On Set With John Carpenter: The Photographs Of Kim Gottlies-Walker (book review).

October 23, 2014 | By | Reply More

In some respects, the title ‘On Set With John Carpenter: The Photographs Of Kim Gottlies-Walker’ is a bit of a misnomer. Not that it doesn’t feature a lot of photographs but these are from only five of John Carpenter’s films, including one he didn’t direct: ‘Halloween’, ‘The Fog’, ‘Escape From New York’, ‘Halloween II’ and ‘Christine’. Mind you, considering that these are his amongst his most successful films, it’s a good choice.

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Kim Gottlies-Walker was the set still photographer for these five films, having branched out from photographing at rock concerts. What we have in this book is scenes behind the camera, the actors and crew, the occasional visual joke and occasionally some acting. John Carpenter points out that where was often restricted, once a scene was filmed, he would step out of the way and she would get her photos from where he had stood, so you’re also getting a director’s point of view as well. These aren’t just photographs because the various people involved have put in their own remembrances as well making this a very satisfying read.

What can I say without going too spoiler. Seeing the Shape from ‘Halloween’ without his mask being goofy. John Carpenter’s personalised latrine chair in another one. I should point out most of these photos are in black and white, with only a few in colour. I didn’t know that Stonehenge was a major influence on the creation of ‘The Fog’. Carpenter and Debra Hill must have visited before 11am to have seen it that foggy. There are several pages of Kurt Russell visiting at the time where he was discussing with Carpenter about the next film, ‘Escape From New York’, which is the biggest section in the book.

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With ‘Escape From New York’, the insights into the late Lee Van Cleef tends to point towards a dry humour and certainly not always like his on-screen persona. The same can also be said about Donald Pleasence. Kurt Russell not wearing his patch wasn’t something I wasn’t surprised about. Probably the biggest surprise was seeing a certain Jim Cameron doing his previous job painting a background glass matt. Throughout, Kim Gottlies-Walker points out how so many of the crew have risen up in the ranks and still active today. For those in America interested in this sort of work, this should be a reassurance that if you have talent in the film industry, then you can work your way up to what you want to do. Oh and Adrienne Barbeau thought she was wearing watermelons. Never heard them called that before.

Strictly speaking, ‘Halloween II’ was only a film that John Carpenter scripted and Rick Rosenthal directed but is included in the book. Considering that this is the only significant change, well other than stunt co-ordinator Dick Warlock playing the Shape.

Of all of Carpenter’s films, the one I haven’t actually seen is ‘Christine’, although it now looks like is on my list the next time it gets shown on TV. There are very few photos of the car but the best one is that of how rain was achieved and making 18 cars match for filming.

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I have a suspicion that the success of this book might mean branching out with other set photographers and their films as well. If it was just for the photographs, the book would be great but having various people include their memories of the film shoot itself raises this book to another level again and if you have liked any of these films your jaw is going to positively drop.

GF Willmetts

October 2014

(pub: Titan Books. 176 page illustrated large hardback. Price: £24.99 (UK), $29.95 (US), $34.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78329-468-8)

check out website: www.titanbooks.com

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Category: Books, Horror, Scifi

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 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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