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Phantom of the Paradise / 30×40 / USA

15.04.14

Poster Poster
Title
Phantom of the Paradise
AKA
--
Year of Film
1974
Director
Brian De Palma
Starring
William Finley, Paul Williams, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, George Memmoli, Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor, Peter Elbling
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
William Finley, Paul Williams, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, George Memmoli, Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor, Peter Elbling,
Type of Poster
30x40
Style of Poster
Style C
Origin of Poster
USA
Year of Poster
1974
Designer
Neal Adams (original sketch)
Artist
Richard Corben
Size (inches)
30" x 40"
SS or DS
SS
NSS #
74/339
Tagline
He's been maimed and framed, beaten, robbed and mutilated. But they still can't keep him from the woman he loves. | The most highly acclaimed horror phantasy of our time.

Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise is arguably one of cinema’s greatest cult oddities. Part musical, part horror and loosely based on Phantom of the Opera and the classic tale of Faust, the film has an electric atmosphere helped no end by the performance of the late William Finley as the unlucky music composer Winslow Leach who falls foul of the twisted producer Swan (Paul Williams, himself a noted musician and composer). A twisted satire of the state of the music business of the time, the film features a superb soundtrack written by Williams, which is a mix of surf pop, 70s glam rock and romantic ballads.

When Swan sees Winslow performing his music at a small concert he convinces the composer to sell his tunes to him to be used at the opening of his new club, The Paradise. Instead Swan has one of his henchmen steal the music, beat Winslow up and frame him for drug possession, sending the mild mannered musician to the brutal Sing Sing prison. Months later Winslow hears that one of Swan’s bands is to release a record based on his music and breaks out of the prison in a frenzied rage. After heading to Swan’s Death Records factory he tries to sabotage a record press but accidentally falls head-first into it, severely scarring his face and damaging his vocal chords. Escaping from the police, he makes his way to the Paradise where he dons a cape and a beaked mask and becomes the Phantom of The Paradise. Soon he discovers the secret behind Swan’s success and sets out to stop him at all costs.

The film was met with mixed critical reviews and was a worldwide box-office flop, with the only exceptions being in Japan and, bizarrely, Winnipeg in Canada where the film played at the same cinema for months. One of the key reasons for the film’s disastrous commercial performance was the way it had initially been marketed by studio Twentieth Century Fox who had created a campaign that emphasised the rock aspect of the film with the intention of drawing in teenage music fans. The plan backfired, however, when initial audiences realised how negative the portrayal of the music industry is in the film was and how it was effectively sending up the very thing they were fans of.

The brilliant fan site The Swan Archives, curated by Ari Kahan, features a thorough history of the promotion of the film and shows the initial two styles of poster, one of which was designed by Anthony Goldschmidt and illustrated by the late John Alvin and also featured on the album cover. As Kahan notes:

‘The involvement of A&M records (which issued the soundtrack, and which more or less owned the exclusive rights to Paul Williams’ life at the time) in the co-marketing campaign with 20th Century Fox meant that the film was initially pitched towards what A&M and Fox believed to be the teens-through-college “rock music demographic.” John Alvin’s beautiful painted graphics on the posters and soundtrack album emphasised guitars, keyboards, microphones, patch cords, and other musical ephemera, and a photorealistic depiction of songwriter/star Paul Williams, signalling the studio’s intention to rely heavily on Williams’ existing fame in its promotion of the film.’

The rest of the ill-conceived initial campaign is detailed on the Swan Archives page linked to above. After a disastrous few months at the box office, the film’s producer Ed Pressman convinced the studio to allow him to reposition the film with a revised marketing campaign. Kahan explains:

‘Pressman went into action by launching a second campaign, in mid-1975, which tagged the film as “The Most Highly Acclaimed Horror Phantasy of Our Time,” pushing the horror angle and perennial plot line, and downplaying the music. De Palma, Finley, and Graham were made extremely available to give interviews to Castle of Frankenstein, Monster World, and every other horror magazine that would make time for them’

As part of this second campaign Pressman commissioned noted comic book artist Richard Corben to illustrate a new poster image and fellow comic book artist Neal Adams provided an initial concept sketch from which Corben worked (according to Kahan, ‘Adams drew the sketch for free, to aid Pressman in pitching a never-realised Phantom of the Paradise companion comic book, which he hoped might result in some paying work’) . The new painting emphasised the horror aspect and the Phantom’s mangled face and completely downplayed Williams’ presence – you can just spot him at the bottom of the marquee (see the close-up image). The new campaign proved to be more successful but as Kahan notes:

‘The film gradually took on life, bringing in decent (though never great) box office and some positive reviews. As De Palma put it, “When we revised the campaign in the U.S and made it seem more like The Phantom of the Opera than a horror/rock film, we got an entirely different response.”‘

For more on the film’s promotional travails, I again urge you to check out the excellent Swan Archives site. Corben also painted the style B one sheet for the Heavy Metal film, the magazine of which he’d been involved with for several years.

