On Set with John Carpenter: The Photographs of Kim Gottlieb-Walker
Titan Books – 2014
176 pages, $24.99
I’ve anxiously been waiting for this book since I first reached out to Kim Gottlieb-Walker, which was September 2005. The fact that this book actually exists and is out has me thrilled beyond belief. What’s even better is the amount of care Titan Books has put into displaying Gottlieb-Walker’s fantastic photos. They accomplish this with gorgeous layouts, high quality paper and overall design.
On Set with John Carpenter is absolutely loaded with rare, never before seen images from Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, Halloween II and Christine.
For a John Carpenter fanatic like me, this is a goldmine as you can see the stories behind these productions. The passionate fun the cast & crew must have felt, along with the hard work is totally captured through Gottlieb-Walker’s lens. You get to see many of the behind the scenes people that made these films so memorable. Photos of talented Director of Photography Dean Cundey, Camera/Panaglide Operator Ray Stella can be seen at work as well even James Cameron painting matte artwork and being Visual Effects Director of Photography on Escape From New York.
There could not have been a better photo than the way chosen for the book’s cover. Seeing John Carpenter directing Jamie Lee Curtis on Halloween (one of my two favorite films), well you don’t get better than that in my opinion.
The inner covers of the book on the front and book are amazing. Countless photos are spread over the connective pages to make you just stare and look each and every photo a read into the stories they tell.
John Carpenter writes the forward and the large photo of him smiling on the set of Halloween is telling for the way it turned out. Former Fangoria Magazine Editor Tony Timpone is next and his story is very entertaining to read.
Halloween – How can I not love every single still representing this masterpiece? The full size photo of Michael Myers (Nick Castle) holding up the huge butcher knife is classic. Same goes with Myers at the top of the staircase look down at us. The shot of Donald Pleasence on the side of the Myers house at night is creepy and captures the intensity of the late actor. The shot of “The Shape” standing in background behind Annie (Nancy (Loomis) Kyes) on the phone of the kitchen is nothing short of iconic.
There’s some great shots of Nick Castle, Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter having fun on the set laughing. For such a suspenseful, intense movie these let you know the cast & crew had a good time making the film. It’s also great seeing the late Debra Hill do her thing as she not only produced the movie but helped write the screenplay and Kim Gottlieb-Walker dedicates the book to her memory.
I loved seeing John Carpenter at work with his cast, behind the camera with DP Dean Cundey and Camera Operator Ray Stella. The two color photos of the Coup de Villes playing at the wrap party, John Carpenter, Tommy Lee Wallace and Nick Castle dressed in “The Shape” masks is priceless.
The Fog – There’s some great intimate moments of the cast performing their parts. I particularly enjoyed seeing the shots of Adrienne Barbeau with Ty Mitchell, Tom Atkins with Jamie Lee Curtis at the boat marina and shot of Janet Leigh behind Hal Holbrook in the church. It was fun seeing Debra Hill having a good time with Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh. I was surprised to see that Kurt Russell visited the set with his then wife Season Hubley.
The photographs with John Carpenter and Adrienne Barbeau capture a time when they were in love and you can see it.
Love the shot of the entire cast & crew and the individual portraits of each cast member is invaluable.
Escape From New York – Seeing Kurt Russell as “Snake Plissken” is awesome. Lee Van Cleef with the cigarette or gun in hand says much about his character. It was cool seeing Debra Hill talking to “Maggie” (Adrienne Barbeau) all decked out.
The color photo of the real 727 airplane, Joe Alves brought was impressive in the film and as a photo.
I had never seen any the photos of Jim Cameron painting the matte plates of Manhattan skyline or as special effects photography. The pictures of John Carpenter busting up with Lee Van Cleef and Tom Atkins brought a smile to my face.
I never realized that Dean Cundey played saxophone in the “Everyone’s Coming to New York” scene but you can see he did with the photo on page 92. It was also neat seeing Nick Castle choreographing the stage performers. Castle’s dad was a legendary choreographer.
I also neat seeing the lens woman herself in pictures, like when she’s flanked with Lee Van Cleef and Tom Atkins. The shot of Gottlieb-Walker with Kurt Russell confirms how they both must have felt making this movie.
Halloween II – Seeing Michael Myers (Dick Warlock) about to stab Anne Bruner is pretty intense as is the scene where “The Shape” lifts Tawny Moyer off the ground after stabbing her in the back. The successive shots of Michael pushing the hypodermic needle into Ana Alicia is like watching the movie via stills.
I got a kick out of seeing Dick Warlock in full Michael Myers outfit licking the knife, posing with Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence. My favorite from this set might be Jamie Lee Smooching with Michael while Donald Pleasence laughs heartedly on the side.
Christine – Which I might consider John Carpenter’s most underrated film has some fantastic photographic coverage of the sensational cast. Gottlieb-Walker captures Keith Gordon as “Arnie Cunningham” both in his geek-nerd stature and then transformation into ultra confident self later in the film.
William Ostrander’s outstanding performance as the tough guy “Buddy Repperton” is on display during the bully scene. Ostrander looks so imposing and threatening. His acting in this movie is one of the unsung reasons why it’s so damn good. The way the still photographer shot this scene, you almost feel like you are there in auto class getting picked on. There’s a series of photos showing how painful it must have been for “Dennis” (John Stockwell) when “Moochie” (Malcolm Dare) gave him the nuts squeeze.
There’s a real interesting photo of a moment that didn’t make it into the film, where Arnie puts Dennis in an uncomfortable positon, while Dennis is in the hospital bed.
There’s a telling shot of John Stockwell, Keith Gordon and John Carpenter laughing together (the two actors would become directors). I liked seeing the dolly track in hallway of high school with John Carpenter working with Gordon. Also Carpenter behind Stockwell making facings to get a reaction from Gordon while next to actress Kelly Preston.
Loved the portrait of the late Robert Blossoms, who was unforgettable as Christine original owner “George LeBay.”
This book had my attention from the moment I got it. I can’t see anything beating it for Best Book of 2014.