I Love How You Tease

I just recently noticed that movie trailers occasionally show shots or even dialogue that are not in the actual movie. The trailer for American Gangster ends with a low-angle shot of a revolver falling on the floor and a man in a suit (we can assume Frank Lucas) walking away, all in slo-mo. This shot was never in the movie, slo-mo or otherwise. I remember the trailer for Interview With The Vampire showing Tom Cruise saying "You're a vampire who never knew what life was 'til it ran out in a red gush." Again, he never said that in the movie. Is this just because the trailer is compiled before the film's final cut?

Ratatouille, on the other hand, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxbruOoXfOA">had a trailer which had NOTHING from the movie in it, and actually pretty much qualified as an animated short. It was really cool, and it makes more sense than the examples above, except it seems that it would cost more money than it's worth as opposed to compiling already-existing footage into a trailer. Can you think of any other examples of these types of things?

David Voigt

Tasha Robinson can, in fact:

The whole "movie trailer doesn't match the movie" phenomenon is becoming more common in this era of long lead times, when the first ads for films will sometimes hit theaters more than a year before the films. Sometimes the trailers jump the gun on the movie's final cut because a studio wants to build early word-of-mouth or gauge interest in a fan-pandering project. Sometimes it's because a film that's already been advertised does poorly in test screenings or a limited run, or because there's a key personnel change at the releasing studio, so a film release gets postponed and the film gets re-edited. Add all this to the fact that trailers are generally assembled by marketers, not by the filmmakers—and, as you suggested, the marketers may not have access to the final cut of the film when the trailer is made—and it becomes a bit of a wonder that trailers wind up even remotely resembling the films they're shilling.

Advertisement

But while the way movies are marketed these days has something to do with that, it isn't a brand-new phenomenon. A few weeks ago, I finally found time to watch Billy Wilder's 1951 drama Ace In The Hole. (Terrific movie, by the way.) The Criterion release included the original trailer, natch, and when I watched that, I noticed an interesting difference between the film and the trailer—in a scene where Kirk Douglas punches Ray Teal, the trailer uses a different take than the film did, with Teal reacting slightly differently, and falling over into a different position. So this kind of thing has clearly been happening for a long time.

At any rate. That final shot in the American Gangster trailer is remarkably generic—it doesn't show any faces, and it barely shows a location. It strikes me as something that could have been shot months before or after the film, without anyone from the film being involved. Maybe it was left over from an early version of the ad, one assembled before Ridley Scott actually shot the film. (See below for more examples of this.) Maybe it was just a shot that Scott wound up not using in the movie. It's hard to say. The Interview With The Vampire line, on the other hand, was clearly shot for the movie at some point. Maybe it was cut because it's a terrible line. I'd have to go back and watch the scene where it's supposed to appear to be sure whether it was swapped out for another line of dialogue, or the whole scene was cut, but that would involve watching Interview With The Vampire again. And man, that trailer does not make that an attractive prospect.

Getting on to your final question, yes, Pixar put out an all-original Ratatouille trailer that included no footage from the film. (These are generally called "teasers" rather than "trailers.") This is nothing new for Pixar, either. The company also put out a teaser for The Incredibles featuring no footage from the film. There was an early mini-teaser for Cars as well, with the main characters having a close encounter with some bees.

Advertisement

And Pixar isn't alone in the early, no-footage-from-the-film trailer concept. Though they've made a specialty of it, perhaps out of a desire to make sure its films are marketed correctly. And they take a different approach to it, since their teasers have to be scripted and then animated with the designs and programs that will be used to make the actual movies—so they can't crank out a trailer before they've even started production on the film. You suggest it isn't worth it, but I beg to differ. Disney reportedly thought Ratatouille would be a difficult sell, what with its weirdo French title and its weirdo fine-cooking theme. So the advance trailer starts out with some comedy, moves into some action, and then appeals directly to the viewer, explaining who the characters are and what their problems are. Instant rapport. Of course it's "worth it" if it gets people into the theaters when they might have otherwise avoided the film.

