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Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell / quad / UK

03.06.13

Poster Poster

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1973) marked the end of an era for British film in more ways than one. It was the last gothic horror to be produced by the original incarnation of the British Hammer Films studio and followed on from a series of six feature films based around the character of Baron Frankenstein portrayed by the late, great British actor Peter Cushing (the less said about 1970s Horror of Frankenstein, with Ralph Bates in the lead role, the better). Director Terence Fisher had worked on many of Hammer’s best-loved horrors, including their first gothic feature, 1957s The Curse of Frankenstein (starring Cushing and Christopher Lee as the monster) as well as the original Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959) and two other Frankenstein features for the studio. He was to effectively retire from film-making at the end of production on FATMFH, and he wasn’t the only one of the Hammer alumni to do so. This was also the last Hammer feature film that screenwriter Tony Hinds, who had worked on many of the studio’s most successful horrors, would supply a script for. Other crew members who had been instrumental in the production of dozens of Hammer horrors also called it a day once this film was released.

Originally produced and shot in 1972, it eventually limped into cinemas in 1974 well after the appeal of British gothic horror films had dissipated. Cinema-goers were keen to experience the visceral thrills of the new wave of films coming out of Hollywood, including William Friedkin’s 1973 masterpiece The Exorcist, which made British efforts like FATMFH seem positively antiquated. Because of the fall in demand from distribution companies who were previously happy to bankroll Hammer’s productions, the budget for this film was a tiny fraction of many of their previous horrors. It would be a lie to say that the lack of money doesn’t show on screen – most of the film takes place on what is clearly a single soundstage – but the skilled craftsmen at Hammer were still able to create a wonderful sense of atmosphere with the modest amount of funds at their disposal. The film is in many ways the perfect swan-song for Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein and his performance absolutely steals the show, from his brilliant crash-zoom entrance to the quiet madness of the denouement.

On the 29th of May, 2013 I was lucky enough to see the film at London’s British Film Institute in a special showing to both celebrate the centenary of Cushing’s birth and also preview a newly restored print of FATMFH. The reformed version of Hammer films have undertaken a series of restoration projects on many of the studio’s classic films, including the original Dracula and the original Curse of Frankenstein. I believe that the new print of FATMFH will see release on blu-ray at some point this year, as well as a new restoration of The Mummy. It was a real treat to see the film on the big screen and be able to revel in a classic Peter Cushing performance.

This British quad was created at the London-based Downtons Advertising agency by one of the principal designers, Eddie Paul, and painted by an artist named Bill Wiggins. Both men are featured in Sim Branaghan’s must-own book British Film Posters: An Illustrated History and are each responsible for several iconic British posters. The designer Eddie Paul was born in Hackney in 1920 and attended Southend School of Art, later beginning his career at Temple Art Studios before moving on to Star Illustrations on Shoe Lane, where he gained a good reputation as a scrapboard artist. After serving in the RAF during the war, Paul joined Pulford Publicity in 1946 and started designing film posters using crayons and coloured pencils. He worked on several successful poster campaigns during the 1960s, including El Cid (1961), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) and the famous quad for From Russia with Love (painted by Renato Fratini). He later joined four ex-Downton colleagues and formed the successful agency FEREF in 1968. As Sim notes in his book, ‘He was well liked and respected within the business as a gentleman’. Eddie Paul passed away from a heart attack whilst on his way to work in 1984, just shy of his retirement from FEREF.

Bill Wiggins was born in 1915 and worked installing large cinema displays (on the front of the buildings) during the 1930s and was a special constable during the second world war. He arrived at Downton’s Advertising agency at the same time as another principal designer, Fred Atkins (later a partner in FEREF), in 1951. Wiggins worked in the film department of the studio for 25 years, painting dozens of posters alongside the likes of Vic Fair and Brian Bysouth. Wiggins is mentioned several times during my interview with the latter. He worked on several of the early Hammer films, including Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959), Curse of the Werewolf, as well as the sci-fi films The Lost World (1960) and Day of the Triffids (1962). He initially retired in 1975 ‘but rapidly found himself so bored that he returned within a couple of months and continued full time for another three years, eventually leaving to paint commissioned oil portraits for an art/photographic business in Bromley’. He passed away, aged 73, in 1988. Sim believes that this poster for FATMFH is likely to be one of, if not the, final cinema poster that Wiggins worked on.

