Posters…Truth in Advertising?

screamers

For us horror fans, there is nothing like classic movies posters. Back when there was some amazing artwork, enticing audiences to come into the theater to see the latest picture. From the posters of the ’30s on up to the ’80s, there was some incredible artwork on those. But then something happened in the ’90s and it seems like the studios were going with basically photos of the stars in the movie. So much that many posters looked almost identical, like the Scream movies, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Halloween H2O, and so many more. So what happened?

I’ve been reading It Came From the Video Aisle by David Jay, William Wilson, and Dewi Torsten (great book so far, by the way) and one of the people interviewed within those pages was artist Lee MacLeod, who did some work for Full Moon on some of their poster designs. MacLeod also worked with some of the bigger studios in his time so he is well versed in what goes into making a movie poster, both big and small. In the interview, he states that posters went the photoshop route because “market testing revealed that those interviewed felt that illustrated film posters promised more than they delivered.”

Now we’ve all heard the stories of audiences getting pissed that what the posters promised, the movie didn’t deliver. Even in the ’50s, when one of Roger Corman’s first films as a producer, The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955), had a poster with an amazing monster with eyes all over the place. Only problem was that the creature promised on the poster wasn’t in the movie and once it was screened for the distributors, they were not happy about that fact. So much so that Corman quickly came up with a plan and hired Paul Blaisdell to create the titular monster to appease them.

Beast with Million Eyes

That wouldn’t the last time Corman had to deal with something like this. In 1979, he was the Executive Producer on the American release of Screamers (original title was Island of the Fishmen). On the poster for the American release, it stated “They’re men turned inside out! And worse…they’re still alive!” As the story goes, this little advertisement came from Joe Dante (though Jim Wynorski has taken credit for this, I asked Dante myself and was told he did it and that Wynorski wasn’t even working for Corman at the time), and when it played at the drive-in and no “men turned inside out” to be seen, it caused a little bit of ruckus.

nightmare-castle

So the bottom line is that maybe MacLeod is correct and that the studios were tired of getting shit from the audiences complaining about the posters being misleading. And so this may have started the trend where any originality or concept designs were gone and now we just have faces plastered over them. Are we, the audience, to blame?

Which brings me to my question. Which do you prefer? The posters of decades before, that may have stretched the truth a bit of what actually might be in the movie, or the more modern day ones that just have the stars on the movie on them? I think I know what most will say, but would you have a problem going to a movie now only to find out things on the poster isn’t exactly in the movie? Would you care?

Let’s here your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Posters…Truth in Advertising?

  1. Without a doubt, I prefer the posters of decades before! Many of them are works of art. I’d like to see you follow this up with a part two about the posters from Mondo and other companies. Are they making an impact on movie posters today and how they’re designed? And what is the impact of movie posters at all today? Do people still use them when deciding to go to a movie, or have other ways made them irrelevant? (No answers from me, but would love to hear what you think.)

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    • I’m on the fence with the whole Mondo poster thing. I think it is great that they are using very talented artists to create a poster that the studios “should” be using. And they come up with some incredible ones too. But the fact that they make them immediately rare by only producing a limited amount and charging such high prices seems a bit strange.

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