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Hollywood Blood & Gore: America’s Founding Fathers Would Be… Proud?

October 31, 2012

I thought it would be fun to do a Halloween post, so I scrounged around in the big trash barrel known as my Archives, and found this old editorial cartoon, circa 2009:

editorial cartoon making fun of former commerce secretary Gary Locke and Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat, California, for praising Hollywood films for reflecting American freedoms and ignoring fact that so many of them are junk and filled with violence and a bad influence

It was inspired by a line in an address by then U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to the Motion Picture Association of America:

I see your product as a uniquely American commodity. Movies and TV shows are direct products of the freedoms we enjoy.

The cynic in me immediately thought of the three staples of modern American films: sex, violence, and profanity. I also thought of the never-ending stream of slasher movies. I tried to imagineย Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln extolling them as “direct products of the freedoms we enjoy.” I could not.

Here’s a detail image.

detail image of editorial cartoon making fun of former commerce secretary Gary Locke and Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat, California, for praising Hollywood films for reflecting American freedoms and ignoring fact that so many of them are junk and filled with violence and a bad influence

As noted, Gary Locke was U.S. Commerce Secretary in 2009. He is now the United States ambassador to China.

Henry Waxman is a United States congressman (Democrat, California). His district includes Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

I applied Photoshop’s Warp tool to photographs to create the above caricatures. Here’s what the two men actually look like.

photos of former united states commerce secretary Gary Locke, now united states ambassador to China, and congressman Henry Waxman, Democrat, California, whose district includes Hollywood and Beverly Hills

Here’s a detail image of the right-hand side:detail image of editorial cartoon making fun of former commerce secretary Gary Locke and Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat, California, for praising Hollywood films for reflecting American freedoms and ignoring fact that so many of them are junk and filled with violence and a bad influence

I was very much into photo manipulation at the time, and wanted to see if I could create a fictitious movie poster using bits and pieces of actual horror movie posters from the 1950s. Here are a couple of detail images from the latter:images from two old horror movie posters showing melodramatic illustrations of scantily-clad women screaming in terror with gaudy retro colors and collage of scenes from movie

Sequence: Use the Pen tool to select and copy each piece; paste them into your composite image on separate layers; use layer masks to help blend them together; apply blurring as needed to smooth out any harsh grain.

Here’s the finished poster. My favorite part is the goofy skull with the ax in his head. The mirrored text looks cool. I’m guessing I used a bevel-and-emboss layer style to give it a raised, three-dimensional look, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the details… : (photo illustration of movie poster for fictitious slasher horror movie constructed in Photoshop by combining bits and pieces of actual old horror movie poster showing killer with bloody ax and screaming terrified women

What do you think?ย Are you a horror movie fan? Is garbage still garbage even if it’s a direct product of freedom? Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2012 1:34 PM

    Amazing ๐Ÿ™‚ That caricature of Waxman is superb ! ๐Ÿ™‚


    • November 1, 2012 9:55 AM

      Ha! Thanks, Vandy. Pretty hard not to score with Mr. Waxman. He’s just got one of those faces– like a gift served up on a platter to a caricature artist… : )

      Always delighted to see you, thanks for your lovely comment! : )


  2. Margie permalink
    October 31, 2012 7:41 PM

    You, cynical?!?
    Garbage in, garbage out – perhaps.


    • November 1, 2012 9:59 AM

      Uh… I’d be worried about my cynicism if it weren’t for the fact that I’m also sweet, kind, gentle, caring, good-natured, and thoroughly lovable in every way. I’m sure you’re with me on that… : P

      Thanks, Margie! : )


  3. October 31, 2012 9:37 PM

    No, no, no Mark; I’m not, not, not a horror film fan… Well; not just for the sake of ‘horror’… I do enjoy a ‘Psycho’ type film, or a ‘Alien’ type film, but not your average ‘how are they gonna be killed’ type horror fan. Heck, I could do that..! I could run around with my little hammer and knock people on the skull and watch them ‘bleed out’, but what fun would there be in that…!?! No, give me a ‘real’ horror film like ‘Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead’ – now that’s what I call a horror film….!

    No, Mark, horror is not my favourite genre, however if it stars great actors with great dialogue it will probably end up on my TV screen….

    What about you? Do you favour horror…!?!

    Loved your made up poster, and your method for creating it…! Once again, a bookmark need.. ๐Ÿ˜‰


    • November 1, 2012 10:15 AM

      Ha! Well, I do hope this post doesn’t convey the wrong impression. I can’t abide “modern” horror movies with their graphic chop-chop blood and gore– not for me. I also detest the fact that the mad psychos are often portrayed sympathetically, as anti-heroes of a sort.

      That said, I have a great fondness for schlocky old stuff like The Wolfman and giant mutant ants, as well as the Hammer Films where Christopher Lee was always putting the bite on somebody. There was a certain amount of fun in those films that gave them a kind of merit (which sounds pretty absurd, doesn’t it??).

