Tom Chantrell – Illustrator of Nightmares

Throughout Hammer studio’s long reign as Britain’s most infamous purveyor of horror films, Tom Chantrell became their unrecognized ambassador of goodwill. Chantrell was a talented artist who created some of world’s most memorable movie posters but his main body of work was done in association with the “studio that dripped blood.” Chantrell’s use of bright colors and bold type along with his use of dramatic framing and action oriented poses helped define the look of Hammer films. His true gift was his ability to breathe life into a movie before audiences had a chance to see it on screen. Frightening monsters and busty beauties became his forté and during the 1960s and 1970s Chantrell’s name was synonymous with nightmares.

Tom Chantrell was born in Manchester England on December 20, 1916. He was the ninth child, and the only son, of Emily and James Chantrell. His father was a music hall performer and his family undoubtedly encouraged his artistic ambitions. In school Chantrell found his teachers extremely supportive and he displayed a particular knack for designing publicity posters early on. At age 13 he surprised everyone after winning a national competition to design a poster for the League of Nations. By age 15 he was already enrolled in Manchester Art College but Chantrell quickly discovered that college life didn’t agree with him and at age 16 he decided to leave school and try to find employment. He was immediately hired by a local advertising agency and for the next 8 years he held a variety of jobs working in advertising, screen-printing and illustration. A highpoint in Chantrell’s career came in 1938 after he was hired by a company called Bateman Artists. Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox had recently asked Bateman Artists to create film posters for the British market and under their guidance Chantrell designed his first film poster for Anatole Litvak’s THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE (1938) starring Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart.


Some of Tom Chantrell’s most popular non-horror movie poster designs

Chantrell’s career was briefly derailed by WW2 in 1940 and he spent the next few years as a member of the Royal Engineers until an officer noticed Chantrell’s artistic talents and asked him to start designing propaganda posters for the British war effort. After the war ended Chantrell returned to work at Bateman Artists where he was asked to design poster art for various films such as the brilliant British crime thriller BRIGHTON ROCK (1947). In 1950 Bateman Artists was bought by the Allardyce Palmer agency but the company continued to produce many movie posters for Warner Brothers and Associated British-Pathe until the workload became so great that they decided to form a separate “Entertainments Publicity Division” where Tom Chantrell was given the position of Art Director. Some of Chantrell’s most recognized posters from this period include his original designs for Robert D. Webb’s LOVE ME TENDER (1956) starring Elvis Presley and his design for Joshua Logan’s BUS STOP (1957) featuring a wide-eyed Marilyn Monroe wearing bright red lipstick and a matching red dress.

In 1965 Tom Chantrell’s creative life changed dramatically when Hammer decided to move all their advertising to Allardyce Palmer. For the next five-eight years Chantrell was in charge of creating almost all of Hammer’s film posters and pre-production artwork, effectively becoming their “House Artist.” During this dynamic period in the studio’s brief history Hammer used advertising to finance and influence a film before it went into production so Chantrell rarely if ever had the opportunity to see a film before he created a poster for it. As author Marcus Hearn explained in his essential book, The Art of Hammer, producers such as James Carreras and Brian Clemens, would meet with American distributors and strike lucrative distribution deals without a script but they always went into negotiations with a film title and some eye-catching poster artwork. Once the deal was made and financial backing secured, the film producers would hand scriptwriters the poster and insist they come up with a plot based around a title and some artwork. It sounds like a crazy way to make a movie and it was, but Hammer was able to produce a number of great low-budget horror films thanks to their creative ingenuity, a stable of talented actors and skilled artists like Tom Chantrell.

During Tom Chantrell’s time with Hammer he used multiple techniques to produce stunning poster art including illustration, painting and screen-printing combined with his bold use of typography. Although he occasionally had to rely on himself as well as family members to model for his designs, he was able to create many striking posters for Hammer and often made several designs for just one film. Some of his most recognizable work are his movie posters for SHE (1965), THE NANNY (1965), RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK (1966), THE REPTILE (1966), THE WITCHES (1966), DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES (1966), QUATERMASS AND THE PITT (1967), DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968), THE LOST CONTINENT (1968), THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968), THE ANNIVERSARY (1968), MOON ZERO TWO (1969), FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969), TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970) and DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972). His most popular poster for Hammer is probably ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966) featuring a fur bikini clad Raquel Welch. Hammer wanted Chantrell to make a poster highlighting the movie’s prehistoric monsters but Chantrell thought that the curvaceous actress would probably sell more tickets so he insisted on making her the focus of his design. With Chantrell’s help the movie ended up being one of the studio’s biggest hits and it propelled Raquel Welch into super stardom. In an interview with Tom Chantrell he claimed that the actress was so impressed with his artistic abilities that she wanted to hire him to design posters for all of her future films.

