Home » Mercury In A Lot Of Retrograde: Cold Start

Mercury In A Lot Of Retrograde: Cold Start

Cs Mercury Hellscape
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I’m not sure exactly what was going through the various heads and brains of Mercury’s marketing department back in 1989, but whatever it was, it seems pretty dire. Or sinister. Or, lets’s be honest here, a bit, um, hellish. I mean, look at that Grand Marquis up there! That was the first big two-page spread of the car, the Panther-platformed swankier sibling to the Crown Vic, resplendent in vinyl tops and opera lights and absolutely velour-saturated inside. So why show it in what looks to be a brimstone-smelling hellscape? Actually, this crimson wasteland reminds me of something really specific from a decade before this brochure was printed, something strange and puzzling from, of all places, Disney.

Back in the late 1970s, every movie-producing entity saw Star Wars and realized they needed something to compete, pronto. Even juggernauts like Disney. So, Disney released their big sci-fi Star Wars-fighter in 1979, the deeply peculiar The Black Hole, Disney’s first PG film and also one of their, um, scariest? Or at least creepiest? It was loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest but took place in deep space and had Ernest Borgnine and some floating robots:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

It’s weird. But, more specifically, if you’ll forgive the spoilers for a movie that has been out since before the Reagan Era, the ending is what reminds me of that Mercury ad. Look:

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It’s not ever made explicitly clear where this scene takes place, just the implication that it’s through the black hole, the main villain and his robot have somehow merged, and it sure as hell seems like, well, hell.

I do have to say I loved the goofy-cute robot designs in here. They floated, had big funny eyes, and one, the old beat-up model, was voiced by Slim Pickins, here giving you a moving robot death scene:

Dying robots, Mercuries, vague visions of hell: I sure know how to get your day started, huh?

 

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Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
8 months ago

To understand the ad, you had to view it in context of the entire 1989 Mercury ad campaign.
Brochures for each individual model (except Cougar) showed a passenger side rear 3/4 view of the car against an atmospheric cloudy blue sky – with a passenger door open and bright white light emanating from the interior. Cougar was the same except the background was the reflective grid of a blue glass skyscraper facade.
The print ads were in the atmospheric theme as well – Mercurys shown against backgrounds of autumnal country roads at dusk with fallen leaves strewn by the passing car, a rainstorm at night, an allee of trees with golden-hour sunlight streaming through.
This background for the Grand Marquis ad was merely a red sky at night – referencing the old sailors adage, calling for good weather ahead – or The Fixx’s 1982 hit song? Or perhaps “red sky in morning, sailors warning” – implying the promise that Grand Marquis would be your safe haven against a coming storm.

Last edited 8 months ago by Urban Runabout
ES
ES
8 months ago

i think maybe they should be complimented for their brain-worm imagery: i hadn’t realized it was stuck somewhere in my matrix, but as soon as i saw the lead image, it came back to me.
i never bought a gran marquis as a result of the ad, so maybe it’s only a partial triumph, but it did stick at some level. (i was a broke commuter college student when this ad ran, and even with an income, wouldn’t have considered a full-sized sedan then).

Matt Cox
Matt Cox
8 months ago

In 1985 my Mom & Dad went to buy a new Lincoln Town Car. My dad was 5 years into his own medical practice and starting to finally feel successful, so after always buying used, they were going to splurge and buy brand new! Mom only had one hard requirement, and that was that it must have leather seats. With two small boys at home she wanted something she could wipe down with a wet rag (apparently we were messy or something). Anyway, there were no Town Cars available with leather on the lot that day, so they came home with a Mercury Grand Marquis, in gloss white with red leather interior. It was fully optioned, so much that the tail lights were the only thing differentiating it from it’s Lincoln brethren. She drove that until the early nineties when an oil pan issue basically killed the engine and made it unreliable for anything long-haul.

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
8 months ago

“I’m not sure exactly what was going through the various heads and brains of Mercury’s marketing department back in 1989”

Pretty sure the correct answer here is cocaine.

CSRoad
CSRoad
8 months ago

When ever I see a Mercury Marquis I think of Detective Captain Stephen “Steve” McGarrett and tires squealing on Hawaiian dirt roads.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
8 months ago

Maximilian Mercury Grand Marquis, the time has come to liquidate our guests.

