Friday 18 February 2011

John Hughes: The Posters

On what would have been his 61st birthday (and on what is Molly Ringwald's 43rd birthday), let's take a look at the posters of the quintessentially 80's genius that was John Hughes. Check them out next...

Sixteen Candles may have been Hughes' first directorial outing in 1984, but he was already known as a writer for National Lampoon's, notably with their cinematic offerings, Class Reunion and Vacation. This was his first opportunity to direct his own script, and what better place to start than unrequited teen love? Not the most iconic of Hughes' posters, it quite simply introduces us to the three main characters, looking longingly into the back of their beloveds head. It's got two very similar sounding but different taglines, the first being the tongue twister "It's the time of your life that may last a lifetime". That's a perfectly nonsensical line that doesn't give anything away about the story. It's much better than the confusingly punctuated tagline that sits underneath the title, "Turning sixteen isn't easy, when you've fallen in love... for the first time". However, if you do want to find out more about the story before going to see the film, there's a fairly lengthy synopsis provided at the top. This is the best poster for the film, although some quite brashly 80's alternatives were made.

Having what is one of the most iconic posters of all time, The Breakfast Club arrived in early 1985 to much acclaim. In keeping with Sixteen Candles, there's a paragraph at the top to explain what the film is about, although it's much more concise this time. Again it's basically a character piece, showing us who's who in the movie, but they're framed in such a way that you're not necessarily drawn to just one person. I find myself looking at a different character each time. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and such was the recognisability of this poster it would go on to be parodied for films such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre pt 2 and American Teen. Whereas Sixteen Candles took its title from a song (Hughes did this quite often), The Breakfast Club doesn't make much sense until you've seen the film. It's worth noting the circular 'TBC' logo underneath the title. I'm still not sure that actually appears in the film, but for me at least it's an instantly recognisable symbol for The Breakfast Club.

Later on in 1985 arrived Weird Science, one of my favourite John Hughes films. Again we've got that wordy introduction to the film at the top of the poster, broken up by the appearance of the Kelly LeBrock and her tousled hair. She and her cleavage are very much the star of this poster, the icing on top of the nerd cake that is Ilan Mitchell-Smith and Anthony Michael Hall. God bless em, those clothes are horrendous, but at least Anthony Michael Hall's expression is good. Weird Science has the best logo of all of Hughes' films, sticking to that rule of placing it in the bottom third of the poster and giving more space to the characters. Unlike Sixteen Candles, the fantastic Weird Science theme song of the same name was written for especially for the film.

Ahh Ferris. It makes sense that the only thing on the poster is his face. Gone is the lengthy synopsis of the film, in its place is bold red instruction/mantra, "LEISURE RULES". Notice that 'A John Hughes Film' has worked its way out of the credits at the bottom, by this time a recognisable selling point and marketing tool for the film. It's also the first time any actor's been credited above the title, even if it's in quite small writing. The focal point of the poster is Broderick's eyes and cheeky grin, and although he may have his hands behind his head in a relaxed pose, the image is cropped so close he could just as easily be getting arrested. Given that during the film Ferris often breaks the fourth wall, it's quite fitting that he's looking right at us. It's hard to see, but in the bottom right hand corner you can just make out a small FBDO symbol for the film. Again I don't think this is featured in the film, but it's cute enough.

For Hughes' first foray away from the teen comedy genre he chose to team up with Steve Martin and the man I'd consider his greatest male collaborator (sorry Anthony Michael Hall), John Candy. As we're dealing with actual movie stars now, both men get their name above the title which for the first time sits at the top of the poster. There's a brief introduction to the Thanksgiving based story, but this poster really sells itself just on the image. Candy is centre of frame, pushing Steve Martin uncomfortably close to the edge (in fact you can see he's getting pushed out of frame and off the poster), and Martin's face says it all. There's a fair bit of dead space on the right (except for Candy's ever present baggage), but that only helps to highlight how cramped together the two characters are.

I'll be honest that I've still not seen She's Having A Baby, despite it being part of my collection. This is the first John Hughes poster to feature the Hughes Entertainment logo (the two vertical lines and star that make an 'H') that would become a regular feature of his films. Again the stars names are above the title, but they pale in significance to the 'A JOHN HUGHES FILM' that adorns the top of the poster. The staccato tagline is effective enough, and has corresponding symbols under the film's title. Well, except for the Tuna casserole. There's a strange trend for these weird symbols on Hughes' posters that I can't fully explain.

The poster for Uncle Buck has all the elements you'd expect from a Hughes film poster. His "A John Hughes Film" introduction sits atop the poster, and the Hughes 'H' is at the bottom. I'm not a massive fan of the "Oh No! It's..." tagline, but mainly because it's so far away from the actual title. The "He's crude. He's crass. He's family" tagline is much better. This is a good, fun poster that although instantly recognisable for the film, doesn't manage to convey the story at all. It'd work a lot better if it didn't feature the mostly absent parents and just had the kids barricading the door. Although Candy's main character takes up half the poster, the soon to be superstar Macualay Culkin is also quite visible, breaking that fourth wall again as Buck's nephew.

And now to the last of John Hughes' directorial outings, the 1991 comedy Curly Sue. I think I saw this film when I was a kid, but as it's currently unavailable on Region 2 DVD it's a nightmare to get hold of. I can't remember too much about the story, but the poster shows off its little latchkey kid lead quite well, despite the confusing situation where the star credited above the title (James Belushi) doesn't appear on the poster. The logo's quite nice and appropriately curly, but probably would have more impact in red. The tagline's quite inconsequential, as it's dwarfed by the easily marketable John Hughes name at the top.

So there's the complete selection of Shermer, Illinois' finest. John Hughes only directed 8 features in his career, but his work as a producer meant his name appeared on many more posters. Keep an eye out for that compilation coming soon. It's a shame that Hughes went into semi-retirement in the mid 90's, but it's his work in the 80's that have secured his place in film history. We've all got a favourite John Hughes film (I think I'd have to go for Weird Science, but Uncle Buck and Planes, Trains and Automobiles are holiday classics), but all 8 of the accompanying posters were original, creative and unique.

Thanks to IMP for the use of their posters. I recommend you head over there to check out the massive library they have. It's aces. Oh, and one more thing...

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