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STOP THE PRESSES! THE SICK SMELL OF SUCCESS OPENS IN FEBRUARY 2018

         

 

Movie afficionado’s, collectors and experts Wim Jansen of MOVIE★INK. AMSTERDAM and Michael Helmerhorst of PICTURESEARCH have combined forces and will stake their claims together from February 2018 onwards.

Inspired by the sticky atmosphere Amsterdam city centre is now famous for, the magical combination of chocolate, cheese and sex, we call our space THE SICK SMELL OF SUCCESS. If you can make a fortune here with Nutella and cheese, we’ll soon be rollin’ in the green stuff selling you art. So strap in tight, not-on, and sniff some culture for a change in the Red Light District at OUDEZIJDS ACHTERBURGWAL 125 HS!

 

MOVIE★INK. AMSTERDAM hosts at least four exhibits in 2018, one for every season. Scheduled are:

FEBRUARY

In our opening exhibit we warm you up with THE SICK SMELL OF SUCCESS, an eclectic display of our favorite themes and motifs.

MAY

As it is spring we might very well morph the gallery into a chapel with LOVE AND MARRIAGE.

SEPTEMBER

A very special event will take place with ARE YOU PASSIONATE? a mixed event

featuring THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928) by CARL THEODOR DREYER.

NOVEMBER

It’s a wrap for 2018 with ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD

featuring pre-historic beings, skeletons and last century’s movie stars that most of you won’t remember.

Further details always follow. SEE YOU THERE!

 

 

IT’S TREACHERY WHAT ‘S OUT THERE

Sixth column for the 126th issue (the June/July 2017 film noir special) of Schokkend Nieuws.

BY WIM JANSEN: The filmposterprofessor is a bit uneasy with film noir posters. The genre film noir was invented at the time the movies themselves weren’t made anymore. So what about the posters? What can you say about those?

It wasn’t before the 1970’s that serious attempts were made to analyze the genre. In Film Noir: Reference to the American style (1979, edited by Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward) an encyclopedic attempt was made based on style and theme that showed the true attraction of film noir, the hybridization of style and theme. It’s all in the mix. Silver and Ward add retrospectively titles as CHINATOWN (1974, Roman Polanski), TAXI DRIVER (1976, Martin Scorsese) and even DIRTY HARRY (1971, Don Siegel) to the film noir canon. I would not have done that. Film noir has to be in black and white. Noir is alienation by distortion. The characters are distorted by choices on camera position and lighting. It is feasible to that in colour, but – as I’ve noted in an earlier edition of OLD PAPER–  the alienation factor is greater when the contrast is pushed to the max.

Distortion and phallic symbolism

Although the genre was truly to be be discovered when the films were not longer made, there is a definite noir style to be found in posters. There are a lot of tough guys with interesting, but rather unnatural poses, often crouching or leaning backwards. A bit like me in the night club when I was still a young man. Femmes fatales have a straight back, the left or right hip slightly up, breasts pushed forward and the head slightly tilted back. Both man and woman have an intense mien and carry if possible a smoking cigaret or gun. Other favorite phallic symbols are lampposts or similar pieces of street furniture. In a way men and women are equal, you can’t trust them equally. Shadow, smoke and mist… The contrast between the light and dark areas of the posters (see sting in the tail) is cranked up. Importantly a good film noir poster does not have or need a tagline. Explanation by text is a weakness and unnecessary when you promote a film called THIS GUN FOR HIRE (Frank Tuttle, 1942), KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS (Norman Foster, 1948) or MURDER, MY SWEET (Edward Dmytryk, 1944). Striking observation is  that the use of color in noir posters is not style-proof. Dark green or dark blue are always favorite to emphasize a sense of doom, but there are also a lot of noir posters with yellow, red or white as the leading colors. The one-sheet for DOUBLE INDEMNITY (Billy Wilder, 1944) is pink! Unfortunately there are very few black and white posters. That was quite simply not the norm for advertising posters in the 1940’s and early 1950’s.

