantry. The date covered in this chapter is from 1981 through to September of 1983. After pausing to look at the images of James Cameron studying a miniature of the Queen Alien, and Sigourney Weaver viewing her copy of the script, we press on.
The chapter starts with James Cameron breaking into the Italian studios during the night to re-edit his film ‘Piranha II: The Spawning’/ ‘Piranha II: The Flying Killers’. We all know the film was a stinker but Cameron had the visual flair for the ‘B’ movie. Once he returned to the United States, he set to work again, pitching ‘The Terminator’ to producer Gale Anne Hurd. The page opposite features the first part of the tale of James Cameron’s early life. Here, we will start to discover what inspired the writer/director to enter the world of filmmaking.
We turn over and discover various foreign release posters for the original ‘Alien’. But underneath these posters, we are rewarded with the one-page story summary for the planned sequel by David Giler and Walter Hill. The basic outline of the film is contained within but it was a rushed outline. And some of the planned events of ‘Alien II’ leave a lot to be desired.
Even Sigourney Weaver wasn’t considering a return as Ripley. She even joked about her character dissolving into dust at the start of the sequel once her sleep chamber was opened. Thus removing the need for her to appear in the film at all. Meanwhile, Giler and Hill invited Cameron to a pitch meeting. The producers pitched a science fiction retelling of ‘Spartacus’ to Cameron, who didn’t respond to it at all. The rest of the chapter follows the development of the sequel and we are afforded a look at Cameron’s preliminary treatment for ‘Alien II’.
It is here that we see the film begin to take shape. There are some differences to what we were given in 1986 but the development and basic premise Cameron wrote give us the outline of the sequel. And this was back in 1983. A year before ‘The Terminator’ hit big and three years before ‘Aliens‘ hit screens worldwide.
THE TERMINATOR QUEEN
We now come to the second section of the book, named The Terminator Queen. This section covers the period between October 1983 to February 1985. James Cameron delivered his treatment to Brandywine, the production company of David Giler and Walter Hill, and let them know he wanted to direct the film. Throughout this chapter, we discover Cameron was burning the candle at both ends. He was writing ‘Rambo II: The Mission’, which became ‘Rambo: First Blood Part II’. Writing the script for ‘Alien II’ while gearing up to film ‘The Terminator.’
As we go through the chapter, we come across Cameron’s partial screenplay for the ‘Alien’ sequel. We see the final film starting to emerge from Cameron’s pages. Alongside these, we are afforded production illustrations and storyboards of what we would come to see in the film. We conclude the chapter with Cameron’s first draft screenplay of the now renamed ‘Aliens’. Now, the final film has started to come into focus.
DRONES AND WARRIORS
We now enter the third chapter, entitled Drones And Warriors. It is here where we discover the real fighting that took place before the film even went before the cameras. Fighting over Collaborators, money, and casting. Cameron wanted his now girlfriend, Gale Anne Hurd to produce the film. But 20th Century Fox didn’t want to take her on. Cameron issued an ultimatum: We work together on the film or I don’t make ‘Aliens‘. The studio relented. Yet again throughout the chapter, we get the full inside scoop on how the film came together as well as production illustrations. Models, the design of ‘The Queen’s Knights’. Behind the scenes photographs of the model makers in action, and all the inside knowledge that a fan could ever ask for.
SCRAMBLE FOR WAR
The fourth chapter, titled Scramble For War follows the events of June to September 1985. With the green light for ‘Aliens’, the search was on for the actors required to fill the various roles. Actor Paul Reiser was the front runner for the part of the sleazy corporate executive, Carter Burke. Not that he knew anything about it as he had heard nothing from Cameron or Hurd following his audition. The pages that follow go into detail regarding the casting process including a rundown of several of the cast that appeared in the film. Alongside these are more behind-the-scenes photographs of various stages of model making. Costume tests for the Aliens themselves.
The schematics for the APC vehicle that is seen during the film, alongside production drawings of the vehicle itself. An in-depth look at the dropship featured during the early parts of the film and plays a vital role in the climax. The look of the Colonial Marines’ uniforms and outfits. The Pulse Rifle and Vasquez’s Smart Gun are examined. And even more additions to Cameron’s script are revealed here. The detail that the chapter gives us is outstanding.