10001010
10001010
8 months ago

This site could do with more robot content =]

Don Kasak
Don Kasak
8 months ago

“Car & Driver” long joked about a special de Sade edition of the Grand Marquis, so maybe this ad was Mercury’s subtle recognition of that joke.

As for The Black Hole, I am surprised this film was never on Nathan Rabin’s Year Of Flops. I personally think time has been kinder to this film than when it came out, as a PG-rated Disney film was seen as rather shocking in 1979. The ending is still quite disturbing.

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
8 months ago
Reply to  Don Kasak

The robot slicing up Norman Bates’ abdomen with a rotating blade claw was pretty heavy for 8 year old me. And crow-barring Hell into a space movie was certainly a bold choice.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
8 months ago

That’s a Mercury on Mercury. I suppose that would be pretty close Hell.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
8 months ago

I actually think a take on this likely accidental car-hell association could be somewhat successful today.

Nearly all car marketing involves images of people going on adventures and enjoying borderline impossible level of pristine nature. I rarely see any ads where the subject is trying to survive the modern commuter hellscape, despite how that’s what most cars are actually designed to do. Surprised we haven’t been getting a cynical, millenial-baiting “life’s an apocalyptic hellscape, but the inside of your Bronco Sport isn’t” campaign.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
8 months ago

:SCENE: Terrified and frustrated consumers wandering from dealership to dealership seeking cars only to be presented with crossovers and pickup trucks while the chorus chants “join us, join us” :SCENE:

Voeltzwagen
Voeltzwagen
8 months ago

This was one of my favorite movies growing up. I even bought it on DVD a few years back.

Unfortunately, I believe there’s a reboot in the works.

LastNormalManual
LastNormalManual
8 months ago

“I’m not sure exactly what was going through the various heads and brains of Mercury’s marketing department back in 1989, …”

I was going to say, “cocaine,” but then I remembered that ’89 was post-crash. The “refreshments” budget would have been slashed by then, and they were likely experimenting with drain cleaner and dried banana peels.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
8 months ago

Some guys in my university tried the banana peel thing. Except they tried to dry the peels in the cafeteria microwave. It did not go well.

10001010
10001010
8 months ago
Reply to  Rollin Hand

Soooo many of my friends tried the banana peels so many times. I blame the Anarchist’s Cookbook and that Dead Milkmen song.

Parsko
Parsko
8 months ago

OMG, dried banana peels. Tried that in high school. Was disappointed.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
8 months ago

If I recall, that time was peek wine cooler. They were probably all having weird diabetic reactions.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
8 months ago

Sitting here in my current sleep deprived state, piping hot cuppa tea in my hand, and a long, sleepy day in front of me, this post is deeply confusing. I’ll come back later and try again.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
8 months ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

Bet you’d love a snooze in the backseat of that Merc.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
8 months ago

This was shortly before their “Imagine yourself in a Mercury” campaign, right? I didn’t know that was a spin-off of the less successful “Imagine yourself in Hell” campaign.

Chronometric
Chronometric
8 months ago

Maybe the Black Hole took place on Mercury?

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
8 months ago

Man y’all are having a Mercury Monday apparently. Two posts today, both featuring Mercurys (Mercuries??). Not complaining, I appreciate the alliterative theme.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
8 months ago

That big red robot, Samson, I think was his name, scared the stew outta me when I saw The Black Hole in the theater.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
8 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Maximillian. Me too.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Maximillian scared the bleep out of me too, especially when his creator went inside him to survive.

I watched the movie again when we first got Disney+. The space effects look fantastic. Everything else looks like they were shooting something for Wonderful World of Disney. It holds up about as well as a winter-driven Jeep TJ frame in an area where they use road salt.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

Maximilian!! That’s right! Dunno where I got Samson. Maybe I just tried to blank out as much of that movie as I could.

All I really remember were those whirling blade hands he had.

That’s the same movie, right? I’m not confusing it with some other movie, right?

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
8 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Yes the whirling blade hand that went into Anthony Perkins’ abdomen (off screen).

I read one description of the scene that said Maximilian also pushed Perkins into an electrical panel, but that didn’t register with me at all. Just the thought of the puree’d intestines.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
8 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Don’t forget about VINCENT and BOB!

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