Man of Steel / screen print / Martin Ansin / USA

03.07.15

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Title
Man of Steel
AKA
--
Year of Film
2013
Director
Zack Snyder
Starring
Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni, Kevin Costner, Ayelet Zurer, Laurence Fishburne
Origin of Film
USA | Canada | UK
Genre(s) of Film
Action | Adventure | Fantasy | Sci-Fi
Type of Poster
Screen print
Style of Poster
Regular
Origin of Poster
USA
Year of Poster
2013
Designer
Martin Ansin
Artist
Martin Ansin
Size (inches)
24" x 36"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--

It’s fair to say that Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel divided both critics and audience upon its release in 2013. Following Bryan Singer’s failed attempt to rekindle the franchise with the disappointment that was 2006’s Superman Returns, expectations were high for this film, coming as it did with production backing from Christopher Nolan who’d struck gold with his Batman trilogy. British actor Henry Cavill stepped into the role of Clark Kent / Kal-El and was joined by a number of notable actors, including Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, his adoptive father, and Amy Adams as Lois Lane. The film is effectively an origin story and opens with the destruction of Superman’s home planet of Krypton, resulting in the death of his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and mother Faora-Ul (Antje Traue). The rest of the film deals with his arrival on earth and adoption by the Kent family, whose attempts to conceal their adopted son’s identity are threatened by the arrival of the evil Kryptonian General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his gang of miscreants.

The film is undoubtedly visually stunning with state of the art special effects but is lacking something in the storytelling department, certainly not helped by a fairly clunky script. A lot of the criticism about the film was levelled at the final quarter of the film that sees Superman face off against Zod in the middle of a Metropolis that is smashed to pieces by the two Kryptonians with seemingly no thought for the potential loss of life in the city. Additionally, the climactic scene is often cited as being very un-Superman. There were a number of attempts to explain what the film gets wrong but it’d be wrong to say that it’s not worth a watch. It also served as a prelude to 2016’s Batman vs Superman and the much anticipated Justice League film due the year after.

This screen print by the Uruguayan artist Martin Ansin was released by the incomparable Mondo, the Austin-based purveyors of limited edition posters and film merchandise. There is a variant that was printed onto a sheet of steel and only 130 of those were released. The regular edition was a timed-release and was available to purchase over a period of three days (standard Mondo releases are done at a random time on a first-come, first-served basis). This meant that the edition of the regular print ended up being 5585.

The pose of Superman was apparently inspired by a painting by the celebrated artist Alex Ross, which is itself a homage to the first issue of the Superman comic that was printed in 1939.

One of my favourite artists active today, Martin Ansin‘s work has graced many of the best posters released by Mondo, including several in the Universal Monsters series like this amazing Phantom of the Opera print and an excellent Dracula (1931) one. You only have to look at the gallery on his official site to see how talented an artist he is, with an eye for composition and detail unmatched by most of the artists in Mondo’s roster. To see the other posters I’ve collected so far that were designed by Ansin, click here.

21 Grams / B1 / Japan

01.07.15

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Title
21 Grams
AKA
--
Year of Film
2003
Director
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring
Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Benicio Del Toro, Danny Huston, Clea DuVall, Eddie Marsan, Melissa Leo
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Crime | Drama | Thriller
Type of Poster
B1
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
Japan
Year of Poster
2003
Designer
Unknown
Artist
--
Size (inches)
28 14/16" x 40.5"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--

Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams is the second film in his so-called ‘Trilogy of Death’, following on from his breakout debut hit Amores Perros (2000), with Babel completing the trilogy in 2005. Like the first film, 21 Grams features three main characters and plot lines that interweave around a fatal car accident and its consequences. Sean Penn plays Paul Rivers, a mathematics professor who is close to death from heart failure after years of smoking and abusing his body, and his wife Mary (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is desperate to conceive a child before he dies. Benicio Del Toro plays Jack Jordan, a reformed criminal who has spent many years in jail and is now trying to go straight by helping out at church and counselling kids who are on a similar path that he took. Naomi Watts plays Cristina Peck, a former drug addict who has settled down into suburban life with husband Michael (Danny Hustonand two daughters.

One fateful day, Jack accidentally hits Michael and the kids with his car, putting Michael into a coma and killing the daughters instantly. A grief-stricken Cristina returns to her drug-taking past but not before agreeing to have her husband’s organs donated. Jack is given Michael’s heart and eventually decides to track down the donor with the aid of a private detective. The rest of the film deals with the encounters between the characters. The title refers to the early 20th-century research of an American doctor called Duncan MacDougall who attempted to prove the existence of the human soul by recording a small loss of weight immediately after death. His methods detected varying amounts but 21 grams, or three quarters of an ounce, was the first recorded instance. The marketing campaign compared this weight to a ‘stack of nickels’, a chocolate bar and a hummingbird and this explains why the creature appears on this poster.

The film was very well critically received and was a success with worldwide audiences, although today it’s IMDb rating doesn’t quite match that of the first film in the trilogy. This poster design is unique to the Japanese marketing campaign.

