Viva VHS #4: My Eyes! Horrible DVD Covers (Part Two)

To analyze every single DVD cover fail would take months. Simply put, a good DVD cover is the exception, not the norm. Some perfectly good movie posters from yesteryear have been cast aside in favor of novice Photoshop work.  These are not just bad, they are outrageously bad, as you will see as we continue browsing through examples. (If you missed part one, go here)  The movie poster art is on the left, and the DVD cover is on the right (as if you needed me to tell you that).

OK. I get it. They wanted to highlight the fact that Hollywood bigshot John Cusack is in it. I can understand that. What I don't understand is this Photoshop disaster going on with the sunglasses and the dangling mini-Cusack.

I think this must have been a homeschooler project.
Could this be the most boring image imaginable for this movie?  A plain box would have been more exciting.  I wonder if the Death Wish II DVD cover will feature Bronson taking a nap on the couch.

I think this movie poster is utterly brilliant. The DVD cover, on the other hand, is hopeless crap. 'Nuff said.

I'm not hear to claim these movie posters were works of high art: they are no different than an advertisement - they serve to sell the product. The Inseminoid artwork certainly goes all the way with this one, and as far as B-movie posters go, this one delivers.  The DVD cover, in stark contrast, is about as inept as it gets.

One of my pet peeves is when faces are overly smoothed to the point where they look like polished plastic.  This shitty DVD cover doesn't even show their complete faces. Note to designer: make the title smaller or make the faces smaller - don't just cut them off at the upper lip. It makes it look like a mistake in printing.

The horrible font might be appropriate for a kiddie movie, but 70s softcore? And by the way, this is not a bad copy of the DVD cover - she really is that blurry!  
Yet another great piece of movie art cast aside in favor of more rubberized, polished and smoothed faces. Michael Douglass' face is so overly retouched, he's unrecognizable. Is the ladder he's climbing resting on her back?

Here's my idea. We'll throw away the amazing poster art and randomly piece together a bunch of meaningless crap from the movie. Then, we'll put Bill Murray's face on a big patriotic button for no reason. Next, we'll eliminate any trace of sex appeal - bikini chick and hot pants chick GONE! Instead, we'll throw in a couple peanuts and weiners. Whadya think? I am I awesome or what?  

20th Century Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch, one of the richest people to ever inhabit the Planet Earth.  Evidently, very little of the money makes its way to the DVD art department.

Could this possibly be more boring? I don't mean that rhetorically. I'm being serious - could this be more boring?

 Wow. Looks like somebody just discovered some new Photoshop tools, drank a ton of Red Bull and went buck wild!


  1. You're so right. These are all terrible DVD covers. They should have just kept the original poster art for all of these. Great post!

  2. The funniest thing about the Coma DVD is the fact that they stuck those faces on the bodies. Those heads are not on the real actors bodies. It's really awkward perspective. That has always been one of my pet peeves with movie posters from way back. Use some "perfect" body and stick the stars head on it. They were doing this long before Photoshop.

    There used to be a design studio in L.A. that was open 24 hours a day. I can't remember the name of it. A friend used to go there and work at night. This was back in the late 70s to early 80s and they were cranking out movie posters 24/7. I'm not talking about printing them. This was design and paste-up. They were also raking in the money. All pre-computers so everything was done by hand.

    By the way, give designers a break. They don't get the final decision. All of what you're looking at is design by committee. Bean counter committees.

  3. If every DVD publisher is doing this, there must be studies proving that buyers are drawn to "new" art, or large, clear actor faces (To be fair, the poster art WAS made to be seen in a much larger form).

    The solution? Double-sided paper inserts- the consumer can flip them to the classic poster if they wish.

  4. I've never heard on Inseminoid. I must now research and discover everything about this awful/awesome concept of a movie.

  5. The first DVD version of Meatballs did use the movie poster. This is the more recently released "special edition" where they decided to change it around for some reason.

  6. It really pisses me off when some great art work by Drew Struzan is replaced by crap photo shop. In fact that's one of the reasons Mr. Struzan retired.

  7. All of what you're looking at is design by committee. Bean counter committees.

    And a wise man once said that a platypus is a duck designed by committee.

  8. You are obviously right that the movie posters are more aesthetically pleasing, but I think this is because the poster and the DVD cover have different objectives.

    The poster is supposed to catch your eye when you see it on a wall, and then tell you, "Hey, this cool new movie is out." The poster is meant to alert you about a new movie, give you an idea about the mood of the movie.

    By the time a DVD comes out, the public is already aware of the movie, so I am guessing that the DVD cover is designed to be easily spotted on the shelf by someone who is already looking for that movie or actor. That is why the title on the DVD cover is so huge and clear, and why the actor's faces are so prominent (in case you forgot the name of the movie or actor, but would recognize his or her face.)

    (I worked in a bookstore for 3 years, and many many people came in who wanted a particular book but couldn't recall the title or author, but recognized the words when they saw them. I assume the same sort of thing goes on with DVDs.)

