Mad Movies: Favorite Film Posters from the “Mad Men” Era

Eric Tretbar is a film enthusiast who lives and breathes cinema every day.

Not only is he a visual arts professor at the Minneapolis College of Arts and Design, but he also makes films. He released his most recent film, “Girl Meets Bike,” after a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Tretbar’s own film posters are influenced by the posters of the “Mad Men” era. We asked Tretbar to pick three of his favorite movie posters from the 1960s.

“Girl on a Motorcycle” | 1968 | Director Jack Cardiff

“Whether or not the leather-clad hips are those of the film’s leading lady, Marianne Faithfull, is irrelevant. In larger posters, Faithfull is pictured head-to-toe in the same one-piece leathers, so the connection–and fantasy–is made. Faithfull was, at the time, married to Mick Jagger, making her somewhat of an international ‘it’ singer-actor-superstar. The poster borders on the style of exploitation film, promising more sex than its art-film execution actually delivers. But the lowered zipper, the texture of the leather, the strangely-positioned hands, and the hand-drawn main title fitted into the belt buckle all create an aesthetic intimacy long-gone from even smaller indie films today. The presence in the film of ‘60s Euro heartthrob, Alain Delon, adds to the poster’s erotic moto fantasia. This poster is resurrected in the one sheet for my own new film, ‘Girl Meets Bike.'”

“Man with the Golden Arm” | 1955 | Director Otto Preminger

“Even though this is a film from the 1950s, graphic designer Saul Bass anticipated much of ‘60s design by creating it in the ‘50s. Bass raised graphic design from anonymous, ad agency work to international auteur status, designing not just posters, but title sequences for many Hitchcock films, special montages for films like ‘Grand Prix’ (1966), and a unique, recognizable cut-out and pen and ink style for films of his own like ‘The Point.’ The artwork for ‘Man with the Golden Arm’ has been copied by countless music albums and movie titles for good reason. Its stark, irregular graphic boxes communicate the sharp, unpredictable nature of the film’s story. Bass places high-contrast still photos of the main cast within and around his graphic boxes, using his design as a surreal set through which the film’s action seems to take place. Bass dramatizes graphic design, taking it from a passive, static art to one which complements and sometimes even overpowers the film it seeks to promote.”

“La Notte” | 1961 | Director Michelangelo Antonioni

“This poster is likely the product of an anonymous designer in the Italian film industry. The poster neatly conveys the filmmaker’s bold, minimalist style, as well as his background as a fashion photographer. The elegant layout leads the viewer’s eye down Jeanne Moreau’s elegant neckline to the bold, white title text.  Below, Antonioni’s star, Monica Vitti pops in high white relief to the reddened supporting characters. Though this film was black and white, the posters minimal color palette also alludes to the filmmaker’s taste for a stripped-down expression of the then-fashionable themes of existential alienation and the insurmountable space between lovers.”

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