City of Women / quad / UK

29.06.15

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Title
City of Women
AKA
La città delle donne (Italy - original title)
Year of Film
1980
Director
Federico Fellini
Starring
Marcello Mastroianni, Anna Prucnal, Bernice Stegers, Jole Silvani, Donatella Damiani, Ettore Manni, Fiammetta Baralla
Origin of Film
Italy | France
Genre(s) of Film
Comedy | Drama
Type of Poster
Quad
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
UK
Year of Poster
1981
Designer
Unknown
Artist
Andrea Pazienza
Size (inches)
30 3/16" x 40"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
'City of Women' is a film about a man who invents woman' - Fellini

A striking piece of art by the late Italian comic artist Andrea Pazienza on this UK quad poster for the release of the late Italian director Federico Fellini‘s City of Women. Often cited as being semi-autobiographical, the dream-like film sees Fellini’s frequent collaborator (and arguably alter-ego) Marcello Mastroianni (La Dolce Vita, 8 and a half) playing Snàporaz a businessman traveling on a train who becomes infatuated by a woman (Bernice Stegers) in the same carriage. When the train stops at a remote station he lets his lust get the better of him and follows her into a forrest. Eventually she leads him to a hotel in which a raucous feminist conference is taking place and Snàporaz moves from room to room in search of the woman. Each room contains a different event or discussion dealing with the different ways that women and men interact, with satirical displays of machismo and passionate arguments taking place. 

Eventually, growing impatient, Snàporaz manages to persuade an older woman to take him to the train station but she stops on the way and forces herself on him in a greenhouse. After escaping from her clutches he ends up getting a lift from a group of women in convertibles who drive him around all night until he runs away and ends up at the house of the pompous Dr. Xavier Katzone (a play on the Italian word for ‘big dick’) who is hosting a lavish party to celebrate his 10,000th conquest. A number of events occur and Snàporaz ends up sliding down a tunnel under a bed into an even more surreal world where he is forced to recall his previous sexual encounters and eventually ends up being judged by a kind of court for his masculinity. Although he is freed for his crimes, he ends up confronting the punishment and ends up in a boxing ring above a huge crowd of women.

During a making-of documentary on the recent blu-ray release Fellini collaborators explain that the film was definitely written by Fellini as a way of working out his own feelings around his infidelity and the relationship between the two sexes. Filled with typically Felliniesque surrealist sequences, the film is visually interesting throughout and is frequently funny. Mastroianni is clearly enjoying himself and despite some sluggish moments the film mostly works. Rather bizarrely, Ettore Manni, the actor playing Katzone, died during filming by shooting himself in the genitals and dying from blood loss. A large section of the end of the film had to be altered by Fellini because of the accident.

Sadly, Andrea Pazienza also died prematurely at the age of 32 from a heroin overdose. Born in 1956, he studied Art at the University of Bologna and went on to create comic strips for Italian magazines, with often surreal, satirical stories featuring several characters of his own creation. Arguably his most famous creation was Zanardi, a high-school student from Bologna, who appeared in several comic strips during the 1980s and was very popular with Italian comic fans. During this period he also worked on illustrations for advertising and editorial content, as well as a designs for theatrical productions and a handful of movie posters. This illustration also appeared on the Italian teaser poster but the UK quad is, I believe, the only other international poster to feature it.

King Kong Lives / B0 / Japan

26.06.15

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Title
King Kong 2
AKA
King Kong Lives (USA / UK)
Year of Film
1986
Director
John Guillermin
Starring
Peter Elliott, George Yiasoumi, Brian Kerwin, Linda Hamilton, John Ashton, Peter Michael Goetz, Frank Maraden
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Action | Adventure
Type of Poster
B0
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
Japan
Year of Poster
1986
Designer
Unknown
Artist
Unknown
Size (inches)
39 6/16" x 55 9/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--

King Kong Lives is the critically-mauled and commercially disastrous sequel to the ill-advised 1976 remake of the classic big ape monster movie, which was shepherded into life by the legendary Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis. I’m not entirely sure why a decade passed before this sequel was put into production, but both De Laurentiis (or at least his company DEG) and director John Guillermin returned and definitely shouldn’t have bothered. The gap is explained in the film by having Kong in a 10 year coma following his fall from the World Trade Center at the end of the previous film.

Linda Hamilton (who should have known better) stars as Dr. Amy Franklin who is attempting to perform a heart transplant with an electronic replacement but Kong has lost too much blood for the operation to proceed. Luckily the adventurer Hank Mitchell (Brian Kerwin) finds and captures another giant ape in the jungles of Borneo and brings it to the US so that the operation can go ahead. It turns out that the new ape is a female and once Kong’s heart is replaced it’s not long before he escapes with ‘Lady Kong’ and chaos ensues. Unfortunately, despite the premise, the entire cast looks as if they’d rather be somewhere else and the shoddy effects can’t paper over the cracks.