Live-action movies, on the other hand, don't have to have all their characters designed, programmed, and in computers before production begins, which lets them cheat a little. Shortly after Universal Pictures announced that it had just green-lighted a live-action version of The Flintstones, theaters started showing a teaser that was basically just a smiling John Goodman dressed as Fred, shouting "Wilma, I'm home!" Production hadn't launched yet, and there was no footage to show, but the studio wanted the idea out there early. I saw a similar teaser for Batman Begins, just before primary shooting started here in Chicago; it consisted entirely of a slow, loving pan around a CGI Batman logo, with audio of Christian Bale and Michael Caine saying lines in character. And don't forget the initial Transformers teaser, which was certainly a tease, with only a vague, blurry, shadowy glimpse of one of the transforming robots that all the fans were drooling to see in action. Basically, when studios are marketing would-be blockbusters, it pays to start early and often, and sometimes the sales pitch starts before the movie does.

Song Seek

So I hesitate to ask this one, since I suspect it's not all that obscure. But I can't for the life of me figure it out, and my friends are of no help. So, here goes… It's a song I'm looking for. Probably from the '80s. Here's what I remember: It has a cheesy synth line that sounds like it is entirely made up of fake orchestra hits similar to synthesizer in "Gloria" by Laura Branigan. At some point, it goes into a ridiculous sax solo. And the singer (a guy) sings something along the lines of "the same boy as yesterday." Any and all of those words may be wrong, but they're what my brain chose to hear and remember. A little help?

Advertisement

Alex Fernie

Sean O'Neal gets you by with a little help from a friend:

The song you're looking for is most likely "Valerie" by blue-eyed soul singer Steve Winwood, who embarked on a platinum-selling solo phase after an already-remarkable recording career with Traffic, Blind Faith, and the Spencer Davis Group by releasing a string of synthesizer-aided singles in the '80s.  "Valerie"—a minor hit when it appeared on 1982's Talking Back To The Night, but a top-10 smash when it was remixed for the 1987 compilation Chronicles—is an ode to lost love, specifically a woman "so cool she was like jazz on a summer's day." Its refrain features Winwood's plea to the titular girl to "Come and see me / I'm the same boy I used to be"—which is probably the line you're (almost) remembering.

Advertisement

As to how obscure it is, that all depends: If you ever worked in retail, for example, you're probably familiar with it; as a teenager, I spent nearly two years being tortured by Winwood's plaintive, raspy wails, courtesy of the Eckerd Satellite Network, while I toiled in their pharmacy. Other people may be more familiar with the 2004 house remix "Call On Me" by Swedish DJ Eric Prydz, who so impressed Winwood with his use of a "Valerie" sample that Winwood actually rerecorded the vocals to fit the track better, prolonging the life of a schlocky '80s hit even further.

Winwood's meticulously animated video for the 1987 remix of "Valerie":

The Great Space Coaster

I can recall seeing an anime/manga/animated-movie when I was VERY very young (and which was probably far too mature for a kid my age to be watching, but whatever) that involved a little kid whose mother is gunned down in front of him, and who then somehow acquires a big floppy hat and a trenchcoat and a big gun, and goes out on some adventure, I think presumably to get revenge or something. He's eventually joined by some big burly guy whose body is full of old bullets (which he demonstrates at some point by standing behind an x-ray screen) and maybe some others, and there's a big "space-train" kind of thing that travels between planets. It's been killing me to remember what this movie was called. Any ideas?

Advertisement

Charlie

Tasha Robinson has ideas, if not answers:

It's hard to pin down your movie exactly, Charlie, because I don't know when you were VERY very young (last week? 25 years ago?), and it does matter. Because you're almost certainly thinking of Leiji Matsumoto's Galaxy Express 999. Problem is, like most of Leiji Matsumoto's creations—primarily Space Battleship Yamato (a.k.a. Star Blazers in America) and Captain Harlock—the story of the star-spanning railroad Galaxy Express 999 gets told over and over and over in new forms in Japan. Check out Matsumoto's IMDB page, and note how many Galaxy Express 999 titles there are.

