Alabama / B1 / spider style / Poland

28.04.17

PosterPosterPosterPosterPoster
Title
Alabama
AKA
--
Year of Film
1984
Director
Ryszard Rydzewski
Starring
Maria Probosz, Beata Maj-Dabal, Grzegorz Matysik, Wlodzimierz Adamski, Monika Alwasiak
Origin of Film
Poland
Genre(s) of Film
Drama
Type of Poster
B1
Style of Poster
Spider style
Origin of Poster
Poland
Year of Poster
1984
Designer
Wieslaw Walkuski
Artist
Wieslaw Walkuski
Size (inches)
26.5" x 37 14/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--

Striking artwork by Wieslaw Walkuski features on this B1 format poster for the country of origin release of the 1984 drama, Alabama. Directed by Ryszard Rydzewski, the film went seemingly unreleased anywhere outside of Poland and the plot is described thusly on filmweb.pl (translated):

Peter (Grzegorz Matysik) and Bozena (Maria Probosz) study medicine.They love each other and plan a common future. Bozena relationships with family are very bad, they do not maintain contacts. Young remain with the small salary of Peter. With time Bozena convinced that the life of Peter is not easy. They share their differences characters and temperaments. On the downside girl catches Peter’s betrayal. Desperate escapes. In dramatic circumstances, he meets Joe (Włodzimierz Adamski).

Wieslaw Walkuski was born in 1956 and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Since 1981 Walkuski has worked as a graphic designer and artist for publishing houses and theaters, as well as for the Polish film organisations Polfilm and Film Polski. He’s worked freelance since 1987 and has painted over 200 film posters. He continues to live and work in Warsaw. Walkuski’s official website features galleries of many of his designs and images of his other work.

He’s responsible for some incredible designs and two of my favourites include those he painted for Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves and the Dustin Hoffman comedy Tootsie.

Note that this is one of two Polish posters for Alabama, and the other design can be seen here.

The House Where Evil Dwells / one sheet / USA

24.04.17

PosterPosterPosterPosterPoster
Title
The House Where Evil Dwells
AKA
Ghost in Kyoto (Japan)
Year of Film
1982
Director
Kevin Connor
Starring
Edward Albert, Susan George, Doug McClure, Amy Barrett, Mako Hattori, Tsuiyuki Sasaki, Toshiya Maruyama, Tsuyako Okajima, Henry Mitowa, Mayumi Umeda
Origin of Film
USA | Japan
Genre(s) of Film
Horror
Type of Poster
One sheet
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
USA
Year of Poster
1982
Designer
Unknown
Artist
John Solie
Size (inches)
27 2/16" x 41"
SS or DS
SS
NSS #
820070
Tagline
An ancient curse has turned their lives into a nightmare of lust and revenge.

Artwork by the American artist John Solie features on this one sheet for the release of the 1982 USA/Japan co-production, The House Where Evil Dwells. Set and shot in Japan, the film is a horror based on a novel by James Hardiman and is effectively a haunted house tale. It opens in the city of Kyoto in 1840 and sees a samurai warrior return home to discover his wife being unfaithful with another man. In an utterly graceless, slow-motion sequence we watch as he butchers the pair before committing seppuku (ritual suicide). As the house is ravaged by a storm, a miniature figurine depicting a pair of lovers (one a devil like creature) is swept into the foundations, presumably cursing the place.

140 years later, the film picks up as US diplomat Alex Curtis (Doug McClure) meets an old friend, Ted Fletcher (Edward Albert) and his wife Laura (Susan George) and daughter at the airport. The family have traveled there to live for a few months for reasons that aren’t exactly made clear (something to do with his career?) and Alex has found them the perfect house to stay in. Of course it’s the same one depicted earlier and it’s now reported to be haunted. The couple soon begin to experience strange occurrences, with the audience first seeing the ghosts of the butchered lovers and angry samurai moving around the family before things take a dark turn as they begin to possess each one in turn. It soon becomes clear that the ghosts intend to free themselves from purgatory by causing Ted, Laura and Alex to commit a similar sort of murder-suicide. A Zen monk living nearby tries to warn the family and stop the ghosts before it’s too late.

It’s fair to say that The House Where Evil Dwells is no masterpiece and in fact is one of the clunkiest horror films I’ve ever watched. Director Kevin Connor, who is best known for the series of sci-fi fantasies he directed for Amicus productions (e.g. The Land That Time Forgot), has since said that his submitted version was heavily cut by producers, removing many scenes of character development. There’s no doubt this would have helped a bit, but it’s the acting from the likes of McClure and Ted Fletcher that really sinks the film. McClure is famous as an inspiration for the character of Troy McClure on The Simpsons, a Hollywood has-been reduced to appearing in shady infomercials and other such work. The actor himself never really found fame in Hollywood, despite appearances in over 500 films and TV shows. On the evidence of his performance here, it’s not hard to see why. Fletcher is perhaps even worse and Susan George, although great in Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, practically phones it in here. The lowlights of the film are undoubtedly the sex scenes between Laura and Ted and later Laura and Alex. Cringeworthy doesn’t quite cover it!

