Film posters were designed to have short life spans. They were simply intended to promote upcoming and new releases while a film was in the theater. When the film left the theater, the posters were thrown away. Since scarcity and desirability are primary drivers of value, film posters of classic movies are now extremely valuable – particularly for a film as iconic as Universal’s Dracula starring Bela Lugosi.
The iconic nature of Todd Browning’s Dracula and the enduring legacy of Bela Lugosi’s performance make posters for this film some of the most coveted – and expensive – of all classic film posters. Unfortunately, only a few posters are known to exist today from the wide range of designs that originally existed.
Below, we’ve included artwork from the original 1931 Universal press book to give you a look at the original designs that are not known to exist any longer.
One Sheet Film Posters
We previously published in-depth article on the Style F One Sheet in our Classic Movie Posters series. You can read it here:
The following One Sheet Styles are from the original 1931 Film Press Book but no known examples of these posters exist (if they do…Wow! What a find it will be!)
Dracula 1931 Three Sheet:
Dracula 1931 Six Sheet:
Dracula 1931 24 Sheet
Dracula 1931 Insert
Dracula 1931 Half Sheets:
Dracula 1931 Window Cards:
Dracula 1931 Herald:
Dracula 1931 Jumbo Lobby Cards:
Many of these incredible pieces of ephemera are, unfortunately, lost to history. And all of them are beyond he reach of most collectors. Regardless, we have the film and, through this digital gallery, we can all relish the awesome pop culture art of these iconic posters.
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954, Universal ) U.S. One-Sheet (27 x 41)
The Gill Man swam into theaters in 1954 and has since joined the ranks of the classic Universal monsters alongside Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man. This classic film was originally released in 3-D and featured groundbreaking underwater photography. The creature was performed on land by Ben Chapman and underwater by champion swimmer Ricou Browning, who had to hold his breath for up to four minutes while shooting scenes.
While The Creature from the Black Lagoon was originally released in in dual-strip 35mm polarized 3-D, and the listing of 3-D posters in the pressbook, they were never issued. The only original poster to have 3-D text actually printed on it was the 14×22 window card. Universal sent “Underwater Thrills in 3-D” snipes for the other posters:
This is an actual snipe that was included along with a one-sheet poster in a recent offering by Heritage Auctions. These snipes were rarely used so most of the one-sheets found today do not have the snipes on them.
Here’s what the one-sheet looks like with the snipe:
Take a look at this incredible image from Universal’s 1954 press book courtesy of the wonderful site 3DFilmArchive.com
The one-sheet poster is one of the rarest and most sought after movie posters of the 1950s. The poster art was done by Albert Kallis, who was also responsible for almost all the posters of Roger Corman‘s B-movies in the 1950s, including It Conquered the World, War of the Colossal Beast and many, many more. Kallis was born of Russian immigrant parents, co-founded IHOP (yep, the House of Pancakes) and created some of the greatest genre movie posters of the 1950s. If you don’t know much about this guy, I highly recommend his autobiography:
Here’s the 1954 theatrical trailer for The Creature from the Black Lagoon:
As with most Creature collectibles, paper from this classic monster movie is highly sought after and comes with a correspondingly high price tag. A copy in Very Fine condition sold for $20,315 in Heritage Auctions Vintage Movie Posters Signature Auction in July 2015.
The Creature returned to the theater multiple times over the next 20 years, and movie posters for these return showings are much less expensive than the original 1954 release.
Godzilla, King of the Monsters (Toho, 1956)
U.S. One-sheet (27″ x 41″)
Godzilla King of the Monsters is the heavily re-edited American 1956 adaptation of the Japanese film Gojira, originally produced by Toho Studios in 1954, which had previously been shown subtitled in the United States in Japanese community theaters only, and was not released in Europe. For the American version, some of the political, social, and anti-nuclear themes and overtones were removed, resulting in 16 minutes of footage cut from the original Japanese version and replaced with new footage shot exclusively for the film’s North American release, featuring Canadian actor Raymond Burr playing the lead role of American journalist Steve Martin, from whose perspective the film is told, mainly through flashbacks and narration.
Of note, Godzilla King of the Monsters was the first post-World War II film to present Japanese people in heroic roles or as sympathetic victims of the destruction of Tokyo to the American public in a commercial release given A-picture status and bookings.
