Here’s my first alternative movie poster artwork, for the Matthew Holness short from 2011, A Gun For George. Having been so inspired by the revered commercial illustrators of the '60s, '70s & 80’s (Putzu, Amsel, Bysouth etc), specifically artists who rendered movie posters, I realised I’d never actually painted one, so recently revisited the rough design that I drew up for this a very long time ago. Very much channelling Arnaldo Putzu here.
A limited run of prints of the poster are available to buy exclusively here - https://www.garymillsfineart.com/shop/a-gun-for-george-movie-poster, and if you've not seen A Gun For George, it's only 17 minutes long, it's available to view here - https://www.film4productions.com/shorts/gun-george and it’s brilliant.
I guess A Gun For George may appear to some to be little more than another exercise in silly, retro-inspired gratification, a pretext to indulge in Sweeney-esque capers in a brown suit and outsize moustache behind the quartic wheel of an Allegro. Those unmoved by such confections will probably be turned off by their recognition of writer, director and star Holness as the titular all-action MD from the steeply styled comedy series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. You realise about halfway through however that A Gun For George is not played merely for laughs.
Holness plays protagonist Terry Finch, a writer of unremittingly violent pulp paperbacks whose twin brother George is brutally murdered. Terry’s vengeance is played out via film trailer reveries, imagined celluloid adaptations of his books where the Kent underworld is made to pay via the barrel of a snub-nosed Revolver, wielded by Finch as star in a hallucinatory feature, “The Reprisalizer”. Among those in the firing line are not just George’s killers, but Finch’s publisher, who severs ties with Terry and his woefully outdated shtick at the film’s outset.
With no takers for his books, and with only a dilapidated caravan and British Leyland’s most derided car to his name, Finch is not just down-on-his-luck, he’s as much of a loser as it’s possible to be. When his home is trashed by hoodlums, all he is left with are the Allegro - left to him by his brother and now named after him - and his crazed revenge fantasies.
All grimness aside, it’s initially very funny as we’re encouraged to laugh at Finch’s struggles (his enfeebling threat on expulsion by a staff member from Westgate-On-Sea library is exquisite: “I’ll come for you woman, and when I do, I’ll re-arrange this library BY GENRE!”).
But when his almost continual fever-daydreams of lurid and comically contrived vengeance are increasingly interrupted by the all-too-real (and similarly recurrent) flashbacks to his brother’s savage killing, you see how Finch’s Walter Mitty tendencies, and sense of personal loss & hardship add up to a man on the brink of complete disintegration. His barely concealed desire for rampage - played out as fiction in his trash novelettes - is on the verge of spilling over into reality at the film’s close.
This conflict between humour and unease (the scenes depicting George’s murder are given a psycho-horror edge by some occasionally radiophonically-inspired sonics) is what I really like about A Gun For George. Holness has clearly been inspired by the great-though-ghastly ‘70s Brit flick The Offence, a frankly horrible but brilliantly played exploration of male aggression, augmented by damp Brutalist architecture and monstrous facial hair. Finch’s machismo however appears largely inert, beside a fixation on thugs being shot in the balls in the pages of his books.
Beautifully delivered too is Holness’ keenness for self-parody: Finch’s pathetic situation, bedecked as it is in such determined nostalgia, mocks the derivation of Darkplace. And just as Matt Berry sends up his real-life voiceover work in Toast Of London, Holness - a long-time writer of short stories - deliberately reflects on his craft through both Marenghi and Finch.
At the time of A Gun For George’s release, Holness extended further the layers of alt-realities dabbled with in the film with a superb online “Reprisalizer” presence, helmed supposedly by the founder and president of the Terry Finch Appreciation Society. Alas, it’s largely disappeared now, save for a blog and some brilliantly executed fake paperback pages - treat yourself to a search for them.
One final thought: Terry Finch, appearing as he did five years ahead of the referendum, might just be the ultimate proto-Brexit man - obsessed with the past, full of directionless, eye-popping fury at perceived injustices and bereaved by both George and his own obsolete masculinity. Terry’s nowhere near as well-adjusted as Paul Kersey, and you can’t help feeling he’d take us all to hell with him.
Similarly of-the-moment is Holness’ feature debut, a full-tilt horror called Possum which has garnered rave reviews, though I’ve yet to see it. Every reason to suggest - on the evidence of A Gun For George - that he knows what he’s doing.