The 1932 film The Mummy starring Boris Karloff is the original horror movie that spawned many, many copycats staring actors from Brendan Fraser to Tom Cruise. Even Abbott and Costello had a crack at the franchise. But none of them came close to Karloff’s classic tale.
The movies of the 1930s provided great escapism for people living through the Great Depression. Horror films like Frankenstein or Dracula allowed audiences to take their minds off the worst unemployment and poverty modern society had ever witnessed.
The Mummy was inspired by the Egyptian craze of the time which was spurred by the discovery of the famous Tutankhamun’s Tomb, 10 years before the film’s release. Boris Karloff plays the risen Egyptian high priest Imhotep who is brought back to life by hubristic explorers.
Now Sotheby Auction House is accepting bids for one of three remaining original posters of 1932’s The Mummy. It is expected to sell for somewhere between $1-1.5 million, making it the world’s most expensive movie poster ever. The poster was designed by Karoly Grosz, the advertising art director at Universal Studios responsible for a number of prints from the era. The brightly colored poster was unique for the movie marketing department at the time with its minimal use of white space.
Just three original posters for The Mummy are believed to still exist. The other two are in the hands of private collectors, including one that’s owned by Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett.
Very few copies of original film posters from the 1930s survive. Back then, film posters were never released to the public, unlike other pop culture collectibles like baseball cards or comic books. They were just tossed away or locked in the back of some props department.
The Mummy poster is a lithograph which is a printing method with richer inks and a higher-quality paper than what is used today. Movie studios phased the method out by the 1940s because it proved to be too expensive.
The hope is that whoever buys it will have not just a financial interest, but a personal one as well. Somebody with a love of classical movies. Whoever does buy the poster will have a special art piece.
Universal made four Mummy sequels including The Mummy’s Hand, The Mummy’s Tomb, The Mummy’s Ghost, and The Mummy’s Curse but none of them measured up to the original.
The Depression era movie posters were created much differently than today’s movie posters. Today’s wide-release movie posters all suffer from what is call in the film industry ‘The Curse of the Floating Heads’". Because today’s films rely on star power, the main actor’s head will be front and centre with the supporting actors in the background.
It’s an online-only auction, so if you have a spare million lying around, you can get in on the action from anywhere in the world. The auction ends, of course, on Halloween, Wednesday, October 31st.
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