This poster is the U.S. One-sheet style for the 1956 release and I simply love ti for it’s comic book sensibilities and over-top melodrama:
Incredible, Unstoppable Titan of Terror
Civilization Crumbles as its death rays blast a city of 6 million from the face of the earth
Mightiest Melodrama of them all!
Who could have known that 61 years after the release of the original Toho film in Japan that Godzilla would still be the King of the Monsters and as viable commercially at the box office as in the mid-1950s.
All Hail, Godzilla! King of the Monsters!
Enjoy this 1956 theatrical trailer for Godzilla, King of the Monsters:
This poster is always in high demand and the only current auction I found while writing this article was on Heritage Auctions. They are offering a folded, Fine/Very Fine copy and estimate it will sell for $2,000 to $4,000. Since the current bid is $1,000 with 17 days yet to go in the auction, their estimate is probably low.
Dracula (Universal, 1931) One Sheet (27″ X 41″) Style F
It’s October and we’re getting back to basics with a focus on the most iconic of all classic monster movies, the films from Universal Studios. First up, Bela Lugosi as Dracula in the 1931 film classic.
Watch this video history of 1931’s Dracula from Heritage Aucitions:
From Heritage Auctions website:
This lovely Style F stone litho one sheet, with its stunning image of Count Dracula aboard the Vespa en route to London, is a real gem. In March 2009, Heritage sold another copy of this style, from the collection of Nicolas Cage, which realized more than $310,000. At the time, it was noted that the copy offered was one of only three known. The discovery of the poster in this auction brings that grand total to four known to exist in the entire world. The poster had a tear in the upper white border that extends into the image within the green field between Dracula’s raised fist and the moon behind him, with a tiny fleck of missing paper at the intersection of the border and the green field. There was tear from the left border into the “D” in “Dracula” and down into the black of the cape. There was two tears in the right border that extend just into the image and there were pinholes in the upper two corners of the artwork. The bottom white border was trimmed just below the black line which delineates the image from the border so no color image was lost and the entire image and all borders were intact other than the lower border. Through careful professional restoration all of these issues discussed were beautifully restored. The colors on the poster are as vibrant as the day it was printed and have not been altered at all. Few posters combine the high degrees of rarity, desirability, and sheer artistic beauty like this scarce showpiece.
The poster described in the video, only the fourth Style F poster from the film ever uncovered, sold at auction in 2012 for $143,400. This poster was part of The Berwick Discovery of Lost Movie Posters – a trove of 33 classic and incredibly rare posters dating back as far as 1930 – many examples of which were thought to be lost for all time, realized $503,035 total,. The Berwick posters came out of an attic and were found in a small country auction in Berwick, PA, in several lots stuck together with wallpaper paste, which had preserved them for more than eight decades.
In 2009, a Style F one sheet owned by the actor Nicolas Cage went for $310,700 when the actor sold off his collection.
The Land That Time Forgot (Amicus, 1975) U.K. Quad 30″ x 40″
I saw this movie at the theater when I was 9 years old. Plain and simple – it had everything I could ask for. I loved Tarzan, dinosaurs, cavemen, submarines….this movie had it all. One of the last pulp fantasy-adventure films before Star Wars changed everything, The Land That Time Forgot remains indelibly printed in my memory as one of the great movies of my childhood.
This is the British quad poster for the film, and while it isn’t the same one my 9 year-old self fell in love with in the mid-70s, today it is my favorite poster for the film. The day-glow title letters really does it for me and ties the poster together visually by matching the vibrant orange of the exploding volcano. The utter ridiculousness of the submerged T-Rex battling the German U-Boat (spoiler alert: NOT in the film) adds to the overall camp and the utter joy I feel when looking at this poster.
The art, by the great Tom Chantrell, is simply magnificent — click on the images below to take a closer look:
Here’s a terrific overview of Chantrell’s career and impact from BFI.uk.org:
Celebrated poster designer Tom Chantrell, whose prolific career took in everything from Brighton Rock (1947) to Star Wars (1977), also worked for both production houses. For a while Chantrell was ‘house artist’ at Hammer, bringing a ghoulish relish to the campaigns for everything the studio put out between The Nanny (1965) and Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969).
This iconic image for the 1966 prehistoric adventure One Million Years B.C. is typical of Chantrell’s partiality for bold lettering and what film poster scholar Sim Branaghan calls “a riot of brilliantly deployed colour across epic, wonderfully composed canvases.”