Fate and destiny

At least there is one example! KISS OF DEATH (Henry Hathaway, 1947) is a less than subtle exercise in fate and treachery. Nick Bianco (VICTOR MATURE) has no future. Unemployed for a long time with an early conviction – just like his father had- he’s part of a jewelry heist that goes wrong. He is arrested and sent to prison without any help from his shifty lawyer. Here he learns about his wife’s suicide after being raped and about his darling little kids who are sent to the orphanage. To be released from prison he needs to rat out others twice. Still he can’t get a break as the DA is not able to commit on his promises and his lawyers make common cause with the underworld. Eventually Nick is shot by psychopath RICHARD WIDMARK he ratted out. In between the dreadfulness there’s just a slight flicker of joy of a romance with the former nanny of his kids COLEEN GRAY.

KISS OF DEATH is shot partially on location in New York and Sing Sing-prison which gives it a quasi-documentary realistic feel. That feel is recreated in the poster in the lettering of the credits. Framed in black on white it looks a bit like an announcement in a news paper. It suggests a certain objective reality, but what reality? Mature’s face is lit from below on the left and on the right side. The sharp light takes away the details. We only see eyes, ears, a nose and lips. He seems to be suspicious and he has reasons to be. His head sinks into the black background and is surrounded by big and hard white letters that look like they are made from wrack wood. He is all shuttered up. There is a glimpse of light coming from the door in the letter “I” but it isn’t much. There’s a little bit of security inside, but when you look outside it is dark and death is lurking. In any case the light does not travel enough to reach the doomed lovers. We find them in the left bottom corner in a disconsolate embrace in joyless grey. Nick’s lips only await the kiss of death.

CREATIVE WITH PAPER

Pardon the pun, but here’s the fifth column for the April/May 2017 issue of Schokkend Nieuws magazine.

CREATIVE WITH PAPER

Filmmakers like to “quote” and  “reference”. By quoting they show how they love movies themselves and how much they know about it. Due to an attentive reader of Schokkend Nieuws filmposterprofessor Wim Jansen reflects that designers of movie posters also like to quote and reference.

“Ain’t that a poster of CRASH! (Charles Band, 1976)?” asked Schokkend Nieuws-reader A van der L in regards to the Pakistani poster by Tariq in the last edition of OLD PAPER. No, it is for BLUE MURDER AT ST. TRINIAN’S. The artwork with the car carnage however is the same. The US onesheet for CRASH! is designed by Joseph Musso, production illustrator for THE TOWERING INFERNO (John Guillermin, 1974) up to the HATEFUL EIGHT (Quentin Tarantino, 2015).

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Of course Tariq was not paying hommage, he just looked for some stock material and “borrowed” Musso’s. Borrowing existing material is common practice with designers. Our own poster guru Duke Wellington about who I have written in earlier editions of OLD PAPER stressed the importance of compiling as large an archive of reference materials as possible. What is existing stock material and what is original artwork? Is a realistic drawing or painting of an actor from a still original artwork? Is a portrait cut out of a still combined with some lettering original artwork? The line between stock and original is as thin as between quoting and borrowing. Quoting and borrowing is pre-eminently something for genre movies. Genre movies are driven by proven formulas and cheeky hommages to well known themes and other genre movies. How do you attract a public for an obscure genre movie with an unknown cast? By quoting freely and creatively.

Greek tycoon

That leads me to the poster for this issue of Schokkend Nieuws. It is not exactly beautiful, but it is a nice example of quoting. It’s an Italian poster for an obscure Greek low-budget thriller from 1968 or 1970. The title is NUDE ASTROP if I have to believe two Italian websites. The first Google results for Nude Astrop or SEXUALATION – the title on the poster- stopped me from clicking further and I haven’t encountered posters for this title from another country but Italy. The plot of the movie is more or less simple. The boyfriend of the daughter of a Greek shipping tycoon is in fact the leader of a gang intent on the smuggle of stolen gold to Italy. When the daughter of the Greek tycoon tries to stop this, she is blackmailed by her boyfriend with photographs of her drunk and drugged sister. Ultimately the smuggle plan fails. The Italian distributor for the film, Empire Films, understood all too well that in terms of promotion a poster with the portraits of several unknown Greek actors would not cut it. It’s not unthinkable that the movie was bought unseen with the expectation that it would involve sex or at least nudity. As it happens it does have one or two racy scenes with the photographing of the drugged sister. That gave somebody an idea.

