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The Alamo: The Illustrated Story of the Epic Film    by Frank Thompson Amazon.com order for
Alamo
by Frank Thompson
Order:  USA  Can
Newmarket, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by David Pitt

Okay, let's be honest here. Many of the glossy, heavily-illustrated movie 'companion books' are dreadful: poorly written, cheaply made things whose sole purpose is not to enlighten or entertain, but to make money. That's why you see so many of them stacked up on bookstore shelves, with big '75% off!' signs affixed to them, once the movie has left the theaters: nobody wants most of 'em.

This one, on the other hand, is splendid. Not only is there the usual making-of stuff, the book also spotlights the film's production designer, costumer, armorer, and composer, among other key participants. (A lot of people who write these books seem to forget that there's more to a film than a bunch of actors, some special effects wizards, and a director.) There's a brief chronicle of the battle of the Alamo, and the events leading up to it, to put the film in its historical perspective. There's the complete script of the film (laid out in a three-column format that is, at the outset, a little hard to follow but that's a minor quibble). The illustrations -- and there are quite a lot of them -- are beautiful, even the character portraits.

Why is this book so good, while some others are so bad? My theory is it's because this one is written by a man who knows what he's talking about: not only has he written a number of books about films and filmmakers, he's also written several about the Alamo. (Thompson was one of a handful of historians who consulted on the film.) It's so good that it stands alone, independent of the movie, and that's what a good book ought to do.

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