Having handled the UK distribution for The Evil Dead, Palace Pictures also managed Evil Dead II, with illustration by Graham Humphreys. This page covers the advertising & promotional aspects of Palace Picture's involvement with Evil Dead II. Just to add some context, I have also included a brief history of Palace Pictures first.
A brief history of Palace Pictures
Palace Pictures was a company established in London, England around 1982 by Stephen Woolley & Nik Powell, as a distributor for cult cinema and international art films. A number of subsidiary companies were set up to cater for other media including Palace Video for the early exploding 80's VHS & Betamax market, and Palace Software to release software for home computers, in particular the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64.
Prior to this, Stephen had worked his way up from an usher to the manager of The Scala Cinema at 275 -227 Pentonville Road Kings Cross, playing host to many low budget cult films. Nik Powell had been one of the co-founders of the Virgin Group with Richard Branson. He was bought out by Richard in 1981. Both being big film fans, Nik & Stephen linked up, asking if he wanted to start up a company distributing the sort of films shown at the Scala at that time. Initially they restricted themselves exclusively to video distribution, having seen many cinema distributors go bankrupt, but as The Evil Dead was only available as a video & cinema rights package only, they decided to open cinema distribution arm, headed up by new employee Paul Webster.
Throughout the 1980s, local freelance graphic designer & illustrator Graham Humphreys worked extensively with Palace, on many of their most memorable UK horror campaigns such as Dream Demon, Basket Case, The Evil Dead & Evil Dead II, A Nightmare On Elm Street; parts 1 though 5, Creepers and Santa Sangre.
The Palace line-up scored some major successes during the years leading up to 1992, the year of their international, BAFTA and Oscar-winning hit, The Crying Game. The parent & subsidiary companies handled a large number of titles across their various media, running into the hundreds. They also established an association with Miramax, which distributed a number of Palace films in the United States.
The Palace Video Ident, lighting flashes
Moving in, panning over neon lights
Up to a TV screen & fade to black
In 1992, Palace Pictures declared bankruptcy, taking the subsidiary companies with it. Since then, Stephen and Nik are both producers in their own right. Nik has re-established himself with Scala Productions and has since produced Fever Pitch, TwentyFourSeven, Last Orders, and Ladies in Lavender. He is currently the director of the National Film and Television School while maintaining his position as chairman of Scala Productions.
Stephen has collaborated many times with Neil Jordan, a relationship which began with 1984's The Company Of Wolves. In 2002 Stephen formed his own production company 'Number 9 Films' with his partner Elizabeth Karlsen, producing Stephen's directorial début, Stoned, a Brian Jones biopic in 2005, with number of new projects in the pipeline.
Evil Dead II, Back for more
Palace Pictures used much the same people to mount their campaign for Evil Dead II as did The Evil Dead. By this time, Christopher Fowler & Grahams Humphreys had teamed up and co-founded their own marketing & graphic design company; The Creative Partnership. Chris remembers Palace wanted more of the same, and Nik stipulated the tagline on the poster had to be funny and scary in no more that 4 words, so Chris came up with "Kiss your nerves goodbye!".
Grahams Humphreys' original idea was to play on the 'Dead By Dawn' subtitle. He wanted to use the clock as an iconic image, something along the same lines as the clock in Nosferatu which had a skull on the top, He also quite liked the idea of it being quite Scooby-Do. He did some initial sketches including a creepy clock with a pendulum swinging, following the text 'Dead By Dawn', and then just splattering the whole image with green & red gore. The final design went with a traditional bring in all the characters theme, in a re-working of the original poster.
Once the final layout had been decided upon, Graham did two rough 'colour way' sketches. These sketches were used to help decide on an overall colour scheme and mood for the final poster. It was decided to go for the colours on the left image shown above. With that, Graham went ahead and produced the final movie artwork shown below. It was orientated as a landscape image to fit neatly onto a UK quad poster, so usually on DVD & VHS front covers, Ash & Annie are brought further in to the middle to stretch out image and give a portrait orientation.
The Evil Dead II UK television spots
Palace decided to include 30 second TV spots on national television in their campaign, something which at that time was quite unusual for a film like Evil Dead II. The Creative Partnership could also accommodate this request as well. Nik let them know that Sam Raimi would be in the UK and available for filming, and Jonathan Ross would also be happy to help out. Chris wrote a script with the premise of Sam & Jonathan talking about Evil Dead II, like a mini interview, which would end with demons coming out of their seats. Palace green lighted the ad and allocated a very small budget, such that most people did it for free. The shoot was in an old cinema on Wardour Street, London, they dressed in a fake cinema seat from which demon arms could come out, and made up a number of people's arms. The ad was done in one take, took about 20 minutes and they were wrapped & gone.
Sam & Jonathan talk about the film
After some clips, demon hands burst out
They grab Jonathan
The hands pull him out of shot
Leaving an empty smoking chair
Then the title card comes up
Chris remembers Sam was like a big kid having a laugh, and with palace being on a micro budget was likely sleeping on Nik Powell's floor. Sam was staggered that the UK would take the film so seriously, and was really thrilled that everyone was getting behind it, in stark contrast to their experience in the US.
The Release, and the artwork today
Evil Dead II was passed by the BBFC on May 22nd of 1987 for release on home video, with 2 seconds of cuts; to two sequences where Ash was kicked in the face by Jake. You can see a comparison sequence of both those cuts below.
Not only was the film itself censored, but the trailer was also pre-cut by Palace to obtain a 'U' (suitable for all) rating. This censored trailer appeared on the 1990 Palace VHS UK re-release of The Evil Dead, among other releases. A comparison sequence of this is also viewable above.
After Palace went bankrupt in the early 90s, and their 1987 & 1989 re-release VHS versions were deleted, the UK rights for the film were bought up by Polygram Video Ltd. They released, deleted & re-released the film a number of times on their 4-front VHS label; in 1992, 1993 and again in 1997. Each release had a slightly different cover, all very poorly designed, and some recycle Graham Humpreys original artwork in one form or another. Given the slipshod fashion in which the covers seem to have been assembled, it's highly doubtful that Graham had any involvement whatsoever with these releases. Although Palace Pictures is now long gone, their firm belief in the film and their ad campaign, along with Stephen King's glowing review, made the film what it is today. Graham Humphreys' artwork has stood the test of time and is still being used in various forms on new VHS, DVD, HD-DVD & Blu-Ray releases in the UK and around the world, nearly 30 years after he first designed it.
Graham is still an illustrator & graphic designer based in London. He has illustrated many UK campaigns since, such as the Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriquez collaboration From Dusk 'til Dawn, Miike Takashi's Audition, Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses. He also receives regular commissions from publications as varied as Vogue, Esquire, FHM, QX, Arena, Loaded, Junior and F-1 Magazine.
The 2003 Anchor Bay trilogy DVD box-set included an interview with both Graham and Christopher Fowler in which they discuss the marketing of both films, which was filmed by Marc Morris & Jake West who run Nucleus Films. Graham has his own website
where you can view his portfolio and purchase A3 size limited edition prints, as well as a catalogue featuring much of his past work.