The Sword Is Drawn
Thanks to those fine folks at Heavy Metal, here’s the Excalibur poster and unused posters for john Boorman’s 1981 film with art by the legendary Bob Peak…
Bob Peak was one of the great movie poster artists of the ’70s and ’80s — you know his images if not his name. His breakthrough poster, stylistically, was for Rollerball (1975), and arguably his most famous was for Apocalypse Now (1979). Others in the classic Bob Peak style, featuring dramatic shadows and outward-streaming vectors of light, include the Star Trek movie posters and more than one poster for the 1981 Arthurian adventure Excalibur.
We should say that Peak also did many posters that don’t feature such dramatic lighting effects, such as those for My Fair Lady (1964), The Cincinnati Kid (1965) and Mahogany (1975). He also illustrated some of the best magazine covers of his era, for TV Guide, Sports Illustrated and Time. Bob Peak did a lot.
John Boorman’s Excalibur is arguably the perfect film for a Bob Peak poster — if you’ve seen the movie you will remember that it is extremely sparkly and shiny. The armour the knights wear is polished to perfection, the Round Table is a giant mirror in a room of candles and crystal, the titular sword glows like a lightsaber (there’s a reason for that), and you’ve got Merlin and Morgana doing light pyrotechnics here and there.
Peak was undoubtedly the man for the job; do you remember these official posters?
Here’s one that you might have missed, as it’s the Japanese poster:
In recent years, we learned that Peak fully completed another painting for possible use as the poster — it was not used, although it contains very similar elements to the posters above. (This particular scan comes from Heritage Auctions.)
As these posters illustrate, there’s plenty of mashing-up of elements as the artist and studio try to get just the right composition for each of the formats. There’s clearly some repainting, as (for example) Merlin’s face somewhat different in each one. Only three of the above five carry Peak’s signature, but we’re pretty sure they were all done by the man himself or under his very close supervision.