John Solie has been working as an illustrator for over 40 years. Film posters are just one aspect of his output, which also includes book and magazine covers, sculptures, portraits and work for NASA. He continues to paint today in Tucson, Arizona. Another gallery of his work can be viewed on Wrong Side of the Art. His official website is here.

Here are the posters by John Solie I have collected to date.

Excalibur / A0 / Germany

19.04.17

PosterPosterPosterPosterPoster
Title
Excalibur
AKA
The Knights (USA - working title)
Year of Film
1981
Director
John Boorman
Starring
Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicol Williamson, Nicholas Clay, Cherie Lunghi, Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart, Clive Swift, Gabriel Byrne
Origin of Film
USA | UK
Genre(s) of Film
Adventure | Fantasy
Type of Poster
A0
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
Germany
Year of Poster
1981
Designer
Unknown
Artist
Based on Bob Beak artwork
Size (inches)
33" x 46 10/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--

At first glance, the artwork on this large-format (A0) German poster for the 1981 fantasy film Excalibur seems to be the same Bob Peak artwork that appears on posters from around the world, including the US one sheet, but it is not. When viewed up close, and compared to the Peak art, it’s clear that the (German) artist was asked to replicate the original as closely as possible, but the quality is definitely lacking in comparison to Peak. The likely reason the distributor decided to have the art repainted, as opposed to cutting and recomposing Peak’s, is that the one sheet art’s composition is completely unsuited to the landscape format of this A0. I suspect a similar thing happened with the British quad, which features an image of the sword being held aloft that is not the same artwork as on the Peak one sheet. The sword appears alongside an image of Merlin that is the artist’s work.

Excalibur was a passion project for the director John Boorman (Deliverance, Point Blank) who had been trying to kickstart a project based on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table since 1969. After almost a decade he was able to pull together the financial backing to commence filming, with a script based on the 15th century tales of Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory. The film is notable for being entirely shot on location in Ireland and for featuring breakout performances from a number of notable actors, including Helen MirrenGabriel Byrne, and Liam Neeson. Set over several decades, the story follows the machinations of multiple characters, with the wizard Merlin (Nicol Williamson) acting as something of a constant (if deeply eccentric) figure who floats around the rulers of Britain. In one of the first scenes we see him retrieving the titular sword from the Lady of the Lake.

Beginning with a king called Uther Pendragon (Byrne), Merlin first assists him in first reaching a truce with Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall, before Uther sets his sights on the Duke’s wife Igrayne and war breaks out once more. Merlin reluctantly offers to help him defeat Gorlois and capture Igrayne on the condition that he can have ‘whatever results from this lust’. Without fully understanding the ramifications of the deal, Uther agrees, slays the Duke and has his way with Igrayne (albeit under a Merlin spell that makes him look like the Duke). Nine months later Merlin arrives to claim his agreed prize, a boy born of that night’s passion. The wizard leaves the castle with him, much to Igrayne’s horror, and eventually Uther decides to pursue and attempt to rescue his son. Unfortunately he is attacked in a forest by a group of Gorlois’ men and dies, but not before he thrusts Excalibur into a stone and proclaims, “He who draws the sword from the stone, he shall be king.”

The story then jumps forward several years and sees the boy, now grown into a teenager named Arthur, completely unaware of his origins (Merlin had given him to another couple to raise as their own). Whilst attending a jousting contest with his father and brother, a mixup with a stolen sword sees Arthur easily pulling Excalibur from the stone after hundreds of men have failed to do so in the past. Unaware of the significance of the event, it takes Arthur a while to understand that he is now the rightful king and only a visit from Merlin eventually convinces him. The rest of the film follows Arthur as he rallies knights around him, takes the throne and establishes the famous court and castle of Camelot. He also meets and falls in love with Guinevere (Cherie Lunghi) but eventually tensions rise when Lancelot, one of his trusted knights, becomes infatuated with her. Morgana, a budding sorceress and Arthur’s half-sister, also tricks Merlin into teaching her the Charm of Making, allowing her to take the form of others. When she tricks Arthur into sleeping with her (him believing it to be Guinevere) the resultant child threatens an end to the whole kingdom.

