Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon

1980 The final poster A poster so good, you can practically hear the Queen theme song. Flash! Ah-ah!

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Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon

1980 Acrylic, airbrush, colored pencils, and gouache on board 22 5/8 x 16 3/8 in.

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Little Miss Marker
Little Miss Marker

Little Miss Marker 1980 Watercolor, acrylic, airbrush, colored pencils, graphite and pen on board 21 1/2 x 16 1/8 in. Amsel's unused poster design harked back to the period style of the thirties and forties; even the titles and names have been drawn. Note his keen use of color and texture, too.

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Nijinsky
Nijinsky

1980 The final poster

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Nijinsky (variant)
Nijinsky (variant)

1980 Watercolor, acrylic, colored pencils, pen and ink, and gold paint on board 23 1/4 x 23 1/4 in. Unused alternate poster design.

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Coal Miner's Daughter
Coal Miner's Daughter

1980 Color pencil, acrylic, and airbrush on illustration board. 30 x 24 1/4" Unused finished art, which remains one of my personal favorites. Amsel demonstrated a keen sensitivity here. I had heard that when Amsel began this piece, he deliberately deviated from what the studio intended for the poster, to follow his own personal sensibility. Knowing he might lose the film campaign as a result, he nevertheless wanted to show them this completed piece, with the hopes they'd change their minds.

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Coal Miner's Daughter
Coal Miner's Daughter

1980 Pencil on tracing paper. 17 7/8 x 16 3/8" Concept sketch.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1981 The one and only: Amsel's poster used for the film's initial campaign. While Drew Struzan's alternate poster (which, admittedly, I prefer to this) was used in several foreign markets, Amsel's work was also used worldwide -- discrediting the common belief that this was used solely within the USA. It seems inconceivable now, but public awareness of the film was minimal in the weeks leading up to its release. Goes to show what good word of mouth -- and a nice poster! -- can do.

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The Incredible Shrinking Woman
The Incredible Shrinking Woman

1981 Watercolor, acrylic, gouache, airbrush, and colored pencils. 31 1/2 x 22 in. Unused art.

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Incredible Shrinking Woman (detail)
Incredible Shrinking Woman (detail)

1981 Watercolor, acrylic, gouache, airbrush, and colored pencils. 31 1/2 x 22 in. Unused art.

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All Night Long
All Night Long

1981 Watercolor, acrylic, gouache and pencil on board. 25 1/2 x 16 1/2 in. Unused artwork for underrated Gene Hackman/Barbara Streisand vehicle. This image was made possible by Amsel's dear friend Judy Davis Goldman, who let me photograph it in her home.

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All Night Long (detail)
All Night Long (detail)

1981 Watercolor, acrylic, gouache and pencil on board. 25 1/2 x 16 1/2 in. Unused artwork for underrated Gene Hackman/Barbara Streisand vehicle. This image was made possible by Amsel's dear friend Judy Davis Goldman, who let me photograph it in her home.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982 Printed poster 41 x 27 in. Amsel's poster for the action/adventure film's re-release is, in my eyes, the greatest movie poster ever made. Others agree: in 2011, TOTAL FILM deemed this the "Greatest Hand-Drawn Movie Poster" of all time.

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The Dark Crystal
The Dark Crystal

1982 Printed poster 40 x 27 in.

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A Star is Born (reissue)
A Star is Born (reissue)

1983 Amsel was commissioned by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the restored, rereleased version of the classic musical.

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A Star is Born (reissue)
A Star is Born (reissue)

1983 Watercolor, gouache, colored pencils and airbrush on board 24 1/4 x 20 1/2 in.

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Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul
Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul

1983 Final USA poster, released as BEYOND THE LIMIT.

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Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul
Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul

1983 Poster for international markets, released as THE HONORARY CONSUL. This image is more faithful to Amsel's original illustration, as the USA poster modified it a bit.

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Yentl
Yentl

1983 Size unknown. Colored pencils. Unused concept sketches. Special thanks to Thomas Haller Buchanan for these images.

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Yentl
Yentl

1983 Size unknown. Colored pencils. Unused concept sketches. Special thanks to Thomas Haller Buchanan for these images.

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Terms of Endearment
Terms of Endearment

1983 Watercolor, acrylic, and colored pencils on board 28 1/2 x 19 1/2 in. Unused poster design.

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Sahara
Sahara

1983 Colored pencil, acrylic, and airbrush on board. Unused concept design.

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Sahara
Sahara

1983 Colored pencil on paper. Unused concept design.

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Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

1985 This stunning piece would be Amsel's last for a movie campaign. He died before completing his poster design for The Jewel of the Nile, the sequel to Romancing the Stone.