In 1972 Chantrell left the Allardyce Palmer agency and started working as an independent freelance artist. He continued to design many impressive posters including memorable designs for horror films such as CRUCIBLE OF TERROR (1971), HORROR EXPRESS (1972) and POSSESSION (1982) as well as THE DEVILS (1971) and STAR WARS (1977) until his forced retirement in the late‘80s. After creating some 7,000 movie posters (this is Chantrell’s own estimation but researchers think his actual output was probably closer to 800 original designs) Tom Chantrell had become something of a relic in the film business. Studios were no longer interested in hiring traditional artists to create painted posters and they began to look for cheaper options that suited their needs. Computer based graphic artists provided the film industry with a much quicker and inexpensive way to produce movie posters but in the years that have followed we’ve seen lots of cookie cutter designs that lack creativity and are easily forgettable. Today movie posters are considered somewhat of a lost art but there are plenty of signs that suggest there is still a large audience of film fans who appreciate a well-designed poster and would like to see more of them.

Both of these designs for MOON ZERO TWO were created by Tom Chantrell.
They’re great examples of his various skills & the different techniques he used.

Top: Tom Chantrell’s poster design for DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE.
Bottom: A reference photo Chantrell took of himself that he used when designing the poster.

Tom Chantrell died in 2001 at age 85. He was survived by his wife Shirley and their two daughters, Louise and Jacqueline. Today Chantrell is best remembered for the poster designs he created for Hammer that captured the imaginations of film audiences around the world. He was one of the studio’s most prolific commercial artists and his work is considered highly collectable.

TCM viewers can look forward to a batch of Hammer films being shown on October 17th as part of this month’s classic horror Wednesdays. Two of the films Tom Chantrell designed posters for, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT and PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, are scheduled to air and they make for some great Halloween inspired viewing.

Further reading:
- The Art of Hammer by Marcus Hearn
- Tom Chantrell Posters
- Hammer Horror Posters
- Tom Chantrell Obituary

0 Response Tom Chantrell – Illustrator of Nightmares
Posted By TRIPTYCH : October 4, 2012 1:06 pm

Lovely set of poster illustrations up there. Thanx :)

Posted By TRIPTYCH : October 4, 2012 1:06 pm

Lovely set of poster illustrations up there. Thanx :)

Posted By Susan Doll : October 4, 2012 2:46 pm

This is terrific information and will help me out with my History of Illustration class next semester. On top of that, I love old-school illustration styles for movie posters. You are certainly correct about the cookie-cutter posters of today.

Posted By Susan Doll : October 4, 2012 2:46 pm

This is terrific information and will help me out with my History of Illustration class next semester. On top of that, I love old-school illustration styles for movie posters. You are certainly correct about the cookie-cutter posters of today.

Posted By Emgee : October 4, 2012 3:16 pm

“….their unrecognized ambassador of goodwill.”Badwill, surely :)

Amazing visuals, poster Art indeed! To think movie studios spend umpteen millions on A movies, but to hire a good graphic artist for the posters? Nah, what’s wrong with Photoshop?
Great to see a true artist get the well-deserved limelight!

Posted By Emgee : October 4, 2012 3:16 pm

“….their unrecognized ambassador of goodwill.”Badwill, surely :)

Amazing visuals, poster Art indeed! To think movie studios spend umpteen millions on A movies, but to hire a good graphic artist for the posters? Nah, what’s wrong with Photoshop?
Great to see a true artist get the well-deserved limelight!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 4, 2012 4:09 pm

Thanks for all the feedback! Glad people are enjoying the posters. As Emgee pointed out, it’s a shame that so many studios today are willing to spend billions of dollars on making a movie but they refuse to invest in good print/poster advertising. A great movie poster can still attract an audience.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 4, 2012 4:09 pm

Thanks for all the feedback! Glad people are enjoying the posters. As Emgee pointed out, it’s a shame that so many studios today are willing to spend billions of dollars on making a movie but they refuse to invest in good print/poster advertising. A great movie poster can still attract an audience.

Posted By Shuvcat : October 4, 2012 10:06 pm

Wonderful eye candy here. A lost art indeed. Thanks!

Posted By Shuvcat : October 4, 2012 10:06 pm

Wonderful eye candy here. A lost art indeed. Thanks!

