Over the years I’ve acquired a small collection of REPO MAN posters – some of them for theatrical or dvd releases, some of them art pieces made by people who were enthusiasts for the film. Some are quite sublime, and others awful. Let’s take a brief trip among my souvenirs…
This is the original poster, designed by Universal Pictures. Have you ever seen anything more lame? It looks like a poster for a spin-off of THE WARRIORS. Harry Dean Stanton, the first-billed actor, is stuck in the back behind his car. Emilio Estevez has been given leg extensions. The rays of light emerging from the trunk don’t line up with any source. The dreadful “Meet Otto… he’s a clean cut etc.” attempt at a written explanation of the film betrays the studio’s complete failure to understand it. And worst of all, the title of the film is in the wrong place, too small, in black against a dark background. Why… it’s almost as if Universal didn’t want people to see the film. The producers and I were so annoyed by this that we made a stencil and drove around LA grafitti’ing REPO MAN posters wherever we found them (see below).
As the reader will note, the explicatory babble has been overstamped with a much bigger REPO MAN logo, in red, and MAY 4, the Los Angeles release date, has also been added. The red has faded now, but was very bright it its day. This is the poster which hangs in the lobby of Melnitz Hall, at UCLA.
A couple of years later, REPO MAN got a theatrical re-release thanks to Kelly Neal, who was in charge of a division of Universal called “Special Handling.” He had two films to deal with, REPO MAN and RUMBLEFISH. He thought the studio had misunderstood both films and mishandled their original releases. He wanted to make new posters for the national re-release, but Universal wouldn’t give him a budget. Somehow he managed to fund a black-and-white one, which completely gets the film.
Universal washed their hands of REPO MAN internationally. Foreign distributors, such as Artificial Eye in the UK, picked it up. REPO MAN became Arty Eye’s biggest money maker, and their poster, while a bit fussy, is closer to the spirit of the film.
Whose poster was this? I’ve been told it’s from the Netherlands, but it might also be part of the growing realm of movie fan art, like the following:
Nice to see Sy Richardson’s character, Lite, celebrated here. And interesting how the artist, like Kelly Neal, relies on an exchange of dialogue as part of the composition.
And here’s some fan art for a REPO MAN 2 that never was – featuring a fluorescent Otto, and a score by Husker Du! This was not authorized by the author, but then such art never is. I love the colour scheme.
And who could forget the tin-box packaging (I know it’s not strictly a poster) of Anchor Bay’s REPO MAN dvd release? With a good US distributor, the dvd did so well that Universal asked Anchor Bay to give it back – someone told me they traded the dvd rights to REPO MAN for the rights to EVIL DEAD 2. And what did Uni do next? They brought a new dvd out via their “indy” subsidiary, Focus Features, packaged like this:
Ay, ay, ay. Never let a bad idea go to waste! Good to see Jennifer Balgobin made it to the final version, but guys… was this really the best graphic you could manage? The most original idea you could come up with? The Rolling Roadshow showed ’em the way to go a couple of years later, with a tour of films projected on the big screen in the locations where they were shot. They showed ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST in Monument Valley, and REPO MAN in an LA alley:
I think the best way to graphically represent a film – a good film, anyway – isn’t with pasted-up pictures of some of the cast, but with a single, strong, unique image. The Rolling Roadshow did it here, in 2005.
Criterion did something along the same lines for their dvd and bluray release in 2013 — with a similar colour scheme (it’s taken from Robert Dawson’s opening credits). Another strong, simple and effective graphic! And, meanwhile, the mad and chaotic school of poster design continues to thrive:
This is the poster from Ghana, apparently. I don’t know the date but the skull with digital mohawk seems to be referencing the Criterion poster. Not sure about those beheadings, either.
And this is my personal fave — the poster from the Harry Dean Stanton Fest in Lexington, KY, in 2019. If I succeed in getting REPO MAN 2 – THE WAGES OF BEER – a-going, this will be our poster.
Stay tuned! And a shout out to my dear pal Pablo Kjolseth of the IFS for turning me on to the Russian Film Hub, where you can see Russian features across the decades, for free. Numerous good pictures here — among them the deeply disturbing COME & SEE, and the brilliant HEART OF A DOG.