Sizes do matter (1)

the Etruscan shrew

Please indulge me first to get off on the title of this entry. After long and hard deliberation I was a bit dazed and weary to use the original title. In the end I decided that “Size Does Matter” might attract too many enhancement seeking net-surfers. This entry is not about sex, it is about “the perfect poster size” and a bit about the wonderful time in cinema history in the 1950’s when you could made exploitation movies just by enlarging small creatures or adopt animal features in humans. Long live mad science and nuclear power!  In later entries I will write about other and bigger sizes. For now I will focus on halfsheets and onesheets to emphasize the effect of width-height ratios. This recent acquisition is a good example for the perfect poster size with the right dimensions. It’s the halfsheet (80×60 cm) for THE KILLER SHREWS.

The KILLER SHREWS halfsheet (22x28")

This is one of the best poster designs in its genre. The pink ladies pump, the small puddle of red blood and the blueish grey tail of the human-eating insectivore are in subtle harmony with the tagline “all that was left after…”. The poster size ratio of 4:3 width vs height zooms in on the visual message and enhances the lateral dynamic of the tail. For comparison here is the standard poster size of the onesheet (67×104 cm).

Killer Shrews onesheet (27x41")

The onesheet is almost twice as high as it is wide and now the written message takes centre stage instead of the message of the image. It loses subtlety this way. The top half of the poster is also too dark, the design loses colour. It’s still nice of course, especially when compared to the DVD-cover which totally unnecessary shows the heads of the little monsters and which colour use detracts completely of the tail-shoe-puddle combo.

Now let us have a look at the miracle of enlargment.


The onesheet is the standard US poster size. This means that an artist or ad man will focus on the onesheet for the poster campaign. As a consequence lots of designs work better for the onesheet as it is often conceived for this size. A great example for this is another monster movie based on tiny creatures, THE GIANT LEECHES from 1959.

The GIANT LEECHES onesheet (27x41")

Here the width-height ratio works extremely well with the design. The movement of the design is not lateral as with the KILLER SHREWS but vertical. The people at the bottom are really down and out. The leeches have learned to stay upright and are towering over them. The effect is enhanced by the rain lashing down on the poor mortal humans. From a perspective view the leeches aren’t actually so much bigger than the humans, but here the bold yellow typography of the title in the middle of the poster breaks the natural perspective and tells us that these creatures are really, really big.  All these effects are diminished when the design is cropped to the ratio of the halfsheet.

GIANT LEECHES halfsheet (28x22")

Another striking example of the effect of downward motion is this other favorite onesheet in my collection, I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF from 1957.


In an earlier entry, The importance of being artist, I discussed the phenomenon that in the western world we read and visualize from  left to right and from top to bottom. The WEREWOLF onesheet is a prime example of this. The combination of these two laws of graphic design enables the combo of the girl menaced by the boy to be in full view, yet at the same time to be very much in the background. On the forefront is the claw with the blood dripping down, almost as if it is a point of view scene. The claw at the front is connected to the girl-boy combo at the back through the very much point of view title I WAS etcetera. Adding bonus of this design is the image of the boy as we, who have seen the movie, know that this is the boy that actually grew this claw. A feature which is absent in other vertical formats like the insert (14×36″) and the threesheet (41×81″).

I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF insert (14x36")

These designs are only top to down, whereas the onesheet also works left to right. Well that’s what I think anyway and why I think the onesheet is the best. The vertical design does not work on a halfsheet and the design of the halfsheet is probably for this reason very different and not nearly half as nice as the onesheet.

I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF halfsheet (28x22")

So all in all sizes do matter and it does not have to do anything with sex.



Ah alright then, maybe one Russ Meyer classic  for the top to bottom effect.

LORNA onesheet (1964, 27x41")

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