Universal Pictures horror movie posters from the 1930s and '40s bring huge prices. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and the Black Cat can all sell for over $300,000.
During the 1930s and ‘40s Universal Pictures produced many of the greatest horror films in Hollywood history. Here are ten classic Universal “scare pictures” from that golden era, along with an auction report on some of the rare, collectible and high-priced movie posters that promoted these great sound productions.
Bela Lugosi has the title role in this gothic vampire thriller made for an estimated $355,000. Tod Browning, with uncredited assistance from cinematographer Karl Freund, delivers a spooky, atmospheric masterpiece. Complementing Lugosi’s bravura performance as Count Dracula are Helen Chandler (Mina), David Manners (John Harker), Dwight Frye (Renfield) and Edward Van Sloan (Professor Van Helsing). “I never drink…wine,” Bela Lugosi playfully informs Dwight Frye at Castle Dracula.
Auction result: An original Dracula one sheet poster (27x41-inches) style F featuring a colorful illustration of Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye aboard a doomed cargo ship sold in 2009 for $310,700 (Heritage Auction Galleries). Only three examples of this super rare poster have surfaced to date.
Dracula (1931) one sheet poster style F $310,700 (Heritage Auction Galleries)
Colin Clive plays the mad doctor Henry Frankenstein with Boris Karloff as his monstrous creation in this stellar adaptation of the 1818 Mary Shelley novel. Brilliantly directed by James Whale, the film also features Mae Clarke (Elizabeth), John Boles (Victor Moritz), Edward Van Sloan (Dr. Waldman), Dwight Frye (Fritz) and Lionel Belmore (Herr Vogel the Burgomaster). “Look! It’s moving. It’s alive. It’s alive…” an ecstatic Colin Clive declares in his laboratory after his creation begins to stir.
Auction result: An original Frankenstein one sheet poster (27x41-inches) style A fetched a top bid of $212,400 in 2009 (Profiles in History). Only five Frankenstein style A posters have survived to date.
The Mummy (1932)
Boris Karloff plays Imhotep/Ardath Bey in this mad thriller set in 1921 Egypt in which a desecrated tomb releases an ancient curse in the form of a resurrected mummy. Karl Freund directs, with Zita Johann (Helen Grosvenor/The Princess), David Manners (Frank Whemple), Arthur Byron (Sir Joseph Whemple) and Edward Van Sloan (Doctor Muller) in horrific support. “Put it back. Bury it where you found it. You have read the curse. You dare defy it?” Edward Van Sloan scolds a disbelieving Arthur Byron.
Auction result: An original The Mummy one sheet poster (27x41-inches) style A sold in 1997 for $535,000 (Sotheby’s).
The Invisible Man (1933)
Claude Rains has the title role, playing a scientist who can render himself invisible in this fantastic tale based on the 1897 H.G. Wells novel. James Whale sits high atop the director’s chair, with Gloria Stuart (Flora Cranley), William Harrigan (Dr. Arthur Kemp), Henry Travers (Dr. Cranley), Una O’Connor (Jenny Hall) and Forrester Harvey (Herbert Hall) in visible support. “The whole world’s my hiding place,” Claude Rains announces as the great transparent one.
Auction result: An original The Invisible Man insert poster (14x36-inches) sold in 2007 for $80,500 (The 5th Annual Hollywood Poster Auction, New York City). According to the sellers, this poster is the only known survivor.
The Black Cat (1934)
The deadly duo of Boris Karloff (Hjalmar Poelzig) and Bela Lugosi (Dr. Vitus Verdegast) headline this bizarre tale of satanic ritual loosely based on the Edgar Allan Poe story. Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, the Black Cat also features David Manners (Peter Allison), Jacqueline Wells a.k.a. Julie Bishop (Joan Allison), Egon Brecher (The Majordomo), Harry Cording (Thamal) and Lucille Lund (Karen Verdegast Poelzig). “Are we not both the living dead? And now you come to me, playing at being an avenging angel, childishly thirsting for my blood,” Boris Karloff tells the stalking Bela Lugosi.
Auction result: An original The Black Cat one sheet poster (27x41 inches) style B brought a top bid of $334,600 in 2009 (Heritage Auction Galleries). This is the only known example of the style B red poster, with only four style A blue posters in existence. One style A blue poster sold at Heritage in 2007 for $286,800.
