What’s in a name?

wellesA few weeks ago I came across this poster for Le Criminel, the French release of Orson Welles’ The Stranger, and apparently featuring Welles as the Incredible Hulk. I wondered how that (the title, not the Hulk) made the French moviegoer’s experience different from the American’s. The idea that he’s a war criminal comes out pretty early, so it’s not a spoiler, but the American title emphasizes the mystery whereas the French one points out that he’s a bad guy, and I can’t help but think that the title leaves a subtle suggestion in the back of the viewer’s mind that colors the viewing experience.

PoVAnd I wonder how differences like that impacted people who saw Bava’s films. Did people walk away from Planet of the Vampires disappointed that there were no vampires in the film? It seems to me that marketing ploys like that would backfire in the long run, but maybe the distributors didn’t expect Bava’s films to do anything more than short runs, so the word of mouth wouldn’t matter so much. The Italian title, Terror in Space, seems like it could have been just as effective, and it wouldn’t have raised any false expectations. Along the same lines, I wonder how titles like Red Nights of the Iron Hand, Six Women for the Murderer, and Blood and Black Lace might have put audiences in different frames of mind for the same picture.

KBKHis titles regularly played on other film titles, like Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, or Antonioni et al’s I tre volti. Kill Baby Kill plays upon both Die Monster Die and Faster Pussycat Kill Kill. The Italian title, Operazione paura, plays upon any number of James Bond ripoffs that were popular at the time, which frequently had title beginning with Operation. I’m not sure whether the people who appreciate James Bond or Russ Meyer would appreciate being tricked into going to a gothic ghost story. Other names this film went by were Curse of the Living Dead and Die toten Augen des Dr. Dracula (The Dead Eyes of Dr. Dracula), which manages to reference a German krimi, vampires, and possibly Frankenstein with the “Dr.” part.

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