Apparently the film was originally completed to a length of around three hours before having 40 minutes trimmed and I can’t help but feel that allowing the film to breathe might have helped. There’s a lot of story to fit in and it’s fair to say that the cuts do show; I found some of the time jumps and scene to scene transitions pretty jarring, whilst the script doesn’t exactly help matters. Critics at the time also found the film’s story and exposition wanting but most agreed that Boorman had definitely succeeded in making the film visually stunning. The use of real locations along with some incredible costumes such as the shiny chrome armour worn by most of the male cast (Merlin even has a shiny cap) are accentuated by the use of coloured lighting. The film has developed something of a cult reputation over the years, largely thanks to the arresting visuals on display.

If anyone knows who the artist was that repainted the original Bob Peak art, please get in touch.

Welcome to Blood City / one sheet / UK

12.04.17

PosterPosterPosterPosterPoster
Title
Welcome to Blood City
AKA
Blood City (US)
Year of Film
1977
Director
Peter Sasdy
Starring
Jack Palance, Keir Dullea, Samantha Eggar, Barry Morse, Hollis McLaren, Chris Wiggins, Henry Ramer, Allan Royal, John Evans
Origin of Film
UK | Canada
Genre(s) of Film
Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi | Thriller | Western
Type of Poster
One sheet
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
UK
Year of Poster
1977
Designer
Unknown
Artist
Mike Vaughan (unconfirmed)
Size (inches)
27 3/16" x 40"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--

Unique artwork features on this scarce UK one sheet for the release of the 1977 sci-fi-western, Welcome to Blood City. A British-Canadian co-production, there’s no doubt it was created in the wake of the very successful Westworld that was released a few years earlier. With that said, this film uses the different construct of events taking place in virtual reality, with scientists working for an unnamed organisation watching the events unfold on screens. The film was directed by Peter Sasdy, a Hungarian director who is best known for helming a number of British films during the 1970s, including a few Hammer horrors. It has a few notable stars in the cast, including the late Jack PalanceKeir Dullea (of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame) and Samantha Eggar (Cronenberg’s The Brood).

The film begins during some kind of worldwide event (exactly what isn’t made clear) during which Dullea’s character is seemingly abducted by soldiers at gunpoint. He then awakes in a strange wilderness with no memory of what happened to him, along with a group of others all wearing overalls. As they begin to walk into a forest they are accosted by two strangers with shotguns. Whilst they are attacked, a mysterious man (Palance) wearing an outfit that resembles a sheriff’s uniform watches the situation, apparently unmoved. Eventually he greets them and leads them to the titular settlement. Once there they have the rules of the town explained to them. I’ve got to admit, the plot isn’t the easiest to follow – a situation not helped by the only available copy of the film being a terrible VHS-level pan and scan one, which also appears to be zoomed to cap it off. The sound is equally as bad.

Eventually we learn that in order to survive and escape being slaves, the captives must kill others in the town and once they reach twenty kills they are considered ‘immortal’. The purpose for the scientists watching is to seemingly satisfy their military benefactors who want to find out which of the people (in the real world, not Blood City) will make the best soldiers that can be sent off to some unexplained conflict. Samantha Eggar plays one of the two scientists tasked with following events in the simulation. She becomes infatuated with Dullea’s character and begins inserting herself into the simulation and manipulating events so that he will survive. The film is little-seen and the quality of the only copy available probably points to both a lack of demand but also potential rights-issues (it was apparently made as some kind of tax-shelter deal).

The artwork on this UK one sheet, which features different art to the UK quad, is, I believe, by the British artist Mike Vaughan. He also worked on a handful of posters for Hammer horrors, as well as posters like this one for Raid on Entebbe. If anyone knows for sure who painted this art please get in touch.

Frightmare / quad / UK

10.04.17

PosterPosterPosterPoster
Title
Frightmare
AKA
Cover Up (USA)
Year of Film
1974
Director
Pete Walker
Starring
Rupert Davies, Sheila Keith, Deborah Fairfax, Paul Greenwood, Kim Butcher, Fiona Curzon, John Yule, Trisha Mortimer
Origin of Film
UK
Genre(s) of Film
Horror
Type of Poster
Quad
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
UK
Year of Poster
1974
Designer
Unknown
Artist
Unknown
Size (inches)
30" x 39 14/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
What terrifying craving made her kill... and kill... and kill...?

This is the original UK quad for the release of Frightmare, a 1974 film by the British director, producer and writer Pete Walker, who specialised in exploitation pictures during the 1960s and 1970s. Walker started out making shoestring budget sexploitation pictures, including School for Sex that were often relative hits in the UK. This worked out well for him since his films were almost always self-financed and thus most of the profits were his to keep and plough into the next feature. In the early 1970s, Walker grew tired of feeding the ‘dirty mack brigade’ and turned his hand to horror.

