The Incredible Movie Art of Frank McCarthy

Media, The Arts

Let’s face it, most modern movie poster art isn’t very good. It’s designed by committee, and consists of cobbled-together photoshoots. In ‘Film Freak’ I spend a couple of chapters explaining why this is, but I regret there was not enough room in the book to cover this gentleman, whose work inspired me and made the most mundane movies appear thrilling. Frank McCarthy had an instantly identifiable style, all extreme angles and spectacular explosions. But beyond this there was something extraordinary about his ability to meld several key action scenes together in a seamless montage.

His work for the Bond films is already well-known, but his portfolio includes many other action films. Often his artwork was the best thing about these Euro-puddings. I particularly like the art for ‘The Mercenaries’, ‘Krakatoa, East of Java’ (yes, yes, we all know) and ‘Hatari’. The gravity-defying angles are impossible in the real world, but isn’t that what cinema art should be about? There’s a site dedicated to tracking down his work here.

McCarthy clearly had a fondness for red lighting effects, runaway trains and films starring Yul Brynner and Tony Curtis (even ‘This Property Is Condemned’ managed to squeeze a train into the poster.) I wonder if there are any modern movie art equivalents?





15 comments on “The Incredible Movie Art of Frank McCarthy”

  1. Reuben says:

    If only today’s movie posters were even half as exciting as those above.

    In other news my copy of Film Freak has just been delivered, sadly haven’t got time to start it right away though.

  2. David Read says:

    These are fantastic. A great movie poster used to be such a promise of amazing things to come, with no youtube and only brief mentions in film magazines, it was normally a complete suprise when you saw the film. In particular I remember the stunning green artwork on the old Evil Dead VHS and being so excited! Back to McCarthy, the Diabolik poster is particularly peachy isn’t it.

  3. keith page says:

    It takes real skill to produce this kind of thing, now sadly deemed ‘old-fashioned’ by those who insist on using computers for everything.Comics, of course have suffered in this way.Nearly all are now computer coloured.And they all look the same.

  4. pheeny says:

    If you can tell it has been done digitally it has not been well done – I have seen some lovely painterly comic book art that I would not have guessed was done digitally in a million years

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    I have seen Krakatoa from the shores of West Java and on a clear day it is a sight. A trail of smoke always floating away from the top of the crater and on some nights a bit of minor fireworks thrown up for a nice effect. But not always minor.
    Great shelling out there and handfuls of floaters: bits of pumice stone that come in to shore. As a visitor to the area, it’s hard not to want to nervously keep an eye on that badass volcano. It still does some damage and will surely blow again. Edvard Much, were he around, might run off another couple dozen Screams.
    All said, standing on the West Java shore with the ocean lapping my feet, I was east of Krakatoa. (Didn’t sat it, Admin. Didn’t.)

  6. Dan Terrell says:


  7. Dan Terrell says:

    Munch! and Say!

  8. Helen Martin says:

    So the green Volkswagen is from Hatari? I love that picture. Dan, my husband was reading over my shoulder and says any volcano that throws out bits is dangerous. He could quite happily examine lava flows in Hawaii but would be very nervous anywhere in the vicinity (east or west, north or south) of Krakatoa.

  9. Ken Murray says:

    Dan imagine what it feels like living on top of a huge bubble of magma with a thinner than normal crust? In case it ever slips our minds every now and again we get a nice little rumble (or violen jolt) just to remind us. I had a quick check on geonet today and up until midday there had been 17 minor tremors across the country. Seems like every week some government bod says we’re due for the ‘big’ one in Wellington, that’s why Christchurch was a big surprise.

  10. Dan Terrell says:

    I can imagine, Ken. That was a bad one you had in Christchurch. My brother has educational business in NZ and has been through some small ones on his visits. You’re below the Ring of Fire, aren’t you? I’ll have to look up what plate you’re on: up and over or down and under (no joke reference intended here). I share your readiness to break and run.

  11. Ken Murray says:

    Well Dan there are three major faults that run into Wellington (one either side of where I live) and only one road out. Not to worry though the local council has been planning a new highway escape route for the last 25yrs (Transmission Gully). But we’re assured that work will begin next year or maybe the year after? However the new route is along one of the fault lines (the name ‘gully’ might have been a clue.). But that’s ok, as when the council went to check on it last year it had moved and wasn’t where they thought it was… So just the tornadoes and tsunamis to worry about then.

  12. Helen Martin says:

    Obviously the local council doesn’t take it seriously, Ken. Nor do we up at the top part of the Ring. We’re ‘due for the big one’ any time and overdue, actually, but due we move? No. Do we agitate for better preparedness? No. Do we have up to date survival kits? Mostly no, probably.

  13. Dan Terrell says:

    The Indonesian Government has to order off the farmers living on the flow side of volcanos, and then send in the police and army to see they leave. Next the GOI stations guards around the expected flow area and still people sneak back to tend their paddies and feed their stock. Or steal other people’s grain and stock. Every big, yet anticipated, eruption pretty much kills people who went back or hid out so they wouldn’t have to leave. “Go! Don’t stay to hoe!” was one official Indonesian message I remember seeing in English and Indoesian.
    Sandy Hook was somewhat similar; people washed away after reasonable warning, people drowned inside their house, people trying to get back home as soon as possible.
    Helen, as Frankie S. sang: “That’s life. That’s what it’s all about!”
    Frankly, I’d rather slip into the flip flops, hike up the old sarong, and flap-snap-flap-flap down the slope.

  14. Ken Murray says:

    Oh everybody here takes it seriously Helen, Christchurch andJapan taught us that. It’s always there. In every government workplace (and simillarly the private sector too) there is a storage locker with a disaster emergency kit. This usually includes food, water, medical kit, ropes, hardhats, whistles and torches, as it’s expected in the event survivors may need to fend for themselves for some time. It’s even suggested staff store at least 7litres of drinking water under their desks and it’s not unusual to see it stacked in plastic containers. The problem is NZ had become complacent over the years and since Christchurch councils have been shocked by the scale of what’s needed to ensure survival. For example whole swathes of the city’s architectural heritage is under threat as it does not meet earthquake safety standards and is likely to implode in the event of a significant event. Even Auckland has increased level of alert as of this evening as geologists have reported the Rangitoto volcano, directly adjacent to the CBD, may not be as dormant as once thought. So they can add that to the other 49 volcanoes Auckland sits on… However it doesn’t help that most of the councils appear to be populated by Golgafrinchams. Just time for another bath number one?

  15. Dan Terrell says:

    Ken – let’s meet for a beer or two. er, half way.

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