Legendary poster artist GRAHAM HUMPHREYS talks horror, his long career, influences, the evils of Photoshop, and more!
STARBURST: One of your most celebrated earliest works was the iconic UK theatrical poster for Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, a film which was soon to be dragged unfairly into the whole Video Nasty controversy. Do you think that the notoriety the film gained during this time helped or hindered your career?
Graham Humphreys: The Evil Dead got its UK distribution in 1983, two years before the Video Recordings Act came into law in September 1985. At the age of 23, two years seemed more like ten years at the time and I don’t recall any significant impact on my career during that period. This was for two main reasons, the first being that I was not particularly aware of most of the films that had become a target for the silly and hysterical tabloids, and thus oblivious to how their removal and savage editing might impact on choice or, indeed, the morality of an infantilised nation. Secondly, The Evil Dead had already been censored with a significant number of cuts for the theatrical, and therefore, simultaneous video, release. Mostly, these were simply to reduce the running time on particularly graphic scenes, although I think the eye gouging was almost entirely removed from the original version I’d been shown at a screening. So as far as I was aware, censorship was already in place for VHS. Of course I hadn’t really been introduced to the many European films and the rarely seen, contentious US art-house films that had begun to flood the shelves in the burgeoning VHS rental shops. As we know, many videos were pulled simply because of the titles themselves. It was enough that they sounded as if they might offend! My real introduction to, for instance, Argento and Fulci films came through Richard Stanley, whilst we storyboarded his first feature, Hardware. My film knowledge had been UK/US centric until that point, with the exception of televised European Cinema. If I had to identify any impact on my career, it will presumably have been positive. A Nightmare on Elm Street was released in the UK around the time of the Video Recordings Act coming into law. So if The Evil Dead gave me my first entry into horror marketing, Nightmare’ cemented my position within the genre. It’s important to add that the majority of my freelance work at the time did not fit into the genre category. In order to earn a living I was working on a whole raft of other illustration commissions, completely non-horror related. It’s only in the last ten years that I’ve been working almost exclusively in the genre.
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