"On Set with John Carpenter: The Photographs of Kim Gottlieb-Walker" Book Review

Written by Robert Gold

Published by Titan Books

Written by Kim Gottlieb-Walker
2014, 176 pages, Reference
Released on October 21st, 2014


Director John Carpenter (Prince of Darkness) has enjoyed an illustrious career in Hollywood, working both inside the studio system and out. His films share themes of questioning authority, self-identity and standing up for the blue-collar working man. Carpenter has directed twenty feature films, starting four decades ago with Dark Star (1974), a bizarre sci-fi comedy with writer Dan O'Bannon. Next, he tackled the urban-western subgenre with Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), proving his skills at delivering a suspenseful character-driven picture. His third bite at the apple changed the face of independent cinema as the top grosser of its time and thrust him into the spotlight, forever associating his name with horror as the director of Halloween (1978). Over the next decade, Carpenter delivered one great movie after another in a wide variety of genres and gained international fame as a director. Contemporary fans may be curious what it was like to work with this man during his heyday, and now a new coffee table book offers a glimpse of this magical time.

Kim Gottlieb-Walker's On Set with John Carpenter chronicles the six-year period in which she was the on-set photographer for five Carpenter productions, including Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, Christine and Halloween II (which he only wrote and produced). Her camera provided all of the promotional images and behind-the-scenes stills for these movies and this collection tells quite the story. The book is a beautiful, glossy, 176-page time capsule that captures the energy and talent that filled these productions through a collection of rare photographs, many never previously released. Each movie receives its own chapter in chronological order, with shots in both color and black and white. The layout presents individual stills from the features, but also includes a series of images taken in rapid succession to capture candid moments among the cast and crew. There are brief comments from the photographer as well as many of the subjects present, with members of the production team reflecting on their time together.

The author shares the story of how she stumbled into the position of on-set photographer for Halloween, and despite her novice status, she worked closely with the director to ensure the best shots were obtained. She explains how generous and helpful Carpenter was with his time, frequently holding a scene before moving on in order for Gottlieb-Walker to get a great shot. She goes on to reveal that sometimes he even took the time to restage certain actions for her benefit, allowing her to stand in his spot to get his vision exactly. She worked closely with Cinematographer Dean Cundey to ensure that his lighting benefitted her images as well as his own. The original negatives were used as the source material here, and the results are frequently phenomenal in the level of detail that has been missing from reproductions over the last few decades. The photographer is also quick to identify the sources who helped track down these elements, some long missing from her private collection.

John Carpenter pens the foreword to the book and cannot say enough nice things about Kim Gottlieb-Walker's contributions. She is a highly skilled photographer, and genre fans owe her a huge debt of gratitude for providing the extensive coverage on the films they have grown to love. The best moments are the candid shots that reveal the daily fun present throughout the filming schedule, with cast and crew frequently appearing in good spirits. Fans of Carpenter's filmography will definitely want to pick up this book, as it offers a uniquely fresh perspective to the work. Do yourself a favor, and do it now.


Overall: 4.5 Star Rating Cover
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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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