Old movie star posters first came into fashion in the mid-to-late 60s, when a generation which rejected the contemporary Hollywood product and looked back to Hollywood’s golden age.
Humphrey Bogart’s masculine poise, Ingrid Bergman’s majestic presence, Cary Grant’s charm, and Marilyn Monroe’s iconic tragedy and femininity were noticed by a modern generation of cinephiles, and captured in posters hanging in dorm rooms and apartments.
Stills and posters of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein continue to be a favorite among vintage horror buffs, as the movie featured a Universal all-star cast including Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein Monster, Lon Chaney, Jr. as Larry Talbot/the Wolf Man, and Bela Lugosi as Dracula. This was the second and final time Lugosi portrayed his signature character on screen, and the film conveyed a delicate balance of comedy and menace.
The definitive King Kong movie posters depicting Kong towering over the New York skyline, depict a scene which isn’t in the 1933 film. Careful scrutiny exposes that separate photographs of Willis O’Brien’s stop motion puppet and the cityscape were collaged together and retouched. Posters from Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong remake are widely available.
Since the mid-70s, Warren Publications’ announced a major motion picture version of the horror comic Vampirella, but the belated 1996 direct-to-video release was a letdown. Designed by underground cartoonist Trina Robbins, supplied with an origination (swiped from the Curtis Harrington film Planet of Blood) by Forrest Ackerman, and established her unique style by cover artist Frank Frazetta, the character’s name and image have become recognizable to folks who have never discovered the black-and-white magazine. A large 6-foot poster of Vampi painted by José Gonzalez in 1972 obtained a reissue by Harris Publications in 2007.
Autographed stills and original posters are extremely esteemed by collectors. Some actors with cult followings, such as Yvonne Craig, who played the coquettish Batgirl in the second and third seasons of the Sixties Batman series, maintain web stores where fans can buy autographed photos and posters.
Collectible movie posters can yield astronomical sums, and are sold through premium auction houses such as heritage. Although the economic downturn has affected the price of collectibles, in March 2009, a 1931 Style B one-sheet Dracula poster from the collection of actor Nicolas Cage sold for $310,000 at auction. The only known copy of The Bride of Frankenstein (1933) poster was recently bought for $330,000. While out of print, by Ron Borst’s Graven Images remains the authoritative book on the art of the horror movie poster.