In 1999, Kevin Mcdonald made the gripping (and Oscar-winning) documentary One Day in September. It’s about the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich when a Palestinian terrorist group held several Israeli atheletes hostage. The artwork for the poster and DVD (which I got at the time) highlights the most indelible image of that tragedy: one of the masked hostage takers on the balcony.
OK, now let’s leap to 2005 when Steven Spielberg’s Munich is released. Starring Eric Bana, it’s a narrative film about the Israeli govenrnment’s secret retaliation attacks after the massacre. I’m in a video store with a good friend, describing One Day in September, which functions as a kind of prequel to Spielberg’s film. I say, “Even the DVD cover is freakin’ chilling. Here, check it out.” I pick it up and do a double take. Y’see, logically, to capitalize on the imminent success of the Speilberg film, Sony Pictures gave a push to the documentary DVD, only for reasons I can’t comprehend, they made new artwork:
Say what? I’ve done some casual research and haven’t found any stills of the terrorists taken with optimum lighting by professional photographers, which leads me to believe it’s as fake as it looks. It’s terribly ridiculous and “Hollywood” when compared to the Real Deal.
In fact, since this unfrightening “re-enactment” still isn’t in the film at all, it’s definitely misleading to the consumer. But the most damaging effect of this new cover is that it’s no where near as chilling as the iconic image that graced the original. Am I on crazy pills or is everything that makes the real picture terrifying—the graininess, the imperfect mask, the inability to see the eyes—completely missing from the new artwork?
It’s becoming a recurring theme on my blog: it drives me nuts when bad things happen to great art, whether it’s a film like Jaws getting an emasculating remix or a fine documentary like this being marketed as something it’s not. I’m reminded of what Norman Bates said about his mother in Psycho: “I don’t hate her. I hate what she’s become.”