Excalibur / A0 / Germany

19.04.17

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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

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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

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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.

Halloween / cinema advertising guide / UK

03.04.17

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Title
Halloween
AKA
The Babysitter Murders (USA - working title) | Halloween: la notte delle streghe [The night of the witches] (Italy)
Year of Film
1978
Director
John Carpenter
Starring
Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Kyes, P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards, Brian Andrews, John Michael Graham, Nancy Stephens
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Horror
Type of Poster
Cinema advertising guide
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
UK
Year of Poster
1978
Designer
Unknown
Artist
--
Size (inches)
9" x 11" + A4
SS or DS
--
Tagline
--

This is a rare cinema advertising guide for the original UK release of John Carpenter‘s seminal horror film Halloween. This guide was, as the name suggests, intended to be sent to managers of the Odeon cinema chain around the UK. It contains multiple pages of suggestions for how to market the film to local audiences and includes competition examples that could have been sent to local newspapers for publication. The guide consists of one outer cover that features unique artwork of the knife-wielding killer (a crude depiction of Michael Myers), as well as printed bloody fingerprints on the back. Inside there’s a stapled together guide which is printed on A4 paper in two colours. The other two items are competition examples, ready for newspapers to print.

The guide was put together, I believe, by the distributor (Miracle films) in conjunction with a company called Marler Haley. They were known for their work with the Odeon chain of cinemas during the 1970s and early 1980s and would create printed items for the promotion of films, which included a quad (30″ x 40″) and typically a set of four double-crown (20″ x 30″) posters, as well as larger exhibition stands and other items. A number of films were promoted this way, including Disney releases such as Tron, the first Star Wars film, and some James Bond outings.

Note the last few pages which detail the kinds of items the cinema managers could order to promote the film, including a ‘roof rack’ display to sit atop a car, trailers, posters and radio ads. The guide features a similar colour scheme and some of the imagery that can be found on the Marler Haley quad, which I have here, and the accompanying double-crown set (which I don’t yet own). Also note there’s an image of the ultra-scarce (but rather boring) Halloween teaser quad, which is text-only and had a panel for cinema staff to manually update the time left until the film arrived. It also features an image of a display stand that has the Marler Haley set along with the final release, full-colour quad that I have in the collection here.

If anyone knows anything more about how and where these guides were put together, please get in touch.

An independent release, financed by one man (Moustapha Akkad), the film was produced on a low budget of $300k and would go on to gross over $70m worldwide. Halloween kickstarted a franchise that would run for seven sequels (and a recent remake) and the masked character of Michael Myers would enter the horror pantheon as one of its most memorable monsters.

Carpenter wrote the screenplay with his then girlfriend, producer Debra Hill and is often credited as being the the first in a long line of slasher films, although films like Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho were obvious inspirations. The film has little in the way of gore or violence and instead uses clever camera work and sound design to brilliant effect, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats throughout. There have been countless imitations over the years but few that match up to the taught, perfectly-paced original Halloween.

The rest of the John Carpenter items I’ve collected can be seen by clicking here.

 

Operation of the Gun / Thailand

29.03.17

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Title
Operation of the gun
AKA
ผ่าปืน (Thai - original title)
Year of Film
1980
Director
Chalong Pakdeevijit
Starring
Sombat Metanee, Naowarat Yuktanan, Manop Aswathep
Origin of Film
Thailand
Genre(s) of Film
Action | Thriller
Type of Poster
Thai
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
Thailand
Year of Poster
1980
Designer
Tongdee Panumas
Artist
Tongdee Panumas
Size (inches)
21 7/16" x 30 12/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--

Dramatic and detailed artwork by Tongdee Panumas features on this poster for the release of the Thai film ‘Operation of the Gun’ (AKA Gun Cut, AKA Rifle, AKA Gunpowder). The original title is ผ่าปืน and it is unlikely to have ever been officially released in markets like the US and UK so the English title is up for debate. If anyone knows for sure whether it was given an official international title, please get in touch.

I know very little about the film, other than that it stars the famous Thai actor Sombat Metanee, who at one point was in the Guinness Book of Records for the most appearances by an actor. It’s calculated that he has starred in over 2000 film and TV shows during his career. In the year this film was released (1980) he starred  Western audiences may have seen him appear in the Thai film Tears of the Black Tiger (2000). It was directed by Chalong Pakdeevijit (ฉลอง ภักดีวิจิตร) – the actual Western spelling of his name varies considerably from what I can tell – who directed a number of action thrillers, as this Thai Wikipedia page indicates.

The film is available to watch in its entirety on YouTube, should you so wish (and have an understanding of Thai).

Tongdee Panumas was an incredibly prolific film poster artist during the 70s, 80s and 90s. I’ve been unable to find out much about him, other than that he was born in 1947, so if anyone has any more details please get in touch.

Note that this particular copy of the poster has been hand-signed by Tongdee and I bought it from someone who had visited Thailand, met the artist and had him sign a few posters. I’ve seen photographic evidence that it’s a genuine signature.