    I think harrod is also right in pointing out the size difference; the movie title has to take up more of the space of the smaller format in order to be visible at a distance.

  9. BTW, I just saw "Death Wish" for the first time, having only ever seen the horrible "Death Wish III." "Death Wish" is actually a good movie, with interesting camera shots, interesting music (Herbie Hancock!) and a not bad plot. Also, it was fun to see Manhattan during that time period, over 20 years before I moved to Manhattan, and to see Jeff Goldblum and Olympia Dukakis ini early small roles.

  10. I don't think you've done JAWS and its sequels. The first two movies have great posters; the DVDs have this laughable silver CGI-y shark that looks even worse than Bruce himself!

    You can find some cool replacement DVD covers for JAWS and other popular movies here:


  11. I've nothing new to say about the overall issue today than yesterday, but I actually kind of like the Death Wish cover. They're selling it as a '70s movie rather than an action movie and I think that's overall more accurate. The mournful look captures the movie as a whole better for me.

  12. What's sad is one could create an entire blog full of poster/VHS/DVD comparisons and never run out of content.

    I don't quite buy into several arguments made by commenters. While it's true that art is more aesthetically pleasing on a poster than a DVD merely based on size (same thing can be said of LPs and CDs), obviously there's a ton of interest in original art or there wouldn't be so many sites offering printable DVD covers made by fans. And more modern movies like "Detroit Rock City," "Grandma's Boy" and "Wet, Hot, American Summer" feature retro-ish artwork that looks great on the front of a DVD.

    Someone commented that people tend not to remember the names of movies but would associate pics of the actors. Personally (and I know I'm not alone), original art from posters and VHS boxes (which were often the same) stick in my mind more than the actors from the films. Pre-'90s movie poster art was actually art.

    Another argument is that they're dumbing it down for current generations. There are unquestionably young movie buffs, but realistically the bulk of the people who are gonna buy these DVDs were around when the movies were first released -- ergo, they remember the original art.

  13. Gilligan,

    Really enjoyed these posts, despite the fact that I totally disagree with the premise. I usually say "Amen, brother!" to every opinion you express on Retrospace. But this time ... *wow* are we on different planets.

    My take on "Movie Poster vs. DVD Cover" is:

    1. Most of these are a contest between "suck" and "suckier."

    2. In many cases, the DVD cover is actually *preferable*.

    That's certainly the case with "Fuzz" (first one from the previous day's post). Here's what the movie poster tells me:

    A. The star of the movie is Barbarella.

    B. Barbarella is inexplicably being playing by Madeline Kahn.

    C. Burt Reynolds is going to recreate his naked centerfold from Cosmo.

    D. Burt Reynolds and Madeline Kahn both inexplicably have bird poop on their right nipple.

    E. John Lennon is going to attack me with Stevie Wonder's companion animal.

    F. It's really, really, REALLY important that this is the !!!!87th!!!! Precinct, not the 86th or 88th.

    G. Bald Guys Can't Paint.

    I suspect none of these things are actually true.

    Whereas, the DVD covers *nails* "what is this movie about and do I want to see it?"

    A. It's a Burt Reynolds cop movie.

    B. Raquel Welch is his love interest.

    C. So, no actual "acting" is going to be involved here.

    D. Also, it's for people who think it's really, really funny if undercover cops dress up like nuns.

    Thank you, DVD Cover Artist, for the elegant clarity of your design and the truth-in-labeling of your concept.

    The only one of the DVD covers that I really, really despise is "*batteries not included," which combines an unbelievable level of bigotry and stupidity.

    Bigotry: The movie stars Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, but we can't have *old* people on the cover! So, crop out everything but a Potemkin-like view of Cronyn's left eye, and Let's Drive Miss Daisy Off The Poster Altogether.

    Stupidity: This poster violates the first two rules of movie advertising design:

    1. Never, NEVER make your movie look like it stars Pauly Shore.

    2. Particularly if your movie DOESN'T FREAKING STAR PAULY SHORE!

  14. Better off Dead. Favourite Movie. Ever. Sad eh? I did just see Bullshot, though and I must say that it's a contender.

  15. I have to say this set is even worse than the previous set. Slaughter is ruined by the DVD cover!

  16. This is very, very true. I don't know why DVD covers are so minimalist and boring when the original paintings were so nice and actually helped tell you what the story was about! I guess because they're not all super sharp, contrast-laden and Photoshoppy-looking? They also redesign things to fit in with whatever the current font and/or art style is. That Revenge of the Nerds DVD looks like a cross between American Pie and The 40-Year-Old Virgin or something like that. Change the style to fool people into thinking it's something newer?

    I have Coma on VHS and it uses a fairly classy reworking of the movie poster, as it should.

  17. Totally agree with you on these! ALTHOUGH... the INNER SPACE DVD cover on the right is actually a variant poster from the 80s!