The fact that the down and dirty British gangster classic Get Carter is playing tonight at Anthology Film Archives in New York, as part of William Lustig Presents, is really just an excuse to show this magnificent poster as a tribute to its artist, who passed away this September at the age of 85. Arnaldo Putzu was an Italian illustrator who lived in Britain for almost twenty years and who, according to his Guardian obituary by Sim Branaghan, was the most in-demand poster illustrator in the country in the 1970s.
Born in Rome in 1927, Putzu studied art at the Rome Academy and was working in Milan at the age of 21 when he met the great poster artist Enrico de Seta who brought him back to Rome to work in the thriving Italian film industry. He worked at Cinecittà throughout the 1950s and early 60s, often illustrating Italy’s voluptuous starlets. (According to Branaghan, his 1956 illustration for Poor But Handsome was condemned by the Pope.)
Scouted by British distributor Rank, Putzu started working for them in the late 50s before moving to Britain in 1967. To a British child of the 70s like myself, his work would be best known from the children’s TV magazine Look-In. As Branaghan writes “Putzu painted almost every Look-In cover from 1973 through to 1981, and in the process amassed a vivid catalogue of 70s popular culture.”
Get Carter is Putzu’s finest work, Caine’s floral jacket a whimsical stroke of genius from an illustrator who was usually straightforwardly realist. When asked a few years ago about his rationale for the jacket (which Caine does not wear in the film), Putzu said he was painting a lot of flowers at that time. It has however been noted that the floral pattern might be taken directly from the pillow and sheets on the bed in which Britt Ekland writhes naked during the film’s infamous phone sex scene.
A copy of the poster recently sold for $2,200 at Christie’s, although an American poster for the film sold at the same auction for more at $3,600. This special edition poster, designed by pop art illustrator John Van Hamersveld (best known for his iconic Endless Summer poster and many album covers including the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour) in the style of Roy Lichtenstein, was apparently only made available to the press directly from MGM and wasn’t available from National Screen Service.
It’s ironic that such a gritty, Northern British film like Get Carter should have its iconography set by a Californian and an Italian, both of whom give the film a colorful pizzazz that is so different from the film itself. The other American release posters (there are at least three) are starker, and less memorable. What follows are the US teaser, the A and B style posters, and then the Italian, Spanish, French and Belgian posters for the film.
Get Carter will screen tonight along with its 1973 Blaxploitation remake Hit Man.