May 24, 2009

The Adjudicated Frankenstein

Earlier this month, a rare Frankenstein poster from 1931 was sold at auction through Profiles in History, for $212,400.00, a price that reflects not only the red hot collectible value of the piece but its stunning execution as well.

The beautiful, fully painted piece is hand-lettered throughout, with the large, bright red title in shivering letters. The principals are all represented, though Mae Clarke’s likeness is rather off. The Monster, painted from a still of a cadaverous Karloff wearing a test makeup for the role, is isolated in a large oval, with Clarke’s Elizabeth recoiling opposite, the sweep of her bridal gown repeated in the brushtroked sky. A twisted tree and the windmill appear in background silhouette.

In March 2007, a large, 11 by 14 inch title card sold through Heritage Auctions for $33,460.00. It is a direct, companion piece to the poster, with a red title and the Universal name in green at the bottom. The bride, Elizabeth, is again standing at lower right, and the cast appears in colored photographs that obviously served as models for the painted poster version.

A curiously mechanical Monster bursts through the plain background, its long, swinging arms apparently made of rolled and riveted steel. Credits on both pieces are identical, with director James Whale and produce Carl Laemmle Jr prominently featured.

Auction results on Profiles in History, and a gallery of movie ads from Heritage Auctions.

The Selling of Frankenstein, parts one, two, three, and four.


Lolita said...

Wow, astonishing prices! And the first poster was oh, so beautiful!

Christopher said...

I was often puzzeled about this poster and lobby card in I thought the studio was trying to keep the monster's appearence a secret till he appears on screen..

Pierre Fournier said...

Christopher: They made a big deal of keeping The Monster's face secret during filming. There's a pic of Karloff with a veil on his head being led around by Jack Pierce and there were a lot of press releases about the makeup and what The Monster would look like, but when the film was released, The Monster's face was all over the posters. What's unusual is that the photo of the abandoned test makeup with those "horns" on the forehead was used, and often, in the early publicity.