“Lesbians, Martial Arts, High Heels and Science”: More Marketing Madness from the Home-Viewing Industry
Posted by Susan Doll on August 29, 2011
As a former editor, I am annoyed that the items listed in the tagline above are not parallel: After all, it should be “Lesbians, Martial Arts, High Heels and Sciences.” But, then again, that is the least of the problems on the sellsheet for Minty the Assassin, a title offered by Cinema Epoch, which specializes in straight-to-DVD releases.
I work at Facets Multi-media, and part of the “multi-media” part is a vast video rentals service, which includes thousands of foreign, indie, documentary, and classic films. We regularly receive sellsheets from all manner of straight-to-DVD production companies, who want us to buy their titles for our rentals service or to sell via our online catalogue. While most major studios and DVD companies tend to announce and promote their offerings online, the companies that sell low-budget, exploitation titles still mail slick-looking sellsheets printed on nice paper stock. Periodically, I leaf through these sellsheets because they never cease to amuse—and amaze—me. Either the films are ludicrous, the taglines shameless, or the sell copy incomprehensible. I am simultaneously appalled by the poor grammar and punctuation and impressed by the cheekiness involved in promoting these movies.
I enjoy low-budget horror films, action flicks, or other exploitation movies, though sometimes these films are so poorly crafted that their sellsheets are more entertaining than the movies. I can’t imagine the movie Minty the Assassin making me laugh as much as the plot description on the sellsheet: “After an encounter with a deranged Zombie and a sexy Lesbian Vampire Double Delicious, Mindy, our comic book superhero may now fall prey to her biggest Fanboy, Dr. Brain Bender.” The copy is salacious, but the incorrect comma placement renders the whole sentence clunky. Also available through Cinema Epoch is Triple Hit, which, like Mindy the Assassin, boasts a female action hero, Rebecca Hunter. (Exploitation movies are sometimes surprising in their twists on movie conventions, but that’s a post topic for another day.) According to the tagline, Rebecca is going to “save the world from its future” by engaging in illegal time travel to three parallel universes. Unfortunately, the action as described on the sellsheet gets a bit murky after this point: “As her evil-Fascist-self tries to kill her to invade the other universes with an army, the multi-verse begins to unravel.” Tricky stuff, saving the world from its future.
Marketing departments for film companies, whether they be big or small, like to compare their titles to award-winning movies and famous directors, as though their exploitation film with a tiny budget and a cast of no-name actors is just like No Country for Old Men or the latest work by Martin Scorsese. eOne Home Video swears that “if Michael Haneke collaborated with the Coen Brothers, the results might look like” their action flick Deliver Us from Evil directed by Ole Bornedal . Deliver Us from Evil is the story of a drunken truck driver named Lars who runs over a woman and pins the rap on a Bosnian refugee. I can’t figure out what part of that smacks of Michael Haneke, though I think the Coens are capable of anything.
Giant animals on the rampage never go out of style, but there seem to be a lot of low-low-budget versions this year. Of course, all of them are marketed as the second coming of Jaws. “If Jaws Was Looking to Branch Out to Dry Land, Without a Doubt He’d Want to Be Chawz” reads the tagline for Chaws, about a giant “porcine beast attacking innocent tourists.” The sellsheet for Prey claims the film to be “in the tradition of The Descent, Jaws, and Deliverance” from “the impressive new wave of French horror movies which have been some of the most celebrated and sought after subset.” I give the copywriters props for invoking the French New Wave without actually saying it, but they blew it with the funky grammar and by using “subset” instead of subgenre. Perhaps the copy was written by mathematicians, instead of film buffs. The story of Prey begins when “one night, several deer inexplicably hurl themselves against the electric fence of a farm,” bringing to mind an image that alternates between being horrific and humorous.
