If the makers and marketers of Pulp Fiction didn’t opt for a shot of Uma Thurman lying on a bed and smoking a cigarette, over a background mocked-up to look like a dime novel or if Malcolm McDowell’s grinning face wasn’t looming out from a giant, stylized letter “A,” for A Clockwork Orange, would so many dorm rooms have been adorned with those films’ posters?
That’s what we ask ourselves as we contemplate an online exhibit from British events website Daybees, which featured alternate, almost-used versions of iconic movie posters. While both A Clockwork Orange and Pulp Fiction opted to go relatively low-concept (three other images for Tarantino’s masterpiece featured black and white, pencil sketch-style portraits, including one that makes Thurman in her heels and little black dress look downright prudish), others in the series benefited from the decision to go stylized rather than traditional. A colorful crowd-shot for Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 remake captures none of the film’s effortless cool, for example.
Some of the alternatives presented are hard to imagine being under serious consideration, as well. There’s iconic, and then there’s, well, the friggin’ bat-signal, and one doesn’t suspect that the lovely, art-deco style option offered up for Tim Burton’s Batman provided any real competition for the lone image of the glittering bat-logo. Still, part of the fun of this sort of project is the chance to look at what might have been; Burton’s Batman was a cultural phenomenon precisely because it captured the iconography that helped the character resonate for so many decades up until the movie’s release (who can forget the awesome early-’90s fad of dudes shaving the bat-signal into their fades?). But if the poster had gone out of its way to make the movie look like a weird update of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis starring a guy in a bondage suit, would it have carried the same weight in the zeitgeist?
There are only a few potential images that are potentially more compelling than the ones with which we’re familiar. It’s interesting, for example, to look at the alternatives presented for The Exorcist and realize that the studio went with the only one of the three offered that didn’t attempt to capture just how disturbing the film itself is, a choice that, in retrospect, we can view as disappointing–but given the challenges of marketing a mainstream horror film in the early ’70s, may well have been wise.
In any case, the whole gallery is a compelling look at the possible images that a version of yourself in a slightly different timeline would recognize as iconic–and taken as a whole, they’re also a clever way to notice the way that movie marketing has evolved through the years.