The Beast Within / 30×40 / USA

22.05.15

PosterPosterPosterPoster
Title
The Beast Within
AKA
--
Year of Film
1982
Director
Philippe Mora
Starring
Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, Don Gordon, R.G. Armstrong, Katherine Moffat, L.Q. Jones, Logan Ramsey, John Dennis Johnston, Ron Soble, Luke Askew, Meshach Taylor
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Horror
Type of Poster
30x40
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
USA
Year of Poster
1982
Designer
Unknown
Artist
Unknown
Size (inches)
30 3/16" x 39 15/16"
SS or DS
SS
NSS #
820025
Tagline
This motion picture contains scenes of extremely graphic and violent horror

A striking and fairly unusual design features on this 30×40 poster for the release of the 1982 horror The Beast Within, directed by Philippe Mora. The film’s screenplay was written by Tom Holland (his first produced) who would go on to write other classic horrors like Fright Night and Child’s Play. The film opens in 1965 as a newly married couple are traveling down a dark country road in Mississippi when their car gets stuck in a ditch and the man, Eli McLeary (played by Ronny Cox) heads off to find help. His wife Caroline (Bibi Beschstays with the car but when their dog runs into a nearby wood she goes to try and retrieve it she is attacked by a strange beast, raped and left for dead.

Seventeen years later we discover that a child called Michael was born as a result of the attack and has been raised by the McLearys as their own. Having had a normal child he has started to suffer a mystery illness that the doctors cannot explain, aside from the presence of a swollen pituitary gland. The family decide to head back to the small town near where the incident happened to discover if there could be anything to explain the sickness but it soon becomes clear that Michael is being taken over by a beastly force that he can’t control and that several people in the town are at grave risk. Unfortunately budgetary restraints and producer whims meant that Holland’s screenplay was not shot in its entirety, meaning that the storyline is pretty garbled in places and the reasons for both Michael’s transformation (reincarnation) and why he’s only killing certain people are not exactly clear.

Despite missing out on box-office success on its cinema release it has since garnered something of a cult following, particularly in the VHS era, and that’s likely to do with the effectively creepy atmosphere, the fact that it doesn’t hold back on the gore, and the relatively high quality of the special creature effects. Of note is the final transformation scene for Michael, which is particularly well done and gruesome, aside from a couple of cringeworthy moments where the team clearly got a bit carried away (balloon head!). This poster and the film’s trailer made a big deal of how shocking and terrifying the film was and the trailer even mentions the last 30 minutes as being particularly horrible. I’m unsure who designed this poster so if you have any ideas please get in touch.

The Spy Who Loved Me / B2 / photo style / Japan

20.05.15

PosterPosterPosterPosterPoster
Title
The Spy Who Loved Me
AKA
--
Year of Film
1977
Director
Lewis Gilbert
Starring
Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curt Jürgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Walter Gotell, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Geoffrey Keen, George Baker, Edward de Souza
Origin of Film
UK
Genre(s) of Film
Action | James Bond
Type of Poster
B2
Style of Poster
Photo style
Origin of Poster
Japan
Year of Poster
1977
Designer
Unknown
Artist
--
Size (inches)
20 5/16" x 28 13/16"
SS or DS
SS
NSS #
--
Tagline
--

This is the photo style Japanese B2 for the release of The Spy Who Loved Me, which was the tenth James Bond adventure and the third to star Sir Roger Moore as the legendary spy. Felt by many to be the best Moore era film, it shares only the title with Ian Fleming’s original novel (at the author’s request) and the screenplay was written by Christopher Wood and Bond regular Richard Maibaum. When Russian and British submarines mysteriously disappear whilst on patrol, each country sends their top spies to discover who is responsible. The trail leads Bond to Egypt where he discovers that the plans for a submarine tracking device are on sale to the highest bidder.

Whilst in Egypt, Bond encounters his Russian rival, the KGB Agent Triple X (!) Major Anya Amasova (played by the beautiful Barbara Bach) and after a few initial hostile encounters the pair agree to team up to track down the plans and deal with the mute but deadly assassin Jaws (the late Richard Kiel‘s first appearance as the fan-favourite baddy). The pair identify shipping tycoon and scientist Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens) as the man behind the device and travel to Sardinia on his trail. There they visit Stromberg’s underwater base, Atlantis, posing as husband and wife scientists but their cover is soon blown and Bond’s infamous Lotus Esprit-cum-submarine makes an appearance. Eventually Bond and Anya are onboard a submarine captured by Stromberg’s submarine-swallowing supertanker and a final showdown takes place.

