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Stanley Kubrick: Movie Poster Reviews (1953-1962)

Updated on March 29, 2013

Stanley Kubrick was one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time. Many of his films stand among the best in their genre and among the best films of all-time. Like many filmmakers, the posters that represented his movies were a mixed bag. Here's a look at a collection of his posters from his early years.

Fear and Desire - 1953

I love older movie posters, like from the 1960's and earlier. They always seem so much more interesting than newer posters. The colors are more vibrant, the images frequently more compelling.

Here, with Kubrick's first film, we don't really get a lot of information. However, with the little we do get, context is pretty interesting.

So we have a soldier holding his hand over the mouth of a woman, implying a certain amount of violence. Given it's 1953 and the end of the Korean War, this adds another interesting element in that fear of the returning soldier has always been a strong element in American culture and affected films since their inception as a popular medium.

The design of the poster itself is not particularly compelling, which allows the images to dominate.

Killer's Kiss -1955

This is just a fantastic poster - classic noir style, beautiful color, and a caption that could hardly be better and more provocative.

"Her soft mouth was the road to sin-smeared violence." Man, does a caption get any better than that? If I could find an original copy of this poster, or even a remake, I'd buy it. And seriously, the person (is that a man or woman?) with the ax - truly alluring.

If you're a Kubrick fan, this seems like classic Kubrick provocation. For a 1955 poster, it would seem to be over-the-top compared to others of the era, though many noir posters had strong implications.

The Killing - 1956

Not as good a poster as "Killer's Kiss", but compelling and interesting nonetheless.

The images aren't as good, but the words certainly get one's attention and it would appear as though they're trying to sell the movie primarily with the words. It's interesting that it's comparing this movie to two films that were twenty-five and twenty-four years old respectively in "Little Caear" and "Scarface". That's a long time without a violent movie and tells you something about the impact of the Depression and World War II on movies. War movies obviously weren't considered violent in the same way as noir. Like many posters from film noir, this one has lots of great color. For whatever reason, I'm always drawn to posters with a yellow background.

Paths of Glory - 1957

This poster looks like it's from a re-release possibly given the title on top, though it's possible the image itself was the original image. Another great Kubrick poster as the central image delivers a very strong message.

There's an obvious contrast between the title "Paths of Glory" and the path the main character is taking that involves stepping in a pool of blood. Furthermore, the expression on the characters face does not exactly convey triumph or victory. More like misery.

The text to the right reads: "Now the screen blasts open: the bombshell story of a Colonel who led his regimen into hell and back - while their maddened General waited for them - with a firing squad."

I'm not sure if it's just this poster, but the colors do seem muted intentionally.

Spartacus - 1960

Like many posters from this era, it's hard to know which one was the most commonly seen by most people. I originally posted another poster for this film, but frankly, it was so boring that I searched around for another poster that seemed plausible. The first one was simply the stars faces on coins on a red background. Very dull.

This one at least features an image that tells the viewer something.

The image of Kirk Douglas holding the sword with a broken shackle on his wrist tells us immediately that he's broken free and he's likely on the attack. Not as compelling as some, but certainly decent enough.

I don't particularly care for the colors chosen. The tan and the red don't contrast well.

Lolita - 1962

Like many movies, there are several different posters for "Lolita". This is the one most people know best.

If you knew nothing of the Nabokov book, I suppose there might not be as much to get from this poster, though clearly the poster uses the few words on it to suggest adult subject-matter. I think the poster assumes the reader is familiar with the story otherwise it would not ask the question: "How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?" Though if one hadn't read the book, the small print at the bottom "For persons over 18 years of age" would tell you that something is up.

What I think is not quite clear from the poster is the fact that the girl is supposed to be 12-years-old. If you don't know that, you assume she's older as her sexuality would suggest. If you know she's 12, then it's rather arresting how she's dressed: the heart-shaped sunglasses and lipstick (in 1962, it would have been even more controversial, for sure). That she's sucking on a lollipop could convey sexuality to the voyeur, but not necessarily be the intention of the girl.

Sure, Lolita is the title character, but is the movie about the girl, Humbert Humbert, or Humbert's fascination with the girl? Let's remember, Humbert's relationship with Lolita is statutory rape, so there's a lot of contrasting feelings associated with this image. Is it sexist? Certainly. But one wonders whether that's intentional to create controversy.

An iconic poster.


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  • Matt in Jax profile image

    Matt in Jax 6 years ago from Jacksonville, FL

    Great Hub. I too have an admiration for movie posters and wished ones now a days were as captivating or artistic.