Reading the Screen: Words About Pictures, Part One
Posted by: David Pitt
So it’s the thirtieth anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, the second installment in the first of George Lucas’s Star Wars trilogies. In celebration — okay, and also in the interest of making some money — Random House is releasing a splendid book, J.W. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
If you enjoy making-of books, then you’ll also want to pick up Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars (2007) and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones (2008), which chronicles the production of all four films in the series. They are amazingly detailed, like documentaries in print.
Rinzler’s isn’t the first book about Empire. Alan Arnold, the film’s unit publicist, wrote 1980′s Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back. It’s an old-school making-of book, featuring profiles of the actors and director and just enough behind-the-scenes information to get you all excited about seeing the movie. (Making-of books, for a long time, were really just glorified publicity tools; sometimes they still are.)
Arnold’s book has been out of print for a long time, but it’s easy to find in used bookstores – no surprise there, since they printed, I think, enough copies so that everyone on the planet could own one.
Much harder to find, but definitely worth the search, is Bruce Bahrenburg’s The Creation of Dino De Laurentiis’ King Kong (1976). Yes, okay, fine, the movie is a bit of a stinker. But the book — well, the book is magnificent, hands down one of the best of the old-school making-of books. In fact, for its depth of coverage and the way it puts the reader in the trenches with the filmmakers, trying to get this beast of a movie made, it rivals Rinzler’s documentaries-in-print.
We’ll talk more about making-of books down the road (there’s another book about Raiders of the Lost Ark I haven’t mentioned yet). Let me know if you’ve got a favorite you’d like to share with the rest of us.