Betrayal! Rage! Vengeance! Lust! Kiss!; or, Life as a Movie Poster

by cowboylands

Nothing can beat a lurid western film poster.

What is it about a holster looped around hips, the frozen snarl of a villain, the gimlet eye of the hero with the thousand-yard stare, the heaving bosoms of the love interest? And all in vermilion, cadmium yellow, and cerulean blue, traced in black, shot with white. Yum.

Even relatively complex films lose their ambiguities in the posters, like this one from The Searchers.

Over a fiery sky, John Wayne’s character’s motivations is repeated in script, simultaneously

a.) reducing his character to a one-dimensional need and

b.)emphasizing the all-consuming, potentially lethal nature of his mission.

A treasure trove of posters, found on 50 Westerns from the 50s, include a display of a grim Randolph Scott highlighted in stark high-noon glare. Stagecoach to Fury shows a runaway stagecoach backlit by fiery bloodred sunrise (punctuated by an awesome two-exclamation-point punch!!)

Westerns distill real life’s myriad  of conflicting/complementing/enhancing emotions to calls and responses, simple and potent.

Betrayal! Rage! Vengeance! Lust! Kiss!

Life, be that simple!

Homework assignment: Create your own movie poster. Make sure to add a love interest showing off his or her gams, and a pithy tag line.

From The Searchers, by John Ford, 1956

[Reverend Clayton delivers a prayer at the Edwards’ funeral for Aaron, Martha, and Ben]
Ethan: Put an amen to it!
Reverend Clayton: I ain’t finished yet.
Ethan: There’s no more time for praying! AMEN!

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