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Movie Poster of the Week: “The Bride of Frankenstein”

A couple of weeks ago there was a lot of buzz about the fact that this rare teaser poster (the only one known to be in existence) for the 1935 The Bride of Frankenstein was poised to break the world record for the sale of a movie poster. The record, held since 2005, was for one of four known copies of a 1927 German poster for Metropolis, which sold at London’s Reel Poster Gallery for $690,000. Prior to that the record had been held for 8 years by a poster for the 1932 The Mummy sold in auction at Sotheby’s in New York for $453,500. (The third highest selling poster of all time, for the record, is also Metropolis). It was hoped that the Bride poster would fetch over $700,000 at Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills (Heritage, based out of Dallas, handles 70 percent of the world's movie poster auction sales) but it failed to reach its minimum price and didn’t sell.

Of the ten highest grossing movie posters of all time, seven are for horror films (“Early Universal Horror movie posters are the blue chips of the collecting hobby,” says Heritage Auction’s Grey Smith), and almost all are for monster movies if you include the sci-fi Metropolis as a kind of monster movie. The lone exception is the 1933 musical Flying Down to Rio, a poster for which sold for $239,000 in 2008. Notably, all ten are for films made in the decade between 1925 and 1935. (You can see a slideshow of the entire top 25 here.)

In the end, the highest price raised at last week’s auction was for the half-sheet (22" x 28") for the little known Werewolf of London (“one of Universal's earliest horror classics” and “the first [film] to deal with the horror of lycanthropy”)—with its wordy injunction to “hysterical women”—which sold for $47,800. Nowhere near the three-quarters of a million they were hoping for Bride of Frankenstein, but still hardly chump change. Proving that, in the world of movie poster collecting, size doesn't matter as much as you’d think, the rest of the top ten highest-sellers at last week’s auction ranged from a giant 9 foot tall Austrian poster for King Kong to a 14" tall "midget window card" for Boris Karloff in The Walking Dead. The others were a large Italian 4-foglio (55" x 78") for La dolce vita, one-sheets (27" x 41") for Out of the Past, Casablanca, the 1948 Superman, The Grapes of Wrath, Dodsworth and Bette Davis’s pre-coder Ex-Lady, and an 14" x 36" insert for Oceans 11, all of which sold for between $10,755 and $38,837.

It does make you wonder who, these days, can afford to buy posters at these prices, though Hollywood celebrities are said to be among the biggest buyers. An auction at Heritage earlier this year boasted “selections from the collection of famed Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett.”

While most classic Hollywood stuff sells in the thousands there were nevertheless deals to be had at the most recent auction and I've selected some of my favorites below, including a beautiful Saul Bass silk screen for Such Good Friends and a stunning Polish poster for In Cold Blood, all of which sold for under $200 each.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

P.S. a couple of comments on Twitter about the Bride poster which made me realize I hadn’t actually commented on the poster itself, but yes it is a knockout, and remarkably spare and stylized for its era. @FortNinety I find it hard to believe this Bride of Frankenstein poster is from 1935 & not some Photoshop dude’s Tumblr cira now. @scandb This 1935 teaser poster for Bride of Frankenstein looks like it could have been made yesterday.
What is that japanese poster for?
The In Cold Blood poster image is taken from the cover of the first King Crimson album from 1969, presumably about the same time.
Norton, I knew your love of prog rock would come in handy. They are uncannily similar. Heritage says that the In Cold Blood poster is illustrated by “Polish great” Andrzej Bertrandt who also designed amazing posters for Pasolini’s Medea, Olmi’s One Fine Day and Tarkovsky’s Solaris. in the bottom left corner of the In Cold Blood poster you can see the handwritten credit “Bertrandt 71”, which means that the Polish release of In Cold Blood was three years after the US release, and two years after the release of the King Crimson album. According to Wikipedia, the In the Court of the Crimson King album cover was painted by Barry Godber, a 23-year old computer programmer who died in February 1970 of a heart attack, shortly after the album’s release. It would be his only painting, and is now owned by Robert Fripp. Fripp says: “Peter brought this painting in and the band loved it. I recently recovered the original from EG’s offices because they kept it exposed to bright light, at the risk of ruining it, so I ended up removing it. The face on the outside is the Schizoid Man, and on the inside it’s the Crimson King. If you cover the smiling face, the eyes reveal an incredible sadness. What can one add? It reflects the music.”
Young, the first Japanese poster is for 1969’s Journey With Ghost Along Hokkaido Road, released in the U.S. as Along With Ghosts. (It was the “third in the series of Okapi Monster movies”). The one at the bottom is for 1967’s King Kong Escapes, in which Kong battles a mechanical version of himself in Tokyo.
I did not know that. Fascinating about the King Crimson painting. What really reveals an incredible sadness, however, is the guilty pleasure I take in prog. Sad in the British sense meaning pathetic! If only Roger Dean had given us his Solaris…

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