Apparently, Roger Corman, who was recently awarded an honorary Oscar for his contributions to cinema, has lent his name to series of movies about giant, mutant animals. The films are produced by the SyFy Channel, and the producers must have their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks. The sellsheet for the first movie, Dinoshark, doesn’t mention Jaws in the copy, but the central image shows the creature with its gaping, teeth-filled mouth wide open while a bikini-clad girl swims by in chomping range. It’s amazing just how deep Jaws is embedded in our collective cultural consciousness. The elements of its famous poster can be evoked indirectly, and most movie-goers will recognize the references on some level. Dinoshark boasts an environmental message, because the monster is released when “global warming heats the Earth’s surface,” causing the composite critter to thaw out. Dinoshark immediately makes his way to Mexico for reasons left unexplained, where he prepares “to snack on a buffet of sunbathing beauties.”
Dinoshark was followed by Sharktopus, in which the monster is a strange combination of teeth and tentacles. The SyFy Channel decided to make it a trio of toothy mutant monsters with a third entry into the series, Dinocroc vs. Supergator. An anti-corporate theme highlights this film as the creatures were created in the secret laboratories of an unscrupulous biotech corporation. The combination of alligators and dinosaurs sparked the “creativity” of the sellsheet copywriters to come up with such gems as “Dino-Mite!” and “Croc-tastic!” But, a peculiar tagline can be found on some of the posters: “Scary Demon Guy Species.” I am not quite sure how that relates to the movie, but as someone who has been through the dating wars, it conjured up a totally different meaning for me. Sadly, the sellsheet exploits the participation of David Carradine “in one of his last roles.” All joking aside, it saddens me to have Carradine, an actor I have always liked, remembered for such low-end film fare.
I can’t recommend any of these films, not even for unintentional humor. So watch them at your own risk. Sometimes exploitation movies can be a lot of fun to watch; other times they are more tedious than humorous. But, they do reveal topical issues and problems drifting along the edges of our culture, and the sellsheets are always good for a laugh.
MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
Popular terms3-D Action Films Actors Actors' Endorsements Actresses animal stars Animation Anime Anthology Films Autobiography Avant-Garde Aviation Awards B-movies Beer in Film Behind the Scenes Best of the Year lists Biography Biopics Blu-Ray Books on Film Boxing films British Cinema Canadian Cinema Character Actors Chicago Film History Cinematography Classic Films College Life on Film Comedy Comic Book Movies Crime Czech Film Dance on Film Digital Cinema Directors Disaster Films Documentary Drama DVD Early Talkies Editing Educational Films European Influence on American Cinema Experimental Exploitation Fairy Tales on Film Faith or Christian-based Films Family Films Fan Edits Film Composers Film Criticism film festivals Film History in Florida Film Noir Film Scholars Film titles Filmmaking Techniques Films of the 1980s Food in Film Foreign Film French Film Gangster films Genre Genre spoofs Guest Programmers HD & Blu-Ray Holiday Movies Hollywood history Hollywood lifestyles Horror Horror Movies Icons independent film Italian Film Japanese Film Korean Film Leadership Literary Adaptations Martial Arts Melodramas Method Acting Mexican Cinema Moguls Monster Movies Movie Books Movie Costumes Movie locations Movie lovers Movie Magazines Movie Reviewers Movie settings Movie Stars Movies about movies Music in Film Musicals New Releases Outdoor Cinema Paranoid Thrillers Parenting on film Pirate movies Polish film industry political thrillers Politics in Film Pornography Pre-Code Producers Race in American Film Remakes Revenge Road Movies Romance Romantic Comedies Russian Film Industry Satire Scandals Science Fiction Screenwriters Semi-documentaries Serials Short Films Silent Film silent films Social Problem Film Spaghetti Westerns Sports Sports on Film Stereotypes Straight-to-DVD Studio Politics Stunts and stuntmen Suspense thriller Swashbucklers TCM Classic Film Festival Tearjerkers Television The British in Hollywood The Germans in Hollywood The Hungarians in Hollywood The Irish in Hollywood The Russians in Hollywood Theaters Thriller Trains in movies Underground Cinema VOD War film Westerns Women in the Film Industry Women's Weepies