The Black Cat (1934) one sheet poster style B red $334,600 (Heritage Auction Galleries)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Elsa Lanchester garners the electrified role as the blushing bride created in a laboratory, with Boris Karloff as her overeager mate in this James Whale-directed sequel to 1931’s Frankenstein. Colin Clive is back once more as Dr. Frankenstein, along with Valerie Hobson (Elizabeth), Ernest Thesiger (Dr. Pretorious), Gavin Gordon (Lord Byron), Douglas Walton (Percy Bysshe Shelley) and Una O’Connor (Minnie) in support. “Alone: bad. Friend: good!” Boris Karloff declares, offering his take on companionship.
Auction result: An original The Bride of Frankenstein one sheet poster (27x41-inches) style D sold in 2007 for $334,600 (Heritage Auction Galleries).
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
Basil Rathbone (Baron Wolf Von Frankenstein), Boris Karloff (The Monster), Bela Lugosi (Ygor) and Lionel Atwill (Inspector Krogh) head the cast of this Universal shocker directed by Rowland V. Lee. Son of Frankenstein would mark the final big-screen appearance of Karloff as Doc Frankenstein’s lumbering creation. “One doesn’t easily forget, Herr Baron, an arm torn out by the roots,” the now one-armed Lionel Atwill tells Basil Rathbone.
Auction result: An original Son of Frankenstein half sheet poster (22x28-inches) in the superior orange style brought a winning bid of $89,625 in 2007 (Heritage Auction Galleries).
Son of Frankenstein (1939) half sheet poster style orange $89,625 (Heritage Auction Galleries)
The Wolf Man (1941)
Lon Chaney Jr. stars as Lawrence Talbot, an American astronomer who is bitten by a werewolf during a return visit to his native Wales. Eerily directed by George Waggner, the movie also features Claude Rains (Sir John Talbot), Warren William (Dr. Lloyd), Ralph Bellamy (Colonel Montford), Patric Knowles (Frank Andrews), Maria Ouspenskaya (Gypsy Woman) and Evelyn Ankers (Gwen Conliffe). “It isn’t a wolf…it’s a werewolf!” a believing Lon Chaney Jr. declares.
Auction result: An original The Wolf Man half sheet poster (22x28-inches) fetched $23,900 in 2007 (Heritage Auction Galleries). In that same Heritage offering, an original The Wolf Man window card (14x22-inches) sold for a more reasonable $3,585.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Lon Chaney Jr. (Larry Talbot) seeks a cure for his lycanthropy from scientist Patric Knowles (Dr. Frank Mannering) in this classy production directed by Roy William Neill. Bela Lugosi appears as the Frankenstein monster, with Lionel Atwill (Mayor of Vasaria), Maria Ouspenskaya (Maleva) and Dwight Frye (Rudi) in shrieking support. “I can’t do it! I can’t destroy Frankenstein’s creation. I’ve got to see it at its full power,” Patric Knowles declares of the monster.
Auction result: An original Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man one sheet poster (27x41-inches) brought a top bid of $13,145 in 2008 (Heritage Auction Galleries). In a 2009 Heritage auction, an original Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man half sheet poster sold for $2,629.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) one sheet poster $13,145 (Heritage Auction Galleries)
House of Dracula (1945)
Both Lon Chaney Jr. (Lawrence Talbot/The Wolf Man) and John Carradine (Count Dracula) visit the home of Onslow Stevens (Dr. Franz Edelmann) seeking cures for their supernatural afflictions in this spooky thriller directed by Erle C. Kenton. Lending support are Martha O’Driscoll (Miliza Morrelle), Lionel Atwill (Inspector Holtz), Jane Adams (Nina) and Glenn Strange (The Frankenstein Monster). “Get out! It’s the Frankenstein monster!” Lon Chaney Jr. shouts near the end of the film.
Auction result: An original House of Dracula one sheet poster (27x41-inches) sold for $10,350 in 2005 (Heritage Auction Galleries).
Movie Poster Notes
Condition plays a major role in determining values. Some posters are professionally restored and backed on linen for preservation purposes.
Unfortunately, fake posters have surfaced in recent years, and the list includes some Universal Pictures horror movie titles. Buying from a reputable auction house or dealer who back their merchandise with money-back guarantees can provide a collector added piece of mind.
- Heritage Auction Galleries
- Hollywood Poster Auction
- Movie Collector’s World
- Profiles in History
Copyright © 2010 William J. Felchner