In addition to this single feature quad, there is also a double-bill quad for when the film was released in a pairing with the long-forgotten kung-fu film The Fists of Vengeance. The artwork for FATMFH is actually coloured on the double-bill poster and is therefore arguably superior to this quad. Sim confirmed to me that there was a policy around this time that the single feature quad would usually be monochrome whilst the double-bill was typically printed in full colour.

Finally, this particular copy is rolled and in great condition, which is somewhat unusual for a poster from this era. I recall reading that it may have been one poster that Hammer printed in greater numbers to give away to fans who wrote in to the studio, as was the case with the quads for ‘Dracula Has Risen from the Grave’ and the ‘She/One Million Years BC’ quads (see the bottom of this page for more detail). I’m not certain that this is case though and I’d appreciate more details about it if anyone has them.

Legend of the Werewolf / one sheet / UK

30.01.12

Poster Poster

British designer and illustrator Vic Fair is responsible for the arresting poster for this 1975 horror film Legend of the Werewolf directed by Freddie Francis and produced by Tyburn Film Productions. Francis is probably best known as an Academy-Award winning cinematographer (Sons and Lovers, Glory), and he worked with David Lynch on The Elephant Man, Dune and The Straight Story. He’s also responsible for directing a slew of films for the British production companies Hammer, Amicus and Tigon, including Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and Dracula has Risen from the Grave.

Tyburn was apparently set up by Freddie Francis’ son, Kevin, and was only active for a short period, producing three horror films in 1975, including this one, The Ghoul and Persecution. I wasn’t able to discover much more information about the company so please get in touch if you know anything of note.

The story is set in 19th century France and focuses on Etoile (David Rintoul) who is raised by wolves and is later found and adopted by a sideshow troupe traveling through the forrest. He eventually escapes to Paris and becomes infatuated with a prostitute (Lynn Dalby), but when her clients begin to be brutally murdered a police surgeon (Cushing) begins to suspect all is not quite right with Etoile.

Sim Branaghan, author of the excellent book British Film Posters: An Illustrated History is a fan of the film and sent this through to me shortly after I added the poster to the site:

I actually know a large amount about this film – and Tyburn – for the simple reason that a book was published by the BFI back in 1976, which exhaustively documented its production. The film happens to be one of my personal favourites and I think it is witty, thoughtful, and finally genuinely moving (if only in a small way). Tony Hinds’ script is classic dark-fairy-tale, the acting fine, Francis’s direction skilfully-unobtrusive and Harry Robinson’s score absolutely terrific. Cushing gives his usual model, controlled performance (rather more light-hearted than usual), Ron Moody is excellent, and David Rintoul fresh and sympathetic as the werewolf.

The supporting cast is a bit mixed, but nobody actively embarrasses themselves. Yes, the film is painfully low-budget and sometimes looks pretty threadbare, but it has HEART. Historically, it’s hugely significant as the last Costume Gothic produced in the UK (almost exactly eighteen years after the first, Curse of Frankenstein, back in autumn 1956). Hinds and Cushing worked on both of course, and the sense of fin-de-siecle here is palpable, and very poignant to a true fan of the genre.

Obviously all criticism is subjective, and you might well find plenty of other horror fans who’ll cheerfully tell you Legend is a pile of shite.  But they’d be wrong. 

The pictures of the poster don’t do the striking neon colours justice and I believe it was done with a type of screen-printing as they are particularly solid and bright in person.

Here’s a clip from the film featuring a red-tinted werewolf-vision attack.