The Spy Who Loved Me opens with arguably the best pre-credits sequence of any Bond film that apparently even had Prince Charles on his feet applauding at the Royal Premiere back in 1977. The locations, sets and special effects work (particularly the models) are all first rate and you really feel that the budget was well spent. The ridiculous camp humour of later Moore outings is thankfully restrained too. The film was very well received by both critics and audiences and raked in healthy worldwide box-office takings.

As well as this photo montage poster there was also a B2 that featured Bob Peak’s great artwork for the film, as seen on the US one sheet and UK quad.

Blow Out / one sheet / USA

18.05.15

PosterPosterPoster
Title
Blow Out
AKA
--
Year of Film
1981
Director
Brian De Palma
Starring
John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz, Peter Boyden, Curt May, John Aquino, John McMartin
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Drama | Mystery | Thriller
Type of Poster
One sheet
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
USA
Year of Poster
1981
Designer
Unknown
Artist
--
Size (inches)
27 1/16" x 41"
SS or DS
SS
NSS #
810132
Tagline
Murder has a sound all of its own

Following the poor reception of 1980’s Dressed to Kill, director Brian De Palma decided to develop an idea he’d had during production that was based on Antonioni’s 1966 thriller Blow Up, swapping photography for sound recording. The resultant film, with a screenplay by De Palma, was named Blow Out and released almost exactly a year after Dressed to Kill. John Travolta stars as Jack Terry, a sound technician who is working on a low-budget exploitation film and is tasked by a producer to set out and record a better scream for a pivotal scene as well as some ambient noises. Jack travels to a local park at night to record but whilst there he witnesses a limousine crash off a road and into a lake.

After diving in to see if there are any survivors Jack discovers the driver dead and a young woman alive but trapped in the back of the car. After rescuing her and pulling her to safety, Jack discovers that the driver was a governor and presidential candidate and the woman is Sally (De Palma’s then wife Nancy Allen), an escort. The governor’s associates persuade Jack to cover up the fact that Sally was in the car and whilst listening to the recordings he made that night he begins to suspect that the crash wasn’t an accident as people are being led to believe. When he discovers that an amateur cameraman was also recording in the park that night he works with Sally to get a copy of the film, and when spliced together it becomes clear that a single gunshot was fired before the car smashes into the lake. It soon becomes clear that Jack has inadvertently involved himself in a deepening conspiracy and that he and Sally are in grave danger, with the gunman Burke (John Lithgow) still at large and keen to tie up loose ends.

As expected, the film is visually stylish and features several of De Palma’s trademark bravura sequences, with one towards the end of the film featuring a parade and a fireworks display that is particularly memorable. The leads all give excellent performances, with Travolta’s low-key depiction of an ordinary man in over his head is in stark contrast to his breakout role in 1977’s Saturday Night Fever. The score by regular De Palma collaborator Pino Donaggio is also superb and serves the film perfectly.

Although it received several rave reviews from the likes of Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert, the film failed to take off at the box-office and only found cult success years after its initial release. The home video label Criterion released the film on blu-ray in 2011 and during a making-of documentary Nancy Allen mentions the marketing for the film, and this poster, as not helping the film’s box-office performance. It’s a very simple image and perhaps didn’t say enough about the film to entice potential film-goers. It’s also thought that word of mouth about the notoriously downbeat ending probably didn’t help either.

If anyone has any ideas who designed this poster please get in touch.

Akira / B0 / 2001 DVD release / Japan

15.05.15

PosterPosterPosterPosterPoster
Title
Akira
AKA
--
Year of Film
1988
Director
Katsuhiro Ôtomo
Starring
Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama
Origin of Film
Japan
Genre(s) of Film
Animation | Sci-Fi
Type of Poster
B0
Style of Poster
DVD release
Origin of Poster
Japan
Year of Poster
2001
Designer
Toshiaki Uesugi (AKA Mach55Go!)
Artist
Katsuhiro Ôtomo
Size (inches)
39 6/16" x 55 9/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--

Katsuhiro Ôtomo‘s landmark manga series Akira was adapted into a feature-length anime film in 1988 and directed by Ôtomo himself. Akira had a huge impact on me when it was shown on the UK’s Channel 4 sometime in the early 1990s. I’d never seen anything quite like it and it opened my eyes to the world of anime films that were slowly being released in the UK, including the likes of Ninja ScrollGhost in the Shell and the great work of Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli.

