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The Craziest Movie Gimmicks Hollywood Ever Got Away With


Flying skeletons! Precise hypnotism! Lifestyles insurance coverage insurance policies! The historical past of cinema is filled with loopy gimmicks, desperately looking to get you to shop for a price tag.

Some motion pictures pack audiences into the theater the old fashioned approach, with compelling tales and charismatic stars. And if that does not paintings, a loopy gimmick every now and then does the trick.

“Gimmick motion pictures” had been round for the reason that early days of cinema, again when cinema itself used to be nonetheless new, and thought to be lovely gimmicky all on its own. The gimmicks ranged from cutting edge storytelling tactics to outlandish advertising tie-ins, from authentic examples of ingenuity to flat-out lies. And for each gimmick that took off – like synchronized sound, widescreen filmmaking, or three-D – there are lots that handiest labored a couple of times prior to audiences stuck on and discovered that they have been duped, or no less than that there have been only a few sensible packages for the gimmick in query.

Let’s check out one of the vital craziest film gimmicks ever perpetrated on an target audience, together with a number of from the grasp of the artwork shape, William Citadel, who hired a ton of attention-grabbing gags to force audiences to look his low-budget horror thrillers in the midst of the 20th century.



One of the crucial earliest examples can also be present in Abel Gance’s Napoleon, a biopic which function a finale in widescreen, many years prior to widescreen changed into the norm in film theaters. Gance completed the impact by means of placing 3 film cameras side-by-side, which additionally allowed the filmmaker to interact in scenes that performed out concurrently from a couple of angles. After early screenings, the Polyvision impact used to be got rid of by means of vendors, who handiest screened the middle body, however Gance’s unique imaginative and prescient used to be sooner or later recreated years later.

Lifestyles Insurance coverage Insurance policies


One in every of William Citadel’s earliest film gimmicks used to be for a mystery known as Macabre, by which a father has handiest 5 hours to seek out his abducted daughter, who has been buried alive. The movie used to be so horrifying, Citadel claimed, that he used to be required to provide audiences a $1,000 lifestyles insurance coverage simply in case they died of fright. Film theaters had other people in nurse’s uniforms on standby, “simply in case.” The gimmick labored, and Macabre used to be a destroy hit.


Horrors of the Black Museum

The mystery The Horrors of the Black Museum stars Michael Gough (Alfred from the Burton/Schumacher Batman motion pictures!) because the owner of a personal torture museum who hypnotizes other people into acting heinous acts, but if the British movie used to be imported to The united states, the vendors concept it wanted every other promoting level. So that they added “HypnoVista,” a prologue by which a hypnotist makes an attempt to hypnotize the entire target audience prior to the film starts.


House on Haunted Hill

No longer each William Citadel gimmick film used to be cunningly good. For his in style mystery The Area on Haunted Hill, which starred Vincent Worth as a millionaire who is of the same opinion to pay a fortune to someone who can spend the entire evening in a haunted space, he introduced audiences an opportunity to enjoy “Emergo,” which used to be only a skeleton on a twine that zoomed over the target audience at a key second within the film. The film used to be successful, however by means of many accounts, the impact used to be extra foolish than horrifying.


The Tingler

William Citadel’s vintage horror mystery The Tingler stars Vincent Worth as a scientist who thinks he is came upon a parasite that feeds off worry, and the one approach to kill it when it attaches for your backbone is to scream. At one level within the movie “The Tingler” escapes, lighting fixtures cross out, and Worth screams, “Girls and gents, please don’t panic! However scream! Scream in your lives!” because the movie’s gimmick, Percepto!, springs into motion. It is a sequence of buzzers hooked up to random seats within the theater, unexpected the target audience in an try to get them to scream. (Once in a while it labored!)


13 Ghosts

William Citadel’s 13 Ghosts is set a circle of relatives who strikes right into a space with, you guessed it, 13 ghosts. When the ghosts seem, the display turns blue and the ghosts divulge themselves as vibrant pink projections. That is the place Phantasm-o is available in! The target audience used to be passed pink and blue tinted visors and advised that in the event that they consider in ghosts they will have to watch the movie in the course of the pink visor, so the ghosts turn into visual. If they do not consider in ghosts they will have to watch in the course of the blue visor, so the ghosts are invisible. (Or you have to watch the movie with out Phantasm-o. It is lovely simple to look the ghosts regardless.)

No Overdue Admissions


In part impressed by means of the gimmicky storytelling and advertising of William Citadel, the grasp of suspense Alfred Hitchcock determined to take a look at his hand at novelty filmmaking. No longer handiest used to be Psycho a twisting, turning horror mystery which killed off the protagonist within the first part of the movie – breaking almost about each rule within the e-book – but in addition, no person can be allowed to look Psycho in the event that they arrived after the film began. Appearing up in the midst of a film used to be commonplace apply prior to Psycho got here alongside, and this gimmick helped the apply fall out of fashion.

