One of our most popular website features in years is my Famous Movie Poster Rejects You've Never Seen series, with scans of an incredible collection of original artwork and proof prints that I once archived for local memorabilia dealer Duane Dimock. Here's a "best of" compilation of those scans, along with some "new" ones never uploaded before.
The collection includes over a hundred HUGE paintings and proofs, by a variety of well-known Hollywood poster artists, done in advance for the filmmakers behind Batman, the Fly, Witches of Eastwick, and a bunch of other biggies (as well as some not-so-biggies nonetheless of interest). Most of these are the REJECTED versions, although several sets include the actual final artwork, as photographed for the official posters.
In many cases, several similar designs are seen that show the ideas being worked out, in a creative progression leading up to the iconic images finally approved by the filmmakers and printed up to promote the film.
Few of these original paintings and poster proofs have ever been published or seen by the general public. You lucky Reader readers are the first to get an eyeful of this almost completely unchronicled bit of motion picture history -------
Browsing below, you can see the iconic poster artwork for The Fly originally had the image of a human climbing out of the device. However, what looked like a hastily spray-painted white paste-on was applied directly over the artwork, so only the white glow was evident in the final printed shot.
Ken Steacy's rejected poster for Supergirl coulda and SHOULDA found a way into theater marquees, as it's monumentally superior to virtually all the sappy over-airbrushed "official" posters that failed to lure any asses into the seats.
Most of the photos were shot with an old 110 Instamatic camera, over the course of the few hours I handled the originals: it just seemed like a good idea to archive what all was there.
The collection includes Destiny, Ladyhawke, 8 Million Ways to Die, Deadly Friend, Purple Hearts, City Limits, Hollywood Shuffle, the Inheritors, the Fly, Fright Night, Best Defense, Meatballs III, Vamp (quite a few variations), Inside Moves, XYZ Murders, Over the Top (yep, the Stallone movie, with a surprising amount of variations), Texas Godfather, Blood Diner, Howard the Duck, Cowboy Angel (a splendid oil painting of an angelic Slim Pickens riding a horse down from heaven?!), Trick or Treat (rock ‘n’ roll horror), Back to the Beach, Voyage of the Rock Aliens, Fatal Attraction, Little Shop of Horrors, Hanoi Hilton, Cop, Force III, Off Limits, Mac and Me, Mr. Love, Lady Beware, Phar Lap, Midnight Run, Bad Medicine, Hamburger Hill, Near Dark, Starchaser: The Legend of Orin, and others.
While Jaws was still in production, this riff on the original book cover was the original poster plan.
The original Howard the Duck comic books used to carry a cover tagline reading "Trapped in a world he never made." Whoever painted this rejected poster seems to have taken that quite literally, with Howard actually IN the world, coming out as if from an egg.
I cracked up when I noticed the Over the Top reject where Stallone seems to have his side view mirror adjusted so he can stare at himself instead of the road - note that's the only variant with his NAME running all the way over the TOP of the poster, independent of the film title.
http://media.sdreader.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2011/Nov/16/FilmPosterArt25.jpg" /> I LOVE this Ladyhawk painting!
The iconic poster artwork for The Fly originally had more of the image of a human climbing out of the device, including the outline of his head and shoulders. However, what looked like a hastily spray-painted white paste-on was applied directly over the artwork, so only the white glow was evident in the final printed shot, with just the human arm and insect leg coming out either side. BIG improvement, with a much more mysterious impact.
Me, I kinda like the above rejected version showing just a fly: THE Fly, with Jeff Goldblum's head! Although, now that I examine more closely, that looks like Donald Trump! "Screeeen meeeeeee!"
Here's what they settled on for the final poster.
UPDATE: After I posted this, a blogger at http://www.fridaythe13thfranchise.com/2011/12/near-dark-concept-art-used-for-part-5.html">http://www.fridaythe13thfranchise.com/2011/12/near-dark-concept-art-used-for-part-5.html discovered that this artwork ended up being used for an import poster for Friday the 13thPart 5! Sharp eyes over there at FridayThe13thFranchise.com - here 'tis below:
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I kind of like the wistful nostalgia in this proposed painting for Phar Lap (above), but they went in a different direction with the final poster (below).
Marked on the back as "Running Scared," above mockups of course ended up being for Midnight Run. Final print below shows they went with DeNiro glaring more directly at Grodin, whose handcuffed wrist was switched to the other side (a subtle, but strong, improvement).
Another variation of above two mockups for Starchaser: The Legend of Orin finally ended up on the DVD packaging (below), though the theatrical poster was pretty different.
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Above Bad Medicine designs appear to have been abandoned altogether (below).
The original photo print for Hamburger Hill (above) had the soldiers more more clearly lit and visible - going with the darkened outline in the final print (below) seems a good, and somewhat somber, way to go!
