Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Frazetta's Hollywood Adventure

Frazetta had something of a tumultuous relationship with Hollywood. Even so, he worked for the studios with some regularity. One of his most famous and early works for the movies was the poster for the comedy What's New Pussycat? and he turned out cartoony posters for several other 60's comedies, including The Fearless Vampire Hunters. His relationship with Hollywood reached a peak when he collaborated with Ralph Bakshi to create Fire and Ice. The movie was wholly inspired and based on original imagery from Frazetta. Unfortunately, it flopped. I've never seen it, so I can't really give you an opinion on the quality of the movie. However, from the stills I have seen, the animation probably couldn't do true justice to the lushness of a Frazetta painting.

Frazetta was asked to produce a poster image for the Robert Rodriguez movie From Dusk to Dawn. It effectively puts some of the film's best assets on display... but by the mid-90's Hollywood marketing types had already moved to computer generated images based on actor photos. It's very rare to see a painted movie one-sheet image these days. (Although Lucasfilm still does turn them out sometimes -- bless them for something!) Apparently this was used on some overseas posters. I guess Marketing thinks the US public only likes photographs and has to see a "real" picture of the actors before they'll see a movie.

Back in the late 70's, Frazetta was asked to produce a series of promotional paintings for the TV series Battlestar Galactica. (This would be the original one. You know, Lorne Greene. Rag tag fugitive fleet. Mormon science fiction.) I even remember seeing them in the newspaper's TV guide -- in black and white! The above painting was down for the two part episode in which the Galactica fleet finds the planet Kobol and a hint of a path to find earth. The plot had the fighter pilots sick with a nasty flu bug, so the fleet was relying upon female reserve pilots to protect it. (This was the 70's, when women in combat was a social issue. Now, it's a reality.) It makes sense for Frazetta to leap at the chance of depicting the curvaceous Viper pilots springing to action.
Here we see Apollo, Starbuck, and Sheba confronting the demonic Count Iblis, who has threatened the salvation of the Galactica fleet. In the background, the mysterious, angelic "ships of light" are coming to the rescue. The scene in the show really affected my pre-adolescent psyche, and scared the bejeezus out of me! When I saw it in rerun as an adult, I was shocked at how tepid it came off. (Your mileage may vary...) But again, Frazetta has found the emotional core of the scene and pulled it off majestically. It looks nothing like the source material -- but it captures the truth of the story.

Clint Eastwood asked Frazetta to paint the one-sheet image to advertise his movie, The Gauntlet. It's an apocalyptic image that is juxtaposed against the absurdity of Eastwood's snub-nosed revolver. It's true what they say, you know: size doesn't matter. Eastwood's still going to come through in the end.

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