Hello cheesecake! It’s dirty old man week in the countdown! In other news, I’ve increased the pixel-quality of the posters: from now on all of the digital files are 900 pixels wide instead of 700, and saved with the least amount of JPEG compression possible. Also, welcome to all the new followers, commenters, emailers, facebook friends, hoodlums, heathens, and gun molls! Very special thanks to everyone who has Tweeted or re-Tweeted about the countdown. I’m not a Twitter user myself, so I really appreciate all of the traffic you’ve helped direct to the blog. The amount of traffic here has truly been humbling. Thanks so much.
Pull up a bar stool, the peanuts are free…
The Prowler. Yikes!
Canon (pronounce Canyon) City was fairly annoying to jazz up (the original was filthy!), so I thought for once I’d include the source copy so all could see what I’ve been doing to these things. Is it easy? It took me about 30–45 minutes to get this one into shape, but I’ve been at this since the original version of Photoshop hit the shelves in 1990. Is it hard? No, not really. It just takes practice. We teach the college students to do this stuff in their very first software class, though it takes them a while to realize that there are a few right ways and a million wrong ways to color correct, or otherwise improve / restore an image. I used to enjoy this part of my teaching duties, but I haven’t had the freedom to teach the beginning courses in years and years. I average 10 – 15 minutes per poster, mainly spent removing the folds and tears. I wish I had time to really make these things shine, but there are 100 posters in the countdown and that’s just not possible!
At any rate, great poster. I’ve placed here because of the immediacy of the violence. We’ve seen quite a few images of people kicking the crap out of one another, but the convict on the poster here is out to get us! A strong type treatment (even if it is a bit phallic in its positioning), and well executed small illustrations combine with a eye-popping color palette to make this a low budget home run. This is another recent addition the streaming library at Netflix: check it out here. With some of John Alton’s best cinematography, this is a must-see.
Blonde Alibi (#61) you’ll see that the poster for the similarly titled Blonde Sinner is trashier, sexier, and even manages to include some gunplay — thus the higher spot. You’ve just gotta love a poster with four separate shots of the same girl. No one is going to argue that the design here is stellar, but the imagery is vivid and integrated into the composition with a surprising amount of care, especially considering this is a Poverty Row movie. What am I talking about? Notice how much better the photos of Diana are clipped from the respective backgrounds than is the image of Evelyn Keyes on The Prowler. Notice also how the designer applied a painted shadow to help her fit into the red background with a little more ease; not to mention the careful transition from her torso to the title typography — carefully executed with an airbrush instead of a scissors. There’s a lot going on here, and I’d love to see the title a little larger — maybe at the expense of one of the images, but this is still a really fun poster.
Street of Chance poster had been at work here.
High Sierra really speaks for itself. Fortunately for the designer Bogart wasn’t yet well-known enough that they felt compelled to give the movie star treatment on the poster, leaving the way clear for this wonderful image — one of the most original I’ve ever seen. The extreme angle of the illustration juxtaposed with the broad expanse of orange space makes for a potent and original expression of the film. Sure, we could quibble that the design falls apart amidst all the rubbish at the bottom, but the upper two-thirds are so fantastic that this poster easily rates its spot in the countdown.
are you a member yet?), favorite (and blacklisted) director Joseph Losey’s ultra-rare The Prowler is one of the more provocative films in the noir canon. It deals with a wide range of issues, from sexual obsession and fulfillment to the mutability of middle class values and the American dream. It’s one of those films that simply begs to be talked about, and noir enthusiasts have been doing so for quite some time. The poster is a gem as well — it’s not often that the designer is able to integrate type and image this successfully, with the film’s title fitting so nicely on the window shade. I’m not in love with the use of red for the lettering — combined with the rough style it evokes the slasher genre, but the use of the window motif to place the film in a conceptual context and Van Heflin’s presence as a peeping tom (all the more troubling considering Van plays a policeman) give the poster one of the darkest film noir statements in the entire countdown. I’m a big Evelyn Keyes fan, and I don’t feel like this photograph does her justice. It’s easy to understand why it was chosen: the deer-in-the-headlights expression and guarded body language are appropriate for someone who discovers a watcher outside her bathroom window, but there’s something about the pose, especially in the foreshortening of her shoulders, that looks just wrong. The photo is poorly clipped (look at her hair), and for some reason it looks as if Evelyn’s shoe size has to be 25 — keep those things covered Ms. Keyes!
Street of Chance offers us one of the most beautiful vintage Hollywood posters in this or any other collection of film advertising. And whaddayaknow? There’s our old pal, the beautiful Claire Trevor, this time a blonde, making yet another appearance in the countdown (#s 50, 48, 40, and 38). If this film was widely recognized and talked about by noir scholars and fans, I would have probably ranked it higher — as we move forward, certain posters will score in part simply because they are so well known. This hasn’t always been the case in the countdown however, if you remember back when we started I pointed out the posters for films such as Double Indemnity, Out of the Past, and Kiss Me Deadly just plain didn’t make it. In the end though, there is just nothing not to like here: the illustration is stunning, the typography is perfectly handled, and the clever overlay of the hand with the knife is the icing on the cake. Our pal Jenny pointed out a few weeks a go that the poster for The Glass Key (#75), also from 1942, must have been a source of inspiration for the poster for Hitchcock’s 1946 Notorious, and I think the same could be said of this one. Finally, how about that streetlight? How can you not love a film poster poster with a streetlight? Great stuff.
Trapped scores with both genders, perfectly representing the film noir male and female. Let’s start at the top, with tragic beauty Barbara Payton. We won’t get into Payton’s story here (though I do in the essay for Murder is My Beat), but for those of you unfamiliar with her, I can tell you that the artist has captured her screen persona perfectly. Her sexy but trashy, slightly frayed, come-hither look, cast directly at the viewer is just extraordinary, and it’s matched by John Hoyt underneath. I’m surprised at the choice of Hoyt for the poster, considering that Lloyd Bridges is the film’s star, but it isn’t the identity of the man that’s important, it’s the use of light and shadow. When we think of film noir, one of the more ubiquitous visual signifiers are the shadows cast by the slats of window blinds, yet the poster for Trapped is one of the only film advertisements that utilizes them — and it does so to spectacular effect. The tagline is delicious, the title typography is first-rate, and the small illustrations at the bottom of the composition are truly something else! With posters this good, there must be some real gems in the queue!