Tuesday, March 04, 2008

10 Of The Most Misleading & Mis-Representing Movie Posters Ever!

In this interview with Pitchfork Academy Award-winning Irish songwriter Glen Hansard complains about the photoshopped makeover the poster for his film ONCE got on its recent DVD release:

"They have us holding hands, which we never do in the film! 

Those legs aren't mine. Those legs are like three times longer than my legs. It's a completely new body. They literally just used my face...If you look at my head, my head looks totally weird, because whoever did the Photoshop job was sh-t. My head looks really weird, they took my hat off, and they gave me an entirely new body. It's completely bizarre. 

 And they made Mar [co-writer/performer Mark√©ta Irglov√°] much taller than she really is. You can look at the original cover and then what they did to it and spot all the crappy differences. It's awful. It's a real shame." 

Hansard is understandably upset because he designed the original poster and DVD cover himself. Some of the changes are more annoying than offensive but the "holding hands" deal - anybody who has seen the film knows how freakin' misleading that is! Also Hansard's comment illustrates how wide the gap is between who makes the art and who martkets it so it got me to thinking about misleading and downright mis-representing movie posters. 

Many have irritated me throughtout my years as a film fan. Now, it can be argued that most movie posters are misleading because that's their job - to make the movie look bigger and better than it is so it's a bit silly to pinpoint such offenses so call me silly as I make another patented Film Babble Blog list: 

10 Of The Most Misleading & Mis-Representing Movie Posters Ever!

1. KING KONG (Dir. John Guillermin, 1976) As for trying to make the movie look bigger and better than it is, this one really takes the cake! Sure, there was a lot that was bogus about the 70's remake of the 1933 classic but the overblown spectacle depicted on this poster doesn't resemble what happens on screen at all. 

First off, Kong looks to be 5 times his size in the film - large enough to stand balanced between both World Trade Center Towers - he had to make a running leap from one to the other in the actual scene. Second, there were only helicopters in the movie so his crushing a jet plane (notice the size of it in perspective as well). Third, this sequence takes place at night. Fourth, this was not "the most exciting original motion picture event of all time."

Okay, so those last 2 were nit picking but no less than Saturday Night Live pointed the former offenses out in a Tom Snyder show sketch with John Belushi as Dino De Laurentiis. Snyder (Dan Aykroyd) questions the producer: "Sir, the advertising for your movie, the billboards and so on, depict King Kong crushing jet planes in his hands, but, sir, there is not one jet plane in the movie...isn't that kind of a hype?" 

The elusive De Laurentiis by way of a slick slimey Belushi impression avoids the question by bringing up the hype of his competition - Jon Peter's A STAR IS BORN ("your monkey can sing!" De Laurentiis says he told Peters) but we all know that he's been satirically called out.

2. STAR WARS (Dir. George Lucas, 1977) This one always irked me as a kid. None of the characters look right - even Darth Vader looks a bit off. The image, while I'm sure some will grumble at it's inclusion here because it is inarguably iconic, doesn't really reflect the look and style of the record breaking blockbuster.

Resembling '70s sci-fi pulp novel jackets with it's overly ripped muscular hero, overly sexy heroine (neither of which look anthing remotely like Mark Hamil nor Carrie Fisher), against a backdrop of battle, this poster most likely bugged me back in the day because the exact concept was redone a few times by other artists and never really improved upon. 

In the next few years when STAR WARS * was re-released several new poster designs appeared which were better in concept and presentation of the leads. Han Solo was even allowed to show his mug. Seems like it was only after it was a big hit with audiences did they figure how to market the movie. Or more accurately re-market the movie. * Again, I'm not calling it EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE dammit! 

3. THIS IS SPINAL TAP (Dir. Rob Reiner, 1984) This one is especially off-putting. Rob Reiner's debut film is made to look like a sight-gag filled laugh-a-minute spoof, and while it did have some of that to it - it was really a different comic model than the film its poster was referencing. Reiner in an interview from Mojo magazine (Nov. 2000) recalled how he hated the concept: "They marketed it with a guitar flying in the air with a twisted neck which looked like the poster for AIRPLANE! It looked like it was trading on another film. It was one of the reasons why I started Castle Rock because I wanted control over marketing." The image remained on the first video release of THIS IS SPINAL TAP (pictured to the left) but was replaced later but a plain black cover for the DVD releases. Glad to see it's gone. 

4. BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (Dir. David Lean, 1957) The excellent blog Cinemania called this one to my attention. Dan Jardine wrote: "And could there be a more misleading movie poster?" It is pretty absurd in that it mis-represents the feel and focus of said Best Picture Winner. Not sure why Holden is billed above Alec Guiness either. I just saw this film for the first time all the way through (seems like it's been on TV my whole life but I never sat down and watched it all) so this caught my eye as being pretty notably non-complimentary. 

5. SOYLENT GREEN (Dir. Richard Fleisher, 1973) Actually I think I like this poster better than the movie! It's more exciting and I can understand why they would want to draw attention to population controling monster trucks to fake moviegoers out about what SOYLENT GREEN really is. In fact you've got to give them credit because without all the misleads in the marketing and the film itself the quotable twist ending would not have been as effective and this would not be the sci-fi cult classic that it is. 