Artistic allure

Michelangelo Antonioni made a splash in 1966 with BLOW-UP. It’s fair to say that the posters for BLOW-UP are iconic. The image of the photographer and his model is the embodiment of the swinging sixties. The themes of the BLOW-UP posters are “quoted” without any shame in SEXUALATION. The photographer is there, but the model is caught in a net, bringing all kind of sexual insinuation into play. That suggests it’s like BLOW-UP, but more naughty. And it does not stop with the visual images. The credits also get a make-over. It’s a trick often used with Italian posters for genre movies. Cast and crew are internationalized. Director Edward G. Collins sounds much more alluring than let’s say Dimitrios Fanagulis. And then there’s the international class of Michael Eastwood (not Clint), Monica Greenwood (not Joan) and Barbara Stone (not Steele). Pièce de résistance is leading lady Vanessa Reed. Not Vanessa Redgrave from BLOW-UP, but Vanessa Reed! Not only international allure, but artistic as well! And that title on the poster will also get a bit of attention.

 

SONY DSC

DEFERRED MAINTENANCE – VIVE LA DIFFERENCE!

I must admit I neglected this blog somewhat. HEY PEOPLE, I’VE BEEN BUSY OKAY!? Anyway I will put that right as there’s good news in the offing. MOVIE★INK. AMSTERDAM will rise again in a new gallery space sometime in early 2018. To catch up I will post my past columns for Schokkend Nieuws as quick as I can. The first one – VIVE LA DIFFERENCE-  is for the 25th Anniversary issue from March 2017.

 

Filmposterprofessor Wim Jansen is having his own Silver Anniversary, but as a collector, and muses about different traditions in poster design and in movies using four examples from his collection.

The Dutch poster for SON OF KONG (1933), sequel to box office smash KING KONG is a much loved part of the Jansen household for years and it makes me happy every time I glance at it. For a big Hollywood spectacle movie you need of course a big spectacle poster the way Duke Wellington envisages (for his introduction read my first column Sting in the tail). American designs for these kind of titles – see small image- are dynamic: the principal figures suggest action and movement to the backdrop of a green jungle with bold typography that tells us we are in for a glossy box office smash with high end production values.

Kongs Cheeky Monkey

Such is not the case in the Netherlands. The Netherlands don’t have a commercial film poster tradition at this time, but a more artistic graphic design tradition. This tradition often puts the design before the movie. Movies are just amusement, graphic design is art. There is a bit of both in the design for SON OF KONG by Frans Mettes (1909-1984). Mettes had just started out as a designer when he got this assignment. Later in his career he became well known for his comic cartoon like advertising posters. Famous for example are his posters with laughing oranges or other happy fruit for liquor companies or fruit itself. See examples here! In the SON OF KONG Mettes’ efficient style is already recognizable. Mettes places the leading actors and the RKO logo at the bottom. Right there in the middle is the figure it’s all about. However he does not choose the full grown adult male gorilla. Mettes also downplays the fact that the Son of Kong is an albino. He uses a few white accents in an otherwise dark pelt. That’s a much better contrast against the happy yellow background and white lettering and the barely visible single liana. This poster hints in no way to a big spectacle movie or to high production values. Mettes accentuates the “SON OF” dimension. First and foremost this is a cheeky monkey.

Teenage Dreams

Talking about high end production values, in STING IN THE TAIL I already touched on de low budget SCI-FI and horror movies of the 1950’s. Here the posters often look better than the movies themselves. The company AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES knew all too well that you need to draw the public in first to make money. The actual screening itself is less relevant. AIP had a few aces up their sleeves in this area with the pulp pin-up posters of REYNOLD BROWN and ALBERT KALLIS. Brown, originally an illustrator in advertising and book design, was lured to AIP by art director Albert Kallis. Kallis himself was hired earlier by producer-director ROGER CORMAN in 1951. Brown and Kallis specialize in characteristic combination of pin-ups and action scenes. Their best designs also have sharp, clear lines that gives an extra, may I say sexy?, edge. One of the best examples is TERROR FROM THE YEAR 5,000 (Robert J. Gurney, 1958). This design is by Kallis. The anxious figures in the right bottom corner, the stylish futuristic decor. From the porthole enters a “she-thing”. The tagline says she is “hideous:, but …..wow! There’s another reason for a teenager in the 1950’s not to fall asleep!