      Many thanks for your spritely comment, always glad to see The Creature From Spirit Talk!! : )


      • November 1, 2012 3:03 PM

        Yes, that irks me as well; making heroes out of crazies…. help; as if there’s not enough crazy in the world…! I even get a little annoyed when they make heroes (such as cowboy/western heroes) who maimed and killed and were probably psychopaths; uncaring, scar faced loonies who are made into heroic folk lore pundits. Save me…!

        I’m with you there, Mark. The older type ‘horror’ film had a ‘tongue in cheek’ absurdity about them which rendered them scary yet ‘over the top’ and mostly harmless entertainment (except if you were alone and very sensitive….. ho ho ho he he he…!


      • November 6, 2012 12:30 AM

        Comedy is a bit of a welcome relief in horror– and it did survive somewhat to the ’80s, at least. Call me odd but I think Freddy Kruger is hilarious at times. Watched a clip of the character saying “You’ve got the body– I’ve got the brain” and then ripping the bone off one side of his skull. While his terrified onlooker screamed… I couldn’t help but bust up laughing.


        • November 6, 2012 12:30 PM

          Yes, I sometimes do that ripping the bone off the side of my skull trick at parties– always gets a laugh. : P


  4. October 31, 2012 9:53 PM

    I do like Alfred Hitchcock films, but the bloom faded from that rose when he did “Frenzy.” Subtlety … less is more … leave something to the imagination. Those do not appear to be the staples of many films today. Your artwork, however, is inspired … and the caricatures do look like their targets. Great job as always, Mark.


    • November 1, 2012 11:17 AM

      Many thanks, Judy. And I’m with you: less is definitely more, and I think that’s true of all art forms. Graphic on-screen horror is like a comedian telling dirty jokes: there’s something very wrong if you have to rely on shock value. It’s too easy. It’s cheating, a substitute for the hard work of creativity.

      I do have fun with caricatures. I’m still amazed and mystified that distorting someone’s features can make them instantly recognizable. As if exaggeration somehow captures the essence. Weird!

      Thanks as always for your very kind support! : )


  5. October 31, 2012 11:58 PM

    I’m not a horror movie fan, Mark, but I am a fan of your artwork, and I dig the baby on the end!


    • November 1, 2012 11:25 AM

      Thanks, Maddie. I’m not a horror movie fan either, though I do get a kick out of some of the oldies. Igor, the mad scientist’s lab assistant? People running around the wax museum at night? Vincent Price purring menace? Count me in! And if it’s got Abbott & Costello or The Three Stooges in it, so much the better. Clearly I’m a man of refined taste… : P

      Yeah, the little baby on the end– he’s my favorite part, too!! Really!

      Always good to see you, thanks so much for your support! : )


  6. November 1, 2012 4:13 PM

    I love good quality scary films. The abundance of mindless violence is more a product of lack of American imagination and laziness. District 9 is a good example of a brilliant scary movie, which was banned in Nigeria. I’m grateful we’re still able to watch it here.


    • November 5, 2012 11:25 AM

      There’s a thought: how many films, comedy routines, illustrations, songs, and other “art” is a product of lack of imagination and laziness? Now that’s scary!!

      Always good to see you, Amelie– thanks! : )


  7. November 1, 2012 11:56 PM

    Gary Locke was also governor of our state (Washington, 1997-2005). Sorry I didn’t recognize your caricature of him.

    Although I live in Washington State, my youngest sister now lives in Utah. We have talked about the odd attitude towards violence in media in the state, basically being part of what I call “The Mormon Belt Buckle” (as opposed to “The Bible Belt”). Not only is CSI a top-rated show in the state, she also told me that people seemed to get out of hand with haunted house displays there. She spurns today’s horror style, which she calls “torture porn”… and I think she’s nailed it. Then there’s also the open secret that Utah supposedly consumes a lot of porn, speaking of that.

    I am a Mormon, and I’m not too surprised. It’s hard to find that balance, where sex, violence and even profanity has its appropriate time and place. I think it is hard for everyone. But I think Locke is technically right– and we had a severe test in a different vein.. that anti-Muslim film… what was it called? Unfortunately people have a right to be stupid, make or view really bad and awful films, and make other poor choices. I’m sure there’s limits to free speech, but we do give people enough leeway– or rather enough rope that they eventually proverbially or metaphorically bind or strangle themselves in other ways.


    • November 5, 2012 11:17 AM

      Torture porn… yes, I think that would describe some of today’s over-the-top horror films, with their emphasis on voyeurism and sadomasochism.

