I can still remember the first time I saw the poster for Maniac. The killers legs and crotch, his hand holding a severed head, his other holding a knife with the tagline of ‘I WARNED YOU NOT TO GO OUT TONIGHT’ in the deranged scrawl of a psychopath. What was not to like for a horror/exploitation film fan?
I actually first saw the poster in a film magazine in the mid 80’s. Maniac was actually banned when it was submitted for cinema release in 1981. It was also banned when submitted for video release in 1998. It was then cut by 58 seconds when it was resubmitted for video release in 2002. And all of this brouhaha was only what happened in the UK.
In the US it wasn’t just the film that sparked protests, pickets and disapproving TV programme segments but also the poster as even that was seen as being so massively offensive! Now that’s style! More can be seen about the moral panic regarding the film here.
Some theaters would only carry censored posters outside their cinemas.
In fact, the L.A. Times wouldn’t even carry any advertising for the film. The film’s marketing department used that fact as the basis for another poster! ‘See the film The L.A. Times won’t carry ads for!’ All publicity is great publicity especially for an exploitation film. As if there could have been a higher kind of recommendation.
I finally got to see the uncut film many years after first seeing the classic poster. Was the film as good as the poster? No. It was even better. Maniac is the grimier cousin of Taxi Driver and is not a million miles away from a film like The New York Ripper. Noo Yawk is especially fun on film when it’s crime-ridden and more like Gotham than Disneyland.
William Friedkin tells a great story in his autobiography about Warner Bros’ marketing department and how they wanted to market The Exorcist on it’s completion. The idea they came up with was a drawing of Regan’s bloodied hand holding a crucifix (referencing the infamous masturbation scene) with the tagline ‘For God’s sake, somebody help her!’
For obvious reasons he declined this idea. Instead he spoke to them about the Magritte painting The Empire of Light and how he wanted the poster for The Exorcist to be inspired by that.
From this came the iconic poster for his movie. The mystery of Max Von Sydow’s character outside Chris McNeill’s house with light poring out of the window but whilst cloaked in darkness. A poster that is perfect for a masterpiece like The Exorcist. And the general public agreed with the film breaking records faster than cinema ushers could break open smelling salts for patrons who had staggered into the lobby to faint.
A friend of mine went to see the film on it’s first run and said that members of St John’s Ambulance were waiting in the cinema for the inevitable fainters and/or vomiters. Now that’s style.
And whilst we’re at it I’m loving the visual blitz of this UK Exorcist double bill poster. The hot pink is everything.
This week’s Poster of the Week is for the double bill of Enter The Dragon and Death Race 2000.
Double bills were very popular at cinemas in the UK in the 70’s and 80’s and seemingly the more lurid films the better with horror, kung-fu and cult films being selected for these billings which were traditionally shown at midnight on a Saturday night. It was like the cult film ethos that permeated 42nd Street in New York was proving so popular that it even influenced the cinema programmers of Britain.
It was rightly assumed that the kind of audiences who would go to see a Bruce Lee film would also want to see a Roger Corman movie, especially as one of it’s stars (Sylvester Stallone) had since become famous for his role as the eponymous hero of the movie Rocky (check out the cheeky reference to this in the billing for Death Race 2000 on this poster).
Both of these films were also resurrected from years gone by for this double bill and so this gave cult film fans the opportunity to see both on the big screen again. These were also the days before home video and so cinemas were the primary source for seeing such fare.
Double bills fell out of favour in the 90’s and onwards but thankfully there are now special cinema screenings of films that have just been restored for Blu ray. I’ve noticed a lot of older films receiving cinema showings to commemorate an anniversary of a film’s release also. Inception and Back to the Future are two such films showing on the big screen again recently because of this. And this is a great thing. To see a film on the big screen with a great sound system are the optimal conditions for experiencing a film.
This week’s Poster of the Week is for the 1970 Beryl Reid shocker The Beast in the Cellar. Ms Reid deserves an article regarding her stellar output all of it’s own and one day that will happen.
This movie was actually released not just on it’s own in the UK but also as a double bill with the equally great Blood on Satan’s Claw and this is the quad that has grabbed my attention.
Check out the almost goofy caricature of the monster used on this poster. The beast in the actual film was neither goofy or cartoonesque in the movie and so maybe this device was used so that he could take centre stage on the film’s poster without causing too much controversy for being too scary.
Whilst you’re perusing this gorgeous piece of art here’s the equally impressive Australian daybill and the UK quad poster for the film’s release on it’s own. I’m loving Beryl’s shocked expression on both.
This weeks Poster of the Week goes to the classic sci-fi nightmare that is Westworld from 1973.
There are so many brilliant images here that sum up the movie- the iconic image of Brynner’s demented robot gunslinger, the technician sat in front of a bank of monitors and control panels, the technological font used for the film’s title, the tagline that has indeed gone worng…
And whilst we’re at it, take a look at the similarly brilliant posters for the film’s sequel Futureworld, (loving this tagline too) and Westworld’s Japanese and Belgian posters. All gorgeous.
I was 14 and the exact right age to watch Taxi Driver for the first time. The perfect movie about alienation being watched by a moody teenager who felt completely alienated.
I would regularly venture from my hometown of York to the bustling neighbouring city of Leeds and it was on my next excursion after seeing Taxi Driver that I sought out the UK quad poster in a film memorabilia shop called Movie Boulevard (unfortunately long gone). The perfect movie (it’s still my favourite film to this day followed by John Carpenter’s Halloween and John Waters’ Female Trouble) had to have the perfect poster. And it did.
Lead character Travis Bickle walking down a New York street, completely alone in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world. The tagline ‘On every street in every city there’s a nobody who dreams of being a somebody’ is one of the poignant and apt in film history.
It’s strange how a film and it’s iconography can take on a life of it’s own. The ‘You talkin’ to me?’ line is one of the most quoted amongst cineastes and the general public alike but is also misunderstood and misinterpreted when taken out of context. Stills from Taxi Driver have also been taken out of context and made into posters to be hung on teenager’s walls. Strangely they seem to dwell solely on Travis holding guns which is alarming. I’m glad the studio made UK quad emphasised the loneliness aspect rather than the macho/firearms angle.
New feature! Every week I’ll be presenting one of my favourite film posters. I actually think of film art as art in it’s own right. I’m sure visitors to this website feel the same way.
This first poster is the iconic UK poster for Brian De Palma’s classic horror movie Carrie from 1976.
The UK quad poster was actually censored as it was felt that the shot of Carrie covered in pigs blood would be too graphic for the general public of the day. And hence why said pic of her was actually presented in negative.
The uncensored poster resplendent with the original pic is shown below.
But there was another poster that was made depicting a note from Carrie that warned people who had seen the film from warning their friends about some of the scares the film held so that the film wouldn’t be ruined by word of mouth.
An iconic film with iconic imagery, Carrie is a classic on every level imaginable.