How to Teach a Donkey
My normal routine in the morning is to eat breakfast and watch the news. I switch between CNN, MSNBC, and Good Morning America. This morning, I was derailed and accidentally tuned into How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. How to Stuff a Wild Bikini is one of the teenage movies from American International Pictures, also responsible for Bikini Beach, Beach Blanket Bingo, etc. In the 1950s, AIP was the studio behind the teenage science fiction and horror movies such as I Was a Teenage Werewolf, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, and Teenage Cave Man. As a side note, the original title for Clueless was I Was a Teenage Teenager. In the 1960s, they focused on beach movies. The 1970s saw drugs, gangs, and blaxploitation films.
The Beach movies are awful, but hypnotic. How can they not be? They have Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, teenagers is very scanty bathing suits, bad musical numbers, motorcycle gangs, fake surfing, and slapstick comedy with Buster Keaton. The posters follow the same less than subtle approach. Albert Kallis designed many of the remarkable 1950s AIP posters. I often say the right way to communicate is like teaching a donkey; first hit it over the head with a two-by-four. Then give it the message. These posters do this in spades.
I understand good taste movie campaigns like Lincoln. The poster is minimal and states, “This is a serious masterpiece, and this is an Academy Award movie.” The other side of the coin is the blunt approach.
Good marketing and advertising typically works when the viewer is given a command: Just do it, Enjoy Coke, Think Different. The Kallis posters do this and more. Often they listed the commands on terms of seeing: See strangest of all rites in the temple of love! See earth attacked by flying saucers! AIP posters in the 1970s were never subtle, but I’ll watch a film that promises, “Shamelessly loaded with sex and violence,” and “She’s brown sugar and spice, but if you don’t treat her nice, she’ll put you on ice.”