Scent-O-Imaginative and prescient

Scent of a Mystery

You’ll be able to see motion pictures, you’ll listen motion pictures, so why can not you SMELL them? The mystery Smell of a Thriller featured a relatively spectacular solid – together with Denholm Elliott, Peter Lorre and an uncredited Elizabeth Taylor – in a murderous whodunnit the place the clues are frequently published by the use of odors launched into the target audience at key issues within the film, just like the scent of grapes, or the scent of pipe smoke.

Fright Breaks and Coward’s Corners


William Citadel’s Homicidal advised the tale of a feminine serial killer, and Citadel used to be so assured within the movie that he gave the audiences a “Fright Wreck” against the top of the movie. In case you have been too scared to observe the finishing, you have to get your a refund. The gag reportedly backfired, and refunds have been if truth be told being issued, till Citadel added the caveat of the “Coward’s Nook,” the place you would have to face in simple sight and put on an indication announcing “I’m a bona fide coward” with a purpose to get your a refund. The dare, and the added part of public disgrace, supposed the movie used to be a luck.

Punishment Polls

Mr Sardonicus

Have you ever ever watched a film and wanted you have to make a decision the destiny of the characters? William Citadel’s Mr. Sardonicus gave the target audience a possibility to vote for the finishing they sought after (with glow-in-the-dark indicators) and make a decision whether or not to punish the depraved Mr. Sardonicus or be merciful. The gag used to be on them even though: There is no proof that the “merciful” finishing of Mr. Sardonicus used to be ever produced, let by myself screened.

Duo-Imaginative and prescient

Wicked Wicked

The 1973 serial killer mystery Depraved, Depraved got here with a amusing novelty known as Duo-Imaginative and prescient, which confirmed two other movie strips side-by-side. Once in a while we might see the following sufferer on one aspect, and the killer who is stalking them at the different. Once in a while the display would display unexpected backstories for the characters in the midst of another way dull scenes.



The American/Argentinean horror movie Slaughter, filmed in 1971, used to be launched, forgotten about, after which re-released 4 years later beneath a brand new name, Snuff. Re-releasing movies used to be not anything new on the time, however the Snuff model featured a brand new finishing, to capitalize at the then-topical city legend of “snuff movies,” which confirmed the filmmakers themselves allegedly killing any individual on digicam. (Spoiler alert: It is not actually a snuff movie.)



Iconoclastic filmmaker John Waters introduced his personal model of the Scent-O-Imaginative and prescient gimmick to Polyester, his satire of suburban melodramas, starring Divine as a housewife whose pornography film theater-owning husband is dishonest on her. Audiences got scratch-and-sniff playing cards for key moments within the film, however in true John Waters style, the scents integrated such off-putting odors as glue, fuel, and fizz.

Randomized Endings


The difference of the vintage board sport Clue (aka Cluedo) used to be an all-star comedic farce that finally changed into a cult vintage, if no longer an outright vintage. However in its preliminary theatrical run it additionally had a gimmick, the place other theaters have been issued other endings to the movie, by which other characters grew to become out to be the killer on the finish. When the movie used to be launched on house video and on tv, the endings have been reduce in combination to faux out the target audience, revealing what can have came about two times, prior to attending to the “actual” finale.


Captain Eo

Francis Ford Coppola directed a brief movie, produced by means of George Lucas, starring Michael Jackson and Anjelica Huston, for Disney theme parks known as Captain Eo. Jackson stars as an interstellar hero who saves the galaxy with superior dancing, in a movie audiences enjoy in 4D. Along with being screened in three-D, the movie additionally featured synchronized in-theater results like smoke and lasers, remodeling an easy film right into a right kind theme park journey.

Discovered Photos

The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Undertaking used to be no longer the primary “discovered photos” film, nevertheless it popularized the concept that with its daring advertising marketing campaign, which claimed that the film used to be an actual documentary, the “Blair Witch” used to be an actual city legend, and that the celebs of the movie (who have been taking part in themselves) have been by no means noticed once more. In fact, the movie used to be this kind of destroy hit that the gag used to be published faster than later, and a few audiences claimed to be a little bit betrayed, however it is nonetheless one of the vital successful movement photos in historical past, in large part because of that good gimmickry.

Remix-O-Imaginative and prescient


Francis Ford Coppola attempted to reinvent the cinematic enjoy with Twixt, which stars Val Kilmer as an writer who will get sucked right into a supernatural thriller. The plan used to be for Twixt to be screened with Coppola behind the theater, re-editing the movie to compare the target audience’s reactions, in order that no two screenings have been the similar. As an alternative, the movie wound up getting launched in only one model, and “Remix-O-Imaginative and prescient” (our phrase, no longer theirs) by no means were given off the bottom.

Display-O-Imaginative and prescient


The web horror-thriller Unfriended (and its contemporary sequel, Unfriended: Darkish Internet) takes position solely on a pc display, with the characters revealing themselves by means of their search engines like google and yahoo and Skype calls. It is a very explicit gimmick that keys into the truth that many of us nearly reside with that standpoint each day anyways. Unfriended did not relatively invent Display-O-Imaginative and prescient (our phrase, no longer theirs, once more!), nevertheless it used to be the primary large movie that used it as a advertising ploy, and different movies have already adopted go well with.

What is your favourite film gimmick? Let’s talk about within the feedback!

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