      Film, or any art form really, has the power to nurture our noble side, or our dark side. I think it’s true that horror stories, including some classic fairy tales, help us come to grips with our fears. “Art” that enables us to indulge dark and degrading impulses, however, is something else altogether…

      Your line about people having a right to be stupid made me laugh. It’s quite true, of course. Put another way, we have the freedom to choose what’s harmful to ourselves. There are many who celebrate that fact, blind to the fact that they are tearing themselves down.

      Always glad to have your input, Jak– thanks! : )


  8. November 2, 2012 4:15 PM

    Brilliant Mark, from the charicatures to the retro horror poster. Love the title of the movie and the little guys salivating too. Gotta bring in that pre-teen male audience. I was very limited in the amount of horror I could watch as a kid. Only old school monster movies circa creature double feature. No slasher or demonic stuff. Still haven’t seen Exorcist! As my parents always said, “Trash in, trash out. When you live on your own you can watch what you want.” Yes, I watched AMC’s Fear Fest everyday this past month, but I’m an adult and I can process it now. Yes, it is part of our American freedom to watch Jason and Freddie ad nauseum, but I still believe we should be careful what the little eyes are hearing and watching. I hope you had a Happy Halloween Mark!!


    • November 5, 2012 5:38 PM

      Many thanks, Tracey! Yeah, the little guys salivating still makes me laugh. Saliva has very limited entertainment value in real life (at least for me), but it can certainly add a lot to an illustration! : P““

      Yeah, the Creature Double Feature– I remember it well! Our local in-studio host was named Dr. Witty– all you ever saw was the edge of his sleeve and a hand with massive rings and black nail polish. At least I think it was black. A lot of things looked black on our old B&W set… : P

      I did have a Happy Halloween– I think it was all the leftover candy. Fangs a lot for being the spooktacular person you are! : )


  9. November 3, 2012 11:42 AM

    Characters look grrat Mark! Movie poster is bangin!
    Your walkthrough of the piece gives it the extra edge for me!
    Oh aye lad


    • November 5, 2012 12:34 PM

      My dear fellow–! I appreciated your unbridled enthusiasm– it’s, er, bangin’!! : )

      Very glad you enjoyed the walkthrough, just hope you weren’t wearing your good shoes. Blood and gore’s always rather messy, innit??

      Thank’ee, Mikk! : )


  10. November 4, 2012 4:03 PM

    I don’t mind the odd horror film or two (I was quite into them when a youngster), but lately they have been going downhill in the scare-level. Although, when ever I watch them I always get scared of walking around the house alone in the dark! That never seems to go away..

    I love how you have put this take on caricatures, Mark. It definitely takes the traditional style into the modern digital realm. Somewhat Waxman looks scary enough with the eyes, haha. Expecting them to move at some point : p

    But anyways, I’m really loving the movie poster. You can not tell that they were all from different images as it is so well put together! And the kids and their little sayings, they sure do grow up fast : )

    Bravo, indeed.


    • November 6, 2012 7:55 AM

      Thank you, Sabine, for that lovely comment. Yes, I sometimes wonder if electrical power companies don’t secretly underwrite all these horror films– after watching, I have to go around and turn on every light in the house!! : P

      One can certainly overdo Photoshop’s Warp tool, but with the right settings, one can achieve some pretty subtle effects. I like it because one can quickly discover what works: make the forehead higher? Nope, wrong direction. Make the eyes bigger? Yes, now he looks even more like himself somehow, etc.

      Poor Waxman is one of those guys who already looks like a caricature. You scratch your head and think: Good Lord– he’s already done!! : P

      Thanks for your kind words about the poster. It certainly was fun putting it together. Funny: a single scream in a movie can be hair-raising. But put a dozen of them together in a poster, and the staged absurdity of it all makes you laugh.

      Thanks again, dear Fox, for all your support!! : )


  11. November 6, 2012 2:54 PM

    Well, I was completely fooled on the movie poster. I thought it was a real one but then saw that it was The Stalker of Nymphoville LOL!!! And I thought that must be something Mark made up. You’re rendition of Waxman looks more like Waxman than the real guy! Perfect. And I think Gary Locke has the lock on kissing up! This was so much fun Mark! I love what you did with it! ๐Ÿ˜€


    • November 8, 2012 1:47 PM

      Nymphoville? That’s a real place here in New Hampshuh, just a few towns over– very popular with tourists… : P

      Man, I couldn’t have asked for more delightful feedback: the poster looked real, but then the title tipped you off that your favorite deranged illustrator was involved– excellent!! : )

      Poor Waxman! There oughta be a law against drawing his caricature– the guy’s too easy!! And you’re right: if they ever decide to award an Oscar for Best Kiss-Up, Locke is a lock!! : P

      Thanks as ever, Linda, for your wonderful support! : )


  12. November 10, 2012 12:10 PM

    So funny!
    I always love your posts


    • November 18, 2012 7:16 PM

      Many thanks! I always love your fashion tips, so that makes us even.

      If I keep reading your blog, I may even look presentable one of these days… : )


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