This artwork appears on the Japanese B1 and B0 posters. The B0 size of poster is typically used in larger cinemas and in advertising spots in the Tokyo metro. I’ve struggled to find out who the artist is for this poster so please get in touch if you have an idea. There are also two B2 posters for the film (style A and style B).

Dead and Buried / B2 / style B / Japan

24.06.15

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Title
Dead and Buried
AKA
Zongeria (Japan)
Year of Film
1981
Director
Gary Sherman
Starring
James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, Dennis Redfield, Nancy Locke, Robert Englund
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Horror
Type of Poster
B2
Style of Poster
Style B
Origin of Poster
Japan
Year of Poster
1981
Designer
Unknown
Artist
--
Size (inches)
20 6/16" x 28 14/16"
SS or DS
SS
NSS #
--
Tagline
--

This is the style B B2 for the Japanese release of the American horror film Dead and Buried. The film was written by Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon, the two screenwriters responsible for the 1979 sci-fi masterpiece Alien, and was directed by Gary Sherman whose previous film had been the creepy ‘cannibals on the London Underground’ horror Raw Meat (AKA Deathline) almost a decade earlier. The story is set in the seemingly normal New England seaside town of Potter’s Bluff and sees the local Sheriff Dan Gillis (James Farentino) investigating a series of mysterious disappearances of strangers visiting the area. The baffling thing for the sheriff is that the strangers are then reappearing some days later now seemingly a member of the community.

The viewer bears witness to a series of gruesome murders beginning with that of a photographer (Christopher Allport) who is seduced on the town beach before being attacked by several people from the town who beat him and burn him alive whilst taking photographs. It soon becomes clear that Potters Bluff’s eccentric mortician William G. Dobbs (Jack Albertson AKA Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) has been practicing some fairly unorthodox patient handling in his morgue and the sheriff sets out to put a stop to his plans.

Apparently, the film went through a number of edits at the request of one of the financiers and was moulded into more of a dark horror film than Gary Sherman had originally intended, with two additional killings inserted and filmed without the assistance of effects maestro Stan Winston (these are noticeably different in tone and quality of execution than the rest of the film). Despite this, Dead and Buried is a solid horror film with a creepy atmosphere, excellent production design and some memorable turns, particularly from Albertson and Melody Anderson as Dan Gillis’ wife who harbours a dark secret.

The film’s original trailer is on YouTube.

The Uncanny / one sheet / UK

22.06.15

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A striking design on this poster for the 1977 British-Canadian horror anthology The Uncanny, which is based around the unlikely theme of malevolent cats. The film is often mistakenly credited as being an Amicus Productions anthology (like Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror) but it was in fact a Rank release with the involvement of Milton Subotsky, one half of the Amicus team, which had disbanded in 1975.

The film features three stories told as part of an overarching framing tale that sees Peter Cushing as a British author visiting his agent in Montreal to present the idea for his next book, which is that all cats are inherently evil, supernatural creatures. To illustrate his reasoning he tells three separate tales, each from different eras and locations. The first is set in London and sees Miss Malkin (Joan Greenwood) a sick, wealthy widower leave her fortune to her houseful of cats, which angers her only nephew. He enlists the help of the housemaid Janet (Susan Penhaligon) who attempts to steal the copies of the will but disturbs the elderly woman as she’s doing so and kills her in the struggle that follows. Much to Janet’s surprise, the moggies then take their revenge on her and the nephew.

The second story is based in Quebec and sees Lucy (Katrina Holden Bronson) an orphaned girl, going to live with her Aunt and bringing her beloved cat Wellington with her. After being mistreated by the family who decide to try and dispose of Wellington, Lucy seeks help from her collection of witchcraft books and takes out her anger on her malicious cousin Angela. The final story is set in Hollywood during the 1930s and features Donald Pleasence giving it his all as an actor who rigs an onset accident that kills his wife so he can shack up with his mistress, a younger actress. Unfortunately, his wife’s cat is none too pleased with its owner being offed and sets out to get its revenge, which it does in a ridiculous finale.

The film features very little in the way of horror, with only some very fake looking blood in a few scenes and absolutely nothing in the way of suspense. The special effects are mostly awful and in the scenes where cats are supposedly attacking people you can practically see the hands of the animal handlers who’ve just thrown them at the victim. The middle story set in Canada is particularly poor, thanks to a woeful performance by the actress playing Lucy. The simple fact is that cats are not particularly scary and anyone who owns a cat knows that the worst that might happen is a bit of scratched skin. Apparently the film flopped at the box office and was never even given a release in American cinemas.

This poster was designed and illustrated by Vic Fair, who is one the most important designer/artists ever to work on British film marketing. He is responsible for several iconic posters, including The Man Who Fell To Earth, posters for Hammer horrors like Vampire Circus, and the withdrawn advance one sheet for A View to a Kill. I interviewed Vic for this site and that article can be viewed by clicking here.

To see the other posters I’ve collected by him click here.