Posted By tdraicer : October 4, 2012 10:15 pm

In more some cases the posters promised more than the films could deliver, so that at times I’ve wished the poster artist had directed the movie. :)

Posted By tdraicer : October 4, 2012 10:15 pm

In more some cases the posters promised more than the films could deliver, so that at times I’ve wished the poster artist had directed the movie. :)

Posted By swac44 : October 5, 2012 8:09 am

I love the format of the British “quad” movie poster (kind of a variation on the old “half-sheet” poster that vanished from North American cinemas some time in the ’80s), which approximates the horizontal proportions of a movie screen and forces poster designers to be more cinematic in their approach.

The vertical “one-sheet” which is the most common poster format these days seems to lend itself more to glossed up portrait photography, which is what the majority of movie posters have become these days.

And man, what I wouldn’t give for that Plague of the Zombies poster, who wouldn’t want to go see that?

Posted By swac44 : October 5, 2012 8:09 am

I love the format of the British “quad” movie poster (kind of a variation on the old “half-sheet” poster that vanished from North American cinemas some time in the ’80s), which approximates the horizontal proportions of a movie screen and forces poster designers to be more cinematic in their approach.

The vertical “one-sheet” which is the most common poster format these days seems to lend itself more to glossed up portrait photography, which is what the majority of movie posters have become these days.

And man, what I wouldn’t give for that Plague of the Zombies poster, who wouldn’t want to go see that?

Posted By Pete R. : October 5, 2012 8:55 am

Awesome post Kim! Really enjoyed it. I love classic exploitation poster art.

Posted By Pete R. : October 5, 2012 8:55 am

Awesome post Kim! Really enjoyed it. I love classic exploitation poster art.

Posted By David : October 5, 2012 10:37 am

What a great post.
I remember seeing Chantrell’s poster for Dracula Has Risen From The Grave made up as a print ad in a newspaper in 1968, when I was nine years old. I pleaded with my parents to take me to see it, and after much earbashing on my part, they agreed. The colour palette obtained from that glorius Eastmancolour that Hammer used made an indelible impression on a young mind.
I haven’t seen that poster again (and in colour!), until just now as I read your post.
Thank you Kimberly.

Posted By David : October 5, 2012 10:37 am

What a great post.
I remember seeing Chantrell’s poster for Dracula Has Risen From The Grave made up as a print ad in a newspaper in 1968, when I was nine years old. I pleaded with my parents to take me to see it, and after much earbashing on my part, they agreed. The colour palette obtained from that glorius Eastmancolour that Hammer used made an indelible impression on a young mind.
I haven’t seen that poster again (and in colour!), until just now as I read your post.
Thank you Kimberly.

Posted By Emgee : October 5, 2012 3:05 pm

@ David: they let you in to see a horror movies at age NINE?
Did they smuggle you in under their coats of what?

Posted By Emgee : October 5, 2012 3:05 pm

@ David: they let you in to see a horror movies at age NINE?
Did they smuggle you in under their coats of what?

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 5, 2012 3:15 pm

swac44 – I love the Quad format too! It’s a shame that it’s not used anymore. It does have a real “cinematic” quality. The PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES poster is one of my favorites.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 5, 2012 3:15 pm

swac44 – I love the Quad format too! It’s a shame that it’s not used anymore. It does have a real “cinematic” quality. The PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES poster is one of my favorites.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 5, 2012 3:16 pm

Pete – Glad you enjoyed it!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 5, 2012 3:16 pm

Pete – Glad you enjoyed it!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 5, 2012 3:17 pm

David – I’m happy to know I was able to conjure up fond memories with this post. I’ve never seen DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE on the big screen but that must have been an amazing experience back in ’67.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 5, 2012 3:17 pm

David – I’m happy to know I was able to conjure up fond memories with this post. I’ve never seen DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE on the big screen but that must have been an amazing experience back in ’67.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 5, 2012 3:19 pm

Emgee – My dad took me to horror movies at drive-ins when I was younger than 9. Different times I suppose & my parents let me watch just about anything.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 5, 2012 3:19 pm

Emgee – My dad took me to horror movies at drive-ins when I was younger than 9. Different times I suppose & my parents let me watch just about anything.

Posted By Emgee : October 5, 2012 3:37 pm

Oh well, i guess i’m just too old fashioned. On the other hand: Wes Craven’s parents only allowed him to watch Disney movies and look what happened to him.

Posted By Emgee : October 5, 2012 3:37 pm

Oh well, i guess i’m just too old fashioned. On the other hand: Wes Craven’s parents only allowed him to watch Disney movies and look what happened to him.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 5, 2012 3:53 pm

When I was growing up in the ’70s horror films were still very much in the old gothic/monster vein. I suspect that my parents wouldn’t have approved of a lot of modern horror films that have followed in the footsteps of stuff like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE.

