Ghana’s underground film industry burgeoned in the 1980s and beyond when industrious Ghanaian moguls acquired Nigerian, Hong Kong, Bollywood, and Hollywood video cassettes and started screening blockbusters in local neighborhoods. Unlike moviegoers in the United States and the rest of the world who left their houses to attend movie theaters, Ghana residents had their movie entertainment brought to them. Savvy entrepreneurs came to towns with their own television sets and portable generators and, for a small fee, broadcast blockbuster flicks to the movie-starved Ghanaian people. Lacking movie posters, these shrewd businessmen created there own hand painted posters with artwork unique to the Ghanaian movie experience. Many of these masterful works of cinematic poster art are now collectors items and still being sold to this day. Ghanaian motion picture consumers were fans of action movies and the poster artists had no small task in capturing, with only paint and canvas, the essence of some of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s greatest roles.
With this Terminator poster, Ghanaian artists decided to downplay Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscularity. They also took the bold step to omit his neck. This was a clever promotional tactic as the audience, having seen the poster, no doubt had very low expectations before watching The Terminator but undoubtedly ended up enjoying the movie beyond expectations.
The Ghanaian version of Kindergarten Cop was more representative of what audiences were in store for than what Hollywood tried to pass off as a kid’s movie. Ghanaian parents were likely appreciative of the poster artist’s efforts to show the graphic intensity of this PG-13 rated action fest.
The Ghanaian film industry may have felt that Hollywood’s poster for The Running Man was too derivative of 1975’s Rollerball starring James Caan. Troubled by the helmet, spikes and lens flare similarities in Hollywood’s Rollerball-like Running Man poster, the artists likely took great pains to be less imitative. Perhaps Ghana’s artists titled their movie art The Runing Man instead of The Running Man to further punctuate the difference between theirs and the hackneyed American poster.
Ghana’s movie industry sometimes created art that was more representative of their Hollywood counterpart’s efforts. Their Commando poster is especially less expressive and more representative than their usual fare.
Perhaps the true genius of Ghanaian film industry poster design is their addition of creatures or monsters that weren’t in the actual movie but probably should have been. Theater goers worldwide missed out on the unique creatures brought to life in these colorful documents of Ghanaian imagination.
Art collectors and movie fans will be delighted to know that many original hand painted Ghanaian movie posters are still available for purchase on eBay. Unfortunately, the Schwarzenegger movie poster paintings sold out very quickly.