Alright readers, you did this to yourselves. When I wrote that post about Film Posters I Wish I Owned I felt really self indulgent and that nobody was going to read it. Turned out quite a few of you seemed to have some interest. Who knew? Has Covid really made you that bored and desperate?
It was enough that I considered doing another post on MORE film posters I wish I owned. But it didn’t fit the mood or the reality of my current situation. I still spend hours looking at poster auction sites and compiling watch lists of posters that catch my eye. But, inevitably, I decide I need to spend more money on posters right now about as much as I need more junk mail from seriously evil cable companies.
So, I’ve decided to take this another direction. Instead of being Mr “I want. I want. I want. More. More. More.” I will be grateful and appreciative about what I already have.
No, really. Why does that sound so implausible to so many of you?
I’m gonna be grateful, damn it!
Anyway, so, this post is about a few of the posters I already own and why they are my favorites. Which, as it turns out, is also incredibly self-serving.
As I mentioned in that other post, I previously tried, and failed, to start selling vintage movie posters online as a side-gig. But I may try again. Maybe…
What happens with Covid getting contained (or not) still has a lot to do with that. Standing at line at the Post Office during a pandemic just never sounded like a really good idea to me. But I’m hopeful.
Even if I try again, I won’t have tens of thousands of dollars worth of posters to sell. I just don’t have that kind of money to invest.
One original CASABLANCA poster would bankrupt me.
Which is why is why I thought I would write about some more affordable ways to collect classic film posters. And how many stunning, personally meaningful, movie posters are still within reach to us mere mortals.
Even if I decide against selling vintage movies posters as any sort of business, I still love looking at them. And plan to keep collecting them just for myself. They are beautiful and often take me back to specific memories and experiences.
To me, that makes them worth an awful lot, right there.
GODZILLA VS GHIDORAH, Japanese “chirashi”
I got into poster collecting starting with something very specific: Godzilla. I am a big fan and find turning to thoughts of the big guy almost sure to bring a smile on my face.
I started with some random artwork of him bought online. One was a huge piece of GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA printed on vinyl. It’s not even a poster. Just something cheap, fun and silly I saw online and bought on impulse.
This was followed by a reproduction of the poster for GODZILLA VS ASTRO MONSTER…which was printed on plastic (seriously). Not that I knew about the plastic when I ordered it. But I didn’t really care. It still looked cool. So, I framed it and called it a day. Basically, I collected cheap, kind of odd, stuff that I randomly came across that featured Godzilla.
But then I discovered “Chirashi.”
Chirashi are small Japanese posters/flyers for theaters to advertise their upcoming films. They are double sided and have information on the back.
They are small. Only 7″ x 10.” However, the art is usually exactly the same as the larger, B2 size posters. Chirashi are, basically, the smaller version of standard, theatrical movie posters in Japan.
Turns out collecting Chirashi has been big in Japan for years. More recently, very establish (and expensive) movie poster galleries have started to sell them side by side with their bigger brothers. Which makes total sense to me.
Like I said, they are the same posters, just different sizes. And of course, way, way, way, way, cheaper. You can buy most Chirashi for under a hundred dollars. Even the super-rare, highly coveted, ones rarely exceed two hundred.
Chirashi are also cheap to frame which can become an unexpectedly expensive part of poster collecting. They can even be kept in large art portfolios if you don’t want to display all of them on your walls.
So, me being me, when I discovered Chirashi, I quickly went nuts trying to find and buy the ones for all the Godzilla films. The particular Godzilla movie this poster is for is not very good at all. Not even among “The Bad Godzilla Films.” It’s kind of wretched, in fact.
But who cares? It’s still got Godzilla and Ghidorah in in. At the very least, you’ve got to appreciate the incredible art by Noriyoshi Ohrai.
Just look at it, you know it’s cool.
And so my road to poster collecting began…
TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER, JAPANESE B2
My favorite Godard movie is probably ALPHAVILLE. The poster at the very, very, top of this post is actually a Chirashi for that film. From Godzilla to “oh, that’s kind of cool too” led me to a whole lot of additional Chirashi purchases.
But also ended up eventually buying this. It’s a poster for TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER.
It’s a Japanese B2. Which means it measures about 20″ x 28.” B2 posters are slightly smaller than most American posters. But they have been, and still are, the standard size for most movie posters in Japan.
The thing with TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER is that many Godard fans hate it. It’s one of the first movies to start turning away from the more breezy, early films like BREATHLESS and MASCULINE/FEMININE.
It’s Godard being more cold and intellectual. No love story here. This one is about the high cost of consumerism and the evils of capitalism. Not exactly warm and fuzzy.
Not to mention, Anna Karina isn’t in it. Which, in my book, is always tragic.
Yet, even with all that working against it, I don’t mind this movie. I might even go as far as to say I kind of enjoy it.
