Remembering Eraserhead, and 20 More of the Best Movie Posters Ever

With the long-awaited release of David Lynch's masterpiece _Eraserhead_ on DVD region 2, Austin Collings misses the enigma of the original as opitomised in its iconic poster. Plus, The Quietus collects the other 20 most enticing posters of all time.

I sometimes wish I hadn’t done a runner from my last house. Granted, I owed the obese landlord a fair few quid, but who’s to say he really needed it; as in really needed it. And anyway, anybody who’s that conversant with money, like he was, deserves to lose out every now and again. Lord knows, I’ve lost out enough times myself: ‘three figures’ equates to 1.99, in my book…

I left so many things there, you see: original vinyl, books, and an exciting tower of videos that staved off countless moments of mundane madness. Many a night, when the pub was just a mere dream bathed in the melancholy orange of night, I turned to one of those videos, bought from the charity shop for a handsome pound. Admittedly, at the time, I would have much preferred six pints of Guinness and the distant notion of finding love in a threadbare pub. But with the magic of hindsight, I’m thankful for those nights when it was just me and the goggle box and my cheap, 2D friends.

Sadly, I’m more annoyed than ever now, sat staring at this ‘restored’ version of Eraserhead. This is not the film I once knew on video. Watching it back then, in its bottomless black and badly-washed work shirt white, it looked for all the world like it had been shot not on film, but in ash culled from all the pub ashtrays I wasn’t contributing to that night. What have they done to its unique ‘murk’? It’s too clean, too new, too ‘Restored’… And who are ‘the restorers’ anyway, monkeying with my memories?

I feel oddly alone amongst this new breed of unstoppable and ungovernable tech-head. It doesn’t help matters that they’re everywhere; tampering like bored neighbours on sun-blessed Sundays, pursuing an idea of perfection that has never existed. Theirs is a world of flat-screens, of HD, of Top Gear and it’s a world that leaves me in a constant state of quiet, unknowing idiocy; not too dissimilar to the way I felt on my first day of work experience at the age of 15: trickle of sweat slaloming down my armpit, itchy scalp, ugly uncertainty – that sort of thing…

I know they’re only doing their job, and that they both probably love, and are very good at said job; and compared to mild monsters like David Cameron and Jeremy Clarkson, their villainy isn’t so evidently destructive. I just wish they’d rethink this clichéd, Brave New World notion of newness; not be so diligent and clinical; and retain all those important imperfections that remind you films were once made by humans. Marketing men may say otherwise, but they’ve had their own way for far too long now. Know it all, know fuck all: time we upped sticks from that lot anyway. They’d have us redesigning our own babies given the chance (and some may say they already are).

I see it not only in the needless restoration of such obviously great pieces of work like Eraserhead, but in the whole blank, standardised marketing of films and books and, to a lesser extent, music. And I see it at its worst when it comes to artwork: film-posters, book covers; of which there’s been a truly terrible decline in quality, these past 20 years or so. Today’s film posters and book covers have more in common with the temporal world of magazines than they do with artistic longevity.

They used to be so good; so much so, I now find it hard to disassociate many films from their indelible posters; Eraserhead, being chief amongst them.

Still to this day, I find the poster, or the loaded promise of the poster, with its big green lettering and Jack Nance’s cloud-like hair, more thrilling than the film itself. Which is not to say I dislike the fim at all. I think it’s fantastic.

That’s the thing with any brilliant poster; it’s a brilliant lie too. It’s the toy on the shelf that you know you shouldn’t buy, that robs you of your pocket money; the beautiful girl in the boozer who sits and drinks with you all night then gives you a comedy number at the end of it. It locks you in.

For years, it adorned my wood-chip bedroom wall; and for years I longed to see it, longed to believe in Newsweek’s faith that it was – ‘The most original horror movie in years’. I loved horror films; loved all things horror; but for the illicit pleasure of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot book, I may never have believed in the wonderful and frightening world of words in the sure way I do now.

Week after week, with that poster in my mind, I’d return to my local video shop and carefully inspect its contents whilst recoiling at the smell of potato-hash that permeated the air like some unearthly presence. But, unlike the poster that hung omnipresent on my wall through years of daymares and nightmares, it was never there. Not then. Not in the age of VHS, and film posters with promise. It wasn’t until a good few years later, when I picked it up from that charity shop, that I finally got to see the thing. But, by then, my mind was plagued by other worries, adult stuff; and not the palpable presence of potato – hash.

Click here to see our top twenty movie posters gallery

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