Ewbank’s Auctions’ July 23rd Vintage Posters auction showed the popularity of kitsch classics with a top price of £12,000 for a poster for the 1956 B-Movie classic from MGM, Forbidden Planet.
The 30 x 40 inch British Quad film poster features the first release of the iconic “Robby the Robot” artwork and had been consigned from a private collection. Ewbank’s specialist Alastair McCrea knew it would do well and had given it an estimate of £3,000-5,000, but fans largely bidding online competed fiercely and the price soared.
“It was indicative of the whole sale,” said McCrea. “Where posters for horror and sci-fi films from the 1940s to ’70s have lively and colourful designs, great retro titles and a strong element of kitsch, they tend to do very well indeed.”
Evidence of this came from a British Quad double bill film poster from one of the most sought-after production houses in this field, Hammer. Rasputin – The Mad Monk / The Reptile (1966) had been estimated at £700-1,000, but with two great designs and excellent condition, it went for a premium-inclusive £2,250.
It was a similar story for the 1965 classic starring Christopher Lee, Dr Terror’s House of Horrors. An estimate of £500-800 was surpassed and the final price was £2,750.
Occasionally, if a title and design are good enough, they can even overcome a lack of colour or compromised condition. This was the case with The Hound of The Baskervilles, a British Quad Poster for the Hammer classic of 1959 starring Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville. With some repaired tears, the estimate had been kept down to £300-500, but in the end it sold for £1,875.
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In terms of title and design, the US One Sheet poster for the 1956 schlocker The Mole People (1956) had it all. Linen-backed for conservation purposes, it went way above its £200-400 estimate for £750, while a British Quad for the 1980 zombie horror City of The Living Dead, which had been pitched at £150-250, sold for £950.
Although in average to poor condition, because of water damage and other marks, a British Quad for the 1968 horror The Devil Rides Out (1968) also did well. A Hammer film starring Christopher Lee, adapted from the most successful title by Dennis Wheatley, its condition meant it had been conservatively estimated at just £80-120, but bidders thought otherwise and it sold for £690.
Few films have the schlock value of Andy Warhol’s 1974 creation Blood For Dracula, and the poster doesn’t disappoint either. Here a British Quad film poster expected to fetch £100-150 went for £375.
More recent cult titles can also do well if the artwork is good enough.
A rare Thai One Sheet poster for the 2019 film Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix, features a double-sided playing card, with the actor as both sides of his Jekyll-and-Hyde character, Arthur Fleck and the Joker. It was estimated at £100-150, but sold for £525.
“Hammer, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are a powerful mix when the title and design are right,” says McCrea, “as is the retro feel of Hollywood B-Movie horrors with kitsch titles like The Mole People and nightmarish monsters bursting out of the picture.
“Even with prices climbing as they are, these posters are, inch for inch, one of the best investments as works of art for your wall anywhere in the market.”
The auction also claimed strong prices for film classics in other genres.
The glitz and glamour of the British Quad design for How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) (seen top of page) was helped in no small measure by the colourful presence of its stars Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall, beckoning viewers in. Carrying hopes of £500-800, with premium it went for £2,250.
Pick of a strong Star Wars franchise offering was a very rare poster of the first film from 1977 published before it scooped the Oscars, so carrying no Academy Awards credits. The guide at £1,500-2,500 was about right, but nonetheless, the final price was £4,750.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a classic coming-of-age film from 1986, and a British Quad pitched here at £300-500 made it as far as almost £1,100, while a limited edition art print for the Steve McQueen classic Bullitt, numbered 112/300, went for £700 after being guided at £100-150.
All images courtesy of Ewbank’s Auctions