6. CLASS (Dir. Lewis John Carlino, 1983) This may be a fairly insubstantial film, especially in the company on this list, being a mostly forgotten 80's drama/comedy (hate the word 'dramedy') but I think it makes a good point about mis-marketing. 

A popular genre of the Reagan era was the teen sex comedy (epitomized by such schlock as PORKY'S, THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN, PRIVATE LESSONS *, etc.) and while this film did contain some college party shenanigans it really didn't fit into that genre. That didn't mean that it couldn't be marketed as such - with a stupid poster that not only mis-represented the characters it gave away the only interesting plot-twist! 

The poster image may be hard to read - it says: "The good news is Jonathan is having his First Affair. The bad news is she's his roommate's mother!" Makes it seem like wackiness ensues, huh? Well, let me tell you - it doesn't. * Not linking to any of that crap. 

Dishonorable Mention From The Same Era:

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (Dir. Amy Heckerling, 1982) This also mis-represents majorly by making it look like Sean Penn's character Jeff Spicoli is the protagonist when he is a small player in an ensemble. 

Penn's head appears to be cut from another picture as he is joined by two models who don't appear in the film at all. Like CLASS, the film had a good bit of depressing drama so the over selling of the sex really didn't clue in audiences. It also has a stupid tagline: "At Ridgemont High, Only the Rules get Busted!" 

7. SCARY MOVIE (Dir. Keenan Ivory Wayans, 2000) This one is here for one reason only - the worthless promise of its tagline: "No mercy. No shame. No sequel." Did you get that? "NO SEQUEL!" There were 3 damn sequels to this should've been a one-off throwaway. 

Sure, you can argue that they didn't plan on a sequel until the movie became a hit but that's a possibility you know they were aware of. For the SCARY MOVIE 2 they ad campaign addressed this: "look, we lied!" but the damage was done. I liked it better when Mel Brooks' lame Python rip-off HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART I didn't gather enough acclaim or box office to warrant a sequel. Ah, those were the days... 

8. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (Dir. Robert Wise, 1951) 

This one is great as a piece of '50s sci-fi B-movie pop art but incredibly misleading on all fronts. Hell, some even complain that the title of the film is misleading but I won't go there. I won't bitch about a color image for a black and white film, that was pretty much the norm then, but the depicting of action that never occurs and that, uh, what looks like a monkey's hand on top of the Earth image is, well, just plain dumb. I do love the tagline though "From Out Of Space...."

9. JABBERWOCKY (Dir. Terry Gilliam, 1977) 

Another from my childhood that really pissed me off. Although it followed the likewise Medieval MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL and had and had Michael Palin as the star this was not a Python project - it was Terry Gilliam's solo directorial debut but was not billed as such. Wikipedia says: "For its American premiere the film was initially advertised as 'Monty Python's Jabberwocky', but this was dropped following protests from Gilliam."

It wasn't immediately dropped though - for years posters and videocassette releases and many international showings had the Python credit. It confused me back in the pre-internet 80's when I was devouring all things Python. 

Watching it without the proper info that it wasn't really a Monty Python movie I felt like I was a victim of cinematic false advertising. Gilliam seems to have been successful in ridding the world of the inaccurate billing - The only image I could find was the Greek one-sheet (available from MoviePictureArt.com for $45.50!) above. 

10. 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE (Dir. Michael Winterbottom, 2002) 

This is a more recent title that annoys me terribly. It's one of my favorite films of the last 10 years and it's extremely rewatchable so I see the DVD cover a lot and hate that it has a close-up of a girl dancing showing off her tongue-stud when no such image is in the film. 

Maybe I blinked and missed it so if you saw such please let me know. Otherwise the image makes the film look more like a modern era ecstasy-rave movie than the spunky smart-ass 80's Manchester rock portrait it really is. So, since there are zillions of misleading mis-representin' movie posters out there - please let me know your personal choices.

More later...


JohnstonCoArts said...

That was fun! Thanks for your comments, you really had me laughing a few times, keep 'em coming!

Anonymous said...

brilliant! "class" is such a ridiculous movie. I also agree with "24 hr. party people" having one of the worst posters/covers...as for spicoli, when "fast times" is referenced, most people who've seen it don't usually talk about mark ratner or whatever. it's usually spicoli, phoebe cates' & judge reinhold's pool scene....

Evan Derrick said...

I would personally have to submit the posters for Brick as the most misleading ever, simply because they were so dang confusing. They scratched out the faces and bodies of all the characters, leading one to the natural conclusion of "WTF?"

Then again, the movie was pretty confusing (even though I loved it), so perhaps that makes these the most honest poster ever...in a weird, backwards sort of way.

Love your writing man. Enjoying the site.

Fletch said...

Excellent post! Saw you on the board for the IMDb hit list - I hope they link to you, too!

I was all set to tell you you should become a LAMB, but I see you have a button already up on your site! Wow - thanks! Still, you should become one as well - your site would be a great addition.