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Tag Archive: Birney Lettick


Review by C.J. Bunce

The Cyclops, the bronze warrior Talos, the large dinosaur Rhedosaurus, a giant gorilla, a barrage of battling skeletons with swords, Raquel Welch as a cavewoman, the horrifying Medusa–whatever the first image that comes to mind, generations of movie audiences have an instant picture that comes to mind when they hear the name Ray Harryhausen.

The 1949 King Kong-inspired film Mighty Joe Young and the 1981 Greek myth-inspired adventure Clash of the Titans represent two ends of a major chapter in the history of movie visual effects and how filmmakers viewed fantasy, sci-fi, and horror films.  Each film represents different generations (each a film my father and I would see in theaters when we were about nine years old), and each bookends the career of famed special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen.  With his trademark Dynamation and later Dynarama stop-motion filmmaking advances, Harryhausen set himself apart from other filmmakers.  The result?  Just like The Beach Boys and The BeeGees have their singular styles among popular music, Harryhausen films are instantly recognizable and identifiable, films that could have only been produced by the mind and the hands of a single visionary.  And hands-on creation was key to Harryhausen’s various film techniques, but it was often expensive and slow, requiring the better part of a year to painstakingly film thousands of images for only a few special effects sequences in a film.  The sixteen films Harryhausen is known for are the focus of Richard Holliss’s deluxe hardcover chronicle, Harryhausen: The Movie Posters, first previewed at San Diego Comic-Con this summer and now available this month to fans everywhere for the first time.

Of the same stylish quality and presentation as another 2018 publication, Clint Eastwood–Icon (reviewed here at borg), Harryhausen: The Movie Posters also sees its auteur from the vantage of the myriad movie posters that advertised his films.  Holliss takes an additional step that students of film should be drawn to, providing a film-by-film account of Harryhausen’s development of each film along with the posters, a view on his groundbreaking techniques including stop-motion animation via miniature models, stop-motion combined with live-action footage, background plates, storyboarding, combining location footage, miniatures, split-screen, and rear projection, using painted backdrops, multi-camera shots, full sound stages, backtracking from stop-motion to actors in costumes when finances warranted, creating steel ball-and-socket armatures under sculpted creatures of foam rubber, paint and latex, using blue-screen shots to combine actors and miniature stop-motion models, incorporating traveling mattes and matte paintings, and in-camera effects like forced perspective, and Harryhausen’s own sodium vapor effects system.

Where we saw in Clint Eastwood–Icon an evolution of the movie poster over time, reflecting changes in art styles and design movements, changes across posters advertising Harryhausen’s movies were more subtle.  The studios seemed to prefer a palette of design concepts that could let audiences know this was a new Harryhausen film, with sweeping fantasy landscapes and key creatures and characters as bold centerpieces drawing-in the eyes of potential audiences.  The posters represented aren’t only those styles seen by audiences entering American movie theaters.  These include many variations that appeared in theaters across the globe, some by artists whose names are lost to time, with decade-appropriate type styles and language to match.  In Harryhausen: The Movie Posters you’ll find artwork from obscure artists to more familiar creators, including Gene Widhoff, Luigi Martinati, Wik, Alfredo Capitani, Gustav Rehberger, Anselmo Ballester, V. Lipniunas, Vonderwerth, Jean Mascii, Charles Rau, G. Meyer, R. Kanz, E.A. Ubis, M. Copizzi, Roger Soubie, Tom Chantrell, Jack Thurston, Bodhem Butenko, Paul Tamin, Enrique Mataix, Raymond Elseviers, Picchioni Franco, Frank McCarthy, Olga Fischerova, Jacek Neugebaur, Brian Bysmouth, Mort Kunstler, Birney Lettick, Miloslav Disman, Roger Huyssen, S. Gorga, Bruno Napoli, and Greg and Tim Hildebrant.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Only a few Hollywood movie stars have reached icon status as Clint Eastwood has, from TV actor and film star in Westerns to street-smart leading man and pop culture idol, playing against type and then back again, and onward to award-winning director.  Eastwood has made his mark, and it makes sense that enough movie posters have featured his image and films to justify a book focused exclusively on the subject of the artwork instead of spotlighting any specific artist.  Not so much a survey of artwork as much as a comprehensive guide to movie posters featuring the star, Clint Eastwood: Icon–The Essential Film Art Collection is available this month in a revised and expanded edition for the first time in a decade.

In many ways Clint Eastwood: Icon would make for the ultimate auction catalog were all the items pictured for sale.  But it’s more than that.  Writer and compiler David Frangioni’s approach to collecting and his details about key posters will educate and inform even the passing film fan and collector.  Film expert and professor Thomas Schatz provides commentary on the context of Eastwood and his films within each decade.  Every area of collecting should be so lucky to have such a presentation in this format for its fans to admire.  Frangioni and Schatz include references to the artists when known, which is rare over the course of these hundreds of images.  The collection of work from these artists provides another niche study area for the history movie posters, including an international array of artists like Michelangelo Papuzza, Renato Casaro, Sanford Kossin, Peter Max, Jack Davis, Hans Braun, Lutz Peltzer, Lorenzo and Giuliano Nistri, Ron Lesser, John Alvin, Frank Frazetta, Bob Peak, Birney Lettick, Roger Huyssen, and Gerard Huerta.  Definitely a few names movie poster and pop art fans will recognize.

The posters represented aren’t only those styles seen by audiences entering American movie theaters.  These include many variations that appeared in theaters across the globe, some by artists whose names are lost to time, with decade-appropriate type styles and language to match.  As time marched on, more and more posters featured photographic images of Eastwood from the films, or other marketing photos of the actor inserted with or without additional artwork and text.  Why use a painting of Eastwood to advertise a Dirty Harry film when a photograph is most likely to reel in filmgoers?

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