Tuesday, April 19, 2016

THE SHOW BEGAN ON THE SIDEWALK: TOP 20 Favorite Movie Posters

The Last Drive In
This essay is dedicated to Phil Gips and the late Stephen O. Frankfurt. Two legendary trailblazers in the field of motion picture advertising / marketing who collaborated on some of the most innovative and enduring campaigns and poster designs of all time.

I’ve loved movie posters and have been fascinated by the marketing side of the motion picture business for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest movie ad memories is of being about 8 or 9 years-old sitting in the back of the family station wagon and being thunderstruck when we drive by a naked man, three-stories-high and draped halfway around the side of a building.
What I saw as a wraparound billboard above a major movie theater advertising The Bible, John Huston's 1966 John Huston epic which prominently featured a nude Michael Parks (as Adam at the moment of creation, rising out of the dust of the earth with a strategically raised knee) in all its advertising.
This New York mega-billboard is similar to the one I recall gracing a movie palace in
 Denver, Colorado in 1966
When my sisters and I were small, my mother used to take us downtown with her when she went shopping on Saturdays. Back then, all the big department stores were along San Francisco’s Market Street, which was also the site of scores of those big, old-fashioned movie palaces. Grabbing the pedestrian's eye was the goal of these theaters, so a full day of shopping invariably turned into an impromptu art walk centered around some of the most arresting graphic design and illustration imaginable. I was forever lagging behind distractedly staring at one beckoning movie poster after another, begging for brief detours through the open outdoor theater lobbies, enthralled by the glass display cases overflowing with posters, stills, and lobby cards advertising current features and coming attractions.
My first job: usher at the Alhambra Theater on Polk Street in S.F.
Tuesdays were my favorite days because I got to change the marquees and put up the poster displays. 
Can't even tell you what a kick it was getting to see the publicity materials and pressbooks. 
Occasionally, the manager would gift me with a poster for a film I particularly liked (Night Moves)
or ones National Screen Service wouldn't miss (The Happy Hooker)

On Sunday mornings, when other more well-adjusted kids clamored for the expanded color comics in the newspaper, I hogged the San Francisco Chronicle’s entertainment pages (called DateBook, but due to the distinctive color of the paper, known to us locals as “the pink section”). I relished poring over the many movie ads, and even kept a clippings scrapbook of those of my favorites.

This was the late '60s, so pop-art poster stores (part head-shop, part record store) proliferated in the Haight-Ashbury district where we lived. Occasionally my older sister would allow me to tag along when she’d go to these teen hangouts where they sold t-shirts, candles, blacklight posters, and all manner of hippie-influenced, pop-culture novelties. This was at the start of the youth wave in nostalgia and camp, and a company known as Personality Posters Mfg Co. specialized in blow-up portraits of classic Hollywood stars. My sister's room was full of one-dollar posters of Bogart, Monroe, Fields, Harlow, and Gable. As a gift she bought me twin posters of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton in Taming of the Shrew, and with my own money I bought poster #30 from the chart below: Peter Fonda as Captain America astride his Easy Rider chopper- a BW image highlighted with yellow-tinted glasses and Old Glory gas tank and helmet. Too groovy for words!
Later, when we moved across the bay to Berkeley and I was old enough to walk to and from school alone; my after-school route was always a good half-hour longer and more serpentine than it needed to be, for it was my habit to stroll by and malinger in front of the many movie theaters peppering the UC Berkeley campus streets leading home.

In the days before 24-hour entertainment reporting and minute-by-minute behind-the-scenes production updates, movie posters were pretty much the means by which I first came to know of any of the films that would go on to become my favorites. Because this was when TV news was actually about the news (not the corporate subsidiary cross-promotion disguised as news we have today), I knew nothing about the movies beforehand and had to rely on these posters to give me an inkling of what was in store.
Sure, I looked at movie magazines (with names like Movie Mirror, Modern Screen, or my personal fave, Rona Barrett’s Hollywood), but they were primarily gossip rags. Movie posters had it all. They were glamorous, colorful, evocative...some were beautiful, and the best of them simultaneously caught my eye and fired up my imagination. Capturing the essence of a movie in a single image; revealing just enough, but not too much. They were part of the chain of anticipation that formed the whole moviegoing experience for me.
My profusely-postered bedroom of my first apartment
The Villa Elaine Apartments on Vine St in Hollywood -1980
It was during my freshman high school year that I made the “How long has this been going on?” discovery of there actually being stores (one store to be exact, a tiny shop tucked away in SF’s Castro/Mission District) which sell genuine, bonafide, National Screen Service movie posters to us lowly civilians. Who knew? Looking back, it surprises me to think how, during all my time spent newspaper scrapbooking and gazing longingly at theater display cases, I hadn’t allowed myself to even entertain the possibility of such a thing.
The first day I visited the store I easily spent more than an hour there - the veritable kid in a candy store - leaving with my very first authentic movie posture purchase: an original 1968 Barbarella one-sheet. This kicked off a near-lifelong collecting hobby which lasted until the mid-90s (when movie posters entered that dismal, artless stage of excessively airbrushed big celebrity heads).

I've since sold off or donated all but the most favored posters in my collection, the top tier examples I'll cite below. This list of favorite movie posters is limited to those which are still in my possession adhere to no particular criteria beyond my own personal tastes, aesthetics, and sentimental attachment. Omissions (of which there are bound to be many) don't signify a lack of quality, more than likely just a lower position on a much longer list.

