Ever since Steven Spielberg featured Reese’s Pieces in E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (1982), famously causing sales of the candy to jump 80%, product placement has become big business in movies and TV. Now branded sodas, snacks, candy bars, liquor, beer, and fast food make such frequent dramatic appearances, they’re almost Hollywood stars in their own right. So, like a quirky new face in an independent movie, it’s always refreshing to see a fictional brand on screen. Sometimes this choice is made out of artistic integrity, other times plain necessity. But more often, it seems, new names are cooked up in just plain fun: Ghostbusters (1984): Stay Puft Marshmallows. “Something that could never possibly destroy us.” In this classic 80s comedy, an unlikely group of misfits form a disposal company to deal with the ghost infestation in New York City. In one of the movie’s climactic scenes, the ancient Sumerarian god, Gozer, comes down to announce to the Ghostbusters that he will assume the form of the next thing one of them thinks of. Despite efforts to “clear their minds,” Ray (Dan Akroyd) finds himself envisioning the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (above). “It just popped in there,” he explains sheepishly as the enormous Pillsbury Doughboy-like monster wreaks havoc in the city streets.
Pulp Fiction (1994): The Big Kahuna Burger. “The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.” Following a heated discussion with partner in crime, Vincent Vega (John Travolta), about fast food in Europe, mobster Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson. right) switches to local fare before moving in for the kill. Shaking down some college kids, he first makes a little small talk: “Looks like me and Vincent caught you at breakfast. Sorry ‘bout that. Whatcha eatin’?" When the kid, Brett, nervously tells him it’s a Big Kahuna burger, Jules asks with casual menace if he might try a bite. “That is a tasty burger!” he exclaims.
Laura (1944): Black Pony Scotch. “The cheap stuff.” In this film noir whodunnit, a fictional brand-name liquor provides detective Lt. Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) with a vital clue. Coming across a bottle of Black Pony in the murdered Laura Hunt’s (Gene Tierney) apartment, the detective grows suspicious. Laura was too much of a lady to stock her bar with such cheap hooch. Someone else (with questionable taste) must have planted it there. (More on this here.) Nora