Frightmare, released in the US as Cover Up, was one of two horror films that Walker directed in 1974, with the other being the private-prison set House of Whipcord. Both films saw Walker reuniting with his regular screenwriting partner David McGillivray, and both feature memorable appearances by Sheila Keith, who would become another regular. In this film she plays Dorothy Yates, a cannibalistic killer who at the start of the film is sentenced to 15 years in prison. She is sent down along with her husband Edmund (Rupert Davies) who chose to take the punishment with her, even though he had nothing to do with the killings. The film picks up after their release and we find that their adopted daughter Jackie (Deborah Fairfax) is living in London and struggling to care for their biological daughter Debbie (Kim Butcher) a wayward 15-year-old who doesn’t realise her parents are still alive.

We follow Jackie as she leaves London to visit her parents, now living in a remote farmhouse. There she delivers a mysterious package to her mother who appears frail and innocent. Edmund fears that his wife is up to her old tricks but Jackie isn’t convinced and returns back to London. Soon we discover that Dorothy has put an advert in a magazine offering Tarot Card readings and willing customers are visiting the farmhouse. When she begins by checking that they have no close family or friends, or indeed anyone that would miss them, it’s fair to say that things aren’t looking up for her clueless customers. At the same time, Jackie struggles to control Debbie who is beginning to show signs that she has inherited her mother’s habits.

Arguably the best of Walker’s feature films, Frightmare is a masterclass in building tension and working towards a shocking final act. The film makes great use of various locations, including several in a London which looks barely recognisable today. Sheila Keith’s performance, in particular, is hugely memorable and her ability to portray frail innocence in one scene followed by genuinely disturbing menace in another has to be seen. In this Guardian article about Walker and his films, he describes his working relationship with Keith and how her on screen presence definitely didn’t match her off screen one; “Sheila Keith was a lady who lived a quiet life with her dogs and her cats and came into work to do, brilliantly, whatever was asked of her,” says Walker. “She was like your nice old aunt who would serve you cucumber sandwiches before ripping into a dismembered limb – without complaining.”

This British quad, which features crude artwork of a menacing Sheila Keith, was clearly designed by the team responsible for the quad for House of Whipcord (see here) and I feel fairly certain that the same artist or artists were involved too. If anyone knows who was responsible please get in touch.

Convoy / B2 / style A / Japan

05.04.17

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Title
Convoy
AKA
--
Year of Film
1978
Director
Sam Peckinpah
Starring
Kris Kristofferson, Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine, Burt Young, Madge Sinclair, Franklyn Ajaye, Brian Davies, Seymour Cassel, Cassie Yates, Walter Kelley
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Action | Drama | Western
Type of Poster
B2
Style of Poster
Style A
Origin of Poster
Japan
Year of Poster
1978
Designer
Unknown
Artist
--
Size (inches)
20 6/16" x 28 13/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--

Convoy was legendary American director Sam Peckinpah‘s penultimate film and his most commercially successful, despite it being critically mauled. It was made at the height of the craze for CB Radio/trucking films, which included the likes of Smokey and the Bandit and the TV series Movin’ On. The film’s title comes from the hit country and western novelty song of the same name by C.W. McCall and Chip Davis that was released in 1975. The song appears during the opening and intermittently during the film, with the latter version being reworked especially for the production.

It’s fair to say that the film is light on plot but Kris Kristofferson stars as long-distance trucker Martin ‘Rubber Duck’ Penwald who ends up leading the titular line of trucks across several states. Following an diner-based altercation with three police officers, including Duck’s long-term nemesis Sheriff “Dirty Lyle” Wallace (a great performance by Ernest Borgnine), a group of truckers head for the Arizona state line to escape prosecution. Lyle ups the stakes and pursues them into New Mexico whilst the convoy continues to grow. The authorities are determined to stop the truckers and Lyle uses the life of a fellow trucker to lure Duck into a trap from which it seems there’ll be no escape.

As had become standard for Peckinpah productions, the film finished over schedule and massively over budget, causing the director to be taken off post-production of the film. Studio staff worked with an editor to trim down a first cut that was over three hours long. It doesn’t particularly feel like a Peckinpah film (compared to the likes of The Wild Bunch, say) but there are certainly some well done scenes and the choices of location are excellent. Some of the editing choices aren’t great, however, with the slow-motion diner brawl being particularly excruciating to watch today. By this point in his career the director’s addiction to alcohol and drugs had become so profound that it would be another five years before he would work again.

This Japanese B2, one of two posters printed for the release in the country, features an image of the titular line of trucks, along with four head shots of what the distributors clearly decided were the key cast members.