ARTISTS BEHIND THE IMAGE is intended to put a name (and sometimes face) to the talented men and women who created the most iconic images to adorn horror VHS boxes and posters from ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Their art is vital; it’s the reason I (and many of you, certainly) fell in love with horror movies in the first place. This is not only intended as a tribute, but also a minor compendium, meant to collect their works in one single spot. Corrections, additions, or other info? Email me.
As a kid I think I assumed any illustrated video box cover – whether it was Meatballs, Police Academy, or National Lampoon’s Vacation – was drawn by the same person. (Though looking back now, I definitely separated the horror boxes from the comedies and family stuff – there was no way the same demented mind that came up with the cover for Creepshow also drew the art for Caddyshack.) But can you blame me? At a quick glance, even with the sharpest adult eye, most ’80s fare looks identical (intentionally so, obviously).
As I got older I came to realize there was a plethora of artists who’d created these amazing works, but – still – most of them looked awfully similar to their shelf-mates. At some point the name “Drew Struzan” entered my world and, after getting myself acquainted with his work, I started assuming similar looking pieces were his. Again, can you blame me?
One of the artists whose work I mistakenly assumed was Struzan’s was John Alvin. This makes sense since the two often played in the same sandbox together. But if I’m being totally honest – having now familiarized myself with Alvin’s body of work – I prefer him much, much more to Struzan. (So, sorry about the mix-up, John. And no hard feelings, Drew.) But it’s true: not only did Alvin deal in movies more attuned to my tastes (Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Twilight Zone: The Movie, The Lost Boys, and Arachnophobia – to name a few), but he ended up delivering some of the most iconic movie art, ever: E.T., Blade Runner, Gremlins, The Lion King, Jurassic Park.
Alvin’s first movie poster work was for Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (again, my taste exactly), and over the next three decades he’d create more than 135 posters, such as Predator, The Princess Bride, Batman Returns, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Alvin’s poster for The Phantom of the Paradise was selected by the National Collection of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian Institution Smithsonian Museum and the Museum of Modern Art to be included in “Images of an Era (1945-1975),” a collection of posters that toured Europe as part of the US Bicentennial [*].
Sadly, John Alvin passed away in 2008 at the young age of 59, but his timeless work will live on forever.