A Time of Destiny with William Hurt.
Interesting to see that the original Campus Man poster art above spotlighted the comic lead, while the final print went with the hunky alter-ego image below.
Nightmare on Elm Street honcho Wes Craven went through several ideas to push Deadly Friend (above), finally setting on below painting (with the painting of the girl added to the window), followed by the final printed posters.
The eyeball variation also turned up later (below), but with the artwork heavily airbrushed, to hide the fact that the added nose and fingernails are clearly by a different (and much crappier) "artist."
From a design standpoint, I prefer the completely unused skull, with its eyes subtly depicting the romantic couple facing each other!
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As terrible as the rockin' horror movie Trick or Treat is, the poster COULD have been okay, had they gone with above rejected oil painting instead of the crappy final poster below.
Blood Diner and Texas Godfather art above, final prints below.
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Above proof for the Elliott Gould/Margot Kidder potboiler Vanishing Act is pretty close to what was used (below).
Whereas the ominous China Girl artwork above was completely ditched for the (quite lame) poster below.
8 Million Ways to Die, before (above) and after (below).
City Limits above and below.
And interesting how they ditched the soldier's photo-decorated military helmet (above) altogether for Purple Hearts, to instead blow up the romantic photo, hovering over a battlefield. Another major misfire, IMHO.
The Pia Zadora stinker Voyage of the Rock Aliens was a cynical attempt to create a "cult" film (co-starring Harold & Maude icon Ruth Gordon), but the above rejected poster couldn't make up its mind WHAT to showcase. I can't say final poster (below) is any improvement. The trippy guitar-shaped spaceship all but obscured in the reject gets a sweet makeover (with tuning pegs instead of satellite dishes on the headstock), and there's still a (space?)hydrant leaking onto a (space?)dog, but most of the other proposed elements were ditched. Did they really need to add a guy climbing out of a (space)urinal, though?
Above concept art for the (pretty cool) Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon/Pee Wee Herman vehicle Back to the Beach is SO bizarre, words fail me. In this case, the final poster (below) is a VAST improvement! The only holdover from the nearly deranged mockup was the title logo.
I'm really impressed by the design qualities of above concept art for the Michael Douglas/Glenn Close thriller Fatal Attraction, even though it looks like Douglas' stunt double posed for the pic rather than him. The final poster (below) works well now that we all know the storyline, but I can't help but feel the reject would have been a much stronger pre-release promo. Ahh, whaddo-eye-no, the ghastly thing was a monster hit anyway (in support of my many rabbit friends, I'm still boycotting that one - my duck friends won't let me watch Journey to the Center of the Earth either).
The James Woods Cop mockup was pretty similar to what ended up being used.
Welcome to Valkenvania (above) was later retitled Nothing But Trouble, with a few shifts done to a couple of characters in the final artwork as well (below).
An inexplicable misfire: above painting was intended for sports dramedy All the Right Moves. WTF?! I mean, it's well rendered. I suppose. If it were a vintage National Lampoon cover. But...WTF?? An orgasmic beer mug getting football-teabagged, what looks like Lou Ferrigno's arm, and a boob shot right outta Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher"?! It's hard to imagine anything other than the famed final version below with Tom Cruise in all his scientologistical splendor!
Deadly Blessing reject (above) VS final poster below. Only major changes are the rejected tagline "Beauty Comes to an Evil Climax" (coupled with the pic, maybe it looked like the movie was about an evil beauty, um, climaxing?) and some kind of satanic-looking logo that got cut. Also, note how the overlay text is lowered several inches on the final print, the better to reveal MUCH more glowing blue cleavage...
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Despite Jack Nicholson only making a brief appearance in the original Roger Corman horror comedy Little Shop of Horrors, it was Jack they focused on for the re-release (above). The design appears to have turned up in poster variants, including a Spanish version (below).
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It took me awhile to find a good printed version of the poster for obscure sex comedy Perfect Timing that used above artwork, but here 'tis below.
Above poster design for Hanoi Hilton is pretty much what was used, though an additional fence railing, some chain link fencing on either side of the doorway, and an extra Vietnamese soldier was added to the final print (below), I guess to reinforce the "captivity" theme.
Above concept proof for Steve Martin and John Candy in Planes Trains & Automobiles seemed to favor the titular plane, a motif that turned up in altered form on the French movie poster (along with a train and an auto, tho they were flying too). The whole vehicle schtick was jettisoned entirely for the U.S. version now so recognizable (below), wherein Candy wore basically the same dumpy outfit seen on the proof, while Martin went from trenchcoat to rumpled suit (duh!), and they BOTH lost the stupid hats (who the Hell puts a hat on Martin's million dollar mane?!).
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Rocky: The Final Bell (above) was the original title for Rocky V, for which the below poster (wisely) didn't rely on a near-comatose closeup of Stallone.