We hit the midway point of the book with the fifth chapter. Here, in Phantom Xenomorphs, we delve even further into the making of the sequel. We see the quarter scale dropship model used in several sequences. We are given access to several areas of the colony before the aliens invade and attack. The following page displays another shot of the colony’s interior before its invasion. We see concept art and sculptures of the hapless colonists who get cocooned. The interior of the APC vehicle alongside the vehicle on the set at Acton. We are shocked as we view the dressed sets containing the aliens’ lair and their handiwork. We discover the cheat used to change the lair from hanging miniature to the dressed set. Behind the scenes photography of Cameron with actors Rico Ross, Al Matthews, Jenette Goldstein, and Bill Paxton.
Concept art of the trapped female colonist alongside production photographs of actress Barbara Coles, who portrayed the unfortunate victim. We are given the final frames of the chestburster sequence. It is revealed that the chestburster in the film was slightly different than the one seen in the original ‘Alien‘. Its redesign was overseen by Cameron and the legendary Stan Winston. Now, it could be termed the Crab-burster instead. More stills of the marine’s futile attempts to escape the aliens and their wrath. The abduction of Private Dietrich is revealed in behind-the-scenes shots. And the true story of why actor James Remar was replaced by Michael Biehn in the pivotal role of Hicks is revealed in full.
Chapter six continues the story of the events described in the fifth chapter. James Cameron was riding roughshod over the working practices in England. He managed to alienate (no pun intended) the British crew, causing a lot of friction. To be fair to him, production was behind schedule thanks to the British working rules. But instead of diplomatically trying to sort the problem and coming up with a solution, Cameron raised hell for the workers. During this chapter, we are told how composer James Horner came aboard the venture to provide a memorable score. More production secrets are revealed alongside more production drawings, set photographs. Shots of Cameron directing the alien’s assault on the operations center. We even get to see Weaver, Paxton, and Lance Henriksen laughing between takes.
A brilliant black and white still show us, James Cameron, demonstrating exactly how he would like the shotgun used on the alien in the famous shot of Hicks blowing it back out of the APC door. The shot of the alien being blown away was already filmed. Over the page, we discover photos of Sigourney Weaver practicing with the power loader that became a vital part of the film. A wonderful photograph is also revealed that shows the moment the cast surprised actor Al Matthews with a birthday cake on the set. Effects shots of the models used are displayed to us. Much more is available in this chapter.
Chapter seven named Adios Loco covers more of the film’s production. It is here where we discover that the movie industry had started to seriously talk about the sequel. The buzz surrounding it proclaimed the film could be the sleeper hit of summer 1986. We are presented with more behind-the-scenes photos to go along with the text. We see young Carrie Henn having the life mask of her face and upper torso created. This was to make the lightweight dummy Sigourney Weaver carried in many of the films’ shots. Across the pages, we find a behind-the-scenes shot of crewmembers and Stan Winston working on the Queen Alien’s head on set. As well as stills from the final battle itself between Ripley and her monstrous foe.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Many more behind-the-scenes photographs and production stills adorn the rest of the chapter. Also, a small box out on a page reveals something very interesting. By now, we all know the tagline for the film was ‘This Time, Its War’. But did you know that some of the rejected taglines were such nonsense as ‘The People Eaters’? Or ‘There’s Nothing Nice About Them‘? Or even the all-time classic ‘The Last One Was Only The First One’. Who came up with that? If that wasn’t enough, how about these subtitles that were under consideration. ‘Aliens: Back And Out Of Control’. ‘Aliens: The Space Cannibals‘ and ‘Aliens: Back For The Kill‘. Or even ‘Aliens: The Space Scorpions’. That last one sounds like a ‘B’ movie from the 1950s!
CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE
Chapter eight goes into detail regarding the tight 16-week postproduction schedule. The film couldn’t be delivered later than June 6th, 1986. It was a rush to get the final scenes filmed before the editing process began. The adding of music and sound effects. The final four weeks were dedicated to the final mix, previews, and the demanded changes if any were needed. Among the images presented here are behind the scenes of the Ripley chestburster nightmare and how it was accomplished. Production photos of Bishop’s impaling by the Queen’s tail. Bishop’s dismemberment at her vicious clawed hands. Various shots of the sequence being readied and filmed. And a great photo of Sigourney Weaver, smiling and posing under the massive Queen alien.
Other photos include production photos of Ripley inside the power loader, both before, during, and after filming. Carrie Henn as Newt down in the sewers from where the alien will abduct her. Next in her hideout within the air ducts. And of course, the climax aboard the Sulaco as Ripley finally conquers her giant foe, dropping her out of the airlock into the cold, airless vacuum of space. We end the chapter with photographs of Ripley inside her Hypersleep chamber from the very beginning of the film. Safe and sound, unaware of the nightmare that awaits her in the future.
