Thursday, December 20, 2007

100 Greatest Movie Posters: #63 - Escape from New York

Escape from New York (1981)
Directed by John Carpenter
Unknown Designer
Film Nationality - USA
Poster Nationality - USA

[click to enlarge]

One of the fundamentals of movie posters for me is this - if your movie has something (whether it be an actor or a set piece or whatever it may be) that can be used to get people into the cinema then use it. Sure, floating heads can be defended as doing such, but they do it in such a boring manner nowadays. And sure, you can be putting the big selling point on your poster and still be an utter disaster, but - to quote Ula in The Producers - if you got it, flaunt it.

Which brings me to this poster from John Carpenter's 1981 sci-fi action flick Escape from New York. At this point Kurt Russell wasn't a sellable name or face and actors like Harry Dean Stanton, Isaac Hayes, Donald Pleasance, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Can Cleef aren't exactly the faces you put on a poster expecting people to show up. So what do they do? They stick a big giant eye-catching image on the poster. Not of an actor or of something random and boring and unsellable, but an image of the freakin' head of the Statue of Liberty lying in the streets of Manhattan. If that doesn't sell the movie to you then the tagline should - it beat The Rock by a decade and a half with it!

I mean, it's not so hard, is it? Is it really? The posters for January 2008 release Cloverfield demonstrate an identical idea except on that one we see the statue with no head, the reverse of the Escape from New York poster. But it's still the same idea and it works!

It's really just common sense, isn't it? I'm all for posters to be daring and choosing not to rely simply on famous faces, but the proof is in the pudding. It's the rule for movie trailers (would, for example, ID4 be one of the highest grossing movies of all time without the White House explosion getting people's tongues wagging when the trailer premiered?) and it should be the same for posters. Advertise what you got! You don't get people into a cinema by showing them vague boring nothings!

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