(click on any image to see full size)

MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE MOVIE POSTERS
Rosemary's Baby- 1968 
One of the classiest poster's I've ever seen, as far as I'm concerned, the gold-standard in poster design. 
Stephen O. Frankfurt and Phil Gips are the New York admen responsible for the poster and ad campaign created for Rosemary’s Baby. A pivotal work not only in its artistic and commercial innovation but because it was also the first motion picture assignment for the two veteran advertising men who would go on to collaborate on more than 150 film campaigns over three decades of motion picture advertising.
Treating the film as they would any other account, they assembled a team of Madison Avenue ad artists, photographers (George Eliot-he photographed the baby carriage on one of the mounts in Central Park) and copy writers (Steve Gordon is widely credited with coming up with the tagline "Pray for Rosemary's Baby") to assist them in devising a suitable campaign. The image of Mia Farrow is credited to production still photographer Bob Willoughby.

I had the opportunity to interview these two industry giants back in 2005 (separately, they weren't on the best terms by then), both proud of what they achieved and aware of its influence on movie poster design.
In discussing  the idea behind Rosemary's Baby's initial concept, Gips explained, “What we were trying to do with Rosemary’s Baby was create a sophisticated ad.  A sophisticated ad conveys a mood or idea without providing too much information, while busy, or “schmear” ads, as they are sometimes referred to, appeal to the senses or emotions and often tell too much or try to show too much.  We set out to create an ad that appealed to the imagination.” 
The Day of the Locust - 1975
This advance poster hangs above my writing desk. The work of illustrator David Edward Byrd, this poster is drama with a capital "D." Totemic Hollywood symbols (palm trees, movie marquee with period lettering, klieg lights piercing the purple darkness) direct the eye to a super-sized, hyper-glam Karen Black, oblivious to the nightmarish chaos below her. It's an image that manages to capture the feel and thrust of the film in a single unforgettable image.
Barbarella - 1968
Artwork by Robert McGinnis, this Barbarella poster has always appealed to me because of its very period look and its evocation of a comic book. The heroic image of  a very leggy image of Fonda with her mane of hair flying in the space-wind is too cool for school. I love the space-age lettering font and most of all I love the tagline "See Barbarella Do Her Thing!"  which, after nearly 50 years, still brings a smile to my face. 
The Fox - 1967
The aesthetics of this poster and my fondness for it betrays my '60s-sympathetic sensibilities. The work of poster designer Bill Gold, This kind of sensuous, pseudo-psychdelic imagery was all the rage in the 60s, so the simple yet bold graphic got me from the start. As a kid I loved the clever way the figures of woman/man/woman/fox were so blended; today I really appreciate the visual economy.
Shampoo - 1975
If any one thing can be cited as to being the reason I fell so hard for this poster in '75, I'd say the reason was sexual effrontery. The aforementioned "big celebrity heads" wave in movie poster design was still a couple of decades off, so it wasn't particularly common to see such achingly gorgeous faces staring out at one from a movie poster. Indeed, the directness of the gazes (and warm brown tones of the photography) is brazenly sexy, hip, and stylish at the same time. This is a poster so sure of itself, it doesn't have to DO anything. Goldie Hawn never looked better, but I have to admit when the film first came out and I saw the poster, I didn't recognize Julie Christie at all. I actually thought they left Christie off and put Carrie Fisher front and center.
The Getaway - 1972
I'm not sure who designed this poster, but it with its use of a simple, dynamic image coupled with the mnemonic pairing of the last names of its stars, it feels like the work of Frankfurt/Gips. in any event, I loved the poster the moment I saw it. It's like someone asked for a single image that read "tough" and the designer miraculously complied.
Bonnie & Clyde - 1967
This iconic poster is another Bill Gold poster design. In my essay on this film, I related how this poster's graphic was quite unsettling for me as a child. Now it hangs above my bed. It still stands as a provocatively commanding image - violence and laughter juxtaposed - but these days I think I've come to better appreciate its gracefulness.
Just Tell Me What You Want - 1980
When I moved to Los Angeles, three of the strongest impressions the women here made on me were: berets, white wine, and slit skirts. The popularity of the latter comes to mind whenever I look at this smile-inducing poster featuring a exquisitely long-limbed Ali MacGraw pulling a Gladys Ormphby on comedian Alan King. Though this poster may look like your typical rom-com style ad, what gave it its kick in 1980 was how it played against Ali MacGraw's somewhat stiff image. She was more more animated in this still photo than she'd ever been onscreen.
Images -1972
The poster for this psychological thriller grabbed me with its simple directness (why is that camera pointed at ME, yet reflecting Susannah York in the lens?),  ambiguity (Why are there two Susannah Yorks in that lens?), and suggestion of violence. Kind of a perfect way to create curiosity and interest without revealing anything.
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? - 1969
If capturing attention and keeping it is the goal of a movie poster, small wonder this striking yet agonized study in anguish still hangs on my walls. I think this might have been the third poster I ever purchased...right after Rosemary's Baby.
Reflections in a Golden Eye - 1967
If there's any kind of pattern to emerge in the kind of posters I gravitate toward, I guess I have to cop to being a sucker for its negative space when its used to draw your eye to a strong image. Here we come dangerously close to the "big celebrity head" thing, but that riding crop and the dissimilar countenances of the stars (stern/seductive) really makes this late acquisition (I purchased it in 1990) a hard-to-find fave.
Saturday Night Fever - 1977
This poster has the distinction of being the only one in my collection representing a film I largely despise. I really can't stand Saturday Night Fever for any number of reasons (although I do enjoy it when I can see only the dancing clips), but the poster is really something else. I have a sentimental attachment to it because it recalls my disco-crazy days (yes, I had a T-shirt with those exact words blazoned across it), and because I still can recall how excited I was by this now rather silly-looking poster when I first saw it.
There's a reason why so many things about this poster have become cliche and the stuff of parody, but I feel lucky to have my memories of that brief moment in time when everything you see here - from the white suit to the disco-lit floor) was part of a exhilarating wave of change.
Today, what has become the most dazzling aspect of this poster is its total lack of irony.