One of the very few films my mother refused to let me watch was Hitchcock’s PSYCHO because it deeply disturbed her. Real world monsters like serial killers weren’t commonly found in films back then but today they’re typical. My dad loved the old Universal and Hammer monster movies but he died in the early ’70s so I don’t know what he would have thought of the direction modern horror films have taken.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 5, 2012 3:53 pm

When I was growing up in the ’70s horror films were still very much in the old gothic/monster vein. I suspect that my parents wouldn’t have approved of a lot of modern horror films that have followed in the footsteps of stuff like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE.

One of the very few films my mother refused to let me watch was Hitchcock’s PSYCHO because it deeply disturbed her. Real world monsters like serial killers weren’t commonly found in films back then but today they’re typical. My dad loved the old Universal and Hammer monster movies but he died in the early ’70s so I don’t know what he would have thought of the direction modern horror films have taken.

Posted By Emgee : October 5, 2012 4:02 pm

My parents wouldn’t let me see The Birds when i was a kid, so i guessed it had to be pretty gruesome. Was i in for a shock….of disappointment!
It’s not easy to determine where to draw the line: you can’t keep kids from watching violence to some degree, but what degree is that? Chainsaws no, vampires yes?
What shocks one kid delights another i guess.

Posted By Emgee : October 5, 2012 4:02 pm

My parents wouldn’t let me see The Birds when i was a kid, so i guessed it had to be pretty gruesome. Was i in for a shock….of disappointment!
It’s not easy to determine where to draw the line: you can’t keep kids from watching violence to some degree, but what degree is that? Chainsaws no, vampires yes?
What shocks one kid delights another i guess.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 5, 2012 4:36 pm

I think kids are taught (to some degree anyway) how to respond to horror movies. Because I was allowed to watch things many kids in my own age group were not, I have an extremely high tolerance as well as an appreciation for horror films that many other folks find too violent, disturbing or just plain silly. But my tolerance for “gore” hasn’t changed the fact that I can also still get scared by a good horror movie. Films like the original HAUNTING for example can still frighten me and if I’m home alone and watching it at night there’s a real chance of me turning it off or changing the channel before the credits roll.

On the other hand, my father was keen to make me realize early on that what I was watching on screen was “movie magic” and that fake blood, monsters that live in coffins and ridiculously attractive women (aka the Hammer glamor girls) should be viewed with a skeptical eye because they weren’t exactly real. I don’t have any kids of my own but it has to be very difficult for parents trying to find out where & when to draw the line with a child’s viewing habits. Some kids are terrified by vampires while others are frightened by clowns. I think it’s really up to parents to pay close attention to their kids viewing habits and figure out what and what’s not appropriate but sheltering children from anything & everything seems to be the norm these days.

I know parents who won’t let their 7 & 8 years olds watch THE SOUND OF MUSIC because it has Nazis in it!? I just don’t understand that kind of thinking. Unfortunately a lot of kids will experience very real horror suddenly & unexpectedly early in life (losing my father was a real nightmare for me) and have no way to cope with it because they’ve been sheltered from “bad things” and “scary experiences” all their life. Balancing a kid’s viewing habits is key along with regularly watching movies with them so you’re there to answer any questions they have but it’s obviously a difficult thing to manage.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : October 5, 2012 4:36 pm

I think kids are taught (to some degree anyway) how to respond to horror movies. Because I was allowed to watch things many kids in my own age group were not, I have an extremely high tolerance as well as an appreciation for horror films that many other folks find too violent, disturbing or just plain silly. But my tolerance for “gore” hasn’t changed the fact that I can also still get scared by a good horror movie. Films like the original HAUNTING for example can still frighten me and if I’m home alone and watching it at night there’s a real chance of me turning it off or changing the channel before the credits roll.

On the other hand, my father was keen to make me realize early on that what I was watching on screen was “movie magic” and that fake blood, monsters that live in coffins and ridiculously attractive women (aka the Hammer glamor girls) should be viewed with a skeptical eye because they weren’t exactly real. I don’t have any kids of my own but it has to be very difficult for parents trying to find out where & when to draw the line with a child’s viewing habits. Some kids are terrified by vampires while others are frightened by clowns. I think it’s really up to parents to pay close attention to their kids viewing habits and figure out what and what’s not appropriate but sheltering children from anything & everything seems to be the norm these days.