Skeletons in the Cupboard

WILLIAM CASTLE (1914-1977) was another specialist for getting teenagers into the cinema. He was the master of the gimmick and sold cheap tricks as technical innovation. Percepto! for example, a few cinema seats equipped with a buzzer to set off the public to scream at the right time in THE TINGLER (1959). For HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) he came up with Emergo! It’s nothing more really than a skeleton with red lights as eyes hoisted through the cinema with a rail on exactly the right time in the final scene. Simple but very effective. No other than VINCENT PRICE plays the leading role. He invites a few people to a desolate mansion to take part in a mystery game. This is nothing more than a ruse to kill his adulterous wife and a few others. The victims are reduced to skeletons by dumping the bodies in a vat of acid. The American posters (probably designed by REYNOLD BROWN, here he is again) accentuate the sensational gimmick of the skeleton with Price holding the chopped off head of a woman in the one hand and a candle in the other. Not in Italy though.

There does not seem to be a specific target audience in Italy in the 1950’s. In Italy the young and the old went to the cinema whatever title was on offer often as a communal activity. As a general rule Italian posters reflect that. They are big and exuberant. No tampering with accountable line work or the cut and paste of separate visual elements. Italy is the land of painters and so paint and brush is used to apply perspective and contrasts of light and dark. The shown design of RODOLFO VALCARENGHI is less shock and more atmosphere. Price is there of course, with candle, but an extra chopped off head is unnecessary. From the half-open door streams abundant yellow light. It gives the poster depth and with a little imagination you can picture an earlier victim as skeleton hanging in the acid in the background. Price is in the middle,  a beautiful woman, his next victim, in front of him.

And then another point

In spite of tradition or style it is important that the designer has a faint idea what the subject matter is. TARIQ from Pakistan, the designer of my final choice, probably missed the briefing. BLUE MURDER AT ST. TRINIAN’S (Frank Launder, 1957) is the second installment of a British serie of comedies in the setting of a boarding school for girls. “BLUE MURDER hey?!” the designer must have thought, “I can work with that.”

EMOJI AVANT LA LETTRE

I’ve been asked to write a few columns for the fab magazine SCHOKKEND NIEUWS with the title OLD PAPER. The idea is to explore the history of movie poster making and the ways in which images convey meaning by picking each time a single example poster. Aim is to write something with a little depth that also might appeal to someone who is not knee-deep in posters himself. I will post a translated version every few weeks after an issue of SCHOKKEND NEWS is published.

The original column you can find HERE.

EMOJI AVANT LA LETTRE

Filmposterprofessor Wim Jansen is a little nervous. He wants to expound Eastern European posters, but they are somewhat ambiguous and his explication is rather abstract too.

Nothing divides collectors as much as Eastern European posters. On the one side of the argument are people that almost reach ecstasy when they hear the magic words ‘Polish’ or ‘Czech’, on the other side are the haters. Bone of contention is the absence of clarity of a lot of these posters. In earlier posts in OLD PAPER I wrote about the importance of a clear message and a good likeness. Clarity implies reliability. The better the perception of a natural likeness, the more reliably we perceive it. The subjectivity of an artistic interpretation damages the reliability of the image. Check with any politician and he or she will concur with that statement.

POSTER ART

Eastern European posters lack often clarity or are sometimes outright abstract. It is often stated that this is because of the designers have not seen the movie with the resulting lack of reference material. This generates probably from the assumption that western movies were not shown behind the iron curtain. This misconception is at least denied by the multiple volumes of the Czech movie magazine KINO from the 1950’s to 1970’s that I have laying around here. These are filled with reviews and critiques of all kinds of western movies. Something different was going on. Eastern European designers did not have to tempt as much customers to the cinema as possible, they were led by a cultural tradition of graphic design and poster art. That tradition was especially nursed in Poland. Competitions were held as were prestigious poster-biennales,  a poster exhibit was as usual as one of paintings.

