As an employee of the Carnegie Library, I can’t even begin to surmise the amount of information that has swirled around me as our collection circulates. CDs, books and movies passing from the shelves, through my hands, into homes and back again. Thousands of people’s likes and dislikes giving me ample opportunity to come across items of which I had no previous knowledge. One such item is the movie “Withnail & I.” I had to pull it from the shelf to fill a patron request. Upon seeing the cover, I put it on hold for myself.
First clue – This movie has made its way into the Criterion Collection, a DVD series that concerns itself with publishing only the “best” the movie world has to offer. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that every movie they release is going to be enjoyable, but it’s a good first indicator that someone out there with some clout thinks it really is good.
Second clue – The immediately recognizable scribbles of Ralph Steadman. I will go on record as saying that any movie that Steadman illustrates a cover for is going to be a movie that I like. His trademark scrawl of “Bruce Robinson’s Withnail and I,” complete with ink spatters and coffee stains. The illustration of two men; one sprawled hopelessly across a couch, head in hand, mouth agape. The other worriedly standing in the background, peering out to the viewer with hands clasped. Their surroundings cluttered with the signs of a haphazard lifestyle, all broken and stacked in Steadman’s own frenetic style.
This simple image conveys the tone of the movie and gives the viewer just enough clues as to what can be expected from the characters and the film.