Chantrell was the man that Amicus would call on when it embarked on its own series of ancient-world fantasies, derived from the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Each starring Doug McClure and directed by Kevin Connor, this sequence began with 1975’s The Land That Time Forgot, the First World War story of survivors from a torpedoed ship coming across a lost continent where dinosaurs still roam. Chantrell’s action-packed poster enticingly contrasts a German U-boat with exciting primordial drama, while the brash red of the title font is matched to the florid lava of an erupting volcano.
With changing fashion and the rise of computer-aided graphic design in the early 80s, the illustrative craft of designers like Tom Chantrell would soon be a thing of the past. So these eye-catching Amicus posters represent some of the final glories of a lost art.
TheLand That Time Forgot starts with the torpedoing of a passenger ship by a German U-boat crew. The few remaining survivors, including Bowen Tyler (McClure) and Lisa Clayton (Penhaligon), manage to overcome the U-boat’s crew when it surfaces and they force the captain to pilot the craft back to allied waters. The crew decide to sabotage their plans and the craft ends up completely lost in unknown waters. They happen across a strange island and find an underwater cave through which they pilot the U-boat. When they surface in the islands interior they are immediately set upon by a dinosaur-like creature that eats one of the crew before Tyler manages to decapitate it. The crew then venture through the strange land and come across more giant beasts and a tribe of primitive cavemen before discovering oil, which they hope will allow them to escape back to civilisation.
Here’s the film trailer for your viewing pleasure:
High-grade copies of this poster are usually priced in the $500 range. The combination of Tom Chantrell‘s gorgeous art for a Edgar Rice Burrough’s dinosaur vs submarine adventure movie make this a poster that will continue to be desirable for collectors and genre fans for a long, long time.
Grade A copy of this quad poster is offered for 275GBP ($429 U.S.) at Frontrowposters
Tom Chantrell’s estate has partnered with BFI to offer original posters from his collection through their website ChantrellPosters.com – the quad isn’t available but high quality UK double-crown poster (20″x 30″) is listed for 145GBP ($226 U.S.)
What can I say; this film does it for me. It was a perfect stew of everything I loved as a nine-year-old and the affection I have for it hasn’t lessened over the years. While it’s effects weren’t high quality even for the time period, with rubber dinosaurs and amateurish cave man makeup, the story was great fun and packed with thrills. It’s pure, unadulterated camp and I love every second of it.
Valley of Gwangi (Warner Brothers, 1969) 27″ x 41″ U.S. One-Sheet
Poster art by renowned western artist Frank McCarthy who has an impressive movie poster resume that includes such minor works as The Ten Commandments, Thunderball and The Green Berets.
I highly recommend you click on the image above to enlarge it and spend some time looking at the incredible level of detail in McCarthy’s painting. The juxtaposition of the larger-than-life Gwangi against the hordes of battling’ cowboys and fleeing civilians against the backdrop of a dinosaur boneyard is simply awesome.
Filmed in Technicolor with creature effects provided by Ray Harryhausen. Valley of Gwangi wasthe last dinosaur-themed film to be animated by Harryhausen, who had inherited the project from his mentor Willis O’Brien. O’Brienhad planned to make The Valley of Gwangi decades earlier but died six years before the film was realized.
The story follows a similar trajectory as O’Brien’s King Kong with the giant beast being captured by greedy men who plan to make a fortune displaying him to the public, only to have the dinosaur break free from his cage and send the masses running for their lives from the rampaging beast.
The poster copy sums this movie up perfectly:
Cowboys Battle Monsters in the Lost World of Forbidden Valley.
The discovery of a midget horse, thought to be of a species fifty million years old, prompts members of a Wild West show to venture into Mexico’s Forbidden Valley in search of world-wide fame and untold wealth. But they are met by prehistoric monsters, including “Gwangi,” a giant Allosaurus that decimates their ranks.
Here’s the film trailer for your viewing pleasure:
High-grade copies of this poster are usually priced between $400-$500 but better deals can be found. The combination of Frank McCarthy‘s gorgeous art for a Ray Harryhausen dinosaur vs cowboys flick make this a poster that will continue to be desirable for collectors and genre fans for a long, long time.
