September 10, 2009

The Posters of Frankenstein : L'Empreinte de Frankenstein

The Monster is the striking centerpiece of the poster for L’Empreinte de Frankenstein (The Mark, or The Imprint of Frankenstein), the French-dubbed version of Hammer Films’ Evil of Frankenstein (1964).

Painter Guy Gerard Noël was a prolific movie poster artist known for his lush portraits and bold fields of color. His career, begun in the Forties, spanned four decades. His highly collectible work touched upon every movie genre, with his Hammer Films series a particular standout.

Noël seems to have pretty much enjoyed free reign in his choice of illustrations. Using what stills were available, he composed original, offbeat posters quite different from the otherwise established designs of international ad campaigns, and sometimes even at odds with the logic of the film he was representing. Case in point, an atmospheric poster for Curse of the Werewolf (1961) shows Yvonne Romain menaced by the silhouetted werewolf, though the two characters never meet in the film. To be fair, Hammer did issue misleading stills of the two actors in costume together.

Among Noël’s best Hammer posters, an alternate Curse of the Werewolf poster depicts the fate of Oliver Reed’s shapeshifter, about to be shot at close range. The howling werewolf in his torn shirt rears up against a dramatic dawn sky of purple and pink, with the stark yellow of the moonlight picked up in the title letters. Noël also did two posters for The Mummy (1959), one faithful to the well-known design showing a flashlight beam passing through the Mummy’s blown-open chest, the other a striking image of the unrelenting monster breaking through a steel-barred window, done in blue monochrome.

Noël’s best poster (one of three) for Horror of Dracula (1958) is also very different from the original British version that had Christopher Lee descending over a sleeping woman. Noël, instead, uses an image inspired by the library scene of Lee carrying off his victim. The original poster suggested impending menace, while in Noël’s poster, it’s too late: The victim has succumbed and Dracula, with blood on his chin, is sweeping her out the door and beyond to the shattered castle in a ghoulish greenlit landscape.

The Empreinte poster is one of Noël’s most accomplished works. The cringing Monster appears dead center in green, its face nearly abstract, delimited in black shadow and jagged white highlights. The secondary elements, Cushing, Kathy Wild and the electrical apparatus, are sketched in contour and awash in red-orange flames. Guy Gerard Noël’s composition and his unusual, limited palette combine to outstanding effect and make L’Empreinte one of the best of all the Frankenstein posters.

Two large galleries of Noël’s posters, on Ciné Sud and Cinémaffiche

Hammer Films posters on The Hammer Collection

Frankenstein Has Escaped!


Karswell said...

These are amazing. The purple and yellow werewolf print I actually bought at Dollar Tree last Halloween, they had removed the forgein text of course and added "The Curse of the Werewolf" in English (in some poorly chosen font to boot, plus the color scheme is slightly altered to a more saturated orange) but still the fabulous art is there and the overall size is nice at 21 x 28 too--- for $1.00!!

rob! said...

WOW!!! Those colors are frigging AMAZING.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Christopher said...

oooooh..pretty Hammah Horrah! :o)

John Rozum said...

Those are beautiful posters. I'd only ever seen the two "Curse of the Werewolf" posters before. Talk about spoilers on the second one though. Here I thought some trailers I've seen these past few years were really bad about giving away the whole movie, but this takes the cake.

They'd also make really great toy packaging or blacklight posters.

Shawn Robare said...

Pierre - Thanks for pointing to the other posters by Guy Gerard Noël. Like Karswell I picked up the Curse of the Werewolf poster at Dollar Tree and loved it. Now I know who to look up!

John - The 2nd werewold painting was actually used on a toy, from the same cheap-o company that produced the $1.00 posters. There were little figures, which weren't that great, but the company used that poster art on the toy...