Friday, February 08, 2013

Get The Picture?

Seeing this simple but well-composed image from Hammer's LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971, which also appeared on the cover of its novelization) earlier today reminded me of a time when every new still to surface from an upcoming horror movie seemed to extend the genre's vocabulary. A new still of Christopher Lee as Dracula, or Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein added on to what was previously known about that series of films. I firmly believe this was one of the secrets of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND's success, and partly why it's so hard for similar magazines of today to equal the power of its zeitgeist. It could be something as simple as a new face screaming, a new slapdash makeup for Frankenstein's monster, a new actor portraying Count Dracula, or an incomprehensible shot from a Mexican monster rally I'd probably never see -- they all conspired to make the genre more vital and fascinating. For me, this sense of perpetually new discovery stopped sometime in the 1980s, but I don't take full responsibility for that. It's not that I lost my love for this stuff, or that horror movies themselves became redundant, but that the Art of the Movie Still itself began to suffer. Most collectors will tell you that lobby card sets from the 1980s are crap. It should be remembered by all filmmakers, active or aspiring, that the best way to generate some genuine excitement about your feature is to take some great still photos while you're in production. If a picture can be worth a thousand words, why can't it sell a thousand tickets?

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