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The Man in the White Suit / quad / 1993 re-release / UK


Poster Poster

The Man in the White Suit is a satirical comedy that was made for the famous Ealing Studios in London and released in 1951. Directed by regular Ealing collaborator Alexander Mackendrick (who also helmed The Ladykillers and others), the film stars Alec Guinness as Sidney Stratton a frustrated chemist who is obsessed with creating an everlasting fibre. Sidney has been fired from several mills around Manchester because of his unauthorised use of expensive lab materials and his focusing on invention instead of the job he’s being paid to do. After starting at Alan Birnley’s (Cecil Parker) textile mill he manages to wangle an unpaid job as a researcher and is eventually afforded the space and materials to come up with his miracle fibre that resists all dirt and stays spotless.

Soon the management are aware of his invention, thanks to Birnley’s daughter Daphne (Joan Greenwood) spotting the potential, and are about to go public with the news when the trade unions and mill workers get involved. Both parties realise that such an invention will put them out of business since the public will never need to buy items made from the material again. They end up trying to bargain with Sidney but when he realises they just want to suppress the invention he tries to escape from their clutches, leading everyone on a chase around town. Unluckily for Sidney, it turns out his invention is not as robust as he’d hoped!

This British quad is from a BFI re-release of the film in 1993 (thanks to Sim Branaghan for confirmation of the exact year). It’s almost identical to the original 1950s quad but is missing the original distributor logo in the bottom left-hand corner, as well as the designer/artist credits. See this thread on the NSFGE poster forum for details and check out the image of a previous sale of the poster at Christies auction house.

The original 1951 quad was one of two that featured on the cover of Sim Branaghan‘s must-own British Film Posters, the definitive reference for those interested in the history of the subject. As detailed in the book, the poster was designed by man called Sydney John Woods who Sim notes was ‘more or less single-handedly responsible for the Ealing poster success’. Born in 1915, Woods trained as a graphic designer and painter and was also an art critic. He also design posters for theatres, including the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells before starting to work for the film industry with a role in Fox’s publicity department.

Woods joined Ealing in 1943 and worked there until the studios’ demise in 1959. Sim notes that Woods ‘revealed perhaps his greatest skill as an impresario, marshalling, encouraging, and exploiting to best advantage the talents of other artists’. He built up an impressive stable of artists that he could call on to produce illustrations for the studios’ output. This included the cartoonist Nicolas Bentley (for Passport to Pimlico, 1949) and Ronald Searle, creator of the St. Trinian’s cartoons (for The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951). The same year he would commission the artist A. R. Thomson to paint this portrait of Alec Guinness.

Thomson was born deaf and dumb in India in 1894 to a civil servant father who later brought the family back to London where Alfred attended the Royal School for Deaf Children. He became known as the ‘deaf and dumb artist’ and would go on to work on commercial advertising for the likes of Daimler, and also became the RAF’s official war artist in 1940. Interestingly, he was also the last person to win a gold medal for painting at the 1948 Olympic games in London (the last year that artists were allowed to compete). Thomson passed away in 1979. The ArtUK site features a gallery of his work.

The Uncanny / one sheet / UK


Poster Poster

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.