 These posters round out my Top 20 - Winners all! 


LEAST FAVORITE MOVIE POSTER 
What's The Matter With Helen? -1971
"I know...let's get people interested in our film by showing them how it ends!"


If any of you out there have a particular favorite movie poster, have ever wanted to own or collect them, or been persuaded to see a film because of one, please share it with us.



No discussion of movie posters would be complete without at least a tip of the hat to Saul Bass
The great granddaddy of motion picture graphic design 
Copyright © Ken Anderson

42 comments:

  1. Great list Ken.

    For myself, I would add Chinatown. I love the smoke that billows over Faye's face. I'm sure Joan saw this film when she made that Faye has class comment.

    And one of my fave movie posters in Black Sunday with Barbara Steele. Her entrance in the film with those dogs in graveyard is fabulous. In both of these cases, the movies are are great to watch.

    I love the last shot in Helen with dead Debbie strung up like that. It's one of my fave movies with Debbie.
    Oh you nasty man!!!

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    1. Hi Michael
      The Chinatown poster is a wonderful choice! A very classic image. As you can see from my old apartment photo, I used to have it, but its popularity made it one of the first ones I sold.
      I'm familiar with the film Clack Sunday by name and reputation only. I have yet to watch it. I have such a strong image of how striking Barbara Steele is in "8 1/2".
      And "Helen" is my #1 favorite Debbie Reynolds movie. I liked it so much I always resented that I was never given a chance to be really shocked by the shocking ending because of that bone-headed movie poster.
      And that little Mae West impersonator in the film...what a number!
      Thanks for commenting, Michael

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  2. I **LOVE** this one since I was 9!!!

    http://www.poseidonadventure.com/images/goodies/mps/the-poseidon-adventure-movie-poster-1972-style-a-museum-wrapped-canvas-11x17.jpg

    This TPA poster just knocked me out when I first saw it, and to this day I still study the fine details of everything going on in the picture!

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    1. Hi Michael
      Great choice! The Poseidon Adventure poster is one of my favorite of the disaster film genre. It has everything: a great logo design (that sinking ship with the word "adventure" given the water effect); a row of dramatic, underlit celebrity portraits; and a great illustration of the action (I went to Google images to get largest one I could find...you're right, there's tons of stuff going on in that drawing)! This is an action poster with a capital "A"- it should come with it's own soundtrack.

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  3. Also, I'm sure I'm not telling anyone here anything they don't already know, but Robert McGinnis (who designed the Barbarella poster) is one of the greatest paperback cover artists of all time. You could grab 100 1950s through 1980s paperbacks and I guarantee at least 25 of them would have McGinnis cover illustrations. Great stuff!

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    1. In this context you really can't mention Robert McGinnis enough. Folks our age came into contact with his beautiful illustrations on everything from books to album covers to movie posters. A visit to a website honoring his work looks like a instagram album of my youth.

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  4. (Somehow my earlier comment disappeared, so I'll try to reconstruct it...apologies for the duplication if the original shows back up.)

    Michael C. beat me to the CHINATOWN reference. That was my absolute favorite poster and was on my wall for years. It did such a great job of harkening back to the noir movies of thirty years prior. And now, looking at the poster forty years on, it evokes its own era--the mid-1970s.

    I finally gave my vintage SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER poster to my sister who still loooooves John Travolta. The other poster I remember having on my wall was THE THREE MUSKETEERS, but that was less due to the style of the poster than to the attractiveness of York, Reed, and Chamberlain.

    Btw, we were near neighbors in the 1980s. I moved to L.A. in 1980. I first lived on Normandie just off Sunset. By 1982, I'd moved to an apartment on a street just off Santa Monica, just down from Vine. We probably passed each other at the grocery store!

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    1. Hi Deb
      I really must apologize for something I don't yet know how to fix (maybe there are some bloggers out there who know about such things). I put up a spam filter for posts older than a month, but ever since then, folks like yourself have relayed tales of disappearing comments (they wind, as this comment did- in a spam file) or double comments. Not sure how to fix it yet without opening the door to what I had before (9000 comment posts about hot sexy ladies waiting to meet me).
      Ok, on to the poster topic: Had I held onto my Chinatown poster, I would likely have listed it after Barbarella- I loved it so. And for the very reason you cite. Had the film been more of favorite (I think it's sensational, but it has no real emotional pull for me) I don't think I would ever have sold it.
      I'm glad to hear your Saturday Night Fever poster has found a good home (it's still weird for me to think my teen pin-up posters are now "vintage" collectibles), and I had to Google The 3 Musketeers, I'd forgotten it. If it's the illustrated one, I'd love to know what Faye Dunaway thought of how the artist depicted her after capturing the other actors so well (she's made to look a little like Judith Anderson!).
      Ha! And we were indeed neighbors for a time! And to make matters worse...after I moved from the Villa Elaine, I moved in with a boyfriend to an apartment near Normandie and Santa Monica Blvd!

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    2. Yes--this is the one. I loved it! But, then again, I also had Maxfield Parrish posters. Child of the 1970s indeed!