Chapter nine follows the final stages of the film on its journey to the screen. The final pick-up shots needed, the bluescreen work that went into the power loader shots on board the Sulaco. And exactly how they pulled off the effect of having Ripley in the foreground inside the loader while Spunkmeyer was seen in the same shot in the background in another loader. We also get to see the Queen Alien’s egg sac and discover how it was operated off camera. But we cannot forget the puppets. The small miniatures of Ripley in the power loader and the Queen Alien engaged in a battle to the death aboard the Sulaco. The amount of work and time and effort that went into accomplishing the many shots is incredible.
We follow this with how they accomplished the visual effects shots needed, the background plates they used, and how they blew us all away. James Horner’s arrival in London to compose the score for the film, only to find there was no film for him to score along with. We discover why the final battle takes place without any music at all. Plus how Cameron and Horner discussed in detail every shot, sequence, and musical note the film contained. How Horner thought the facilities at the Abbey Road recording studios were way behind the times. How Cameron hated what he heard, resulting in him taking Horner’s score and re-arranging it. Coincidentally, the same thing happened to Jerry Goldsmith’s score on the original ‘Alien’ when Ridley Scott and Terry Rawlings, his editor decided to rearrange the music.
The final chapter brings us to the finish line. It is here that we discover why the film didn’t receive any test screenings. The truth is, there simply wasn’t time. The first screening was held at the end of June for magazines and newspapers. Michael Biehn recalls that both he and Bill Paxton had yet to see the final version of the film. So they both snuck into the projectionist’s booth and watched the film from there. Both were amazed by the finished film, with Paxton exclaiming “Ahhh! We’re on a rollercoaster to hell, man!”, meaning he knew the film would be big. The chapter follows the print campaign that followed to advertise and promote the film as well as the demand for more 70mm prints of the film to play in theatres.
The film’s premiere is covered throughout the pages with some great recollections from the cast. Carrie Henn remembers that at the premiere she was overjoyed to see her fellow cast members again. And that she was excited because Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the audience. The film, strangely, wasn’t a complete hit with the critics. Some even derided it. But the audience didn’t, powering the film to an $85million haul at the U.S box office with a further $44million around the world, with Japan and Great Britain providing a big chunk of the revenue. Many different promotional materials are displayed here as was seen around the world in 1986. The chapter finishes with a flourish as we move to the epilogue.
The epilogue, subtitled with the title above follows the aftermath of the film. James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd moved on to make ‘The Abyss’ in 1989 before divorcing that same year. 1990 also saw the release in the U.K of ‘Aliens: Director’s Cut’ on VHS. A U.S release followed in 1991. This boosted the film’s running time to an incredible 157 minutes. But it was and still is Cameron’s preferred version. And is seen as the quintessential edition of one of the best science fiction sequels ever made.
The cast and crew even worked on other projects together, such as ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day.’, ‘Near Dark’. ‘The Abyss’ and other films and TV shows. Cameron and Hurd kept their promise and never returned to the ‘Alien’ universe again, completely ignoring the sequels ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien Resurrection’. James Cameron hates both of those films with a passion. And now, with a final look at the cast and crew credits, followed by some more photos, we come to the end of our journey.
What can I say after reading the book cover to cover? There isn’t too much I can add to what has gone before. But this is truly a must-have item. It is everything and more besides. It grabs you by the lapels from the start and refuses to let you go. The photographs, production stills, storyboard drawings, and promotional images are stunning. The pictures alone could tell you an in-depth story about the making of the film. But the images wouldn’t be as powerful without the words and text from J.W Rinzler. He yet again proves he is the master at these kinds of books.
His research, his digging for facts is beyond compare or reproach. There is no stone that the author leaves unturned in his quest to bring to us the greatest and the most thorough making-of book there has been. And that is a feat only J.W Rinzler can accomplish. He has excelled himself once again, beating even his high standards and producing a volume of sheer perfection. Do yourself a huge favor. Fan of the ‘Alien’ franchise or not, grab yourself a copy of this book. It is something that you will need a lot of time to digest. But you won’t ever regret it. In space, no one can hear you scream. But after reading this incredible book by a master author, everyone can hear you gasp in sheer amazement.
Complete your Aliens collection with the Quantum Mechanix Alien Zippermouth Plush – Xenomorph.
Carl Roberts is the News Editor of The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!