This blog has seen more than its fair share of monstery movie posters, but it’s Jack Arnold’s (1916 – 1992) birthday today, or at least it was when I wrote this, and still is (just!) in some places far West of here. Anyway, it’s a flimsy excuse to liven up my blog with a batch of posters and images from some of Arnold’s best known films like Tarantula, Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Incredible Shrinking Man. The sensational imagery and hyperbole of the marketing campaigns is matched in the films themselves not by a similarly one-note gigantism, but with a considered delivery of that premise. Well, maybe not Tarantula, which is about a massive spider, but The Incredible Shrinking Man is quite a mournful, agonising account of the effects on its protagonist of an ongoing process of ensmallening (it’s a perfectly cromulent word). Plus, it has one of the most extraordinary, unforgettable endings in all science fiction cinema, which I won’t reveal here.
Initially an actor, Arnold’s career path was diverted when he enlisted in the Air Corps after Pearl Harbor:
As luck would have it they sent me to join a unit that was making a film produced and directed by Robert Flaherty. Now Flaherty was a kind of idol of mine so I decided to tell him the truth. I went up to this giant of an Irishman and said, look, I’ve got something to tell you–I’m an actor, not a cameraman. But I told him that I thought I would be able to handle the job. And I guessed he liked the fact that I had told him the truth instead of trying to fake my way through it and he kept me on.
After I got out of the Air Force a buddy of mine who had been in my squadron said, let’s go into business together. So we started a documentary film company. We made a number of documentaries over the years – for the State Department, the Ford Motor Company and so on, and we won some prizes. Then I made a film for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union called These Hands. It was a feature spanning fifty years of the union which was good enough to be released theatrically, and it got very good reviews. I was even nominated for an Academy Award which brought me to the attention of Hollywood. Universal gave me a contract with them as a director and I started working for them in 1950.
Film posters are promises. If a poster is one of your first points of contact with a film, it has to give a flavour of what to expect when you pay your admission fee. If that’s the case, then here’s a collection of Bollywood horror movie posters that promise you a jolt of lurid colour and an unusual number of deformed, looming faces.
I keep coming across excellent fan-made (help me out in the search for a better term for it than that!) posters, and this week I direct your attention towards Brandon Schaefer’s collection of images, which you can find at his website or on his Flickr pages. Some great, unusual choices, but also some original takes on well-known favourites like Ghostbusters and Tron.
Twitter has its uses. This week, thanks to Lucy Fife Donaldson, I was directed to Jamie Bolton’s minimalist film posters. (Incidentally, you can follow me here if you’d like regular updates on stuff.) Prompted by this, I sought out other attempts to reduce film posters to their component parts, and found this gallery at Hexagonall, where you can find many more. Perhaps you need to know the films a bit to get the significance of those basic shapes, but they’re all well known movies (a lot of these unofficial poster exercises seem to be covering very similar bases).
The last gallery for a while, this one collects a bunch of heroes and heroines, super or otherwise, from a range of countries and time periods. A few of these are for films that don’t actually exist yet. See if you can tell which ones…
The latest in the series of my collections of movie posters is concerned with comedy, mostly the work of classic comedians such as Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd and Harry Langdon. View the slideshow above or scroll down to view the gallery, and click on any thumbnail to see a larger view.
If ever there was a post that was self-explanatory, it’s this one. I’ve tried to select a few orthodox images amongst the less well-known films and posters, all linked by the ways they use sexual imagery to sell films even when sexuality may only be a small component of the films themselves. View as a slideshow above, or scroll down and click on the thumbnails for a larger view.
It’s gone a bit quiet over there lately, but the archive is still available for Film the Blanks, an ongoing project to reduce famous film posters to their most basic elements. It’s usually a guessing game that lets people try and identify the film (you can probably spot The Deer Hunter in the image above), but actually it reveals the graphical simplicity and strength of some of the techniques used to flog you a movie. See more at the Film the Blanks website.
The arrival of home video to Ghana in the early 80s produced the phenomenon of mobile cinemas, travelling around the country with a television, a VCR and a generator. To advertise their wares, these micro-distributors used large, hand-painted posters. When more people had their own TVs and video players at home, the tradition largely faded away (though the existence of posters for Terminator 3 and Planet Terror suggests it hasn’t really died out), but some of the posters remain, wearing the scars of having been outside in the elements, but evidencing an industrious attention to detail with their distinctive colours and bold posturing. I’m not sure if this confirms a popular taste for violent action movies, or a coincidence that posters for those films lasted longer than most.