Book Review: The Art of John Alvin by Andrea Alvin

I consider myself a serious cinephile, so much so that I don’t mind describing myself with the pretentious word “cinephile.” I have been captivated by movies for as long as I can remember, and to such an extent that my interest goes beyond what plays on the screen. I am just as fascinated by the “business” of show business as I am the “show.” In addition to actors and directors, I also appreciate and study the work of other artistic contributors to the medium, such as writers, cinematographers, and composers. Which is why I am disappointed I wasn’t aware of the name John Alvin (1948-2008) before this outstanding book.

Put together by his widow and creative partner Andrea, The Art of John Alvin chronicles the career of one of the most important Hollywood imagemakers of the last quarter of the 20th Century. If one didn’t know the title, they might understandably assume this was a collection of movie posters celebrating some of the best science fiction and fantasy films of the ’80s and ’90s. That it is a portion of John’s output is amazing.

His first movie poster was for Blazing Saddles, created on spec, and was so appreciated by Mel Brooks, he was immediately assigned Young Frankenstein. John’s work from the ’80s alone should have made him a household name among film fanatics, During the decade, he was responsible for creating posters for two sci-fi classics, Blade Runner and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

In his foreward, former Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg (1984-1994) credited John with helping the studio expand its audience during its renaissance by appealing “directly to adult sensibilities.” He did so by capturing “the emotion of an entire movie in a single image,” which he did repeatedly as seen in his posters for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.

Each poster is accompanied by commentary about its creation. On occasion, early drafts and designs are included that show how a project evolved. The book also contains rarities, such as his work for the Star Wars Concert featuring John Williams’ music, which never came to fruition in 1978; Revenge of the Jedi, the first title for Episode VI; and Tim Burton’s Batman.

The Art of John Alvin is an unfortunate reminder of what a lost art movie posters have become considering the current state of the industry pasting together images on a computer in an uninspiring manner. John wanted the posters to create “the promise of a great experience.” Andrea delivers a great experience in this impressive collection of her husband’s work.

Posted in ,

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Search & Filter