Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When Foreign Movie Posters of American Films Fail

So picture this: you're a graphic artist working in a foreign country, and you've been tasked with designing a poster of a popular American film for your nation's audience. Pretty simple, right? Except that you've probably never seen the film in question or know much about it, especially if you're in a communist nation. At least I'm hoping that scenario explains what the hell happened to these posters I'm about to show you...

Deliverance, Yugoslavia

Looks like someone in Yugoslavia confused Deliverance with The Fantastic Voyage. At least they didn't try to visually interpret the "squeal like a pig" scene.

Alien, Poland

I don't even know what the heck we're supposed to be looking at here. This artist's interpretation of Alien is that it's a movie about a creature who melts the flesh off of your head, leaving your eyeballs and veins behind. 

Easy Rider, Czech Republic


There's no explanation for this except that it's a scene from the acid drop sequence that ended up on the cutting room floor, or the artist dropped acid before drawing the poster. 
  
King Kong, Belgium

King Kong is depicted as such a badass ape in Belgium that not only did he defeat the dinosaur (or in this case, a giant snake) and climb the Empire State building, but he took on the shark from Jaws AND the Titanic. Upon second look, since the poster says the film is shown in color, it may have been for one of the remakes of King Kong, but...still.  

The Blob, France

You're probably wondering what possible complaint I could have about a movie poster that shows a shirtless, totally ripped Steve McQueen. This actually is a freaking awesome movie poster in my eyes, except that Danger Planetaire is a French movie poster for The Blob. Really! It looks like a movie poster for a Steve McQueen film from the 70s and not the late 50s; there were no helicopters or skyscrapers in The Blob, and the female lead certainly didn't look (or dress) like the chick in the artwork. And Steve looks like The Towering Inferno version of himself, not the fresh faced young man who starred in the 1958 movie. That being said, of all of the posters here this one rocks, and it's heads and tails above this disgusting spectacle: 

Bullitt, East Germany

No words, really...well, except for one: WTF. I want to punch the East German artist who did this to Steve McQueen's face. This looks like Max Headroom on quaaludes.

Tootsie, Poland 

Why can't these countries just use an actual screenshot from the film, or promotional photos? There must be some international copyright laws that prevent the usage. Dustin Hoffman didn't have a beard in the movie and he did a way better makeup job than this dude. 


Raiders of the Lost Ark, Poland






Two more gems from the homeland of my ancestors that defy explanation. The first one, at least, makes some sense as the illustrator crammed in every scene from the movie but not Harrison Ford himself or the ark. The second one, I imagine, was the result of a conversation something like this:


First artist: "You know, there's a lot you can do with Raiders of the Lost Ark. You can show Harrison Ford in the snake pit, or fighting the Nazis, or rescuing his lady, or-"


Second artist: "Nah. I think I'm just going to cover his head with red and call it a day." 


Needless to say, these examples really help me appreciate the designers behind the American versions all the more. 


Sources: all of these came from MoviePosterDB.com except for Danger Planetaire which came from The Films of Steve McQueen Facebook page

11 comments:

42N said...

What a fun post! I like the Raider poster that looks like a kid drew it. But ytu are right, none of these reralyy capture the essence of the movie. My roots too go through your homeland. We should compare surames of the relatives. Some I have discovered can be quite long.

A Dandy in Aspic said...

Polish and Eastern european posters from that era hardly ever featured the image of main stars, and even their names were often 'downplayed'. The emphasis was more on capturing the general 'feel' of the film, rather than recreating every single detail of the film in the poster. So what that Dustin Hoffman didn't have a beard in Tootsie? So what that the alien looks nothing like the one from the film? The posters were supposed to be an artistic interpretation of the film, to the point where the poster would become a work of art in its own right (as opposed to being merely 'ads'). It is hard to believe, but in those socialist countries in those days, films and posters were treated as works of art, not as money-making machine (one of very few good aspects of socialism). Whether you like them or not is a matter of personal taste, but you have to admit that tit was much more of a creative and imaginative way to make a poster that just sticking up few stills from the film under a name of a star written in big letters. In this context, they are definitely not 'fails'.