Full-length McDonald's commercial Mac & Me actually had an intriguing poster (below) that seemed to deliberately rip off ET, but the rejected mockup above is a bit of a head scratcher. At least the wheelchair made the reject a more honest representation of the actual flick.
Above shows the entire photo of Diane Lane from Lady Beware, used for final print below.
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I'm so glad to see the terrific painting above did indeed make it onto the poster for the UK comedy Mr. Love seen alongside it. Below are the rejects, followed by a sheet I found online that did make use of the photo that one of them was based on.
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Hollywood Shuffle collage mockup above and final print below.
Above: Original painted artwork for the Walter Bannert’s German-language Austrian film the Inheritors alongside final print.
Above: U.S. variant for Ninth Configuration (foreign version below), plus Tai-Pan.
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Original painted art for the Return of the Living Dead tombstone, before the comical zombies were added (below). Note the spraycan-bearing skeleton hand was originally the only part of the zombie arising from the grave.
Note below horizontal variant is dated a full two years before Return of the Living Dead was actually released. And it was originally planned for 3D?! As far as I know, this is a hitherto unknown component in the film's early development ---
I LOVE above unused painting for camp(y) comedy Meatballs III with a dude in a bear suit chasing bikini-clad Shannon Tweed (Mrs. Gene Simmons must've always had a thing for guys in costumes). Apparently, the subtitle "Rudy's Big Challenge" hadn't been christened yet, as Rudy is nowhere to be seen. I also totally dig the iconic final version (below) of this guilty pleasure co-starring Sally Kellerman (and featuring Loverboy's "The Kid is Hot Tonight"! Premium cheez or what?!).
Best Defense draft above and finished below. Now this one is flippin' bizarre - look how the tank blueprint originally had Eddie Murphy drawn in, as if part of the rendering, looking dumbfounded by the broken steering wheel. But the crazy effin final print (below) pasted in a B&W photo of Murphy's face, inexplicably grinning despite his clearly defective ride! And the rejected tagline seems much better too: "Laughter is still your best defense." Too bad nobody who saw this movie was laughing.
Inside Moves reject above, which is a fabulous painting evocative of Norman Rockwell, versus the dull and drab final versions below.
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Rosary Murders photo pasteup above, while the whole corpse-in-a-tub motif was still in the planning stage, and final print below. Poor ol' Charles Durning - in the reject, he looks like he might have a good clue whodunnit. But the final print makes him look like some confused doofus with a runny nose. And whoever elongated the horizontal murder victim's arm forgot to include an elbow!
I think above poster was for German musical version of the Frog Prince starring Aileen Quinn and Helen Hunt - if so, it got a raw deal with both the reject and the final print below.
Original artwork for something called Force III above, and Off Limits below, along with final version. Not sure what they were going for with the bullseye closeup.
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Above design for Dial M For Murder 3D ended up on below video/DVD box (let's just pretend that shudder-inducing Joey Travolta poster and movie doesn't exist, shall we?)
Above Short Circuit design went unused on U.S. posters, though I did find an import variant that picked up the artwork (below).
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Above concept art for Ghost Story kind of maps out the basic look of the final print below, while the two Windy City variants don't much resemble the actual poster (below).
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I rather like above concept art for Halloween III, much more than the final poster below. The original plan for part 3 seems to have been a different movie than what they ended up making.
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Above concept posters for Wolfen look pretty vague, as if they weren't really sure yet what the movie was about, though the title font and "There is no defense" tagline survived thru final print below.
http://media.sdreader.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2011/Dec/13/PosterReject89.jpg" />http://media.sdreader.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2011/Dec/13/PosterReject90.jpg" />http://media.sdreader.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2011/Dec/13/PosterReject91.jpg" />
Pity the above Neverending Story designs went unused, in favor of the half-a-luckdragon image below, though I can see why they wanted the actual characters to appear.
Get Crazy (with Malcolm McDowell and Bobby Sherman?!) and Native Son, above and below, both seem to have gone from concept to completion intact.
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However, I can't find any Beast (of War) posters that match above concept design. Poster below seems to be the most common.
(Nicholson in a raincoat, or a suit? Ladies in the clouds, or just lightning?)
(OR group the ladies with Jack near the bottom, or how about surrounded by, um, cherries? You remember the cherry scene, right?)
http://media.sdreader.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2011/Nov/16/FilmPosterArt14.jpg" /> Uh, Grace, you've got a little something in your teeth there...
Though well-rendered, the below painting for Fright Night is kinda generic and could be used for any number of movies.
Here's a mystery poster that had no markings when I photographed it. Other than knowing it's from the '80s, I'm stumped: any Reader readers able to help ID?
Another mystery poster that wasn't marked. Any help on this one????
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