“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen”*…
The 70s began with a wave of dystopian sci-fi and culminated with Star Wars and the birth of the modern blockbuster. The British Film Institute has collected some of the decade’s most stunning posters; see them at “The Best 70s Sci-Fi Film Posters.”
(Then move into the 80s here…)
* “Alex” (Malcolm McDowell), A Clockwork Orange
As we prop our eyes open, we might spare a thought for Vladimir Ivanovich Leventon– or, as he was better known, Val Lewton; he died on this date in 1951. Having washed out as a journalist as a young man, Lewton wrote a best-selling pulp novel No Bed of Her Own (later used for the film No Man of Her Own, with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. He parlayed that success into a job at MGM, where he got close to David O. Selznick, working as Selznick’s assistant (and as an uncredited writer on Gone With the Wind).
But it at his next job, as head of RKO’s horror department (from 1942-46), that Lewton made his mark. The job was well-paid, but came with three conditions: each film had to come in under a $150,000 in cost, each was to run under 75 minutes, and his supervisors would supply the film titles. His first feature was Cat People, released in 1942 (and rooted in Lewton’s own gatophobia). Directed by Jacques Tourneur, who subsequently also directed I Walked With a Zombie (loosely based on Jane Eyre!) and The Leopard Man for Lewton, Cat People cost $134,000, but earned nearly $4 million– the top moneymaker for RKO that year.
Lewton’s early horror films were artistic as well as commercial successes; they are now widely-admired classics– almost Jacobean in their skillful cultivation of tension and powerful use of off-screen menace and violence. But he was a victim of his own success. Pushed to move on to A films, Lewton floundered, never recovering the artistic (nor the box office) success that he achieved in the looser world of B movies.