The film was recently released on blu-ray and the lossless Japanese soundtrack is astonishingly good. There’s still talk of a live-action remake which fills me, and countless other fans of the anime, with great dread. I really hope it doesn’t happen!

This is an incredibly scarce B0 poster that was printed to promote a 2001 DVD release of the film in Japan. It features an illustration of Tetsuo from towards the end of the film by Otomo himself. It was designed by Toshiaki Uesugi, a graphic designer and musician who has regularly collaborated with Otomo, and who is also known as Mach55Go! for his musical work. Uesugi’s official site is here and is significantly out of date, but this page features a list of his work, which includes other Otomo collaborations as well as his work on anime like Cowboy Bebop and Macross.

This page has links to a lot of his work, including the items created for this DVD release, which featured the box packaging as well as a number of posters of different sizes. If you click through to the page for this poster (and select the small ‘next’ button) it takes you to a page with a picture of six copies of it on display in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Metro station and says that any copies that ended up in collectors’ hands were stolen from stations. It also says Otomo himself has 5 copies in his possession. A B1 portrait poster was apparently printed and featured just the left-hand side of the artwork. This collector site says that it’s thought that only 100 copies of the B0 were printed.

During a 2014 trip to Japan I was lucky enough to be able to visit an exhibition that was dedicated to Otomo’s poster design and I first saw this poster there (here’s a picture). I assumed I would never get the chance to add it to the collection but almost a year later the poster appeared on Yahoo auctions Japan and I was lucky to win the auction with the help of a Japanese friend. The white sticker on the bottom right corner was placed there in 2001 by the company that controls advertising on the Tokyo Metro and details when it should be taken down from display.

During a 2012 visit to Tokyo I went to a retrospective exhibition of Otomo’s work called Genga (A Japanese animation term for keyframes, literally ‘original pictures’), which featured hundreds of pieces of his artwork and the original hand-drawn pages for the Akira manga. I was also able to wear Kaneda’s jacket and sit on the legendary red bike!

I also have two Japanese B2 posters for the film; style A and style B, the Japanese B1 poster, as well as the American one sheet, and ace illustrator Tyler Stout’s take on the film.

Flash Gordon / landscape / Thailand

13.05.15

PosterPosterPosterPosterPoster
Title
Flash Gordon
AKA
Blixt Gordon (Sweden)
Year of Film
1980
Director
Mike Hodges
Starring
Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Chaim Topol, Timothy Dalton, Max von Sydow, Ornella Muti, Brian Blessed
Origin of Film
USA | UK
Genre(s) of Film
Sci-Fi | Action
Type of Poster
Thai
Style of Poster
Landscape
Origin of Poster
Thailand
Year of Poster
1980
Designer
Tongdee Panumas
Artist
Tongdee Panumas
Size (inches)
21 6/16" x 30 13/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--

There are few films quite like Flash Gordon and having re-watched it on blu-ray recently I was reminded how much of an impression it had on me when I first saw it as a child. I also listened to the excellent audio commentary with director Mike Hodges, who admits to being an unlikely choice to direct and confirms in no uncertain terms that they were making things up as they went along. It sounds like a typically chaotic Dino De Laurentiis production with scenes being written the night before filming and huge amounts of the budget going on the costume and set designs (though these are very impressive, even today).

There are several reasons the film remains one of my favourites of the 1980s:

Acting
Topol is insanely over the top as Dr Hans Zarkov with an accent that changes from scene to scene. It’s not hard to see why Sam J. Jones never hit the big time, although you can’t say he doesn’t give the role his all. Max Von Sydow is clearly having fun playing Ming and Brian Blessed is spectacular as Vultan the Hawksman; no one else could deliver the simple line ‘pass me the remote control’ with such unbridled gusto. A pre-Bond Timothy Dalton is also rather memorable, sporting a spectacular moustache.

