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Tell Them I’m Coming: The Power of a Tagline…

I have a confession to make. I have never seen The Limey. It may seem like I’m overreacting with that shameful confession, being only one of millions of film fans who have somehow stumbled through life without ever seeing that particular relatively unimportant Steven Soderbergh film, but let me put this in context. A good few years ago, I was browsing the video store and I stumbled across the relatively bland cover to the film, which smacks of an old-school exploitation vibe. On it, a very old (yet nevertheless bad ass) Terence Stamp is taking a moment out of what seems to be some very important business to have a quick sly cigarette (very much a politically correct faux pas these days). Anyway, it wasn’t that image which struck me of itself. It was the tagline. “Tell them I’m coming,” Stamp’s voice seemed to read the promo aloud to me. And, strangely, despite the fact I left the videostore without it, that tagline has stayed with me.

I can’t quite explain why. It’s not the loudest tagline I’ve ever read, nor the wittiest. It isn’t a clever pun nor a bad ass boast. And yet… there is just something so very British about that combination of words and pictures. Before leaving the store, I happened to read the back of the box and discover that this is the story of a very angry old British pensioner making the trip to Los Angeles to investigate the loss of his daughter. I get the impression that, if heads have to be knocked… well, then I guess heads will be knocked. “Tell them I’m coming,” thus seems to be a very direct threat – something of a more succinct prototype of “I will look for you; I will find you; and I will kill you.”

However, the allure of those simple four words, which have played around in my head so often that I find myself frequently idly recalling that I must see that film (and yet never seeming to occur to me inside a video shop), seem almost deeper than that. Being honest, there must be something more than a generic bad ass boast from a geriatric action hero that gives them such force. Perhaps Terence Stamp himself is the key – perhaps it’s the fact that I imagine the words from the DVD cover read aloud in his very distinctive tones.

Putting his Stamp on it...

Stamp is an actor who never gets a lot of respect, despite the fact that he’s frequently among the best thing about the movies he stars in (although some cynics might suggest because of the movies he stars in). He’s never really grabbed headline status, but he’s been superb in small supporting roles in films like Yes Man (“Chapter 26,’Words That Rhyme With Yes’: guess; mess; Tess – that’s a name; Less, a word and a name”) and Bowfinger (“Keep Mr Weenie in the pants… always in the pants”). As you might have guessed, his lines are often the most distinctively quotable – even before we get into “Kneel before Zod.”

So there’s something about the way that I imagine Stamp uttering those words which just clicks inside my head. There’s something that’s simultaneously incredibly frustrated and yet icily calm about his manner – as if he’s a very dangerous individual doing something relatively banal. I think part of it is that I picture Stamp saying the line almost as if somebody has interrupted his cigarette break. You know, there he is, outside, enjoying a quick puff, and all of a sudden somebody wants him inside. He is, of course, less than pleased. So what does he shout back as he insists on finishing his cigarette while people wait uncomfortably for him? “Tell them I’m coming.”

Letting my imagination take flight...

Of course, perhaps it’s a strange amalgamation of those two contexts I’ve constructed in my mind’s eyed based solely on a quick perusal of the DVD box and the cover art. Perhaps he’s in contact with the people responsible for the loss of his daughter, but he’ll deal with them as soon as he’s had his mid-morning smoke. Sure, his quest for justice is incredibly important, but he needs his nicotine right now. It’s a wonderfully British sort of set up, to be honest – the coupling of a ridiculously bad ass boast with one of the most mundane activities imaginable.

That said, I am probably way off base. I’ve never seen the film, although I plan to. But I get the feeling that any revenge movie (even with Stamp and Soderbergh) will be incredibly disappointing after years of playing that image and tagline over in my head. This isn’t a typical build-up to a Hollywood blockbuster, where all we can talk about for months on end is the next big budget action movie – this is a slow burn through my entire subconscious. Part of me imagines that the movie will actually bare little resemblance to what I was expecting. I’m not sure if that will help kick the sound of Terence Stamp saying “tell them I’m coming” out of my head, or simply make it louder in disappointment.

7 Responses

  1. What a gorgeous looking poster! And you’re totally right, that “tell them I’m coming” tagline does get stuck in my head and I immediately imagined Stamp deliver the line the only way he could.

  2. Shit. Terrence Stamp is threatening.

  3. Excellent post. Need more great tagline posters.

  4. I love the “Say Anything” tagline – ‘To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him. Diane Court is about to know Lloyd Dobler’. It’s also a little challenging to say the tagline aloud without slowing your speech, which I find rather amusing considering the title of the film. Go on…say it.

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