BOOK REVIEW: ON SET WITH JOHN CARPENTER: THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF KIM GOTTLIEB-WALKER / AUTHOR: KIM GOTTLIEB-WALKER / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker worked as a photographer for John Carpenter on four of his early (and arguably two of his most iconic) films as a director, starting on Halloween and subsequently working on The Fog, Escape From New York and finally Christine. This book collects her work from those films and 1981’s Halloween II (which Carpenter wrote and produced).
Gottlieb-Walker’s work on the films consisted of on-set photos, production stills and character portraits that make up the contents of the book, along with commentary from herself, Carpenter and key people involved in the various films (some especially for the book and others taken from other sources like DVD commentaries). It’s a fine collection of images that includes, as the books inlay tells us, some rare and previously unseen images as well as some of the more iconic images we’ve seen many times before.
The book is mostly made up of black and white photos (which are also the photos that work best) and, as you’d probably expect, Escape from New York is given the most pages, followed by Halloween, with the rest of the films averaging around 20-30 pages each. Unlike other similar books, though, you never feel like the other films in the book are largely brushed over or treated like lesser works. In fact many of the books most striking images come from the pages covering The Fog.
This is definitely a book for Carpenter fans, although there probably isn’t much in the commentary blurbs that fans won’t already know and it’s probably a safe bet that the majority of the photos will be familiar to them as well. That said, the book does offer an interesting look into a great period in Carpenter’s filmmaking life, telling the story through a selection of beautifully-shot images, that any film fan would happily pour over for an hour or so.
The key to the success in a book like this is in the re-pick-up value. I spent a couple of hours looking at the pictures in the book and loved every minute of it, but must confess that I’ve not felt that compelled to pick it up again to go back through it yet (aside from having to do so for this review), but I think this is the kind of film book that you will go back to after each viewing of one of the films featured in it.
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