Pulp Fiction - One Litigious Movie Poster
Quentin Tarantino held down several jobs (including the uncharacteristic role of recruiter for the Aerospace Industry) before he made his movie breakthrough.
His five years at the avant-garde Manhattan Beach video rental store 'Video Archives' get the most air time. A tiny store in a small shopping mall, it was renowned for its stock of rare titles, film-buff staff and cool movie geek customers. In 2012 former customer, actor Danny Strong, told IGN that Tarantino...
"... was a fantastic video store clerk because he was such a movie buff. He had so much knowledge of films, that he would try to get people to watch really cool movies."
That deep knowledge of an eclectic range of films underpins all of the movies of, perhaps, the most influential film-maker of his generation.
His first film Reservoir Dogs was originally envisaged as a budget black and white movie shot on 16mm film. Production plans changed when the script found its way to actor Harvey Keitel. Signing on as co-producer he helped raise $1.5M to fund professional filming and production and to recruit a now characteristic ensemble cast to deliver the quick-fire, octane fuelled script.
Flush with the $50,000 earned from Dogs, Tarantino flew to Europe and penned large portions of his next movie, the ever quotable Pulp Fiction...
"… you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
No, they got the metric system there, they wouldn't know what the f**k a Quarter Pounder is.
What'd they call it?
They call it a ‘Royale with Cheese’."
Also incorporating scenes written by ex-video-store buddy Roger Avary, Pulp Fiction weaves a trilogy of independent but interrelated stories told in seven out-of-sequence shorts.
Having taken an option on the script, TriStar apparently backed out of production stating "It's too long, violent, and unfilmable." Miramax disagreed and it would become the first film they fully financed.
Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1994 - and winning the coveted Palme d'Or - the movie would spend the next six months building momentum on the film festival circuit. In September it opened the New York Film Festival, leading Janet Maslin of the New York Times to write...
"Pulp Fiction" is the work of a film maker whose avid embrace of pop culture manifests itself in fresh, amazing ways.
Mr. Tarantino, a mostly self-taught, mostly untested talent who spent his formative creative years working in a video store, has come up with a work of such depth, wit and blazing originality that it places him in the front ranks of American film makers."
Bucking the trend for a slow roll-out, Pulp Fiction opened on 14th October 1994 at 1,100 movie theatres across the U.S., with the campaign underpinned by the iconic image of Uma Thurman.
But, there was a problem. Look closely and you will see that Uma is smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes. She is also reading Norman Bligh's Harlot In Her Heart.
Miramax did not have permission to use either and the owners of the Lucky Strike brand (the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company) threatened to sue. As a result all 1,100 movie theatres were instructed to return their posters.
Now known by collectors as 'The Lucky Strike' poster, nearly thirty years later, this is a hard to find and expensive poster!
The replacement poster went with a stronger font, changed the cigarette brand and the book (on the revised poster it is actually titled Pulp Fiction) and also flipped the pistol.
This is the poster we all remember seeing when we watched this incredible movie!
Wind forward twenty-seven years, to 2021, and this iconic image is now the subject of a second legal wrangle.
American photographer Firooz Zahedi has snapped the greats of late twentieth century US cinema - Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand, Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Bette Midler and Meryl Streep among them.
It is was in his studio, on the 7th of April 1994, that Uma Thurman lay down on the bed and held her cigarette.
No one disputes that Zahedi took the photograph. But in September 2021, a U.S. judge began hearing his case that Miramax (and through their ownership of Miramax, Disney) had breached copyright law by failing to pay him for the rights to use his work on “untold thousands of consumer products.”
Miramax claim that the 'femme fatale' concept was theirs, with the photographer simply capturing their vision. However, crucially, they can't find the paperwork to back this up.
The case continues.
[Update on 29th November 2021 - It looks like Miramax / Disney have prevailed in this case. The judge overseeing the case has ruled that Zahedi should have made his claim earlier.]
As I type, we see that another Pulp Fiction law suit is pending. Miramax are suing the director himself, Quentin Tarantino, also for copyright infringement!
At the NFT.NYC conference earlier this year, Tarantino announced that he would be auctioning off seven hand-written "exclusive scenes" from the original Pulp Fiction script as digital NFTs (non-fungible tokens).
Miramax's lawsuit claims that they were not informed and that...
"The fact that Tarantino kept Miramax out of the loop is particularly problematic because he granted and assigned nearly all of his rights to Pulp Fiction (and all its elements in all stages of development and production) to Miramax in 1993, including the rights necessary for the “secrets from Pulp Fiction” that he intends to sell.
Upon learning of Tarantino’s plan, Miramax sent him a cease and desist letter setting forth, in great detail, Tarantino’s disregard of Miramax’s broad rights to Pulp Fiction. Wrongly claiming that his narrow Reserved Rights are sufficient, Tarantino remains undeterred and has refused to comply with Miramax’s demands to cancel the sale of Pulp Fiction NFTs."
In reply, Tarantino's attorney has stated...
“Miramax is wrong — plain and simple ... Tarantino’s contract is clear: he has the right to sell NFTs of his hand-written script for Pulp Fiction and this ham-fisted attempt to prevent him from doing so will fail."
Whether it is paper or new-fangled digital tokens, it seems that Tarantino's masterpiece, Pulp Fiction, will continue to be a talking point, both on and off the screen.
Why not take a look at which Pulp Fiction movie posters we currently have available and, if you haven't seen it recently, settle in to watch one of the most iconic films of the late twentieth century?
Adam and the Art of the Movies team.