Three pieces of film spanning 1979 to 1984 tell interesting stories about how Star Trek movies were marketed over those five years.
Prolific author Howard Weinstein was the guest at a lot of conventions in the ’70s and ’80s, and because of that the Paramount publicity department gave him wide access to promotional material. Weinstein told me:
Here’s how loose things were: In the early ’80s, when Star Trek II and III came out, main publicity for the movies still worked out of Paramount’s NY office. I worked in Manhattan at the time, and I had good contacts with the promo people, who knew I was helping to promote the movies at Trek and SF cons. So they’d invite me in to root through their storage room and take whatever I wanted to use (and to do some giveaways) at cons — including official slides, press kits, stills, posters, 16 mm trailers and product reels. Can you imagine anybody doing that today?!
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
The theatrical trailer for the first movie was awful. It is now well documented that the film barely made it to theatres on time (read the excellent book Return to Tomorrow for a lot more on that) so it’s no surprise that the trailer was thrown together, but even so…
Oh, wow, that TMP “trailer” was miserable. When I got it to show at cons and library talks, I was almost embarrassed. As you could tell, they didn’t even have the most basic SFX (like stars in the shots of the ship) ready to include. Probably the lamest, most static trailer in movie history. No wonder they didn’t want it back from me!
Here is what the public saw before the movie premiered in December 1979.
The Wrath of Khan
Paramount also let Weinstein hold on to the product reel made to sell The Wrath of Khan to theatre chains — and this is the gem of Weinstein’s trove. Those watching the film in theatres in 1982 and after that on home video assumed Saavik was a Vulcan but, originally, they would only have been half right. Scenes in the shooting script and the novelization made clear that one of her parents was a Romulan.
The product reel I had for Star Trek II is to my knowledge the ONLY piece of film including the cut scene in which Kirk and Spock discuss Kirstie Alley’s smoldering Saavik and reveal that she’s half-Romulan.
Product reels were shown at industry conventions like ShoWest, run by the National Association of Theatre Owners, which showcased upcoming films to moviehouse operators. Theatrical trailers are appetizers meant to be intriguing, but product reels are almost full meals, and this one reveals nearly the entire story, holding back only Spock’s fate.
Here are the scripted scenes in which Saavik’s heritage is discussed.
The reel also shows a decidedly flirty Saavik in a scene intended for the last moments of the film, with most of the crew gathered on the bridge. As Weinstein noted, Saavik comes across as “smoldering” but in the script she was meant to be coy and also funnier. Here is that scene.
I am glad that scene was not included. The levity was out of place right after Spock’s death.
The Search for Spock
Paramount decided to poke a little fun at ShoWest attendees with this one, using subtitles to have Kruge insult the audience. This reel gives away a little less of the plot than did the promo for the second movie.
The effects were not quite final when the reel was made. In the film, Scotty’s opening salvo of photon torpedoes both strike the Klingon Bird of Prey on its central section. In the reel, the second torpedo can be seen striking the starboard wing.
My thanks to Howard Weinstein for sharing these and for encouraging me to post them online.