The Funhouse / B2 / Japan

27.05.14

Poster Poster
Title
The Funhouse
AKA
Il Tunnel dell'Orrore [The Tunnel of Horror] (Italy)
Year of Film
1981
Director
Tobe Hooper
Starring
Elizabeth Berridge, Jack McDermott, Cooper Huckabee, Kevin Conway, William Finley, Sylvia Miles, Largo Woodruff, Miles Chapin
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Elizabeth Berridge, Jack McDermott, Cooper Huckabee, Kevin Conway, William Finley, Sylvia Miles, Largo Woodruff, Miles Chapin,
Type of Poster
B2
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
Japan
Year of Poster
1981
Designer
Unknown
Artist
--
Size (inches)
20 6/16" x 28 11/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--

A creepy slice of horror from Tobe Hooper, the man responsible for the classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Funhouse features a menacing atmosphere helped by great production design, solid performances from a number of character actors and a genuinely ghoulish killer. The story sees a quartet of teenage friends; Amy (Elizabeth Berridge), her boyfriend Buzz (Cooper Huckabee), her best friend Liz (Largo Woodruff) and Liz’s boyfriend Richie (Miles Chapin), visit a traveling carnival where they smoke marijuana, sneak into an over-21 strip show and interact with the carnies who run the shows. Richie dares the group to spend the night in the The Funhouse, an indoor ride on rails (often called a ghost train in the UK), and the girls reluctantly agree to hide until the park clears of people.

After sneaking into the depths of the ride the group inadvertently witness the mute, mask-wearing ride operator murder Madame Zena (Sylvia Miles), the fortune teller who also moonlights as a prostitute. When the ride’s barker Conrad (Kevin Conway) discovers what has happened it is revealed that he is the father of the murderous ride operator, actually called Gunther, and when Conrad admonishes him he knocks the mask off revealing a hideous freak underneath. Conrad realises that the crime has been witnessed by the kids and he unleashes Gunther to track them down. The rest of the film sees the teenagers trying to outwit the murderous carnies and escape The Funhouse alive. The make-up for Gunther is incredibly effective and he surely ranks up their as one of the best horror movie bad guys.

This Japanese B2 features an obscured photograph of Gunther which emphasises his glowing eyes. A photo montage of the four unlucky teens is displayed at the bottom along with the same logo seen on the US one sheet.

The Fury / one sheet / style A / USA

30.10.13

Poster Poster
Title
The Fury
AKA
--
Year of Film
1978
Director
Brian De Palma
Starring
Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Carrie Snodgress, Charles Durning, Amy Irving, Fiona Lewis, Andrew Stevens, Carol Eve Rossen, Rutanya Alda, Joyce Easton, William Finley
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Carrie Snodgress, Charles Durning, Amy Irving, Fiona Lewis, Andrew Stevens, Carol Eve Rossen, Rutanya Alda, Joyce Easton, William Finley,
Type of Poster
One sheet
Style of Poster
Style A
Origin of Poster
USA
Year of Poster
1978
Designer
Unknown
Artist
--
Size (inches)
27" x 41"
SS or DS
SS
NSS #
--
Tagline
An experience in terror and suspense.

A striking design on this poster for the US release of Brian De Palma’s The Fury, the movie that followed his horror classic Carrie (1976). The director continued the theme of telekinesis that he’d started with Sissy Spacek’s teenager pushed over the edge, and in this picture there are two young telekinetics who start the picture unsure why they’ve been granted this strange power and who are unable to control it. The film opens with Kirk Douglas‘ Peter Sandza, an agent for an ‘organisation you didn’t even know exists’, and his son Robin relaxing on a beach in the Middle East with Sandza’s colleague Ben Childress (played by John Cassavetes). Suddenly the peace is shattered with an attack by terrorists who rush the crowded beach and attempt to shoot Peter who manages to fight several of them off before being seemingly killed in an explosion. The audience soon discover that Childress has double-crossed his friend in order to kidnap Robin and investigate his apparent telekinesis for shadowy means. Peter survives the explosion and realises what his friend has done, almost killing him with gunfire, but Childress escapes with Robin.