I know parents who won’t let their 7 & 8 years olds watch THE SOUND OF MUSIC because it has Nazis in it!? I just don’t understand that kind of thinking. Unfortunately a lot of kids will experience very real horror suddenly & unexpectedly early in life (losing my father was a real nightmare for me) and have no way to cope with it because they’ve been sheltered from “bad things” and “scary experiences” all their life. Balancing a kid’s viewing habits is key along with regularly watching movies with them so you’re there to answer any questions they have but it’s obviously a difficult thing to manage.

Posted By Gene : October 5, 2012 6:00 pm

Thanks so much for all these great posters. Truly works of art! They take me back to my childhood and my weekly anticipation of Creatures Features on the Denver WGN affiliate every Saturday night at 10. I think it’s interesting that with my steady diet of horror films, I was rarely ever scared. I think one of the scariest films for me, as a child, was The Boston Strangler. The thought of that film still creeps me out. The Birds was so incredible but I found it thrilling rather than scary. I saw quite a few films, including a few giallos, on television that would probably not be considered suitable for 7-10 year olds today. Glad I got to see them though.

Posted By Gene : October 5, 2012 6:00 pm

Thanks so much for all these great posters. Truly works of art! They take me back to my childhood and my weekly anticipation of Creatures Features on the Denver WGN affiliate every Saturday night at 10. I think it’s interesting that with my steady diet of horror films, I was rarely ever scared. I think one of the scariest films for me, as a child, was The Boston Strangler. The thought of that film still creeps me out. The Birds was so incredible but I found it thrilling rather than scary. I saw quite a few films, including a few giallos, on television that would probably not be considered suitable for 7-10 year olds today. Glad I got to see them though.

Posted By David : October 5, 2012 7:58 pm

Emgee and Kimberly – In Melbourne in the late sixties, cinema classifications were G, PG, M and R. For films rated M (such as DHRFTG)children had to be accompanied by an adult. My parents were a bit more unsettled about my exposure to the heaving cleavages of the Hammer actresses than Hammer’s particular approach to gore. At nine the undercurrent of sexuality in Hammer films didn’t interest me (all that was 3 or 4 years over the horizon). I wanted to see the blood, and scary stuff!

That’s not to say that they let me see anything I wanted. I was forbidden to watch THE OUTER LIMITS, as they deemed that too frightening for me (which only made it forbidden fruit, and made me intensify my efforts to watch it as I grew up).

Hammer films were for thrills and chills. Not so THE INNOCENTS and THE HAUNTING, they really did scare me numb when I was a kid.

Unfortunately, my oldest son scoffed at THE HAUNTING when I suggested that he might enjoy it when I put it on. However he was riveted by JAWS, a film he had heard so much about through reputation (I put it on when my wife was out for the day, so don’t tell anyone . . )

Cheers

Posted By David : October 5, 2012 7:58 pm

Emgee and Kimberly – In Melbourne in the late sixties, cinema classifications were G, PG, M and R. For films rated M (such as DHRFTG)children had to be accompanied by an adult. My parents were a bit more unsettled about my exposure to the heaving cleavages of the Hammer actresses than Hammer’s particular approach to gore. At nine the undercurrent of sexuality in Hammer films didn’t interest me (all that was 3 or 4 years over the horizon). I wanted to see the blood, and scary stuff!

That’s not to say that they let me see anything I wanted. I was forbidden to watch THE OUTER LIMITS, as they deemed that too frightening for me (which only made it forbidden fruit, and made me intensify my efforts to watch it as I grew up).

Hammer films were for thrills and chills. Not so THE INNOCENTS and THE HAUNTING, they really did scare me numb when I was a kid.

Unfortunately, my oldest son scoffed at THE HAUNTING when I suggested that he might enjoy it when I put it on. However he was riveted by JAWS, a film he had heard so much about through reputation (I put it on when my wife was out for the day, so don’t tell anyone . . )

Cheers

Posted By David Blackwell : October 6, 2012 10:02 pm

I love movie poster art and thanks for sharing these many fine examples of poster art. I would love to see a return to art like this over the bad photoshop jobs we see too much these days. I would love to do photos that emulate the old movie posters (building my creative portfolio more and more- my photography tends to lend to the cinematic. search for Enterline Media on Facebook or Flickr).

Back on topic, I would love to see more creative movie posters like these cold ones for theaters and DVD/ Blu-ray.

Posted By David Blackwell : October 6, 2012 10:02 pm

I love movie poster art and thanks for sharing these many fine examples of poster art. I would love to see a return to art like this over the bad photoshop jobs we see too much these days. I would love to do photos that emulate the old movie posters (building my creative portfolio more and more- my photography tends to lend to the cinematic. search for Enterline Media on Facebook or Flickr).

Back on topic, I would love to see more creative movie posters like these cold ones for theaters and DVD/ Blu-ray.

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