The Hangman by Paul Julian and Les Goldman


After mentioning Paul Julian in the previous post I went looking for examples of his work. The production design and background paintings that Julian created for the animated adaptation of The Tell-Tale Heart (1953) are perennially celebrated, especially around Halloween, but director Ted Parmalee tends to receive all the credit. The Tell-Tale Heart was a production for UPA but Julian had a long career in animation, especially for Warner Bros., and his voice (if not his name) are universally familiar from the sounds the Road Runner makes in the Wile. E Coyote cartoons. Until this week if I’d thought about this at all I would have assumed that the “hmeep-hmeep” sound (as Julian described it) was created by Mel Blanc, not one of the cartoon’s background artists.


The Hangman (1964) is an 11-minute animation that, like The Tell-Tale Heart, is a long way from Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. Herschel Bernardi reads a poem by Maurice Ogden that describes a hangman who arrives in a small town and begins executing the citizens one after the other. No-one is spared, even those who support the actions of the hangman when his first victims are Jewish, Black, an unspecified “alien” and a man who openly questions the executions. The poem was written during the McCarthy era but is the kind of moral fable whose sentiments can be applied to any time, even if the design makes the context a specifically American one. Paul Julian painted the backgrounds and co-directed with Les Goldman, while Julian’s wife, Margaret, provided the minimal animation. The jazzy score—which doesn’t really suit the theme—was the work of Serge Hovey. Julian’s townscapes start out as Edward Hopper-like scenes of tall houses, old storefronts and wide roads striped with sunset shadows. In the second half of the film a Surrealist quality takes over. The gallows pole slowly consumes the town as well as its people, dismantling the buildings in order to grow into a towering edifice. The characterisations and the scene transitions make it plain how much of The Tell-Tale Heart was Julian’s work, while the film as a whole reminds me of one of Ray Bradbury’s morality tales. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Tell-Tale Heart from UPA

Covers for Beyond Fantasy Fiction


Cover by Richard Powers.

Beyond Fantasy Fiction was an American magazine edited by HL Gold that ran for only 10 issues, from July 1953 to January 1955. The title was intended to be a fantasy-oriented companion to Gold’s Galaxy Science Fiction, and with a similar design to its cover layouts. Beyond differed from Galaxy, however, by leaving its cover art consistently free of text, and it differed from other genre magazines by offering a range of art styles that were a little more adventurous than its contemporaries. Richard Powers could get away with semi-abstract weirdness on his book covers but the magazines forced him to be much more conventional. A few months before the first issue of Beyond, a very uncharacteristic painting by Powers appeared on the cover of Fantastic showing a naked woman being pawed by giant insects.


Cover by Richard Powers.

A couple of the other Beyond covers approach the diluted Surrealism that was still percolating through the US media in the 1950s, while the cover for July 1954 wouldn’t be out of place in a fashion magazine, at least until you notice all the witchy details. The cover by Arthur Krusz for May 1954 features the same combination of disjunctive perspectives you find in Hollywood dream sequences and Paul Julian’s designs for the 1953 animated version of The Tell-Tale Heart. If the magazine had lasted longer we might have seen more like this.


Cover by René Vidmer.


Cover by Rupert Conrad.


Cover by Scott Templar.

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