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Three_Musketeers_1974.jpg

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  5. Oh man, I love this.

    One of my favorite parts of going to the movies when I was growing up (apart from the trailers) was studying the movie posters in the lobby of my local theater. Four on each side—“coming soon!” (60s era Frank Frazetta, Robert E. McGinnis, and Jack Davis were among my favorites). Then one week, in there with The Busy Body, The Countess from Hong Kong, Fitzwilly, and In Like Flint, was the poster for Bonnie and Clyde, which looked like no other in the lobby. I think that was the year graphics really started to change.

    Ken, I remember staring at that B&C poster week by week as it moved its way down to “now playing.” That was the first poster that made me want to see the movie. And now, my favorite movie of all time, and I’ve been collecting posters ever since. Other than that, the posters that made me want to see the movies (that I can think of off hand) were Wait Until Dark, The Legend of Lylah Clare, Secret Ceremony, and The Killing of Sister George. Had to wait a few years to see Sister George, though.

    Hanged and framed in my home: Bonnie and Clyde, Psycho, Marnie, Baby Doll, Barbarella, They Shoot Horses Don’t They, Rosemary’s Baby, (I swear I’m not copying you with some of these), 2001, and Modesty Blaise. I have a Saul Bass wall: Bonjour Tristesse. Saint Joan, Such Good Friends, and Bunny Lake Is Missing.
    I have more stored away and I rotate, but Bonnie and Clyde and Rosemary’s Baby are the only two that are permanent. And side by side.

    Dead right about What’s the Matter with Helen? What the heck were they thinking? And I’d be hard-pressed to come up with even a handful of great posters from the last twenty, even thirty years. It seems like it’s either two photo shopped heads, or three heads, title centered.

    Thanks for letting me go on, Ken, but you hit on one my favorite loves here. And your own personal choices are sublime.

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    1. Hi Max
      Your enthusiasm for and love of movies comes through so tangibly palpably in your comments sometimes it makes me smile. This is one of those times. The vividness of your memory of seeing that “Bonnie & Clyde” poster puts the whole time shiftover era of the late 70s in perspective. Young film fans always express to me how valuable it is to read about these “vintage” films (that’s about the time I have to struggle not to grab them by the throat) in context. Your memory of noting the change in poster styles is such a context.

      Sounds like you have a very cool and eclectic collection of movie posters (Modesty Blaise!) all of which are favorites (especially the Saul Bass Bonjour Tristesse and Such Good Friends). We obviously share quite a similar taste (although, mimicking to the way my mom insisted on having a TV in every room, I seem to have a framed Rosemary Baby poster in every room: a Polish one in the entry, a ginormous Italian one in the living room, and the classic US poser in the bedroom). But I think we also share a similar feeling. The posters you have appear to be emotional/aesthetic favorites. That they are perhaps also valuable in the monetary sense doesn’t really enter into it.

      My very last movie poster purchase was Strange Days- and even that was one of those “big heads” posters, but Angela Basset and Ralph Fiennes looked so gorgeous on it. These days with Photoshop, the posters just look uglier and uglier to me.
      Maybe one day I’ll use the misguided “Helen” poster as a kickoff to an essay about really lazy advertising campaigns and miscalculations. Honestly, that’s the worst.
      Thanks, Max, for so entertainingly sharing your poster favorites!

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  6. What struck me about this post is that you obviously have a great love of (and good taste in) movie posters, yet when it came to crafting your blog, you went with screencaps of the on-screen titles instead. Not that there's anything wrong with that! I actually love that approach and it gives each post its own highly distinctive starting point as well as an unexpected uniformity despite the total uniqueness of each image. It just surprises me that based on your adoration of so many posters that you could resist using them.

    As for me, I was first struck by those 1970s "box posters" in which some splashy scenario (typically a disaster) was accompanied by a row of big name stars each in his or her own box. I could never get past my love of that approach, which speaks to my love of organization and order. LOL But beyond these, I really love the posters for movies like "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Death on the Nile" with the appealing artist renditions of the stars (all clumped together in an arrangement, of course!)

    Lastly, in a hooty reference to your remarks about heads dominating posters after a certain time, I was really, REALLY into romantic thrillers in the 1980s & '90s (think "Jagged Edge" and the like) and any time someone was headed to the video store (egads!) and asked me what to rent I would say, "Oh anything that has a man and a woman's faces on the box looking scared!" LOLOL I never did have any taste.

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    1. what strikes me about this comment is that you obviously have a great love of this blog. Yet when it came time to comment, you chose to first criticize the form of the post and then comment on the subject.

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    2. Oops! I think there has been a slight misunderstanding here, Anonymous...
      In Poseidon's defense, his comment is actually just an academic observation, not a criticism. An observation born, I think, of really "getting" the thrust of this particular post- that I love movie posters - and referencing his long association with my blog.

      And indeed Poseidon, the point you bring up is a good one. It WAS hard to resist using movie posters at the start of each of my posts. When I first began writing this blog, I gave a lot of thought to how I wanted to format it. I DID initially think to begin each post with an image of a movie poster, but what dissuaded me was, 1) So many other film blogs do it, and 2) The first year of my blog, I posted it with a black background and white text. Putting aside issues of eye-strain for the moment, the look created when screencaps were applied was the look of sitting in the dark and staring at a movie screen.
      My second passion (and likely the source of another essay) are movie title sequences, so this formed my decision to go with screen-title screencaps and not movie posters, which was not only my first inclination, but a genuine desire of mine at a time. I even flirted with the idea of ending each of my posts with an image of the movie poster of the film discussed.

