Saturday, 11 February 2012

Documentaries: The Man Who Drew Bug-Eyed Monsters

'The Man Who Drew Bug-Eyed Monsters' (1994) 
A few weeks ago, when I found myself with an hour to spare, I perused the television channels to see if anything captured my attention. To my surprise, there was a documentary on Sky Arts 1 called 'The Man Who Drew Bug-Eyed Monsters', about the great movie poster artist Reynold Brown. Although it was released in 1994, I had never seen it and so decided to watch. (The above screenshot is from a version that was apparently ripped by, but I really don't know as I capped it from YouTube.)

"Reynold Brown, creator of iconic B-movie posters
The B-movie is inextricably bound up with its poster image - while the films themselves may have been kitsch schlock horrors at the best of times, the poster art is perhaps the element that defined them best.  
This fascinating and entertaining documentary celebrates the work of Reynold Brown, one of the most acclaimed movie poster artists of all time. Specializing in campy and sensational posters for titles ranging from The Attack of the 50-Foot Woman to Creature From the Black Lagoon, Brown's work colorfully encapsulated the nation's postwar social climate. This film illustrates scores of Brown's compelling posters, interwoven with clips from these B-Movie classics."

As glorious a job as painting monsters for a living might sound, Brown's enthusiasm for and interest in his horror poster work was almost non-existent by the end. According to the documentary, he was frequently told to make the posters as sensational and overt as possible, in order to appeal to teenagers, whether the image really had anything to do with the features or not. It did seem that his love for the work was sapped not only due to the increasingly graphic - and often overly ridiculous - content of the movies featured, but also due to his creations being part of an industry that was controlled by "whatever sells the most" and "whatever is shocking", rather than "reality" and "good work". Often the printing presses would render the small details, which Brown painstakingly included, unrecognisable, and studios refused to acknowledge his beautiful illustrations as art. In fact, he was never even publicly credited on any of the posters. 

In 1976, following a stroke that led to his left side being paralysed and Brown, who was left-handed, had to "re-learn" painting with his right hand instead. After that, he spent a large deal of time painting western scenes and landscapes, all of which were pure art pieces and sold only to collectors, rather than commissioned freelancing. Although it must have been a very difficult time in his life as an artist, it did appear that Brown enjoyed this work the most out of any he had undertaken, which is something of a consolation I suppose.

The tone of the documentary is largely sympathetic to Brown's position as talented, dedicated artist trying to make a living. However, some of the guest interviewees contradict themselves by first stating that Brown loved the horror poster work, but later state that he did it only because he was forced. Even the documentary title is a little misleading, as much more than just Brown's horror and sci fi posters are covered. This is largely because most of his pre-stroke career was spent illustrating comics / manuals, painting poster art for war films, westerns, romances, and historical epics, and teaching. To be honest, it doesn't really make much difference, because it's still pretty fascinating stuff if you like art documentaries and classic movies!

For more information about Reynold Brown, you can visit the site below:
Official Website (maintained by his family)


  1. Love those! Lots of horror movie posters from the earlier era were with drawings instead of pictures and I tend to prefer them over the modern ones. There's a book with nothing but old horror posters like this that you might be interested in, but I'm afraid I can't remember the title.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I've had a quick look and found 'Children of the Night - A Comprehensive Guide to Horror Posters' and a Hammer horror poster book called 'The Art of Hammer', but there are probably others too. :)

  2. Oh Awesome!!! I'll have to watch this. Thanks for sharing.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...