Woody Allen, David Lynch and the Craziest of Double Features

In October, 1980, my mother took me to London for a week. I was 11 years old. As much as I was enjoying myself, I was hopelessly “American” and going out of my head after a few days. I may have loved the Beatles and Monty Python, but I was pining for things like baseball and commercial interruptions on TV. By the end of the week, my mother admitted that she, too, was missing the good ol’ U S of A, and we decided to see an American film in Picadilly Circus. One theater was showing Annie Hall—what could be more American than Woody Allen, right? And it was a double feature, with another American film that neither of us had heard of it. Understandably, we figured that if it was paired off with Annie Hall, it must therefore be a comedy in a similar vein. It even had a funny title: Eraserhead.

Ultimately, we passed on both films and it was a few years before I saw David Lynch’s first feature, the entire time saying, “This?! This?! The Brits thought this played well with the Best Picture of 1977?!”

Admittedly, it is a dazzling combo—but that’s the revisionist in me talking. (For example, Annie Hall’s tagline is “A Nervous Romance,” which, let’s face it, wouldn’t be such a bad tagline for Eraserhead.) But from a commercial standpoint—for a broad and mainstream  audience—it’s quite the mismatch.

Revisiting London in 1998, I went looking for some exciting film posters. I found this beaut and snagged it for a mere ten pounds…

OK, it’s not as insane as combining Diane Keaton and Jack Nance, but it’s definitely unusual. For those unfamiliar with the films, in Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs (1971) Dustin Hoffman plays a mathematician forced to protect himself and his wife by killing a band of marauding, raping English villagers; while Bert Gordon’s The Food of the Gods (1975), loosely based on the sci-fi novel by H.G. Wells, is exactly as the poster appears: giant rats, worms and wasps eat and kill their way through a lot of faded stars and b-movie regulars. (Its American tagline was “For a taste of Hell…”)

I’ve never seen these films consecutively, though I expect the sheer intensity of Straw Dogs would make The Food of the Gods even more of a snooze than it already is. But as far as pure magnetic advertising goes—something to entice you to shell out your hard-earned pounds—it’s genius. Barum-esque. This poster was in my bedroom for years, over my desk, and I used to stare it endlessly, wondering why it was so damn fascinating. Was it..



…the brutality associated with Straw Dogs’s director OR the terror associated with The Food of the Gods’s author?









The image of a blonde being raped by a man OR a brunette being eaten by a ginormous, feral rodent?










The steely gaze of Dustin Hoffman sporting a rifle OR the razor-sharp fangs of enormous rat?









The extreme close-up of a sweatered-but-braless chest OR the heaving, negligee’d cleavage?






No matter how you slice it, there’s something to disturb, offend and/or entertain everybody: Dogs…rats. Guns…fangs. Nipples…cleavage. What a night on the town!

Please, if anyone reading this has seen other exciting and highly imaginative British Double Features, let us know in the Comments section.

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On a personal front, I’ve cherished this Peckinpah-Wells poster for years, though the only people to see have been a few roommates, some friends and a few “lucky” girlfriends. Since getting married—and losing most of my apartment’s poster real estate in the process—this awesome artifact has languished in the basement. To liberate it for this post—and share it with all of you wonderful people—the 20”x 30” poster had to be scanned in 40 pieces and stitched together in Photoshop. Honestly, if I knew it would require that much damn work, you’d be looking at a blank post right now.

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4 Comments

Filed under Film, Plucked from Obscurity

4 responses to “Woody Allen, David Lynch and the Craziest of Double Features

  1. Jansen

    Wow. Another doozie from the S.A. ( that’s how he rolls people! Stichin 40 pieces together for us. Amazing. ) That would be truly bizarre sitting through Annie Hall and then Eraserhead. I think the Allen film would make the later just that much more intense and disturbing, while if you flipped them Annie Hall would seem kind of fluffy and slight, afterwards. Love the visual breakdown of the Hoffman poster. It has a funny Soviet vibe with the red and that font. Straw Dogs/Eraserhead would be a sick double bill and leave me a quivering puddle on the floor. For different reasons, two of the most disturbing films I’ve seen.
    What could be next from SA? Miley Cyrus vs Haley Mills? It’s on!

    • Thanks, Jansen! I owe a lot to that experience in London in 1980, seeing that marquee for those films. In 1990, I went on a double date to see an Audrey Hepburn double feature (Funny Face and Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and by the end, we all wanted to put a bullet in our heads. Four hours of Audrey is just too damn much of one thing. So, taking my cue from that Annie Hall/Eraserhead combo, I began seeing films in the city by jumping theaters. For example, I once saw the Fred Astaire vehicle Bandwagon, then walked to another theater for a midnight screening of John Woo’s Bullet in the Head. It’s impossible that the mind begins to make connections that may or may not be there. It might not be fair to the filmmakers’ intentions, but it certainly shakes things up. (BTW, there’s more in common between those two films than you’d suspect.) I also went from a screening of black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux’s silent film Body and Soul (with a live jazz band accompaniment) to see Fugazi at the Palladium. What an awesome night!

      I guess today they’d call it a “mash-up.” Wow, how did I write that whole post and forget to use that word?

  2. stef

    geez, how big is that poster?

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