Movie Poster of the Week: New York in the 70s —The Lesser Known Films

Hidden gems from the heyday of American poster design.
Adrian Curry

Two weeks ago I wrote about Film Forum’s retrospective of New York in the 70s and collected all the Polish posters I could find for the best known films in the series. This week I want to concentrate on the films which are less well known and whose one sheets are maybe less iconic yet no less interesting. The 70s was a great period in American movie poster design. The illustrative style of classic Hollywood was out and instead a new reliance on photographs and, especially, type. The one thing that strikes me about the posters below is how heavily they rely on explanatory text and taglines (“Watch the landlord get his”...“Their story is written on his arm”...“If you steal $100,000 from the mob, it’s not robbery. It’s suicide”...“The tush scene alone is worth the price of admission”). The only two posters here that feature illustration at all are Saul Bass’s ideogram for Such Good Friends, and the Bob Peak-esque drawing of Sean Connery for The Anderson Tapes, both of which come at the beginning of the 70s and both of which incorporate photography too. (Note how the design for The Anderson Tapes is more or less repeated 9 years later for Gloria.)

Another feature of 70s American poster design is white space, and lots of it. Simplicity was the key to the best of these designs. It is also striking, as with the Polish posters but with less reason, that very few of the designs dwell on their New York location: the street signage in They Might Be Giants, The Hot Rock and the title treatment of Across 110th Street, being the few signifiers of urban grit, with the major exception of course being the Time Life-esque photo for The Panic in Needle Park and its shot-in-the-arm tagline.

As for how “lesser known” these films are, that of course is a matter of personal opinion, but compared to the likes of Taxi Driver, Shaft, Manhattan, The French Connection, Klute, Dog Day Afternoon and so on, many of these may qualify as hidden gems.

See New York in the 70s at Film Forum from July 5 to 27.

Posters courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

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