Dinosaurs fighting cowboys. Lost Worlds inside Forbidden Valleys. Brought to life in stunning Technicolor by the master Dynamation, Ray Harryhausen… It’s the stuff of Monster Kids’ dreams. What can I say about this movie without sounding all gushy? Nothing, so I might as well gush. I simply love this movie, flaws and all. And I love the movie poster almost as much as I love the film. ‘Nuff said.
Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (Warner Brothers, 1953) 27″ x 41″ Style A One-Sheet
With Jurrasic World stomping through the box office, I thought it would be fun to look back at classic movie posters of a film genre that is so near-and-dear to my heart, dinosaur movies. Also, “lost worlds” and “giant atomic beasts.” I love them all!
While not the first dinosaur/lost world film by a long shot, Beast from 20,000 Fathoms is the first in a long-line of movies in the “Giant Atomic Beast” genre, pre-dating even the venerable Godzilla by one year. The importance of the film isn’t limited to simply being first. This movie was also the first solo project for our beloved Ray Harryhausen and the only time in cinematic history that Harryhausen and his lifelong friend, Ray Bradbury, appeared in the film credits together. The movie was loosely based on a short story Bradbury published in the Saturday Evening Post.
The one-sheet poster for this movie is simply great, including no less than 5 tag lines:
The Seas’ Master Beast of the Ages – Raging Up From the Bottom of Time!
They Couldn’t Believe Their Eyes! They Couldn’t Escape the Terror! And Neither Will YOU!
You’ll See It Tear a City Apart!
CASTS OF THOUSANDS! Over a Year in the Making!
A group of scientists and military men are in the remote far reaches of the Arctic Circle, testing a nuclear device. The detonation sets free a prehistoric “Rhedosaurus”, a giant carnivorous dinosaur that walks on four legs. The Beast makes its way south toward old nesting grounds, sinking a ship along the way. The Beast destroys a lighthouse along his route and eventually comes ashore in New York City, wreaking havoc. As if his ferocity and size were not enough of a menace, it is discovered that when wounded, the Beast drips blood that contains deadly amounts of radioactive bacteria. The military decides that the Beast will have to be taken out by a grenade rifle armed with a radioactive isotope leading to a final showdown in an unlikely setting – a closed amusement park.
Enjoy the movie trailer:
This poster simply doesn’t show up at auction very often. Heritage Auctions sold one way back in 2008 for $1,553. There is one current eBay listing for a nice copy of the poster for $1,450.
This movie is simply great and it’s importance can’t be understated to fans of genre movies. Not only did this film give Harryhausen is break-out opportunity, the film’s director, Eugene Lourie went on to become specialize in the genre of giant atomic beast invasion films. In 1959 he directed The Giant Behemoth, which featured stop-motion effects by Willis O’Brien and his assistant Pete Peterson, using many of the same low-budget methods that Harryhausen had pioneered. This was followed in short order by Gorgo (1961), which Lourie directed in England, this time featuring a man-in-a-suit monster.
The commercial success of Beast from 20,000 Fathoms led other Hollywood studios to jump on the bandwagon. The following is from Turner Classic Movies tribute to Ray Harryhausen:
Meanwhile, the influence of Harryhausen’s first solo creation was being felt around the world. In Japan, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka of Toho Studios read a synopsis of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms in a trade magazine, and it inspired him to create a homegrown monster-on-the-loose. The first script for what would become Gojira (1954) even included an attack on a lighthouse. Gojira was a fearsome scaly-spined dinosaur brought to life as a man-in-a-suit by effects expert and longtime Kong fan Eiji Tsuburaya. (The edited film received added footage featuring Raymond Burr and a new title for its American release as Godzilla, King of the Monsters in 1956).
Warner Bros. also took note of the success of Beast and immediately put into production Them! (1954), which would feature an invasion of giant ants and a copycat release pattern of saturation bookings and a massive advertising campaign. Other studios would launch their own giant insect films as a result. So two entire movie sub-genres, the Japanese daikaiju (giant monster) film, and the American “Big Bug” movie, can be traced back to the twin successes of the 1952 reissue of King Kong and its Atomic-Age imitator, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
And on top of all that, the movie poster is simply awesome,
Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (Hammer; 1968) 27″x 41″ One-Sheet
This week’s entry in our Classic Movie Posters Gallery, we pay tribute to Christopher Lee in one of his many iconic roles, Count Dracula. I admit, my original intent was to feature a classic movie poster with Mr. Lee actually on it but I was, shall we say, attracted to this unique poster from the 1968 Hammer Film.