      So, in fact, Anonymous, while I thank you for "defending" me as such (which I hope means you are perhaps a fan of the blog) in this instance it's a case of that ol’ bugaboo of all internet commentary – It is sooo difficult to gauge "tone" in the written word, and misunderstandings are easy.
      Truth be told, I welcomed the opportunity to explain how horizontal screencaps became this blog's motif (movie poster vertical rectangles take up so much space!). Thanks

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    3. Hi Poseidon
      In response to your favorite poster references, I too have a soft spot for those posters which suggest the cast is so overloaded with big-name stars that they have to put them all in their own orderly portrait boxes. This went double if they were "artist's rendering" of celebrities (Like the poster for "The Oscar"). In later years this effect became clumpy, but Amsel and a few others were masters at making all those floating heads blend with a larger image or geometric form. Very classy!
      Lastly, I love the "Anything that has a man and a woman's face on the box looking scared!" video store run instruction. It's too perfect...with all those sound-alike titles from that era (Basic this, Sudden that) - your selection process was pretty on the mark.
      Thanks for commenting and especially for the initial, very perceptive observation!

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    4. please accept my sincere apologies Poseidon. I did misunderstand what you were referencing.
      I love this blog so much I get very protective of it.

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  7. I still love the American Beauty poster. I think it's very striking.

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    1. Hi Gabby
      My mind immediately flased to the poster being an image of Mena Suvari in a bed of roses, but I Googled it and see that the poster you refer to (I think) is the closeup of a bare navel a rose. I'd forgotten!
      It is a very striking, minimalist image which reminded me of the Frankfurt/Gips image for "Goodbye, Columbus"
      Thanks for contributing a newer film to this list!

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  8. Now that I'm heading into my "senior" years (I have the AAARP on speed dial) my appreciation for the long lost art of movie posters has only increased. Unfortunately, the quality and creativity of today's movie promotions do not merit much of my attention. As a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s, so many of the posters you've picked resonated with me too, especially the one for Rosemary"s Baby. The tagline "pray for Rosemary's baby" scared me more than the images. (I wish clever taglines were back in vogue too.)

    My taste in movie poster ary veered toward the classic Amsel posters for movies like Murder on the Orient Express or The Sting. In my mind they denoted pure class and good taste, which the movies themselves usually delivered. Until Hello Dolly. Great poster. Movie, not so much.

    One issue that drove me crazy as a kid was when drawings on a movie poster differed from what was actually seen on screen. It started when I saw the poster for the 1960s rerelease of Gone With the Wind. The poster featured images from the film in lurid paperback cover style, primarily Clark Gable, open shirted, holding Vivien Leigh, whose bodice-ripped dress is falling off her shoulders about to reveal her heaving bosom. Now for a 7 or 8 year old this was sexy stuff. I couldn't wait to go see this movie to see this scene. Sat obediently through the 4 hour film waiting to see Scarlett's bosom, and boy was I disappointed. The scene of Rhett carrying Scarlett up the stairs was nowhere near as sexy as the poster promised. I began noticing other movie posters that confounded me as well. Usually it was for a musical like Sound of Music or Funny Girl. They have artists renderings of scenes/images from the movie. But when I actually saw the movie the scene either didn't exist (Maria & the Von Trapp kids running on the mountain while the Captain sternly stands by) or something was off (the colors of Barbra's skating costume in the movie differed from the poster). I would spend the entire movie waiting to see exactly what was promised on the poster! And I was mad if I didn't!

    Luckily I outgrew my stickler detail fetish as I grew up. But it does still bug me that Julie Christie's hair on the Shampoo poster doesn't match her hair in the movie. Sorry, Ken.

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I will be taking the serpentine path by the old movie houses too!

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    1. Good call about Shampoo and Julie's hair/wig/WTF IN the movie was horrible. I have a very hard time getting past it.

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    2. Roberta
      I really wish you wrote a blog. The entire section about misleading ad art is so spot-on and hilarious!
      Your recounting of of the "Gone With the Wind" experience is the kind of stuff I live for. That's the true moviegoer's experience...not just following the action onscreen, but processing that action through something very specific and personal within each of us. I can relate.
      In writing this post I wanted to include a tiny section on movie posters that do a lousy job of sneaking sex into their posters (worst offender, a Mary Poppins poster in which the raised, twirling skirt of the Edwardian-era nanny reveals a pair of shapely bare legs in 1960s pumps).
      Anyhow, I truly feel your pain, and the Julie Christie hair discrepancy wasn't lost on me either (I have a soft spot for the ridiculous, Streisand-ish hairdo she's given in the film, but it's clear the poster doesn't want to give any indication it takes place in you to know it takes place in 1968).

      One of my sisters studied graphic art, and Richard Amsel's work was a big influence on her style. His posters and TV guide covers were indeed very classy. And no star ever had to worry about being captured in an odd or unflattering light. Not only did he capture the resemblance, but he glamorized (Matthau on the Hello Dolly poster).
      Finally, it's nice to hear other people responded to how chilling the catchline "Pray for Rosemary's Baby" was to young ears. Talk about generating interest!
      Thanks a million, Roberta.! Your comment gave me such a chuckle and got me to thinking of all the misleading poster images I've seen over the years.

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    3. Ken, glad I gave you a chuckle. Your blog has given me endless moments of entertainment. I do write a blog, called Steel Town Girl, that focuses on growing up in western Pennsylvania in the 1970s. You and Poseidon inspired me to do it!

