Week Four, looks like men and women clutching at each other is the theme for the week.
I’ve made it through the finals week slog and moving my faculty office one door to the right (yes!). Now I’m anxious to see more and more significant posters as we progress ever deeper into the countdown. Let’s soldier on!
I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes finds a higher place in the countdown that it would merit on design alone. I’d like this a whole lot more if we could lose the photograph of the girl, and make the trio of pointing fingers a much more prominent aspect of the design — maybe even shift the gunman to the opposite side and pose him so Don Castle’s big mug was squarely in his sights. Also, try to imagine the aqua-greenish color at the top as a deep blue (or even black) — better, right? Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not trashing the design here, I’d be happy to hang this poster on my wall. The use of faces instead of full-figures or even busts give the poster a lot of impact — Castle’s head has to be at least a foot tall!
No Escape, a B-thriller is little reputation, is that rare poster that manages to capture the noir-ish mood of San Francisco, even if much of the effect gets lost in a sea of yellow ink. One of the comments from last week’s post brought up the flaws in the design of the poster of The Big Bluff, and like that one, the poster No Escape is included more for the way in embodies the characteristics of noir than for the merits of its design. And while the poster certainly has flaws — this one even more than The Big Bluff — its important to recognize that a certain … rough, unsophisticated quality had by many B-movie posters actually enhances their impact. So while this design is too cluttered and is oddly split vertically into halves, the use of the San Fran skyline and the gun-toting silhouette are very evocative, and you just can’t beat a poster with a cowing hoodlum with a bottle of liquor poking from his jacket pocket.
On a side note: how about the subtle fifties materialism inherent in the taglines?
Strom Warning. The design style here should feel familiar, this is another of the Warner Bros. two color B-style posters, probably by the same artist responsibe for I Was a Communist for the FBI, Highway 301, and Lightning Strikes Twice. All the great things about those designs are present here: dynamic composition, strong type alignment, large white frame, boxed taglines, and so forth; yet this design has more impact than those we’ve seen before: look at Ginger’s expression, notice how strongly the tagline resonates with the primary image, and the unique, storm cloud-like shape of the image area. Very strong: the title is at the top and the cast is at the bottom, as it should be; with the width of the cast names helping finish out the rectangular image area — it’s something of a signature style with this designer. Wish we could put a name to some of these folks!
The Garment Jungle, and here it comes again. This idea of secret watching, or of being watched, is often an important noir motif, and it’s out in force here. Consider all of the ways in which the image of a put-upon Henry Fonda could have been depicted, yet the designer chose to show us this view, of Fonda being watched surreptitiously by some unknown man. The poster conceptually suggests that we too are about to take on the role of voyeur; and it isn’t lost on me that the round field of the car mirror is also oddly reminiscent of a microscope or detective’s magnifying glass. Some aspects of the design are forced: the angle of the car is strange, as is the placement of the mirror on the windshield, but both are necessary in order to get the mirror onto the right place in the composition, and at the proper size.
On the other hand, I wonder what this poster would have looked like if we were to remove the oversized newspaper and let the title just sit in the color field at the bottom of the poster. Then, I’d rework the illustration to make it appear that Crawford was standing in the wind, while more realistically sized newspaper whipped along the ground at his feet, with possibly one wrapped around his cuff.
The tagline at the top is well done, especially in the juxtaposition with Crawford. The same can be said of the Confidential-style inset photographs. For the umpteenth time it is made evident how the use of diagonals can invigorate a design. Two small qualms: First, I’m having a hard time figuring out the blue area at the bottom of the poster. My best guess is that it is meant to be a spotlight of sorts, the same that illuminates Crawford. If that’s the case though, the shadows don’t quite work and the leftover red, white, and blue effect seems a little out of place. Finally, the color transition above Donna Reed’s head is sloppy and awkward.
Black Tuesday is my favorite Robinson film. It came at the time that the great man was forced to make a stream of B crime pictures because of his run in with the red baiters and subsequent gray-listing. It’s widely known that Robinson found this work distasteful, but it’s hard to blame him: his life was so miserable at the time that it’s difficult to imagine him having positive feelings about anything. Not only was his marriage a failure, his wife was mentally ill; his son gave him nothing but trouble; and he couldn’t grasp how the country he adored and to which he was devoted could treat him so poorly, and even call him a traitor. All of Robinson’s feelings bubble to the surface in Black Tuesday — his performance is terrifying. It’s a rare film, but one very much worth seeking out. The poster is darn good as well — it’s one of the few times that Eddie gets the full-figure treatment in one of his posters. Owing to his unconventional looks and build, he often appears as a head floating in the background in order to make room for the romantic leads. Last week’s Robinson poster, Night Has a Thousand Eyes, is a prime example. At any rate, it’s a great shot of a gun-toting Robinson, and the crosshatched / wood engraved illustration technique is fairly rare for a film poster. Yellow is a color we see often, often unfortunately, but here it’s a hit. The color palette here, black and the primaries, really makes this pop out, as does the quality negative space that forces you to confront the image of Robinson. There a lot of typography here, possibly too much because the title gets lost, but it is well-stacked and the little square of negative yellow space balances the larger space above Eddie very cleverly. My favorite part: dig that little electric chair. Zap!
Back with ten more next week!