Were American posters really that much better? I recall that not long ago you posted an American ad for brilliant "This Sporting Life" which made it look like a 'smutty movie'...

I agree that some of the posters here are not very good, but I think that on a whole, Eastern European - especially Polish (Poland is a land of my ancestors as well, by the way)film posters were far better that those from Western Europe and USA. I reccomend checking out brilliant Polish posters for Hitchcock's "Strangers From a Train" or "Vertigo", for example..

Also , bloggers for Voices of East Anglia did a really good post on the subject some time ago:
http://www.voicesofeastanglia.com/2012/04/1960s-polish-film-poster-art.html

Ruth said...

In the concept of what A Dandy in Aspic was saying, I love the raiders of the lost arc child art poster, I also like the fact that people treated the posters like pieces of art, but on the other hand, a poster was supposed to be promoting a movie. It had a job to do, a function, and even though it might be a great work of art, it kind of looses its right to be if it fails at its function. There must be a way of making a poster both a work of art and a great representation of the movie.

JZ said...

A lot of the old Fillmore posters combine art with the band they were promoting. That said, some of the movie posters here (especially the second Steve McQueen one--which does indeed look like Max Headroom)are a little off the wall...There were probably a lot of frustrated artists in Eastern Europe during the cold war and I guess this was an outlet for them.

Pam@GoRetro said...

I've come to the conclusion that some people are devoid of any sense of humor whatsoever, so it isn't even worth arguing with them.

I saw lots of well done foreign posters of American films on the Movie Poster Database, but that's not what this post was about--I chose what I felt were the worst examples I've seen. Everyone has their own interpretation of art and in my personal opinion, these fail except for "Danger Planetaire" (which still doesn't depict the movie accurately.) And yes, I do think a movie poster should strike the right balance between art and promotion. In my opinion these do not.

Anyone who comes to Go Retro and gets offended that easily needs to lighten up.

ApacheDug said...

Well said, Pam; and thanks for sharing these posters. I can see these other countries wanting to promote these films to their own audiences, less focus on names & more on story, but you can't tell me that a picture as fine as "Alien" (and it's iconic poster) would be less intriguing than that pink octo-face!

Thanks again and by the way, I don't know what's funnier--that poster of King Kong or your description of it! :)

PS. That "Bullitt" poster is JUST PLAIN WRONG. For gosh sakes!

Amanda By Night said...

OMG! I love that Easy Rider poster. I can't figure out what they are going to do to that horse! :) I also thought the Blob foreign poster looks like a lot of the Italian movie posters and vhs artwork I saw for their 80s action/horror films. The best example I could think of was for a movie Lucio Fulci made called The New Gladiators:

http://thewebsite.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/the-new-gladiators-1984/

Also, I think in regards to some of commentary here, I understand that foreign posters might use a different marketing strategy but most of us looking at the posters are using an American eye (or at least a different cultural lens than the original intended audience), and they certainly look foreign in every respect! I don't know that Pam was trying to say one country's poster artwork is *better* it's just how we look at things. Plus, she was actually seeking out the weirder artwork, or I'm sure this would have been a different piece.

Keep up the great work Pam. It's always a treat to stop by here!

Pam@GoRetro said...

I would be REALLY bummed if I went to see "Easy Rider" w/o any prior knowledge of it, to see the Horse Guy, only to learn by the ending credits that the movie poster duped me! Or if I went to see "The Blob" expecting Steve McQueen to appear shirtless--it's criminal to tease me like that but then not deliver the goods. I just know that here in the States if you produced posters like these you'd confuse and probably piss off a lot of moviegoers. But hey, they're *works of art.*

Pam@GoRetro said...

One little correction regarding the Danger Planetaire poster--it's from Belgium, not France.

Herkulas said...

The Easy Rider poster is one of the most iconic Czech movie posters.
You can learn more about it on this blog: http://www.czechpostergallery.com/2012/10/12/easy-rider-freedom-against-tyrany/

Anonymous said...

I think the Belgium King Kong poster may be from a terrible 1976 South Korean movie called "A*P*E: Attacking Primate Monster" (which, trying to be funny, had the line "not to be confused with King Kong" on the poster).

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