The British Optical Illusion


This is not a map. This is a movie poster that used (and heavily manipulated) the shape of Great Britain and Ireland’s lands to form an image – a werewolf’s face profile. It was used for the promotion of the movie An American Werewolf in London released on August 1981, which, on the side note, was the first film to earn the Academy Award for Best Make Up.

What’s interesting about this poster is how the makers used cartography as a tool for advertising. As what Frank Jacobs had said, “Finally, lycanthropy and cartography meet!” the makers of this poster profoundly transformed the Irish Sea and some of the islands in it to form a face of a lycanthrope howling. Below, you can see the real form of Great Britain and Ireland, and see how much had been altered.

They say that this movie was a success. It was shown in 870 theaters in the USA in its opening weekend and earned more than $3.5 Million. With those results, I would say that the advertising was a success.

In the advertising world, an advertiser should be able to present something of its product that will stick to a lot of people’s minds. With this poster created, one would not be able to look at the map of Great Britain and Ireland the same way again. I, myself, can attest to that. That being said, we can say that this image had really been iconic on its purpose.

Furthermore, the use of black and red gives everyone the sense of “bloodiness” and gore. Those are something that can be directly associated with werewolf attacks. Of course, when a werewolf bites a human, he/she bleeds out. Additionally, using red for the supposedly bodies of water gives me the impression of blood being liquid. (Or maybe that was just a coincidence. Never mind.)

One comment on “The British Optical Illusion

  1. : I commend your choice of this particular map. Maps are very powerful visual tools and they have been used as such, in advertising and propaganda for quite some time. I also like your interpretation of the poster design’s colors, relating it to the movie that it is promoting.

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