WASILEWSKI

The designer of the featured poster is MIECZYSLAW WASILEWSKI, born in 1942 in Warszaw. Especially his work in the seventies and eighties was very minimalistic. I emailed Mr. Wasilewski if he had any memories related to the design of this particular poster and he got back to me right away. He wrote that in that period there was a great amount of creative freedom in Poland that enabled him to create a very personal interpretation of the movie. A design was to be judged by either a committee or a senior graphic designer. The poster was not meant to advertise as in the socialist society advertising was not an important issue. The only condition to be met was to reach a high artistic value. Wasilewski recalls that all his movie posters were “products of my imagination freely somehow connected with the movies.”

It’s not so strange that when looking at Wasilewski’s posters we don’t have much use for Duke Wellington, the capitalist prophet of the clear message (singleness of effect), about whom I wrote in earlier posts of OLD PAPER. There are other factors, next to a good likeness, to take in account that influences our minds when we look at images. Factors like color, depth, lighting and clarity play a part in how “true” we judge an image. Everyone that has used the filters of the Instagram app will have a sense how manipulative those factors are. Wasilewski’s poster of CRITTERS shows what great alienating effect can be created with an extreme use of color, depth, lighting and clarity.

 

HAPPY/NOT HAPPY

CRITTERS (Stephen Herek, 1986) is a science fiction-horror comedy with little monsters from outer space. They are kind of fluffy, have a lot of teeth with a mean little smile on their faces. They roll along the ground as a little ball and eat everything they encounter. On your regular Hollywood movie poster they look naughty and cheerful. Comparisons with box office smash GREMLINS (Joe Dante, 1984) were quickly made. Wasilewski, the Polish minimalist, reduces the little creatures to two black fluffy spheres. Square white dots provide an ambiguous smirk that bring a sense of eeriness. Put together with a nose and mouth that look like knife cuts in paper they resemble a kind of emoji. An emoji avant la lettre which means something like “happy/not happy”. This poster has no sense of action and has no depth. It’s a flat space from which any color has been sucked out, there’s only black and white. No gradation. No contrast. The lettering fits very well with the emoji and looks to be disassembled from an Atari computer. It’s a sterile, chilly world, this sci-fi world with it’s nasty little monsters. I think it is fair to assume that Mieczyslaw Wasilewski was not a fan of critters.

 

SOPHIA AT BRUNO’S

Just popped in BRUNO’S, former neighbor of the gallery and coffee guru. A place with fantastic coffee needs some eye candy. No better choice of course than SOPHIA LOREN to pimp the walls. And a good excuse to post this classic song once more.

KEEPING A CLEAR HEAD

I’ve been asked to write a few columns for the fab magazine SCHOKKEND NIEUWS with the title OLD PAPER. The idea is to explore the history of movie poster making and the ways in which images convey meaning by picking each time a single example poster. Aim is to write something with a little depth that also might appeal to someone who is not knee-deep in posters himself. I will post a translated version every few weeks after an issue of SCHOKKEND NEWS is published.

The original column you can find HERE.

KEEPING A CLEAR HEAD

Filmposterprofessor Wim Jansen guides us through the weird and wonderful world of filmadvertising art. Chances are you did not think about it in this post-digital snapchat era, but there was a time it was quite a thing to make a proper portrait.

More stars than there are in heaven was MGM’s claim in the 1940’s. Star power was everything and it shows in the posters of the late thirties and early forties. A nice example is this gorgeous onesheet for LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST (Walter Lang, 1936). Hollywood of the thirties was built on stars and genre productions. It was important that the public knew instantly what they were going in for. James Cagney playing not a gangster once in a while? No problem as long as that was recognized immediately. Nothing as bad for box office as wrong expectations. DUKE WELLINGTON, whose book The theory & Practice of Poster Art (1934) I introduced in my first column, does not beat about the bush: a good portrait makes 75 % of a poster and a portrait without likeness is a crime.

