This is an email interview conducted with Graham Humphreys on February 3, 2013. Graham is an illustrator and graphic designer based in London, United Kingdom. He worked on the UK promotional campaigns for The Evil Dead & Evil Dead II during the '80s, and his artwork for both is still the most iconic and well known around the world. He has his own website which you can visit at GrahamHumphreys.com.

He studied graphic design & illustration at Salisbury College of Art from 1976 to 1980, moving to London shortly afterwards to pursue a freelance career. Among other comissions throughout the 1980s, he worked extensively with Palace Pictures, designing and illustrating UK movie campaigns such as Dream Demon, Basket Case, Wes Craven's A Nightmare On Elm Street, parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, Dario Argento's Creepers and Alejandro Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre. Since the 1990's, he's worked in close association with 'The Creative Partnership', a film promotion company based in Soho, London, producing a string of campaigns and posters.

Graham Humphreys with some of his artwork at the Magick Eye2 Art Gallery preview night on October 18, 2012

Can you tell us a little about producing artwork for The Evil Dead & Evil Dead II, for use across different formats, quad poster to VHS cover for example?  
When I was commissioned to design and paint the original poster, it was for the UK quad (40" wide, 30" deep - the bottom 3" traditionally being free of important information or image so that a venue strip could be pasted over the top). My design was constructed specifically for this format. Subsequently, I was asked how this might work on a VHS sleeve, to which I could only answer 'not at all'! - nobody had considered the possibility of more than one format for the image. If I'd known in advance I'd have made concessions.

The UK 40 by 30-inch Quad poster for The Evil Dead (1983)
The UK Palace Pictures VHS cover for The Evil Dead (1983)

As this commission pre-dated home and studio computing, there was no way of scanning the image and rearranging the elements in Photoshop. I was left with no choice (and no time) to repaint the image specifically for the VHS, the deadline resulted in a crude version that I'm still unhappy with. The original painting disappeared at the print shop. There are various tricks you can employ that will allow reshaping, none are really satisfactory. I find that when I compose an image there will be the one version that does the job, a different format requires a different approach.

The UK 40 by 30-inch Quad poster for Evil Dead II (1987)
The UK Palace Pictures VHS cover for Evil Dead II (1987)

When I worked on Evil Dead II, I was asked to create a version for a vertical format (after I'd completed the quad version), again this required an entire repaint. The same with A Nightmare On Elm Street and subsequently A Nightmare On Elm Street Part 2.

Both you and Christopher Fowler appeared in the featurette Dead Good Marketing on the UK The Evil Dead DVD boxset. What are your memories of working with him at the time?  
I didn't know Christopher Fowler at the time the campaigns were being created. It was only years later when I found myself freelancing for The Creative Partnership (the film promotion company Christopher co-founded) that I was aware of the connection. In fact, it was only when Marc Morris and Jake West filmed the interview that I was certain! Palace Pictures fed me the text for the posters, I merely followed the brief and hand painted the lettering.

Sam Raimi and Tom Sullivan came over to the UK to promote The Evil Dead's release in 1983, did you ever meet them or hear what they thought of your artwork?  
I met Tom but not Sam, whilst working on the poster for The Evil Dead. Paul Webster (of Palace Pictures) brought Tom to my flat to see the poster in progress, he had the 'Book of the Dead' prop and I think he may have had the ceremonial dagger - though 30 years later I'm a little hazy on that detail. Tom was very enthusiastic - we made contact again last year! Palace Pictures organised a 'thank you' dinner for those directly involved in the successful promotion of Evil Dead II, including Sam Raimi, who was in the UK for that purpose. This is when I got to meet him and enthuse like an excited schoolboy! Sam told me how much he loved the posters - he clearly understood the different marketing strategy for the UK.

A local Manchester UK Newspaper Advert for The Evil Dead (1983)

The Prince Charles Cinema, off Leicester Square in Central London showing The Evil Dead (1983)

Were you involved in creating the layout for the inlay of the The Evil Dead C64 computer game?  
Yes. Palace asked if I'd like to layout the game package in order to retain continuity. All the brush text had to be hand painted, the rest was probably Letraset (rub-down letter transfer) - I had to produce most of my commissions on a shoestring budget.

The Prince Charles Cinema (1983)
The Prince Charles Cinema (1983)
C64 game London window display (1984)

What are your memories of The Evil Dead being embroiled in the early '80s video nasties panic?  
In all honesty, I don't really recall the 'panic' as such. Many of the films on the list were not on my radar at the time and thus did not register. I was more aware of The Exorcist being banned and the much later furore around Child's Play.

What were your instructions when you were brought back by Palace Pictures to do the artwork for The Evil Dead's 1990 VHS re-release?  
Nothing specific. The new artwork was more about the lack of access to the original. I used the opportunity to try and improve on the former, though once again I now look back and want to improve on the improvement!

You weren't commissioned to create artwork for Army Of Darkness. Was there any ever question of you being involved, and have you any idea what you might have done?  
Palace Pictures/video, my client and the distributor of the first two films, had ceased to exist by then. The marketing of the third film was handled by another company who were more inclined to follow the American lead, following a trend that persists today. I probably would have tried to evoke a similar earthy feel to the first two, though of course, it would have become more Bruce-centric.

The UK Palace Pictures re-release VHS cover for The Evil Dead (1990)

If you had the opportunity in the future to revisit your artwork for the Evil Dead series, what changes would you make?  
It would be fantastic to revisit the series, though I suspect that in the light of a remake and the numerous re-packagings it is unlikely to happen. I would definitely want to recapture the filth and fury of the first film and the unfettered imagination that powered the visual experience.

Graham's Fright Rags T-shirt artwork (2012)
Have you ever considered doing official reprints of The Evil Dead & Evil Dead II's artwork, given how much money the originals often fetch on eBay?  
For legal reasons, I'm not sure that an actual reproduction of the posters would be above board, but yes! I now have a faithful scan of the original painting for Evil Dead 1 (which is no longer in my possession), which free of text (aside from the title) I can print to any size. Same for Evil Dead 2 and most others.

Recently you produced some artwork for Fright Rags, can you tell us a little about this?  
Fright-Rags approached me directly. It was pretty much an open brief, but on the understanding that any image would need to be approved by Bruce Campbell. I watched the film at double speed in order to capture the essence of the film without focusing on specifics. Bruce is clearly the core of the film and the image is a narrative of his encounter with the book and the literal change that follows. I hoped to avoid similarity to any image that had gone before, however, the bloodied wide eyed face is such so instantly evocative, I couldn't resist!