Wednesday, 2 March 2016


The ERH International Affairs Desk grabs it's forged passport, hitches up it's skirt and sticks out a mysteriously callused thumb for a whistle-stop tour of Eighties movie poster art from across the Continent. Some of it is good, most of it demented, all will leave you shivering in a puddle of your own bafflement. So let's clamber board the VHS Express to the Roadhouse - calling at Wall Street, Paradise Alley and - as ever - the friscalating plains of Krull.

The ERH Euro-Trip!

We've all seen those weirdo, crepuscular, somewhat scary Polish film posters in which Rosemary's Baby is represented by a green snowdrop dripping blood on an old-timey telephone, or the broiling psychosexual maelstrom of Chinatown is symbolised by a chicken eating a tractor. They stand as something of an alternate film history, hinting at a Philip K. Dick-ian netherworld in which the Axis Powers won the War and big-budget cinema went on to take three or four hard Left turns into an Eastern European formalism filtered through unchecked Bohemian bacchanalia.
'The Deer Hunter', apparently
But it wasn't just mindless blockbusters and staid heritage pictures that washed up in the garretty design studios of Europe and beyond: the Eighties VHS boom saw an unprecedented explosion of cinematic and video output, and although most of it was incalculable shite, the continental artists and designers who set themselves to the task of adapting Hollywood posters and video covers for local consumption were often to grant no more - or less - drawing-board deliberation to the low-rent shinola of Surf Nazis Must Die than they might the latent megabucks porn of Point Break; for whom Arnie's Red Heat may just as well have been Warren Beatty's Reds
'Rain Man: Bongo Redux'
The ERH International Affairs Desk has rounded up 25 of the more notable offspring of this gloriously mismatched shotgun marriage. Some of them are wonderful - and sometimes vast improvements on the Tinseltown templates of the originals; some are hopelessly abysmal; some are bum-nosed runts that cater to their markets to such an extent that they are become strange perversions of the filmmakers' supposed intent. But most of all, they are - almost without exception - balls-out odd.

So put on your best all-purpose foreign-style accent, fix your eyes on the distant, hazily delineated prize and and let's hit the high road for the low, low countries.

Set the compass for strange...

We're not sure whether it's supposed to be reverential hick folk art or simply exists as the twisted brainwrong of a man mental, but this German spin on 1988's crackpot redneck throwback Roadhouse carries - for those of a certain vintage - many vestiges of its age: Le Swayze looks like a Commodore 64 rendering of himself; Sam Elliot comes across like an overzealous weekend dad with a few too many Rolling Rocks in him; and whoever that chick is elicits an effortless sense of maternal longing, projected shame and Valley Girl ennui. The Eighties are thus writ large in a Teutonic howl that is part Hollywood mash note, part tear-stained sophomore symphonietta, part Germanic reclamation of the filmic expertise that it had bestowed upon the New World. "Es ist mein weg, oder die autobahn!" Indeed.

It is hardly within ERH's looseleaf remit to imply that the average Turk is anything other than an enlightened cosmopolitan aesthete whose views on sexual politics are never less than forward-thinking and dynamic, but whoever put together this poster must have been having a bad, bad day at the office. It would seem that the idea of Sly Stallone getting roundly cuckolded by Backwoods Barbie Dolly Parton's peroxided blend of down-home cocksurety and Brill Building schtick was too much for our Anatolian design-monkey to bear, and so they duly offered up this wearying slab of institutionalised benchpress erotica. You're jockeying for EU entry, lads - let's clean this shit up a bit, eh?!?

Short Circuit
Number Five is not only alive but has evidently passed into hideous electro-jaundiced Cronenbergian necroticism in this Polish take on the Bank Holiday family filler which witnesses Steve Guttenberg cockblocked by a cutesey military attack droid. Always second choice, eh, Steve? Always second choice...

The Empire Strikes Back
The ERH Licensing and Merchandise Arm always understood that Weird Uncle George kept an iron grip on any and all Star Wars advertising material, but he must have been sleeping one off in the Skywalker Ranch stables when the fax came through from Warsaw with the mock-up of this Eastern European Empire effort that makes the Force's finest foray look like the back cover of Computer Studies textbook. 

Erm... what???

Beverly Hills Cop
Is that the one with Joss Ackland and Patsy Kensit? No, that's Lethal Weapon II. The one where they go to Tokyo? You're thinking of Black Rain. It's the one when he whales on Charles Grodin - I like that one. That's Midnight Run... Wait, wait - is it the one where he's styled up as Lionel Richie and carrying a tiny 'spurty cock' gun on a bed of graph paper..? Bingo.