The combination of cheeky humor and magnetic sexuality is perfectly aligned with where Hammer‘s films were at this time. The black and white photograph with the bright pink band aids and the word (Obviously) beneath the film title aren’t consistent with how dark this horror movie is, but fit right into a cynical period in our culture.
When you look at other posters of the period, this one truly stands out…and not just for the obvious reasons. It’s singular image differentiates it at a time when posters were still usually montage of characters and scenes from the movie. And, yes, its use of skin was also quite unique for its time. I can picture it on a theater marquee causing quite a stir alongside the other more traditionally style posters of the time.
Christopher Lee added an animalistic sensuality to his performance of Dracula and Hammer certainly pushed boundaries in their movies, combining horror and sex in a way not seen in mainstream movies before.
This poster is highly collectible but not terribly expensive. A F/VF 7.0 unrestored copy sold last year on Heritage Auctions for $143. Current listings on eBay start at $249 for VF copy. Not sure I could convince my wife to let me hang this one in our family room, though. At least, not until our son has gotten through puberty…
Frankenstein (Universal, 1931) 3-Sheet (41″ X 78-1/2″)
Most collectors secretly dream of finding the proverbial ‘golden ticket’ of items that are so rare, so unbelievably valuable, that they can afford to spend the rest of their days enjoying their collection without a pesky job getting in the way.
The poster was discovered by Steve Wilkin, who found the poster back in the 1970s in a long closed and boarded-up projection booth in a Long Island theater where he worked as a teen.
A spokesman for Heritage Auctions said: ‘Only a small handful of one sheets including one teaser, one six sheet, one insert, and a restored half sheet are all that have appeared of the posters, not including lobby cards,’ the spokesman said.
‘Offered in this lot is the only known copy of either of the two styles of three sheets created for the debut of the film.
‘This is the Style C and is arguably the best graphic of the two styles.
‘It underwent professional restoration and the poster now displays beautifully.’
The spokesman said posters for the film had always been ‘infamously difficult to find’.
The Style C three sheet measures a hulking 41-inches by 78-1/2-inches and had apparently been used by the theatre as a display for reissues of the movie in the decades following its release ‘It had apparently been used as a display for a number of reissues of the film with its counterpart Dracula, as was so often the case throughout the 1930s and 1940s.
Bidders also pushed the sale price of an 11-inch by 14-inch lobby card from the film to $40,630, making it the most valuable example of its kind from the movie.
Frankenstein is one of the first, and most important, monster movies and prices of original collectibles of the film reflect that importance. I’ll never own one, but I sure enjoy looking at them!
This week’s installment in our Classic Movie Poster Gallery celebrates it’s 40th anniversary this week, the movie that turned a day at the beach into a national nightmare, Jaws.
Credited as the first summer blockbuster, Jaws was a phenomenon and the poster art played a big part in the feeding frenzy. The poster art, painted by Roger Kastel, originally appeared on the Bantam paperback for the best-selling book by Peter Benchley. Universal Studios knew this film was going to be huge and looked at numerous designs before ultimately deciding that the book art was simply unbeatable.
Universal smudged out the nudity that had been a controversial on the smaller book cover and enhanced the impact by changing the title letters from the pale blue of the paperback to the dramatic blood red we all know today.
The resulting poster, with Kastel’s dramatic realistic style, the dramatic use of color and the exaggerated scale of the shark, is simply one of the most iconic images in the history of cinema.
Unfortunately, Kastel’s original 20×30 painting went missing during the book tour for the movie release. This painting would be extremely valuable today, but it has never been recovered . Read more about this unfortunate event at Collectors Weekly.
This poster has good availability in higher grades and is not out of reach for serious collectors. While I found several listed at over $1,000, I also found numerous listings below worth checking out.
Given the iconic design and lasting critical impact of this film, owning an original Jaws one-sheet seems like a pretty safe collectible investment to me.
The summer blockbuster season is upon us, as is our annual family trip to the beach. Jaws is being re-released at the theaters in June, and I plan to be there, re-living one of the great monster movies of the last 50 years and the grandaddy of the summer blockbuster.
The Digital Clubhouse for Monster Kids & Collectors of Classic Monster, Retro Science Fiction and Vintage Fantasy Memorabilia