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    4. That's wonderful news, Roberta! I already checked out your funny and well-written blog, so I hope you don't mind my linking it with my favorites in the side banner. Your conversational writing style and perceptive observational skills promises a continuously pleasurable escape form my own head. Congrats!

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    5. Thanks Ken! It's an honor to be linked to your site. You are welcome at Steel Town Girl anytime, and bring Poseidon!

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  9. My favorites will always be Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, with a shout out to Metropolis.

    I remember so well the ad campaign for Rosemary's Baby! I was about 14 and into reading the comics and the movie ads every afternoon in the daily newspaper. There was a rather small blurb about Rosemary's Baby and a number to call to find out what happened. So I started calling the number, which was busy for a very long time. I finally got through (relentless teen) and it was a recording again about whatever happened to poor Rosemary's baby and to see the movie to find out. I was hooked!! My parents actually took me and a friend to see it in the theaters - the only movie I ever asked them to take me to that I can remember. I don't believe they even discussed it with me. Since they were older parents, I imagine they were quite shocked and totally uncomfortable with the subject matter. Good times!

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    1. Hi Bella
      "Metropolis"...excellent poster! And such an arrestingly bold graphic.
      You're the first person to ever reference the Rosemary's Baby phone campaign and relate an actual experience of calling in! What a thrilling memory to have...and to have your parents take you to see such a hotly-anticipated film, to boot.

      I was unaware of the movie's phone-in campaign at the time, but many years later on Ebay I was able to purchase a record of the various radio and TV ads for the film, and included was the taped message for people who called that number. One of these days I have to commit it to mp3. I think a lot of Rosemary's baby fans would get a kick out of hearing it.
      can't tell you how much I appreciate hearing from another soul caught up "Rosemary's Baby" fever at the time it occured. As you said, good times! Thanks, Bella!

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    2. "Say a prayer for Rosemary's baby". The Mad magazine parody was excellent, "Rose-Mia's boo boo". Frank was in the dream sequence singing scooby dooby doo.

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    3. Yes!Those Mad magazine parodies were the best. I still have a copy of that Mad magazine issue. What comes to mind immediately is the drawing of Twiggy standing on the sidelines as the nude body double for Mia Farrow during the coven body-painting sequence.

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  10. There are two - totally unrelated - film posters that are favorites of mine.

    The first is for the 1967 CAMELOT. That lush illustration caught my eye when I was 10 years old. I saw it for the first time when attending the roadshow release. It swirls with movement and has such vivid color. Even as it depicts the Arthurian legend, it is absolutely of 1967 in its style and intent. It's nothing like the MGM studio would have done. It drips with intrigue and sex. Vanessa Redgrave's orange hair flying all over the place is still eye-catching. And how sultry she is. There is the additional matter of those numerous images of Franco Nero, on whom I developed a deep and confusing 10 year old's crush as the film unspooled. He's still hard to top. I suppose. At least in CAMELOT. For decades, I've been toting around the country a framed copy of the CAMELOT film poster. It is the only film poster I've ever owned.

    The other is the poster for BLOODY MAMA. High trash, but the copy is so funny. All of them, as there are a few. Plus, you get Shelley Winters chomping a cigar and slinging a tommy gun. It's hard to beat that for an image that commands attention.

    Honorable mention goes to The Honeymoon Killers. How BOLD to promote a movie with the image of Shirley Stoler in her underwear being pawed by a seemingly nude Tony Lo Bianco, while both sit on a trunk with an arm sticking out. It's a shocking, coarse, vulgar image... just like the movie. But what an image to sink the ad budget into. Risky as a sales piece, but certainly memorable.

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    1. I have to agree with you about the Bob Peak poster art for "Camelot." my parents belonged to the Columbia House record club, and the Camelot soundtrack was the featured record that month. No one in my household was interested in it, but as you may recall, Columbi House will send it to you unless you mail them a "not interested" card.
      When the album came I was struck by the cover art and found in it all that you described. Indeed, it reminded me more of the hippie rock and roll posters for The Fillmore than the world of King Arthur, but that was its appeal. It's just a stunning image.
      Bob Peak was feted with a gallery show of his art here in LA some years ago, and the original ink and paint illustration kind of took my breath away.

      Bloody Mama I remember very well, and I can completely appreciate its appeal. Posters for 70s exploitation films seemed to have an aesthetic of their own, and of the many gangster films of the era, I recall how "Bloody Mama" caught my eye. The same with "The Honeymoon Killers" - a poster which really unnerved me at the time. I only saw the film relatively recently and was blown away by it, but never forgot that poster.
      Thanks for the eclectic contributions!

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  11. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm so envious of you having experienced these classic films and posters when they were first released! You really are the right person to be writing about them! I discovered films from 60s and 70s on late night television but you got to see them on big screens!

    I once had a small poster for "Casino Royale" (1967 of course) which I've regrettably lost. I like the poster for "Death on hte Nile". I have another poster for "Eyes of Laura Mars" than the one you've got. It features Faye with a camera and leg out to the side with a picture of Lulu and Miichele fighting. I think that is my favourite poster that I own.

    So many great movies and posters from that era. Of your list I like the Barbarella one the most. I really wish I had that on the wall. Not much space for that, though. The others on your list are classics too. I can't understand why Julie Christie has a drab mid-seventies perm on the poster for "Shampoo" when she's got such stunning haircuts in the film! I have a slight Ali MacGraw fascination and I wish she had worn a slit skirt in "Just Tell Me..." rather than just on the poster. She looks so good on it with those legs! The "Rosemary's Baby" poster is just as chilling as the film and you're so right about how irony-free the "Saturday Night Fever" poster is.