BALOPTICON

For that purpose Wellington prescribes the use of a projector (the so-called balopticon) for portraits sketched in paint or pencil. Photoshop did not yet exist; to work with provided materials – usually stills – was the best base for success and the balopticon the quickest and most reliable method. A free hand sketch is of course an option, but – as Duke puts it delicately – is more for the ‘artists in the true sense’. Projection enables the poster artist to build the portrait with the most important elements: eyes, nose and mouth. When the outline of the portrait is ready, the lettering can be penciled in for a good sense of proportion. Then the portrait can be finished with paint and brush. Here the use of the right tints and colors is essential for nuance and accents. In the thirties most ‘heads’ were painted in different tones of yellow and orange with some dark colors to separate the different planes and accentuate the right proportions. A portrait with great likeness is not necessarily lifelike. It’s an abstraction that transfers the essence of an actor or actress from a distance, if possible in the context of the film. Unfortunately I can’t tell you who the designer is of LOVE BEFORE BREAKFAST. The final responsibility for the poster lies either with the advertising director or the art director of UNIVERSAL, respectively PHILLIP COCHRANE and KAROLY GROSZ. Intriguing detail: Grosz is also responsible for the iconic horror posters of FRANKENSTEIN (James Whale, 1931), THE MUMMY (Karl Freund, 1932) and THE INVISIBLE MAN (James Whale, 1933).

BLACK EYE

CAROLE LOMBARD (1908-1942) made her first picture aged 12. She made her breakthrough in TWENTIETH CENTURY (Howard Hawks, 1934) with a character that became her trademark. She was the sophisticated sexy blonde who knew how to walk or fall in a Travis Banton dress, perfect for screwball comedy. This one-sheet unites star and genre perfectly. Some poster enthusiasts claim that the black eye is risky for a comedy movie poster, but they are wrong. It’s the cherry on the cake. The poster would be great of course even without the black eye. It is so elegant with a fine line and sparse use of picture planes and color variation. This face is so beautiful because it is abstracted to the limit. Leave more detail out and it becomes a caricature or pin-up. Now it’s a portrait of an elegant and sexy comedic actress with a gorgeous high value of likeness. The black eye though elevates the design to even bigger heights, it’s the ultimate screwball poster. In screwball comedy the first act provides the introduction of the resolute and fiery heroin who is also a bit screwy, often in the setting of high society. In act two she will get in a fight with the leading man, who she marries in act three. Carole Lombard gets in a fight defending her man and carries the mark of a black eye as the visible proof of her love. The lettering supports the concept completely. The diagonal letters that form Lombard’s name are unconventional which suits her image. The other lettering is high society chique with the credits just right of center (screwy!). Even the logo of the studio conforms to the concept. The usual Universal logo in 1936 was a globe with big neon letters (famously moving in the leader of the movies). That’s a bit too course here.

Oh, one little thing. In the movie it is Lombards right eye that gets hit. I assume that the unknown designer of this poster has changed this out of esthetic considerations. Let’s hope that he did not put a still in the balopticon the wrong way around…

 

 

PS

A big thanks to Ed and Sue of Learnaboutmovieposters for the credits behind the poster

 

 

 

 

STING IN THE TAIL

I’ve been asked to write a few columns for the fab magazine SCHOKKEND NIEUWS with the title OLD PAPER. The idea is to explore the history of movie poster making and the ways in which images convey meaning by picking each time a single example poster. Aim is to write something with a little depth that also might appeal to someone who is not knee-deep in posters himself. I will post a translated version every few weeks after an issue of SCHOKKEND NEWS is published.

The original column you can find HERE.

STING IN THE TAIL

SCHOKKEND NIEUWS starts a new column: OLD PAPER. Filmposterprofessor Wim Jansen guides us through the weird and wonderful world of filmadvertising art. What makes an interesting poster? This time: big is not always better.

Looked for it for about six years, but then I found it: a reprint edition of The Theory and Practice of Poster Art by Duke Wellington. In this book, originally from 1934, you can find everything what a starting poster designer should know. Theory and Practice will be a recurring theme in Old Paper.

Wellington started out as a painter of advertising boards for circuses and stumbled into film advertising through the NEWMAN THEATRE in Kansas City – one of those baroque movie palaces of the 1920’s. A few years later he became the chief of the art department of the Publix Theatres Corporation in New York. He wrote Theatre and Practice after he started his own agency. According to Wellington film advertising starts and ends with singleness of effect. A well-designed poster imprints a single message in the brain of the viewer. For that effect a poster design consists of two large areas of dark and light with only a handful of objects that are shown as big as possible. More objects or small objects will distract.

