One Day in September and a Confounding Marketing Decision

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.”

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10 Comments

Filed under Film, Posters

10 responses to “One Day in September and a Confounding Marketing Decision

  1. illy c

    Embarrassing. They make him look like the Unknown Comic.

  2. This is so hilarious, I almost don’t mind the. The guy looks like he’s the host. Maybe it’s Michael Douglas under that mask!

  3. Also to mention, what’s really missing is the cross-hairs. Instead, it’s just a little window!

  4. Adam L

    He looks like this guy: “Heyba Albert, Howba weeba goba seeba de Cosby kids?”

  5. If you want my speculation as to why they did it: Maybe someone thought that the original image would make consumers think it was a black and white film.

    • You’re probably right. I always underestimate the buying public’s fear of black and white photography. I wonder how well it sold with the original artwork. I don’t think the original artwork hurt the film theatrically, but unless doc’s a total break-out hit, I don’t think any are consider hits or failures by box office standards.

      I also wonder if they hoped people would think it was Eric Bana under that hood.

  6. Michael Worrall

    Saltobello wrote: “I always underestimate the buying public’s fear of black and white photography.”

    Or perhaps the marketing department’s fear of black and white films.

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