    It would be great to read about why you don't like that movie and also a list of your least favourite films!
    -Wille

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    1. Hi Wille
      Thanks very much. I don't know that I'm so much the right person to write about this period in movies, so much that I feel grateful (now) that I was such an emotional basket-case as an adolescent, that, at a time when movies were really going through an unprecedented shift, I was growing up shy and insecure and needing to "find" something in what would otherwise be the time-killing escapism so many of my peers perceived movies to be.
      I probably missed a lot of other things in 60s-70s culture, but I was very "awake" about movies.

      That "Eyes" poster you describe sounds great. An online search turned up an image of a Japanese Laura mars poster that might look like the one you describe.
      The "Casino Royale" poster of course is a big favorite. It's one I still have, but would have appeared as #21 or something.
      When i read about it online, I find people frequently impose modern sensibilities onto it and describe it as an image of a psychedelically tattooed woman. Oldsters like myself know that the 60s was the era of body painting (a la "Laugh In" ) and the image suggests the fusing of the full-body painting of the original James Bond "Goldfinger" girl with the wacky, psychedelic nature of this comic spoof.
      To confuse matters, in 1981 I purchased the poster for the distasteful Bruce Dern film "Tattoo" because the imagery reminded me of Casino Royale. It was a short-lived attraction - I sold that poster in a hurry.

      I laughed at your description of Julie Christie's hair being a "drab mid-seventies perm" on the Shampoo cover- Ha! Indeed it is. She's so gorgeous, but the hair does her no favors. Hawn, however...Wow!
      As for MacGraw, I would love to think those gorgeous long legs belong to her and not some leg model (like that whole Julia Roberts/Pretty Woman poster scandal that nobody cared about).

      Lastly, thanks for expressing an interest in what movies I might actually loathe! It's always so much fun (and easier) to write about movies one hates. My keys just fly across the keyboard. That (along with the fact that so much movie writing on the internet is vitriolic) is one of the reasons I chose to write a blog about movies I like. From a writing standpoint I find it so much more challenging trying to describe good things.
      Perhaps after so many years of establishing goodwill, I'll let go with one post where I can lay into the films that drive me up a wall!
      Or better still, maybe I'll just have an open forum and ask you all to tell me what films YOU dislike!
      Thanks, Wille.

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    2. Hi Ken. It's interesting what you write about movies being throw away "time-killing escapism" for some people while being much more important to others who want to go back and re-evaluate and re-experince the same films.

      I hadn't thought about the Casino Royale poster girl being covered in paint instead of gold! A full-boy painting is less painful than a full-body tattoo!

      Yes, you're blog is much more positive in tone about films than most film sites, especially the ones who write about older films. That's a relief! Thank you for sharing your views on your very entertaining and fun blog!
      -Wille

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    3. Hi Wille
      Thank you very much. Yes, for whatever reason, I'm really glad movies became such a vessel of escape/discovery/learning for me. I used to know someone who saw one or two movies a well. She just saw everything that came out, but they really didn't mean anything to her. She used them like some people use TV-to pass the time and kill a few hours.
      It always felt like she was getting 10% of a 100% experience.

      And it's curious about the whole "positive" think on film. I really don't enjoy boosterism and rah-rah defending of movies either. I like critical thinking that takes in the good and bad of a film and still arrive at a perspective.
      I used to belong to some FB mmovie sites, but the members were so gung-ho/fanatic in their devotion to a movie, they jumped down the throat of anyone who expressed a critical observation.
      So the struggle is always for me to work at keeping my eyes open with an equally open mind. Not easy when I have my personal faves, but I try.
      Thanks for noticing, Wille.

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  12. Great selection, Ken! I went through a phase of buying (contemporary) posters in the late 70s/early 80s, but never had the money to frame/wallspace to display them. When we were looking the in archives for art to put in the office area at work a couple yearsd ago (my office is in a university library), I was able to snag the Bass "Man with the Golden Arm" poster for my office.

    My own taste in posters runs more to low-budget horror or exploitation flicks from the 50s-early 60s, ideally in an "extinct" format like a half-sheet or window card. (I got my son a Strait-Jacket Benton card for his college apartment.)

    "In writing this post I wanted to include a tiny section on movie posters that do a lousy job of sneaking sex into their posters..." made me think about when I worked at a 16mm rental agency/video dealer in the early 80s and how the video box art would always sex up the art, especially on the back cover.

    Finally, re: your comments on "What's the Matter with Helen"--have you seen the dvd cover for the latest release of the original Planet of the Apes? Guess they figure it's no secret at this point.

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    1. Hey MDG!
      Love that you have that dynamic Saul Bass poster in your office. And your taste in off-size, low-budget horror and exploitation posters is the stuff of true collectors. Those exploitation films often had the most vivid poster designs.
      By the way, in all my years of movie-mania, I have never come across the term "Benton Card" and had to Google it. Who knew? A whole sub category of film promotional material I knew nothing about! Love finding out new movie things!

      The practice of spicing up movie posters with sex often led to hilarious results. In the heyday of video rental stores, I was often aghast at the overheated cover art for the most benign movies. That and what you mention about the new DVD cover for "Planet of the Apes" ...what a moronic (and desperate) cover art decision!
      Thanks for the educational comment, MDG!

