I'd bet good money that nearly every film fan worth his or her salt has at least seen the work of Drew Struzan, even if the name doesn't ring a bell. I honestly don't know where to begin when it comes to summing up Struzan's output because practically every entry into it is iconic. Fortunately, the feature length documentary "Drew: The Man Behind the Poster" not only accomplishes this feat, but in the process provides a very honest, to-the-point look at the life and career of Drew Struzan, who is arguably the last great true artist in the movie poster genre. Beginning with a very brief look at his childhood, audiences get the portrait of an artist who despite feeling little love in his home life set out to follow his passion and in the process become living proof that even in an industry like Hollywood you can become an icon without sacrificing your integrity or humanity.
The initial revelation, I quite frankly felt like a bit of a dummy for not knowing was Struzan's early career as an album cover artist, namely being the paintbrush of Alice Cooper's "Welcome to My Nightmare." All this is largely conveyed from Struzan himself, whose very humble attitude is outright disarming. As his career progresses throughout the feature, colleagues and admirers share their experiences and thoughts on the work of an artist who gives incredibly life to every poster he paints, from something as iconic as "Indiana Jones" films to something as banal as the "Police Academy" saga. The latter is a hallmark example of the work ethic conveyed by Struzan who bluntly states that the posters for that series convey the tone of the film you're going to get. Struzan's humility aside, later interviewee Thomas Jane says what we're all thinking, specifically in reference to Struzan's "Masters of the Universe" poster: it's the poster for the movie we'd have love to have seen, not the one we got.
Running just shy of an hour-and-a-half, "Drew: The Man Behind the Poster" has one major fault and it's that Struzan's specific techniques often get glossed over. We get the story behind his introduction to the airbrush and a few tidbits of info here and there, but largely the feature chronologically covers the major works in his repertoire. Fortunately, Struzan's recollections of various projects is conveyed with a very dry sense of humble humor from his on-the-spot crafting of the special edition posters for "Star Wars" to the amazing recounting of the overnight creation of "The Thing" poster. There's no shortage of outpouring of affection for Struzan throughout the feature from his family to industry names such as George Lucas, Guillermo del Toro, Frank Darabont, and Thomas Jane who admired Struzan's work so much he wanted to learn how to emulate Struzan for a 30 second scene in "The Mist," which Struzan caps with a punch line I dare not spoil.
At the end of the day, "Drew: The Man Behind the Poster" doesn't accomplish little more than giving a legend in his industry a long overdue spotlight. It's very apparent from Struzan's own reflection on his career that he's a figure very well respected by a great many people, but at the same time disrespected by a whole other faction in the industry that provided him a long and fruitful career. "Drew: The Man Behind the Poster" is mandatory viewing for anyone whose ever looked at a classic movie poster and felt even the slightest inkling of wonder; chances are, at least one of those posters came from the humble and talented mind of Drew Struzan himself.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is well more than adequate on a detail front with minimal digital noise/grain. The image really makes Drew's art come to life; that said, while examples of the art itself look natural, the interview segments feel slightly warm on the color spectrum and a few on-location interview pieces show some issues with compression artifacts.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track is complete overkill for what is a front heavy documentary feature. The only real usage of the surrounds comes from the incredibly generic score used as transition padding. The interview segments are very clear no matter what the setting may be and consistent across the board.
The bonus features consist of a few extended interview segments from guests including both Guillermo del Toro and Frank Darabont. The real highlight is the complete San Diego Comic Con panel that was briefly featured in the documentary.
Even for the biggest film fan and fans of Drew's work, "Drew: The Man Behind the Poster" just doesn't offer enough in terms of true depth to warrant more than a lone viewing, but I strong reiterate that such a viewing is near mandatory for any film fan. Those wanting a more substantial DVD highlighting Drew's work should check out his 90-odd minute DVD highlighting the creation of his "Hellboy" poster. Rent It.