Fast forward a few years and we learn that Peter has been obsessively searching for his son whilst being pursued by the shadowy agency intent on killing him. At the same time, teenager Gillian Bellaver (Amy Irving, a Carrie alumni) is struggling to understand the powers she’s been gifted with and, after a few incidents involving other pupils at her school, her mother decides to put her into a special institution that has been set up to deal with those with psychic potential. The viewer discovers that the place is actually funded by Childress and his nefarious organisation but, unbeknownst to them, Peter has a mole inside the school and is hoping that Gillian will be able to help find the whereabouts of his son. After Gillian makes a connection with Robin, Peter and his compatriot stage a breakout and set off to try and rescue Robin, but it may already be too late…

The Fury is definitely one of De Palma’s better efforts, even if it’s not up there with Carrie. It features several exciting sequences, including the initial faked terrorist attack, and at least one trademark bravura slow-motion sequence that’s impeccably executed. Both Douglas and Cassavetes are excellent and Amy Irving also puts in a decent performance. The special effects mostly stand-up and it’s a thrill to see the full power of telekinesis being unleashed after having it teased at several points in Carrie (we see what happens if the power is directed at a single human body, pre-Scanners). I’m unsure who’s responsible for this poster so please get in touch if you have any ideas.

The Funhouse / one sheet / USA

21.10.13

Poster Poster
Title
The Funhouse
AKA
Il Tunnel dell'Orrore [The Tunnel of Horror] (Italy)
Year of Film
1981
Director
Tobe Hooper
Starring
Elizabeth Berridge, Jack McDermott, Cooper Huckabee, Kevin Conway, William Finley, Sylvia Miles, Largo Woodruff, Miles Chapin
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Elizabeth Berridge, Jack McDermott, Cooper Huckabee, Kevin Conway, William Finley, Sylvia Miles, Largo Woodruff, Miles Chapin,
Type of Poster
One sheet
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
USA
Year of Poster
1981
Designer
Unknown
Artist
Unknown
Size (inches)
27 2/16" x 41"
SS or DS
SS
NSS #
810070
Tagline
Something is alive in the Funhouse!

A creepy slice of horror from Tobe Hooper, the man responsible for the classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre (as noted on this poster), The Funhouse features a menacing atmosphere helped by great production design, solid performances from a number of character actors and a genuinely ghoulish killer. The story sees a quartet of teenage friends; Amy (Elizabeth Berridge), her boyfriend Buzz (Cooper Huckabee), her best friend Liz (Largo Woodruff) and Liz’s boyfriend Richie (Miles Chapin), visit a traveling carnival where they smoke marijuana, sneak into an over-21 strip show and interact with the carnies who run the shows. Richie dares the group to spend the night in the The Funhouse, an indoor ride on rails (often called a ghost train in the UK), and the girls reluctantly agree to hide until the park clears of people.

After sneaking into the depths of the ride the group inadvertently witness the mute, mask-wearing ride operator murder Madame Zena (Sylvia Miles), the fortune teller who also moonlights as a prostitute. When the ride’s barker Conrad (Kevin Conway) discovers what has happened it is revealed that he is the father of the murderous ride operator, actually called Gunther, and when Conrad admonishes him he knocks the mask off revealing a hideous freak underneath. Conrad realises that the crime has been witnessed by the kids and he unleashes Gunther to track them down. The rest of the film sees the teenagers trying to outwit the murderous carnies and escape The Funhouse alive. The make-up for Gunther is incredibly effective and he surely ranks up their as one of the best horror movie bad guys.

This US one sheet features the jaw of Gunther and is supposed to be something of a parody of the classic one sheet for The Rocky Horror Picture Show (the bright red lips). I’m not certain whether it’s actually painted or is a photographic image, although there has definitely been some additional touch-up work if it’s the latter. If anyone knows for sure please get in touch.

Death Trap / B2 / Japan

17.05.11

Poster Poster
Title
Death Trap
AKA
Eaten Alive (USA) | Le crocodile de la mort (France) | Quel motel vicino alla palude [That motel near the swamp] (Italy) | Slaughter Hotel (USA - reissue title)
Year of Film
1977
Director
Tobe Hooper
Starring
Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, Marilyn Burns, William Finley, Stuart Whitman, Roberta Collins, Kyle Richards, Robert Englund, Crystin Sinclaire, Janus Blythe
Origin of Film
USA
Genre(s) of Film
Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, Marilyn Burns, William Finley, Stuart Whitman, Roberta Collins, Kyle Richards, Robert Englund, Crystin Sinclaire, Janus Blythe,
Type of Poster
B2
Style of Poster
--
Origin of Poster
Japan
Year of Poster
1977
Designer
Unknown
Artist
Unknown
Size (inches)
20 6/16" x 28 14/16"
SS or DS
SS
Tagline
--