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1980:
  • Flash Gordon
  • Little Miss Marker (unused)
  • Nijinsky (2 images; only 1 used)
  • Coal Miner's Daughter (unused)
1981:
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • The Incredible Shrinking Woman (unused)
  • All Night Long (unused)
1982:
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (rerelease)
  • The Dark Crystal
1983:
  • A Star is Born (1983 restoration & rerelease)
  • Krull (unused concepts)
  • Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul
  • Yentl (unused concepts)
  • Terms of Endearment (unused)
  • Sahara (unused concepts)
1984:
  • Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (unused concepts)
1985:
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
  • The Jewel of the Nile (unfinished; only early sketches)
 
 
Titles in red are unpublished posters or sketches I'm still trying to locate.

...and more images below.

BEHIND THE POSTERS: 1980-1985

Behind the scenes of select concept sketches, final illustrations, and triva regarding Richard Amsel's

movie poster work. They're listed below in chronological order.

NIJINSKY (1980)

Nijinsky
Nijinsky

1980 Final poster

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Nijinky (Blu-Ray cover)
Nijinky (Blu-Ray cover)

1980 Happily, the recent Blu Ray release wisely includes Amsel's illustration. Again, here's an example of how much the colors of an illustration can vary; they look much warmer (with more emphasis on purples than blues) than the earlier scan above.

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Nijinsky (original art)
Nijinsky (original art)

1980 Watercolor, acrylic, colored pencils and gold paint on board 25 x 20 in.

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Nijinsky (variant)
Nijinsky (variant)

1980 Watercolor, acrylic, colored pencils, pen and ink, and gold paint on board 23 1/4 x 23 1/4 in. Unused alternate poster design.

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Nijinsky (study)
Nijinsky (study)

1980 Colored pencil on glassine 15 x 15" Preliminary study for movie poster.

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In 2006, this piece went up for auction. I don't know the final sale results.

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RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1981 The one and only: Amsel's poster used for the film's initial campaign. While Drew Struzan's alternate poster was used in several foreign markets, Amsel's work was also used worldwide -- discrediting the claim that this was used solely within the USA. It seems inconceivable now, but public awareness of the film was minimal in the weeks leading up to its release. Goes to show what good word of mouth -- and a nice poster! -- can do.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1981 Watercolor, acrylic, airbrush, colored pencils on board 27 x 21 in. The original art, which remains one of the most widely reproduced and iconic images of the legendary adventurer.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1981 Color comprehensive art Colored pencil and ink on tracing paper 19.5 x 13.75 in. Note the differences in the lighting and composition from the final, more flatly lit poster.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1981 One of Amsel's earliest conceptual drawings of the first Indiana Jones poster.

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I like to deconstruct Amsel's process, starting out with the final product and then working back through his earlier designs. Here, we can see how his vision for the poster was very defined, even in the early stages. The simplest pencil sketch still perfectly captures Indiana Jones. The more polished comp strikes me as having a more dramatic, Bob Peak influence -- I'm still indecisive about whether or not I prefer the harsh lighting of the comp to the more flatly lit, "antique" style employed in the final poster. 

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1982)

"The Greatest Hand-Drawn Movie Poster of all time."

TOTAL FILM, 2011

RaidersRereleasePoster_Final_thumb
RaidersRereleasePoster_Final_thumb

1982 Printed poster 41 x 27 in. Amsel's poster for the action/adventure film's re-release is, in my eyes, the greatest movie poster ever made. Others agree: in 2011, TOTAL FILM deemed this the "Greatest Hand-Drawn Movie Poster" of all time.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982 (Exact size uncertain; possibly 27 x 20 in.?) Watercolor, acrylic, gouache, and colored pencils on board. Most movie poster artists work on cavasses as large as -- or larger than -- the dimensions of the final printed one sheet. Many of Amsel's original pieces, however, are considerably smaller than what you'd expect -- a testament to how intricate and detailed his work was.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982 19.5 x 13.75 in. Colored pencil and ink on tracing paper. Color comprehensive art for the rerelease poster. Many are quick to compliment Amsel's skill at capturing likenesses, but this image demonstrates a gift that most of Amsel's famous contemporaries lack: a strong sense of composition and form. There's a reason why this remains one of the most celebrated and beloved posters of all time: it truly captures the spirit of the film, and is far more than just a jigsaw of faces.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982 Study of Harrison Ford. Pencil on paper. 12 x 9 in. Preparation is the key, and Amsel often made an extraordinary number of sketches and studies. While he did use photo references and, at times, a luciograph, this sketch of Harrison Ford shows a clear mastery of form. There are some production photos out there with Ford in a similar pose, but what you see here is no simple tracing of an existing image -- it's a carefully constructed, dynamic pose.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982 Pencil on paper.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982 Pencil on paper.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982 Pencil on paper.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982 Pencil on paper.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982 Pencil on paper.

