Judge and Jury: No blockbuster as the Crash publicity span out of control - The backers of the film Crash would have had a smash hit on their hands if they had been able to capitalise on all the publicity with an earlier release date, says Graeme Hill, pa

Developed from JG Ballard’s novel, Crash was never a simple novella based around wrecks’n’sex. The book has remained on the mandatory reading list for the Modern English Novel as a basis for debate for undergraduates everywhere for years. You know the kind of thing, ’Man survives horrific automobile accident, begins spiralling dysfunctional obsession with said crash and fellow victims. Discuss’, Crash was conceived to provoke.

Developed from JG Ballard’s novel, Crash was never a simple novella

based around wrecks’n’sex. The book has remained on the mandatory

reading list for the Modern English Novel as a basis for debate for

undergraduates everywhere for years. You know the kind of thing, ’Man

survives horrific automobile accident, begins spiralling dysfunctional

obsession with said crash and fellow victims. Discuss’, Crash was

conceived to provoke.



For the past year the editorial surrounding the on/off release of Crash

has not once stopped to get its breath before hurtling on to the next

attack, which kicked the film from the art house crowd and into the high

street. As forbidden fruit surely Crash would have benefited from the

doctrine ’All publicity is good publicity’?



Crash opened at only 56 cinemas across the UK - it’s still banned in

High Wycombe, Walsall, Lanarkshire and Westminster - grossing a little

over pounds 160,000 in its first weekend. Basically, the debate over the

film went on for too long and the public tired of hearing about it. The

first outraged review ran in May 1996 following the Cannes Film Festival

Critics award.



Associated Newspapers began lobbying local councils to ban the film

after the London Film Festival last September. The Evening Standard

called for the British Board of Film Censorship to be brought under Home

Office Supervision.



This was endorsed by the Daily Mail calling for the sacking of BBFC

director James Ferman. Crash then became a springboard for a wider

debate and brought it into the party political arena.



With the run up to the election the talk was about censorship, the

nanny-state, British sensibilities and the likely stance of a Labour

government on censorship and Crash was in the centre of it all. But

Columbia Tri-Star and its publicity people were trying to sell a very

complex product; Crash is abstract, complex and disturbing. These aren’t

easy concepts to convey in a press release to the broadsheets let alone

the tabloids.



So did this bury it? Ultimately I don’t think so. The art house crowd

judges a film from, and are motivated by, reviews. Crash didn’t fare at

all well at the hands of reviewers. For the public perhaps the film

isn’t enough of a schlock fest or they simply decided that they already

knew all they needed to know about it after a year of media

coverage.



If the film had been released during the initial wave of media

controversy - good or bad - there would have been box office queues. It

was this delay which may have led to the ultimate demise of Crash in the

UK.



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