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  13. Love this article. I've been collecting movie posters for decades. The photo of your first apartment looked very much like mine--including many of the same posters on the wall. My guidelines are that I must lovethe movie and love the poster. Because there's lots of movies I love and they have lackluster posters (THE HOURS). One of my alltime favorites is Cassavetes's GLORIA with Gena Rowlands shooting a pistol in various directions (http://www.moviepostershop.com/gloria-movie-poster-1980). And I love the giant pill image for VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (http://www.moviepostershop.com/valley-of-the-dolls-movie-poster-1967).

    I also think some foreign posters have better images than the US versions--like WAIT UNTIL DARK's Japanese poster (http://www.illustractiongallery.com/crime-detective-noir/4094-wait-until-dark--japanese-.html), WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE's French poster (http://www.moviepostershop.com/whatever-happened-to-baby-jane-movie-poster-1962/CJ6109).

    As for WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? (a movie I love), theer is so many things wrong with that poster. First it's the spoiler. Then it's the awful tagline ("So you've met someone and you know how it feels. Goody. Goody.") The only thing worse is the DVD cover, which ups the spoiler ante by putting a knife in Shelley Winters's hand (http://www.amazon.com/Matter-Whoever-Auntie-Midnite-Feature/dp/B000068TPG).

    Thanks! Kevin!

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    1. So happy you enjoyed the post!
      Glad to hear from another poster collector who went through the (apparently requisite) period of pinning up every poster they own until frames and more wall space were discovered.
      I know what you mean about liking a film not being enough...it has to have a great poster too. A great many of my favorite films have terrible posters (Demon Seed and The Fan come to mind).
      Love your choices, particularly the "Gloria" poster, and I rally appreciate having the lings to look at-thanks for that.
      Foreign posters are often so dazzling in their graphics, the Polish ones (when they are not downright terrifying) often qualify as works of graphic art.
      oh, and since I have "What's the Matter with Helen?" on DVD, I'm familiar with that DVD cover art. Oy! How does stuff like that even get approved? Just terrible!
      Thanks for sharing your fave poster choices with us. Such a cool an diverse selection.
      I'll sign off thanking you as Vito, with apologies if your name is Kevin (I wasn't sure if maybe you might have gotten my name wrong or if you are telling me yours...I'm easily confused!) Thanks!

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  14. My favorite poster is the one for "The Sting." I always thought it was a cheeky subversion of those old "Saturday Evening Post" covers and all the "good old days" nostalgia associated with them. Also, it was the inspiration for a great Mad Magazine cover-when they did their version of "The Sting," the cover of the issue read, "We salute the Big Con" and showed Nixon and Agnew as Gondorff and Hooker, enjoying their ill-gotten gains, and below, in smaller letters, "and we also zing The Sting."

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    1. Yes, another terrific Richard Amsel poster! I think it works for the very reason you say; it instantly evokes nostalgia, yet the image is of to not-very-wholesome con men.
      I wish I remembered the Mad magazine cover, it sounds amusing.

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  15. As I've probably said before, I looove your reminiscences of growing up in northern California and how they intersect with my own history. In high school, every Monday morning I would rush to the library so I could read that weekend's Pink Book! And I still have ads from it for films and bands in my old scrapbooks (usually torn out surreptitiously. As a punk rock kid, I had no respect for square concepts like library property!).

    In an almost-but-not-quite-spooky coincidence, my parents regularly listened to KNBR in the Frank and Mike days--though I was more of a Carter B. Smith girl myself--and that Heaven Can Wait poster you included? I won one in a KNBR contest. No idea where it is now, alas, though I'm not bothered by that as much as I wish I could find another copy of the 4-ft. tall Bee Gees poster I had in 8th grade!

    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/354165958170396286/

    The mention of Richard Amsel's name pinged my memory and when I Googled, I instantly recognized his work. Anyone who grew up with TV Guide in the 70's and 80's could say the same, though I hadn't realized the extent of his seminal work with film posters and album covers as well. (That iconic Divine Miss M cover!) I also hadn't known that he had died from AIDS in 1985. Just when I think I know most of the notable people lost to the plague, I always find always another one. Dammit.

    BTW, I was distressed at the disappearance of your Tumblr--is everything okay?

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    1. Hi Lila
      I wish I still had my old movie ad scrapbook. Whenever I look through old Newspapers in the Google archives, I still get a thrill from looking at the movie sections from the 70s. Such variety! (And with drive-ins still around, an amazing amount of schlock and exploitation).

      So very cool that you too had a thing for the Sunday Pink Section, and collected ads in the bargain. Nice to know that some things continue through the ages even as moviegoing changes.
      Thanks for sharing the story about winning that "heaven Can Wait" poster. I would have flipped! When I moved to LA, that poster image dominated the "entrance" to the Sunset Strip on a billboard right by the Chateau Marmont (the space occupied by the revolving Myra Breckinridge statue in the 60s).
      Thanks for the link to the Bee gees poster. I forget how hairy a trio they were. Did you throw them over for a punk band when you got older?
      And yes, Richard Amsel's art was really all over the place. He was practically the Norman Rockwell of my generation. And so sad about his early demise. Someday someone needs to write about all the art that was potentially lost due to the AIDS epidemic and the Reagan administration's inaction. Personally, I'm convinced that Broadway wouldn't be as "Disneyfied" as it is today.

      And as for my Tumblr blog, at the advice of a writer friend of mine, as I start to get more serious about this writing thing, I deleted my old account and started a new one devoted exclusively to movies and this blog (no political rants or off-topic stuff). It can be linked be clicking on the Tumblr button on the sidebar. Should you find me again, please tag me, I lost your Tumblr account and want to re-follow.

      Great to hear from you Lila, and thanks for the interest!

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