This early 1980s John Gielgud Paul Masson TV commercial is no “Arthur”
Did John Gielgud see a chance to play off his Oscar-winning role in “Arthur” and make a ton of money for very little work? Because, otherwise, there’s very little that makes sense in this early 1980s commercial for Paul Masson.
It’s not especially funny — ridiculing modern art was tired and old even then. And, as wine marketing guru Paul Tinknell has discussed on the blog, it makes the same mistake most TV wine ads do: It doesn’t focus on those of us who actually drink wine, but tries to make wine something that it isn’t. Most of us drink wine with dinner. Most of us don’t drink wine at art openings; in fact, most of us don’t even go to art openings.
The other oddity here? The wine business’ use of noted Shakespearean actors like Gielgud and James Mason for TV commercials through the mid-1980s. It’s probably an attempt — a very weak attempt — to make ordinary wine seem more high end. All it does, of course, iPauls make it look silly.
Corman’s horror films, often starring Price and based on Poe stories, are the stuff of cult legend (and a tip o’ the WC’s fedora to my old pal and video guru Lee Murray for introducing me to Corman all those years ago). The story in the link does a fine job of outlining Corman’s career. For our purposes, it’s enough to know that Corman, Matheson, Lorre, and Price take a tired and cliched scene and turn it into something better than it should be. Lorre makes a wine tasting face at Price at about the four minute mark that is priceless.
“The problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in a world where the three-tier system runs everything”
Maybe the reason the wine world is in such turmoil — flat growth, too high prices, too much crummy wine — is because we don’t have the right person to help us in our quest for better wine: Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca.” So the Wine Curmudgeon worked a little editing magic with one of the most famous scenes in cinema history.
My apologies to Bogart, Claude Rains, and Ingrid Bergman; director Michael Curtiz; and the Epstein brothers and Howard Koch, who shared screenplay credit for the film. My excuse: In one of my other lives, I wrote a book called “The Casablanca Companion,” so I know much more about this movie than anyone should.
A tip o’ the WC’s fedora to Eagle Burger on YouTube, where I found the original scene. And all foolishness like this owes a debt to WineParody, whose Robert Parker epic is the standard by which these efforts are judged.
Make sure you turn captions on when you watch the video; you can make the captions bigger or change their color by clicking on the settings gear on the lower right.
Is the cyber-ether – let alone the wine world – ready for Wine Curmudgeon videos?
Aug. 1 update: Production woes. The project is still a project, but we won’t have videos until the holidays.
Is the Wine Curmudgeon going to be the Internet’s next viral sensation? We’ll know early this summer, when the first of two wine videos I made this week goes live.
I did the videos, featuring helpful, useful information about summer wine and restaurant wine, for the Private Label Manufacturer’s Association. The videos are part of the trade group’s quest to convince U.S. retailers to step up their private label wine effort – because, of course, Winking Owl. I’ll post a link when the summer wine video goes live.
The experience was unique. How else would an ink-stained wretch see a process that involves makeup, story conferences, green screens, and long discussions about what I should wear? I haven’t spent that much time worrying about my clothes since since my mother picked them out. I should also mention that I have spent much of my writing career gently mocking – or worse – those of my friends who did have to worry about that stuff. I suppose I will have to endure their gentle – or worse – mocking now.
The goal with each video was to avoid winespeak as well as the deadly dullness that overwhelms most wine videos (even those with big names and big budgets). We wanted to offer information that wine drinkers could use when they were staring at the supermarket Great Wall of Wine. Which I think we did.
A very large tip o’ the WC’s fedora to Sonia Petrocelli, the videos’ producer, and Richard Dandrea, who wrote them. Both made the process infinitely easier than I thought it would be, and their patience with my ignorance of all things video was much appreciated.
This 1982 Black Tower TV commercial reminds us that TV wine ads don’t improve with age
Black Tower is a German wine, best known for its black bottle. In the 1970s and 1980s, when U.S. wine drinkers wanted sweet white wine, Black Tower played off Blue Nun’s success to enjoy a bit of popularity before heading to the back shelves of the liquor store. Where it remains, for $8 a bottle, in case you’re curious.
Which brings us to this bizarre Black Tower TV commercial from 1982. The brand’s marketing types probably thought they had to distance it from Blue Nun’s image, so they made it much more manly. A deep, dark voice reminds us the wine comes “in the towering black bottle” while faux Wagner music plays in the background. Frankly, after watching this, it feels like it’s time to conquer Europe.
The catch, of course, is that Black Tower was about as manly as a baby diaper. It was a sweet, soft wine, and the commercial crams that information in even though it doesn’t quite fit the rest of the ad. Plus, there’s a blond woman eating an apple, because all wine commercials have to have blond women (though I’m not quite sure why the apple).
Like I said, bizarre.
So one more example of the sad state of TV wine ads, whether today or 36 years ago. Is it wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?
Who knew getting drunk on camera was the best way for your video to go viral on YouTube?
If you write for the Internet, you spend a disproportionate amount of your day worrying about visitor numbers, bounce rate, click throughs, and other assorted metrics.
What a waste of time.
That’s because content doesn’t necessarily matter – going viral on YouTube does. The authority is a British website called The Register, which tracks just such Internet shenanigans. It advises those of us who do this for a living to forget about trying to inform anyone, but to:
“Drink. Lots. Fratboy antics rack up views like no one’s business, dude. So grab yourself a bottle of cheap beer/spirits/cleaning fluid, set your webcam going, and prepare for fame. If you can manage to be sick at the end of it, so much the better.”
Its case in point in this video, “An American Drunk,” posted by gogo22. As near as I can tell, the guy in the video is listening to a French language lesson while drinking four bottles of French wine (the infamously cheap L’Epayrie Blanc, about $5 a bottle). And, as the Register advises, getting drunk.
The video is too long – more than five minutes – and too static to seem to have much of a chance of going viral. I’ve been told the best viral candidates should be short, direct, immediate and feature a cute animal or baby. But I did start writing on a typewriter with carbon paper, so what do I know about 21st century technology?
You can judge for yourself – the video is at the end of the post. Hopefully, this isn’t a feature I need to add to the blog.
We’ve lamented the state of restaurant wine on the blog quite a bit this year, and it’s always one of the most common questions I get when I talk to wine drinkers. But lamentable is nothing new. Even James Bond, the coolest spy in the world, must endure it.
Witness this scene from “Diamonds are Forever.” You’d think a Bond villain posing as a waiter would know that a claret is a red wine from Bordeaux. How else is he is going to be able to kill Bond without being killed himself?