The woodbeast
This infamous scene (featuring Peter Duncan) terrified me as a child, and not just ‘wow, that’s a bit weird’, I’m talking more like ‘I’m never going near a tree stump ever again’. Scarred. For. Life. There’s also an odd ‘black whoopee-cushion with tendrils’ creature that attacks Flash and is seared into my memory, even if it looks like a painted balloon when you watch it again today.

The costumes and set designs
As mentioned, a serious amount of budget was spent on costumes and sets by Danilo Donati and it shows. You only have to watch this brief clip to get an idea of the amount of work that went into them – very impressive stuff.

Ornella Muti
Just like Jane Seymour in Live and Let Die, Ornella (playingPrincess Aura) was responsible for putting more than a few hairs on my chest. Her costumes are the very definition of figure-hugging. The infamous interrogation scene has to be seen to be believed.

The music
An awesome soundtrack by Brit rockers Queen that still sounds superb today. I almost tried to persuade my wife to walk down the aisle to the sound of Ming’s wedding march; it’s that good. The 2011 remaster is available on Spotify.

This landscape Thai poster was painted by the artist Tongdee Panumas (he signs his posters with just his first name) who was an incredibly prolific Thai film poster artist during the 70s, 80s and 90s but I’ve been unable to find out much about him, other than that he was born in 1947. If anyone has any more information please get in touch. A knowledgeable collector of Thai posters told me that the artists would rarely if ever see the film they were creating the poster for and would instead paint images based on still photos or posters from other countries. This led to some wild designs and even some artwork with characters and elements that didn’t even appear in the actual film!

I believe elements of this poster were copied from the same stills that were used to make some of the other worldwide posters for Flash Gordon, so it’s likely that the film was actually released some time after 1980. If anyone knows the date please get in touch. I also have a portrait version of the poster in the collection.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World / screen print / Kevin Tong / USA

11.05.15

PosterPosterPosterPosterPoster
Title
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
AKA
--
Year of Film
2010
Director
Edgar Wright
Starring
Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman, Brandon Routh, Anna Kendrick, Kieran Culkin, Aubrey Plaza, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Ellen Wong, Satya Bhabha
Origin of Film
USA | UK | Canada | Japan
Genre(s) of Film
Action | Comedy | Fantasy | Romance
Type of Poster
Screen print
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
USA
Year of Poster
2014
Designer
Kevin Tong
Artist
Kevin Tong
Size (inches)
24 1/16" x 36"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
Because he's in lesbians with her

Ace director Edgar Wright‘s Scott Pilgrim vs The World was my favourite film of 2010 and is one of the most carefully crafted, brilliantly realised and wonderfully energetic films ever released. Based on a series of graphic stories created by Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley, the film tells the story of the eponymous character, played in the film by Michael Cera, who falls for the alluring Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and must then battle her seven evil exes in order to win her heart. The actors playing the exes are perfectly cast and include Brandon RouthChris Evans and Jason Schwartzman.

The film is a visual treat and rewards multiple viewings thanks to the brilliant script, kinetic editing and careful inclusion of hidden elements (look out for the many ‘X’s secreted throughout the film, for example). Some of the effects have to be seen to be believed, including an amazing battle of the bands sequence featuring two building-sized dragons and one angry gorilla beast. Much was made of the fact that the film was a critical success but was unable to make much of a box-office impact on release, but there’s no question that the film has found, and will continue to find, an appreciative audience on home video.

The official film posters for the film were slightly disappointing considering the level of craft put into the film itself and I felt at the time that, despite an interesting advance poster, so much more could have been done.

This screen print was commissioned by the limited edition poster outfit Mondo for a joint show with fellow artist Martin Ansin held at the Mondo Austin gallery during March 2014. Other films covered included Robocop, Flash Gordon and Alien. Badass Digest went to the show and interviewed Ansin and Tong, which can be read here and Collider.com ran an article featuring loads of images from the show.

Tong, who lives and works in Austin has collaborated with Mondo for a number of years, producing some fantastic pieces for a whole variety of films, including Bride of Frankenstein and Gravity. As well as film illustration he’s also worked on band posters and his official site has galleries of his work. EvilTender has an excellent interview with Tong that’s well worth a read.