The Art of the Sell — Dirty Rotten Scoundrels teaser trailer

These posts celebrate the movie trailers, movie posters, commercials, print ads, and other promotional material that stand as their own works of art.

I’m sometimes nostalgic for the era when I could be surprised by a trailer the first time I saw it in the movie theater. That’s not to suggest that there’s no such thing as an inventive trailer any longer. Instead, there’s so much advance word on most major features, often including a steady stream of early reviews and buzz from festivals and other early screenings, that the very first footage cast up on a screen can already feel familiar. That’s not even touching on the allure of expedient compromise with watching the bits online as soon as they’re available.

As I recall, I didn’t know a thing about Frank Oz’s 1988 film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, when its teaser trailer flickered before me the first time. That made its visual gag, combined with perfectly timed narration and title reveal, absolutely exquisite. Reportedly, Oz and his collaborators came up with the idea for the bit when the studio wanted a trailer, and he didn’t feel he had enough footage shot yet to do his comedy justice. As it turns out, necessity is the mother of a great trailer.

Other entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “Art of the Sell” tag.

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