Advertisement

That said, I'm going to guess you're thinking of the 1979 movie Galaxy Express 999, which does feature a little kid whose mother is killed in front of him, and centers on his quest for revenge. Specifically, since an evil robot hunted his mother down for sport, he wants to acquire a perfect "machine body" so he'll be strong enough to kill her murderer. Which leads into some very typically angsty Matsumoto questions about what humanity is, and what makes life worth living, and whether it's worth trading life for revenge—either by discarding a human body and becoming a soulless robot, or by giving up on kindness and love and becoming a soulless, driven killer.

I don't remember the big burly guy full of bullets, though. And the big floppy hat and trenchcoat really aren't much help, since it seems like half of Matsumoto's characters dress like that. Put it this way: here's a 1997 review I wrote of two of the Galaxy Express movies when they first became available on videotape in America. See whether they ring any bells. If not, you might go looking for later incarnations of the series. It's pretty common for later versions of an anime series or film to just retell the same story with the same characters, but in different ways, so it wouldn't be too surprising to learn that a later remake of the story featured the same basic arc. It'd be a lot more surprising if you saw one of those later versions, though—the original Galaxy Express 999 was considered a classic, and apart from very recent incarnations like 2003's The Galaxy Railways, it's the most widely available of the lot.

Everyone's Gone To The Movies

When I was much younger (in the mid '90s), I was part of the Cub Scouts. Every year, once you got to be a certain age (I think around the time I hit 3rd grade), they showed us a movie about child predators and pedophiles. Being so young, I had no idea what a pedophile was, and being forced to sit in a cafeteria with a bunch of other boys and their very serious parents just registered as a very unsettling experience.

Advertisement

I think I was subjected to this movie about three times, so I remember a few things. It's split up into three stories: in the first one, a boy is in a garage helping an old man paint his birdfeeder blue, when the old man spills the paint on the boy, before telling him to take his clothes off so he can take pictures. In the next, a baseball coach drives a boy home, but not before showing him a magazine in his car (they describe the magazine, saying something like "it was filled with boys wrestling with each other"). I don't really remember the last one, except that I think the pedophile is somebody's uncle.

I realize that this is different and weirder than the questions you guys normally get, but I want to watch this film again to get some closure on these creepy images of old men and blue paint that are stuck in my head. As you can imagine, searching the Internet has come up with less than helpful results. Is there some kind of database of these types of educational movies that I can search?

David

Donna Bowman got a merit badge for catching predators:

Last question first: The only name you need to know is "Rick Prelinger." Rick has made a career out of collecting sponsored films—educational, training, industrial, hygiene, safety, advertising, propaganda, promotional, and similar films that were produced by a particular sponsor to deliver a particular message.

Advertisement

A portion of the Prelinger Archive is online (other collections are stored at the Library Of Congress and at Prelinger headquarters). There, you can find the 1961 version of Sid Davis' famous anti-pedophilia film Boys Beware:

In this solemn warning about the dangers posed by homosexuals (here conflated with pedophiles), a hitchhiking boy makes the mistake of accepting the attentions of a balding man who picks him up. There's only one story here, and it's in black and white, so your memory doesn't correspond, David. But we contacted Rick Prelinger to find out whether the film you saw had any relationship to Boys Beware, and here's what he said:

"I suspect that the Cub Scouts were indeed shown Boys Beware, but not the first edition from 1961. Sid Davis remade this film four times, and the later versions are still in circulation—they are updated to better match the times and were released in color. I think the 4th edition is the one you mention."

Advertisement

Anyone who's interested in these kinds of films should pick up Prelinger's indispensable catalog A Field Guide To Sponsored Films, published by the National Film Preservation Foundation. (Here's my review.) It's a treasure trove of enlightening, strange, and strident voices from school assemblies, chambers of commerce, church basements, factory floors, and driver education classes. And many of the films described in the catalog can be viewed online at archive.org. Download your copy today! And give thanks this holiday season for dedicated preservationists who've kept these cultural artifacts alive and made them available, in lieu of the therapy we would otherwise require from having been forced to watch them in our youth.

Next week: Ask The A.V. Club takes a week off while our compiler takes a vacation. Send your questions to asktheavclub@theonion.com.