23 August 2009

Great Moments in Bad Cover Artwork

Inspired by the hideousness that is Lionsgate's cover for John Huston's The Dead, I've been tempted to possibly start a new feature on the blog which will highlight some of the worst DVD covers to surface in the twelve or so years the format has existed. Anyone who has ever worked at a video store or a movie theatre (as I have) could probably spot off at least five awful clichés that plague the world of poster and DVD artwork ("Floating Heads" being the most pervasive, irritating offender). If this does turn into a regular thing on my blog, expect themed posts, such as "Good Films, Bad Covers," "Did you hire your brother to put this together on Microsoft Paint?," "Ethnic Girl Shrugging Her Shoulders," "Offensive Photoshopping," "From Asia, With Love," "Just Because Julia Roberts' Head on a Model's Body Worked on the Poster for Pretty Woman Doesn't Mean It Does Here," as well as a few tributes to the studios who've consistently released ugly covers (Lionsgate, Sony, Koch Lorber, The Weinstein Company/Miramax) and to the gay direct-to-DVD market, who've never ceased to amaze me with their contributions to bad package art. So here are 10 dreadful examples of DVD cover "magic."

1. Repulsion, d. Roman Polanski, Koch Vision, as part of their "Cinema Sirens" Collection, 2001

Probably the most notorious of Koch's "Cinema Sirens" series, which also includes some former public domain flicks starring Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, Ava Gardner, Jayne Mansfield, Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot. With a simple cut and paste, Koch rendered Roman Polanski's terrifying, claustrophobic nightmare into a bargain-bin clunker. One of the worst parts about this cover is that they obviously recognized that what they were releasing was a quality motion picture ("Roman Polanski's psychological masterpiece"), but unfortunately the best way to sell it was with Catherine Deneuve's head on a blurry, purple with polka-dot bikini with matching towel(?) and high heels. Remember that great scene on the beach in Repulsion? Neither do I, but as any fashionable woman knows, never break out the bathing suit without your matching heels.

2. Beatific Vision, d. Sountru, Ariztical Entertainment, 2009

Oh boy! Keep in mind that Ariztical, who specialize in no-budget, nudity-filled gay flicks with the exception of the unfortunately popular Eating Out series and a pair of exceptional films from Tennessee-based filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox, has released Beatific Vision with two different covers: "Mainstream Art" (for Blockbuster, I'd assume) and "Alternative Art" (for the online buyers). What you see above is the "Mainstream Art" (the "Alternative Art" has a pair of male lovers locked in embrace with a sliver of an ass crack), and it is certainly the preferable of the two. The floating image is featured on both covers, but this version really caters to a tamer crowd, who enjoy wearing scarves that match Catherine Deneuve's bathing suit and dressing their pug in leather harnesses. If you were wondering what sort of people were still keeping Blockbuster in business, look no further.

3. Don Juan, d. Jacques Weber, Koch Lorber, 2005

It would seem a difficult task to make an aesthetically displeasing cover when you have Penélope Cruz and Emmanuelle Béart in period attire to work with, but leave it to Koch Lorber to prove me wrong. There's a storm brewing on the beach as Don Juan, played by the director, rides his horse across the tide, but as we all know, Ms. Cruz's beauty can part the most treacherous of cloud formations for the sun to shine upon her. Sadly, Ms. Béart's looks do not have the same powers. Both actresses' eyes are drawn outside of the frame, which would make sense as there's nothing striking going on inside of it, but I get the feeling Cruz's disheveled dress is revealing a little more than just her bare shoulders. Just look at the way Béart gazes downward, lips pouted and hair tussled. As if we needed any indication that what we want to be looking at can't be found in this cover.

4. Federal Protection, d. Anthony Hickox, Lions Gate, 2002

Hello, sexy! Glamourous girls with guns has always been an eye-catcher, but none have gotten my attention as strikingly as the headless, diamond-neckless-wearing lady in Federal Protection. Was this cocktail dress a part of Alexander McQueen's fall collection? I would die and go to fashion heaven if I ever saw Victoria Beckham in this number. With his lips puckered just a little bit and his hair slicked back, Armand Assante's face will be the wave of haute couture fashion, mark my words.

