|Apr 22 2021
|Dec 29 2018
|Jan 4 2016
John Monahan was a pseudonym used by W.R. Burnett, the man behind Little Caesar, High Sierra, The Asphalt Jungle, and other enduring novels. He also wrote or co-wrote such screenplays as This Gun for Hire and Scarface. In Big Stan he tells the story of a cop named Stanislaus who’s tasked with catching a masked criminal known as the Black Phantom. The Phantom proves elusive until he makes the mistake of targeting Stan’s wife. It’s a fairly well regarded book from an author who wrote some of the classics. The art on this 1953 Gold Medal paperback is by Barye Phillips.
|Feb 27 2014
Above you see a very interesting dust jacket for W.R. Burnett’s 1930 novel Iron Man, which is the story of a mechanic turned middleweight boxer turned world champion. Burnett had more than fifty films made of his fiction and screenplays, including Little Caesar, High Sierra, The Asphalt Jungle, Scarface, and many more. But we’re focused on the cover art today. It’s by Edna Reindel, and it has both an art deco influence and a purely Reindel style that downplays outright aggression in favor of smoldering defiance, like Enrico del Debbio’s boxer in Rome’s Foro Italico. Alternatively, it could look like something more prosaic, like a male model’s runway pose (it’s okay to think of Zoolander—we did too). Anyway, we find this an incredibly beautiful piece of art, certainly wallworthy, and doubtless a contributing factor why first editions of this book go for between $75 and $200. We will definitely find more of Reindel’s work and share it later.
|Aug 23 2012
Something completely different today, this is a South Korean poster for the 1983 Brian De Palma thriller Scarface, which didn’t open there until December 1984. We have no idea what all that info packed on the poster says. Maybe something about how this is the most violence to hit Korean shores since the end of the war. The image, by the way, is not a nice clean scan, but rather a digital photo shot through a store window. It looks pretty good, though, no? Anyway, we have others and maybe we’ll share those later.
|Jan 11 2010
The Asphalt Jungle is half a century old, but remains one of the best procedural heist films ever made. The men who commit the robbery at the center of this movie come from all walks of life—some are perennial losers, others are opportunists, and others are just having a hard time and need a way out. All of them long for better lives. All of them desperately need the money to get there. These footmen, facilitators, and financial backers plan every aspect of a lucrative heist, but the caper begins falling apart almost immediately, due to back luck, mistrust, and greed.
Sterling Hayden, who we’ve mentioned before, is incendiary in the lead, exuding extreme menace but with a hint of recognizable humanity behind the eyes. One of his best moments comes in a brief but exquisitely choreographed shooting involving a thrown valise.
All of this takes place under the sure hand of director John Huston, working from a 1949 book by William Riley Burnett. Burnett was a bit of a legend himself. He was a prolific crime novelist who wrote the source material for Little Caesar, Scarface, and High Sierra, and whose screenplays include This Gun for Hire, I Died a Thousand Times, and Nobody Lives Forever.
Put Burnett, Huston and Hayden together (not to mention James Whitmore, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe, and a young Marilyn Monroe in a small role as a rich man's plaything) and you get exactly what you’d expect—a genre classic that transcends its boundaries and becomes instead a piece of high art.
The film was a major hit that wowed audiences worldwide. At top you see the Italian promo art, and below that we have both the hardback and paperback cover art. The Asphalt Jungle opened as Giungla di asfalto in Italy today in 1951.
|Mar 19 2009
Above, we have three beautiful French posters for Alfred Hitchcock’s spy thriller Les Enchaînés, aka Notorious, starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. In Brazil, just after WWII, Bergman vies with Nazis who are smuggling uranium ore inside wine bottles. Seems like they could think of a better way, but you can’t really quibble with screenwriter Ben Hecht, who wrote Spellbound, the original Kiss of Death, the original Scarface, the brilliant but underappreciated Ride the Pink Horse, and was a script doctor on Laura, Rope, Cry of the City and Strangers on a Train. Besides, there’s something seriously metaphorical going on with these bottles. We ain’t saying what—you’ll just have to watch the film. Les Enchaînés premiered in France today in 1948
|Dec 1 2008
It was called Scarface, but it had nothing to do with Howard Hawks’ 1932 classic. No, this version was a big, beautiful, transgressive mess cooked up by Oliver Stone, directed by Brian de Palma, and brought to life by Al Pacino, with an icy assist from Michelle Pfieffer. You couldn’t take your eyes off it, even during the gut-wrenching chainsaw scene. When this post-gangster epic ended in a storm of cordite, coke dust, sparks, and blood spray, you realized you’d barely breathed during the final ten minutes. Many critics panned it, yet it established its own cinematic cult and, we think it’s fair to say, will remain relevant for a very long time. Even its promo art is among the most iconic in film history. We've posted one above, and two lesser-known versions below. Scarface premiered today in 1983.