Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

Martin Ritt's film of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold sticks so closely to the John le Carre novel it's based on that if you read the novel after watching the film (which I did), it gives an intense sensation of deja vu. Both are great, though, and well worth your time!

Anyway, here's my comps for the DVD cover. They're generally pretty straightforward--Berlin wall, Richard Burton, cold war spy stuff. Luckily, with a title that evocative, you don't have to do much to get the point of the story across. This was an occasion where my first instinct was actually the direction we wound up going in, pretty much un-altered, so I'll save that one for last.

The second cover I worked up I had a strange fondness for because there's basically no logic to why that inset photo of Richard Burton should work at all--but for some reason it does, and that kind of inexplicable thing is always kind of fun. But of course, at the end of the day it's a big movie star head in the inset, which is maybe a little tacky.

This next was my (misguided) attempt to bring a little color into the mix, give the whole thing kind of a '60s spy novel flavor... it winds up being a little too "pop," though. The composition wouldn't be bad if rejiggered into black and white (maybe leaving "SPY" in some color), but is kind of a plot spoiler anyway, and the focus is a bit too much on the girl rather than the spy in question. (I do like the way she's looking at "SPY" though.)

This one's pretty simple, just Richard Burton sitting on the Berlin wall. There's nothing wrong with it, but nothing groundbreaking either.

And finally, the winner, a really simple shot of the Berlin wall with some strong type overtop. It's a little bookish, but in a good way, I think. Not using Richard Burton was an initially controversial choice (we don't get many movies starring well-known American movie stars around here, so generally we like to spotlight them at least a little), but ultimately I think leaving him out focuses your attention on the themes of the film, which is for the best. Plus, I just think it's pretty striking, frankly!

Anyway, all of those were sent around at the same time, and that last was the consensus choice. For contractual reasons, Martin Ritt's name had to be removed from the cover, which was a shame (both for design and content reasons), but not the end of the world. And thus you have the final cover:


patricio lopez said...

Not to nitpick but... well yes, yes to nitpick... Richard Burton is a Welsh movie star not american...

sixfive said...

While I do like the final version, I like the Richard Burton on the wall version best. Nice work type-wise regardless, though.

Eric Skillman said...

Well, he is a star of American movies, i.e. an American-movie / star as opposed to an American / movie-star... Or, uh... alright, fine, you got me, my mistake! ;)

Yeah, that other one's not bad, either--you'll be happy to learn that it wound up as the booklet cover... feel free to slide the booklet under the plastic wrap and use that as an alternate cover!

patricio lopez said...


I liked the cover very much, bought it even tho I already had the Paramount dvd version. I think that the title sequence of that film is a movie unto itself. The wall looks like an abstract expresionist painting.

That Fuzzy Bastard said...

So here's a design question for you... That white type on a (more or less) white wall should be unreadable, right? So---why does it work so well? Did you bring the white point way the heck down towards grey in the Levels control? Or is there some other stroke of genius at work?

Kid Shay said...

Great design work on a truly magnificent movie. This is one of my favorite spy movies of all time.

Capree said...

I like what you do, Eric Skillman. :)

Eric Skillman said...

That Fuzzy Bastard--
I promise it's not some big secret... it's just a grey wall. I'm sure I adjusted the levels slightly, but mainly it's just the nature of that photo. (It is at night, after all.)

Kid Shay, Capree-- Thanks!