5. Poker in Bed [La signora gioca bene a scopa?], d. Giuliano Carnimeo, Televista, 2009

While one can find plenty of reasons to bitch about Televista, a company who issues unauthorized, VHS-to-bootleg-quality versions of Euro flicks, their cover artwork is especially noteworthy. While I typically wouldn't be the person to ask about which of Edwige Fenech's erotic farces are the best, I'd be silly not to at least mention Poker in Bed, which, if we're going by the cover, features a naughty scene in which Fenech wins the game with her Royal-Flush-from-between-the-legs trick. I also had no idea the Algerian-born actress was blessed with upside-down heart-shaped nipples, and that alone makes Poker in Bed a must-have!

6. Spooky House, d. William Sachs, Studio Works, 2003

Another possible theme for bad covers: Slumming Actors. Featuring not one, but two Oscar winners (Ben Kingsley and Mercedes Ruehl), Spooky House could never be mistaken for simply a bad DVD cover; it is refreshingly honest about everything you need to know about the film. Check out VideoDetective to see the official trailer and marvel at the accuracy in which the cover flaunts its state-of-the-art visual effects. If The Pagemaster was too animated for all you Ben Kingsley fans, Spooky House is the film for you. Side note: Someone needs to teach me how to rip scenes from movies off DVDs, because I searched far and wide, with no avail, for a clip of the theme song that was composed for this gem's title sequence.

7. Partner(s), d. Dave Diamond, Lions Gate, 2005

There's not much more to say about the cover for Partner(s). Just look at that photoshopping! Do you think Michael Ian Black is playing a homosexual? If a picture tells a thousand words, this one lays out the entire screenplay. Why would you even need to rent it? Is it just a coincidence that the film sort of shares a title with one of Hollywood's most notoriously homophobic ventures, which also has winning package art?

8. The Lost Steps [Los pasos perdidos], d. Manane Rodríguez, Agua Verde Audio Visual/TLA Releasing

This might be acceptable for the cover for a slideshow your cousin made for his parents' 50th anniversary, but not for anything else. In fact, I may even compliment your cousin if his skills had advanced to this level, but for a movie studio of any level, this shouldn't even suffice for the cover sheet of a press kit.

9. Five, d. Arch Oboler, Sony Pictures, as part of their Martini Movies, 2009

Thanks a lot Seven for making every film with a number that could maybe pass as a letter in the title the standard. While every single one of Sony's "Martini Movies" are the victims of heinous packaging, 5ive is my favorite offender. You've got a Mount Rushmore line-up of the actors, a screaming baby in one corner and a skeleton's face appearing in some sort of mushroom cloud explosion in the other. Mad props!

10. Thunderpants, d. Peter Hewitt, The Weinstein Company, 2007



Andrew Grant said...

This is beyond awesome Joe, thanks. That REPULSION cover is the greatest thing ever.

Happy a Benten cover isn't on the list!

Joe said...

Thanks, Andrew. The Criterion cover of Repulsion pales in comparison to that one!

I think though that Benten should look into hiring the guy who designed that cover for your next release.

Adrian Curry said...

These are glorious! But surely you made up that REPULSION cover. There is no way that is real. You don't even mention the typo! ("Pyschological Masterpiece"!) Did someone at Koch tell their designer "I know you've never seen this film, but you have exactly three minutes to come up with a cover!"?

Joe said...

For more fun, check out Sofia Loren on the cover for Vittorio De Sica's TWO WOMEN. I guess there was a beach scene in that one too.

And, Adrian, thank you for pointing out the spelling error! I was too mesmerized by the rest of it.

Adrian Curry said...

Ouch! Gotta love that colon after "also starring". And did they think Carlo Ponti was a bigger selling point than De Sica?

Erich Kuersten said...

I feel your pain which is why I re-did the DEAD cover for Liongate's presumed intended audience, here

Jandy said...

Wow. Just. Wow. That Repulsion cover is the ultimate, though. The others mostly seem to be low-budget and/or bad movies anyway, but Repulsion?

Now I kinda want to see a trailer mashup of Repulsion and Beach Blanket Bingo.

Joe said...

@Adrian I was wondering the same thing. Maybe they didn't know who De Sica was.

@Erich Did you send that to Lionsgate? They may want to hire you on the spot!

@Jandy I'm a sucker for trailer mash-ups and re-edits. My recent fave is this one for Mrs. Doubtfire.