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Many are quick to compliment Amsel's skill at capturing likenesses, but this particular poster demonstrates a gift that most illustrators lack: a strong sense of composition and form. There's a reason why this remains one of the most celebrated and beloved posters of all time: it truly captures the spirit of the film, and is far more than just a jigsaw of assembled faces and body parts from different photos.

 

Unlike the original 1981 poster, made when the film was kept under great secrecy, the 1982 rerelease poster targeted audiences already well aware of the film as an "event" picture. It proves the advantage an artist has when they don't have to second guess the content of the film they're illustrating!

THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982)

The Dark Crystal
The Dark Crystal

1982 Printed poster 40 x 27 in.

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The Dark Crystal (original art)
The Dark Crystal (original art)

1982 Watercolor, acrylic, pen and ink, colored pencils on board 26.5 x 20" in. Another one of my favorites, for Jim Henson's classic fantasy adventure. The title is also part of the drawn illustration.

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The Dark Crystal
The Dark Crystal

1982 Mixed media on glassine 17 x 12 1/2 in. Comp for final poster design. Notice how Amsel incorporated the film's title design into the poster by hand.

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Amsel's poster for Jim Henson's elaborate fantasy adventure was up against some stiff competition -- including art from his idol, Bob Peak. As with the film, the poster remains extremely popular, and the orignal final illustration recently went up for auction.

BEYOND THE LIMIT / THE HONORARY CONSUL (1983)

Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul
Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul

1983 Final USA poster, released as BEYOND THE LIMIT.

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Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul
Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul

1983 Poster for international markets, released as THE HONORARY CONSUL.

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Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul
Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul

1983 Original artwork courtesy of Judith Davis Goldman, who modeled for Amsel's illustration.

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Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul
Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul

Amsel's reference photo of his friend, Judy Goldman. Judy shared this with me when I interviewed her in her home.

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Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul
Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul

1983 Detail image of Michael Caine.

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Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul
Beyond the Limit/The Honorary Consul

Judy Goldman has the original art along with Amsel's signed poster.

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While neither the film nor the poster represent the highlight of Amsel's work, BEYOND THE LIMIT is special because of the lovely woman who modeled for it. Judy Goldman was one of Richard's dearest and most trusted friends, and she owns the original artwork along with some other pieces. She even shared a photo Amsel took of her, modeling for the seductive woman in the poster. Over the years, Judy has been my rock of emotional support, and I'm amazed how she's been able to put up with me.

MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985)

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

1985 This stunning piece would be Amsel's last for a movie campaign. He died before completing his poster design for The Jewel of the Nile, the sequel to Romancing the Stone.

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Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

1985 Watercolor, acrylic, colored pencils and airbrush on board 36 1/4 x 24 in.

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Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

Photo detail of the original artwork courtesy of Joe Ulster, who acquired it in the Christie's East auction in 1987.

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Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

Photo detail of the original artwork courtesy of Joe Ulster, who acquired it in the Christie's East auction in 1987.

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Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

1985 Original concept sketch for final poster.

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Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

1985 Unused color comp.

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Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

1985 Pencil sketch for unused composition.

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Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

1985 Unused concept art.

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Amsel's final poster is also one of his best -- representing an artist at the peak of his creative powers. Tina Turner's stylized hair... the textures and color scheme.... I still wonder what great work he would have done had he not left us so young.

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THE JEWEL OF THE NILE (1985)

And, with bittersweet sadness, we come to the very last work of Richard Amsel: his preliminary sketches for THE JEWEL OF THE NILE -- a project he was forced to abandoned as his health rapidly declined. The final poster, done by another artist, emphasized the comic aspect of the film, while Amsel's sketches demonstrate a more romantic sensibility. Very special thanks to David Byrd for sharing these images with me; he collected them from Amsel's apartment after the artist's death.