O.C. and Stiggs
If one were to swap these poster images for Robert Altman's bizzaro spiteful-teen class-war monster-truck road-trip comedy-caper (with a chipper World Music soundtrack from King Sunny Ade, no less!) then we'd probably be guffawing at the Italians' gauche reductivism, so maybe we should let this one slide.

According to the ERH Ambassador to Germany, this tawdry ad for Krull should come with a spoiler alert... 'Caught in a massive spiderweb lives the hexed woman her life. She knows the secret of the Black Fortress. With the exposure changes her being.' Yep, that pretty much spells it out  - thanks, Fritz!

Wall Street
The Exercise Book stylings and heavy-gauge phallic symbolism of this amateurish Spanish outing really hammer home the priapic macho preening of Oliver Stone's stock market shakedown, but it's still horrid to look at.

City Heat
The Italian plea (?) on the poster - 'In order to appeal to not to save more the life to me' - makes about as much sense as anything else in Clint and Burt's seedless Kansas City jazz, but this wacky artwork otherwise flatters to deceive.

Trading Places 

Iguana? Masonic pyramid? Bleak, post-Apocalyptic fiscal wilderland? Must be Trading Places! Quite why the Polish designer of this left-field effort chose to render 1983's funniest fillip of festive financial frippery via the sort of image you'd normally expect to find adorning the back cover of a solo album by the bass player of a fading early-70's heavy rock combo is anyone's guess. 

Dead Heat
The French manage to suck all the fun out of 1988's corpsed copper caper and instead serve up a grossly off-putting Photoshop nightmare that almost defies people to want to see the film. 

The King of Comedy
There's either some elephantine irony at work in this Italian take on Scorsese's meditation on the price of fame and the ends of ambition or they've missed the point to a heroic degree here!

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
Buckaroo Banzai - neurosurgeon, particle physicist, rock musician and geek-chic godhead - is given a something of a makeover in a French poster that tests the limits of the Trade Descriptions Act and - ultimately - the patience and reserve of Gallic cinemagoers...

Paradise Alley
Not for the first time, we're left wishing we'd seen the film advertised in the overseas poster than the one we actually sat through. This German offering makes Stallone's humdrum Thirties wrestling parable look less like a drab Meatball Opera set on the Paramount backlot than a Brechtian carnivale of dreams, desire and destitution. Oh, well - maybe in the next life...

The One and Only
We nip cheekily back to the Seventies for another wrestling fable in the form of Carl Reiner's scattershot romantic comedy that sees two of TV's towering titans take to the top turnbuckle. Alas, the fine work that both the The Fonz and Tatoo from 'Fantasy Island' put into the film will have been missed by Italian film fans who were surely put off by a poster that blands everything out into beige corduroy nothingness.

Serviceably awful Burt Reynolds vehicle Malone gets the Criterion treatment in a Polish poster that would have viewers expecting to see something pitched between Bonnie&Clyde and Le Conformist rather than a dreary, underfunded, box-ticking hicksploitation dud.

Used Cars
Those bloody French! 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Wolves in Sheep's clothing? Mix up at the message centre? Simple vandalism? Your guess is as good as ours on this one...

Vampire's Kiss
While far more elegant than it's American forebear, this Italian aposteratta offers even less clue to the perilously unglued nature of a purported comedy that goes heavy on insoluble psychosis, rape and cockroach-gobbling.

Our fruity Gallic cousins are at it again with an entirely misleading - if rather delightful - take on Ringo Starr's gormless 1981 dino no-no, Caveman.

Hanky Panky
We made this one up, but we're pretty sure that by now you're willing to accept anything. Tee-hee, eh, readers!

Action Jackson
Quite why the Italian designers of this poster for 'Black Bond', Action Jackson, chose to concentrate on this particular scene in order to entice their brothers into the cinema is a question perhaps best left to their consciences...

German literalism knows no bounds in this excruciating poster for Michael Winner's ghastly 1990 embarrassment starring a past-it Roger Moore and a pre-resurgence Michael Caine. Darts. Yes, we get it.

Black Moon Rising
The original poster for Tommy Lee Jones Supercar! vehicle is pretty awful - looking as it does like the cover of the kind of ZX Spectrum that came free with budget Eighties computer mags - but at least it gets behind the mule. This Belgian misfire, however, really plumbs the depths with a pair of competing images in which there is no clear winner. 

What a long, strange trip it's been...



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