February 9, 2012

The Posters of Frankenstein :
French Son of Frankenstein Re-release

Little Peter von Frankenstein (Donnie Dunagan) is hostage to his granddad’s rampaging Monster on this French 1970s re-release poster for Son of Frankenstein (1939). The photo, as it turns out, is a clever composite image.

The photo combines two stills from the film’s climax. The main image shows The Monster in action, hands blurred, with a guide rope cutting diagonally across his left shoulder and arm. The second image has Karloff’s Monster holding the child under one arm in a scene where he confronts Rathbone’s Frankenstein and Atwill’s Inspector Krogh.

The child and Karloff’s arm holding him were cut from one photo, then scaled and pasted onto the other. In pre-Photoshop days, the trick involved careful outlining of the characters in white gouache, painting out the background. The photos were cut, the pieces brought together, carefully aligned and re-photographed. Finally, probably using a Photo Retouch Kit — once standard equipment in a graphic artist’s tool kit — special gouaches were mixed to replicate the grays and blend the two images seamlessly. The background effect was either airbrushed or pencil tones, and the photo looks like it was screened for effect as it went to press.

In a career spanning five decades, artist and designer Xarrie (here credited as “Xarrié”) produced movie posters in a wide range of styles including caricature, classic painted scenes and photo manipulation. His genre contributions include posters for George Franju’s Judex (1963) and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). He produced another strong photo-poster for the re-release of Island of Lost Souls (1933) by simply and very effectively applying a bright yellow to a Karl Struss publicity still.

With its austere design, its dominant, wholly original image and bold, straightforward typesetting, Xarrie’s Le Fils de Frankenstein is one of the more unconventional of all Frankenstein movie posters.

Photo Retouch Kit, image source.

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