SHREWS

A good example of Wellington’s theory is one of my favorite posters, the halfsheet for THE KILLER SHREWS. THE KILLER SHREWS is a low-budget monster movie, directed by Ray Kellogg. In those days filmmakers experimented merrily with the possible effects of radiation or genetic manipulation. In 1959 almost every living creature on God’s green earth was pumped up to massive size on celluloid, so why not a shrew?

At the end of the 1950’s the Hollywood studio system had crumbled. This opened the way for independent film production. All kinds of beginners, amateurs and opportunists could now make a movie with little money and get it distributed in movie theatres or drive-ins as well. The rise of the Z-movie had started. KILLER SHREWS is one of such movies. It was shot somewhere outside Dallas, Texas. Actor Ken Curtis (who became famous as sidekick Festus in the television series Gunsmoke) and radioman Gordon McLendon (attributed to broadcast the first live traffic report in the USA) produced the movie with a small budget. Both men also played a part in the movie and shot at the same time another Z-classic, THE GIANT GILA MONSTER.

The low budget and limited time to produce the movie were disastrous for the quality of the special effects, but not for a successful advertising campagne. The initial investment of $ 123,000– paid back tenfold.

HALFSHEET

Halfsheets like these measure about 22 inches high and 28 inches wide and are printed on cardstock. Movie theatres use to have special lobby displays for this size. The viewing public could look at the posters up close and at eye level. Sometimes this resulted in rather boring movie paper, for example posters with a lot of explanatory text or just two heads with the names of the stars and nothing else. Due to the landscape format of the poster it fills up quickly and it offers less depth than the portrait format.

The KILLER SHREWS halfsheet is special, because it toys with monster movie cliches. In 1959 the average Joe Public was bombarded with the KING KONG-effect and had seen loads of spiders, ants or other small pests or beasts towering above him with the warning shout “GET OUT OF THE WAY, MONSTER INCOMING!”  The (unfortunately anonymous) designer of the KILLER SHREWS halfsheet found singleness of effect in a more subtle way by literally choosing the tail end of the plot.

 

The KILLER SHREWS halfsheet (22x28")

The KILLER SHREWS halfsheet (22×28″)

The poster is, as Wellington laid down, divided in two large areas on top of each other. This gives a sense of depth that enables the four defining objects to be large and visible. The upper area is dark, the lower area is light. These areas are green being the colour of horror. In the green areas there’s a kind of rebus of three very colourful objects: purple tail + red pool of blood + pink ladies pump. A shrew itself is not the scariest animal in the world. It’s basically a lot of fur with two small, beady eyes. To inflate such an animal to monster proportions is less effective than say an eight-legged spider or a praying mantis. To show just the tail has much more threatening effect. The tail is draped delicately across the full width of the poster. The blood is red and looks fresh. The pink pump symbolizes youth and sex. The answer to the rebus is written above it in straight, simple and neutral white lettering: “All that was left after…” and than the title in free, more genre specific, lettering: THE KILLER SHREWS.

The message is clear. We are too late. No use shouting out a warning.

 

 

AMSTERDAMNED 2016 Starts Today

Quick post! Today starts AMSTERDAMNED 2016 in Kriterion. AMSTERDAMNED 2016 is a new 3-day genrefestival organized by old friend Jan “Mister Horror” Doense. The festival kicks off with a 28th year celebration of cult classic AMSTERDAMNED directed by Dick Maas. I put up a few posters from both Mr. Horror’s collection and mine. It’s nice! Have a look and watch a few movies while you’re there!

 

AMSTERDAMNED 2016!

AMSTERDAMNED 2016!

20161024_122207

THAT’S IT, NO MORE INK.

Yes, my good friend Dave Navarro could not have said it better. Today is the last day MOVIE INK. AMSTERDAM is open at the Palmdwarsstraat. The archives and most of the collection are already moved. It’s a question of clearing up and out now. If you have pressing poster needs today is the day to get a bargain. From tomorrow onwards it will be “by appointment only” at my new address at the Zwanenburgwal 92.

Maybe I see you there sometime.

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