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For Promotional Use Only
Photograph: A24

From ‘Kill Bill’ swords to John Malkovich dolls: The weirdest merch in movie history

This new A24 book is a trove of strange and wonderful tie-in swag

Phil de Semlyen
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Phil de Semlyen
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US entertainment company A24 – the ludicrously cool launchpad for every film lover, cinephile and edgelord’s favourite movies, and home of such recent movie marvels as Uncut Gems, Lady Bird and The Lighthouse – has just published a new book showcasing 165 of the best (and worst) of movie marketing wheezes. 

Called ‘For Promotional Use Only’, it pulls together some of the maddest, most maverick and ingenious promo wheezes of recent times. And, let’s be honest, some really terrible ones too. Because a few of them definitely suggest at least one chemically-enhanced marketing meeting.

Spanning the period of 1975 to 2005, which kicked off with Jaws and takes in some mid-noughties high-concept fare like I, Robot, they’re also a fascinating insight into the way movie studios have tried to sell their wares to journalists, and at times, direct to Joe Public. Some are seriously clever, some a bit more basic. Here’s a few of them to give a flavour of a perfect Christmas present for any movie buff with a coffee table.

RECOMMENDED: Our list of the 100 best movies of all time.

Car freshener – Dazed and Confused (1993)
Photograph: A24

Car freshener – Dazed and Confused (1993)

Richard Linklater’s 1993 high-school classic is all summer boozing, partying and toking. So this air freshener would be perfect to mask the smell of weed as you roll into the parking lot with Aerosmith blasting. Definitely better than, say, a promotional Fred O’Bannion whacking bat.

Neck tie – Twister (1997)
Photograph: A24

Neck tie – Twister (1997)

In Jan de Bont’s 1997 disaster movie Twister Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton chase – and are chased by – a series of terrifying tornadoes across Oklahoma. So what better tie-in product to plug the blockbuster than… erm, a necktie? Seriously people, the launchable cow was staring you in the face

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Sunglasses – The Terminator (1984)
Photograph: A24

Sunglasses – The Terminator (1984)

Replicas of the Gargoyles ANSI Classics sunnies Arnie wears in The Terminator were up from grabs back when James Cameron first unleashed his iconic sci-fi on the moviegoing public. Handily, for anyone who also wanted to cosplay as a no-nonsense San Francisco detective, they’re the exact same shades Clint Eastwood wears in Dirty Harry. Win win.

Letter opener – Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
Photograph: A24

Letter opener – Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

If, like us, you like to open your mail with a sword, this piece of Tarantino tie-in merch was for you. While it almost certainly wasn’t Hattori Hanzō-approved – and if you’re nitpicking, didn’t come with a tiny scabbard – it would have instantly bestowed iconic status on any mid-noughts desk space.

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Calculator – To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995) 
Photograph: A24

Calculator – To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995) 

There’s a lot of pink in this cult road trip movie starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo as three drag queens driving to Hollywood – but none of it is painted onto the sides of its yellow 1967 Cadillac DeVille. Not that you’d know it this very fuchsia kitchy calculator. Maths is rarely this flamboyant. 

Antenna topper – There’s Something About Mary (1998)
Photograph: A24

Antenna topper – There’s Something About Mary (1998)

You’d think some kind of hair product, right? Turns out it was Puffy, the Border terrier who suffers serious torments in the Farrelly brothers’ gross-out comedy, who was MVP for the movie’s marketing department. Plastered-casted Puffy plushies were much sought-after swag for journos, especially with only 820 made. You were more likely to get hold of one of these: A Puffy to stick on your car antenna and subsequently lose at the car wash. 

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Russian nesting dolls – Being John Malkovich (1999)
Photograph: A24

Russian nesting dolls – Being John Malkovich (1999)

Spike Jonze’s enduring hymn to outsiders on a path of self-discovery through John Malkovich’s noggin. So what better way to promote it than via a series of Matryoshka dolls inside a Malkovich doll? It’s so clever, we’re willing to overlook the fact that Catherine Keener looks like Nosferatu.

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Sweater – Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Photograph: A24

Sweater – Kindergarten Cop (1990)

A piece of generic marketing clobber or a Planet Hollywood-era jewel that instantly evokes blissful memories of Arnold Schwartzenegger jostling with tiny schoolchildren? Depends on your feelings for Kindergarten Cop. Either way, we’d wear it out.

‘For Promotional Use Only: A Catalog of Hollywood Movie Swag and Promo Merch from 1975-2005’ is out now, priced $52. Most of the items featured will be auctioned off from Nov 4 via A24 Auctions, with proceeds going to the nonprofit Vidiots Foundation supporting the LA film hub.

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