A documentary exploring the birth, death, and resurrection of the illustrated movie poster.
Early on, the film tells us a great truth: posters are often more iconic than any one scene of a movie. "Jaws" comes to mind, as do others, where it is the poster that has become the popular image. And yet, do any of these names sound familiar: John Alvin (1948-2008), Bob Peak (1927-1992), Reynold Brown (1917-1991), Richard Amsel (1947-1985), Drew Struzan (b. 1947). Probably not, though they were the giants of the poster art world.
The studios saw the posters as advertising, not art. And while that is true in the strictest sense, it left many great artists unappreciated. More often than not, no signatures were allowed on the posters, and the work from the earliest years in now anonymous. Who painted the great posters of Frankenstein's monster? We will never know.
As anyone who lived through the 1980s-1990s knows, in the late 80s, there was a shift to photography, with the idea that artistic posters might suggest an animated film. This claim that pops up again and again, and sounds absurd on its face, but one scene actually has a focus group looking at posters and making the exact same comment.
The "art" in poster art took a dive in the 1990s, leaving us with "floating heads" and the same layout was used over and over again. For horror fans, this was evident in the teen horror films ("Scream", "Last Summer") and has not really stopped. Even the more creative posters today seem to rehash the same poses and images over and over and over. Is poster art dead? No. Because "24x36" covers a longer history, a new trend. Not just the history of lithographs and the decline of posters, but its new resurgence thanks to the rise of Mondo, its eccentric leader Rob Jones, and the new art from specialty Blu-ray labels like Scream Factory and Arrow Video. And this generation of artists, such as Gary Pulling, are not anonymous.
"24x36" is a much-needed piece of film history. There are many biopics, and there have been focuses on the special effects. Those behind the scenes are finally getting their due. But what of the painters and sketch artists who really drove the images into our collective, pop culture imagination? Now their story can be told!
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