Titles are important. Most films’ first point of contact with the world is their title. Their title is what we say when we buy the ticket at the cinema. Nobody wants to stand in a queue outside the Odeon for 20 minutes worrying that they’re going to have to say something stupid when they get to the box office, and then have to repeat it two or three times while the salesperson returns a slightly bemused and possibly knowing stare.
I went to see the Woody Allen film this summer, which was in Screen 17 of 17 and must have returned a net profit of £2.50 for its three-day run. The ticket desk had an almost-soundproof glass screen protecting the salesgirl from relevant information. I leaned close to the money slot and asked for “Two for To Rome with Love please… To Rome with Love… To Rome… with Love…” The girl eventually asked “Are you trying to say Total Recall?”
I wouldn’t have had that problem with its original title Nero Fiddled. (I would have had an entirely different problem.)
Here are some films that got it right and some others that got it wrong.
Krakatoa, East of Java. Krakatoa is west of Java, unless you are travelling there via almost the entire circumference of the earth
Assault on Precinct 13. Takes place in Precinct 9, Division 14 — when you’re writing your own entirely fictitious film, surely you can avoid this kind of error.
Manos: the Hands of Fate. Translates as “Hands: the Hands of Fate”.
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Should be I Still Know What You Did Two Summers Ago or possibly I Know What You Did Last Summer And Also The Summer Before That.
Rambo III. First Blood was followed by Rambo: First Blood Part II so a threequel should logically be called Rambo II: First Blood Part III.
15 Minutes. Shit lasts over two hours.
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call—New Orleans. Come on guys, one title per movie please.
Total Recall. Fine, but not better than We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.
Blade Runner. Fine, but not better than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Hancock. Not better than Tonight, He Comes!
Jackie Chan’s Who Am I? Mystery solved.
The Bourne Ultimatum. I have watched this very carefully and cannot detect any ultimatum delivered by any character at any point.
Reservoir Dogs. Reservoirs not included. Dogs not included.
Speed 2: Cruise Control. Not speedy, does not feature Tom Cruise, control not exercised.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Casino Royale. “Casino” is masculine, so the grammatically correct form is Casino Royal.
Octopussy. Might as well be called Vagina.
Tomorrow Never Dies; Die Another Day. Somehow worse than, respectively, Bond 18 and Bond 20.
Apocalypse Now. Slightly better than Heart of Darkness.
Annie Hall. Better than Anhedonia.
Persona. Better than Cinematography.
Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. This one’s just fucking amazing.
We Were Soldiers. Better than We Were Soldiers Once… And Young but can I just take this opportunity to say that this is otherwise a terrible, terrible film.
The Dark Knight. Better than Batman Begins 2, Batman Continues, Batman Keeps Going or You Can’t Keep a Bat Man Down.
Man of Steel. Better than Superman Returns 2, Superman Returns Again, Superman is Still Here or More About that Super Man.
The Spy Who Loved Me. More optimistic than The Spy Who Fucked Me in a Submarine and Never Wrote or Called.
Quantum of Solace. Yeah, I like it—did you really want 007 in New York?
Originally published 8 June 2014