And I am a huge fan of the way this poster looks.
There’s something about this poster that mixes the Japanese style with that European Sixties style in a way I have never seen anywhere else. It’s very Paris, 1967, yet also very Tokyo, 1983, which is when this poster was created for the theatrical rerelease of the film.
Which brings me to a point I mentioned in that earlier post. The posters for the later theatrical rerelease of a film are often much better looking than those for a film’s original, debut release. And they are certainly cheaper. By a lot.
Keep in mind, the initial release of a film is all about the money. Getting people into seats. The posters for an original movie release are, first and foremost, advertising. Big stars are often featured. Torrid, often misleading, copy is sometimes used. Anything to get people to buy a ticket.
For the later, more limited, rerelease of an established film, the posters don’t have to stoop so low. They have the liberty of being more highbrow and “arty” if they so chose. And many are clearly done by people that love the film and don’t just think of it as “product.”
Keep in mind, these later posters do not have the same “historical artifact” pedigree that a year of release poster has. Some of the most exclusive collections dismiss them.
But, aside from being affordable or not, you need to really ask yourself how much that historical connection means to you. Ideally, if money isn’t an issue, you obtain a poster that features the holy grail of being a year of release poster, from its country of origin and that is mindblowingly cool. But often that’s just that case.
Often you need to chose what’s important to you and what’s not. Even though I am a huge Godard fan, I don’t love this movie. And it’s a poster from a 1983 rerelease, decades after the film’s actual debut. And it’s from Japan. Not France.
Yet, this is absolutely one of the favorite posters in my collection.
HIGH AND LOW, JAPANESE B2
I love this movie. It is my favorite Kurosawa. Which is saying something, because, Lord knows, the man made a lot of amazing movies.
HIGH AND LOW was the PARASITE of its day.
This movie wasn’t just about a kid being kidnapped, it was about the vast differences between those that have money and those that don’t. The choices and options the wealthy CEO has versus those of the chauffeur he employs and those of the poor, desperate kidnapper.
The CEO lives high on a hill in a beautiful, large, modern house which overlooks the very slums the kidnapper dwells in. A situation which alludes to those differences between the lives of the wealthy and all the rest.
And this poster captures that. This poster expresses the idea that HIGH AND LOW is not just a crime movie but about much, much more.
This poster is for the 1977 rerelease of the movie. It first came out in 1963. The original 1963 poster had an image that was much tighter on the characters, forgoing the view from the house overlooking the slums. It’s not bad but, in my opinion, isn’t nearly as effective in conveying the true character of the film.
I should probably mention that the American poster from 1963 totally screwed the pooch. Badly. That poster tried to sell HIGH AND LOW as a pulse-racing thriller about the police racing against the clock to catch the bad guys. It’s so not that movie and anybody expecting it to be was sure to be bored and disappointed.
Like the poster for TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER, it’s a Japanese B2. These are usually a little expensive to frame since they’re not a standard U.S. size. There is, however, an IKEA frame which comes close if you don’t mind a white matte around it. Not ideal, but if the cost of framing a B2 is an issue, it’s not a bad work-around.
THE PARALLAX VIEW, U.S. ONe-SHEET (30 x 40)
“As American as apple pie.” How could you not love that?
It’s a lot more fun now as a line of copy than it was when THE PARALLAX VIEW came out in 1974. The previous decade had been filled with an unprecedented number of political assassinations and murders. Shock had given way to cynicism as one political leader after another was gunned down.
It was shortly after this that director Alan J. Pakula made “The Paranoia Trilogy” which included KLUTE, THE PARALLAX VIEW and ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN.
As I wrote in an earlier post, I am not a fan of KLUTE. I do think that ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN is a well-made movie. But I can only watch Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford bust Nixon so many times before it gets really boring.
THE PARALLAX VIEW, on the other hand, I can watch time and time again.
THE PARALLAX VIEW is kind of silly. It involves a secret organization that creates assassins. But it’s silly in that way so many scifi films of the era were. So, very, very 70s in a great way.
I have to admit, my appreciation of THE PARALLAX VIEW grew even more when I realized I lived very near one of the film’s key shooting locations. I am, literally, down the street from “Parallax Human Engineering” where wanna-be assassins were brainwashed.
As for the poster, it’s a U.S. theatrical poster from the year the movie was released. I have very few U.S. posters in my collection for a couple of reasons. One is that they tend to be expensive. Two is that there are a ridiculous amount of digital reproductions/fakes being sold as “vintage theatrical movie posters” out there. And three, most of them suck. Seriously.
You know what I was saying about vintage film posters as pure advertising? The U.S. was far and away the world leader in such drivel. Most of them featured really crappy artwork and really bad design. Many had ridiculous copy. Some of it is kind of fun or funny but mostly it’s just bad. More concerning, far too many U.S. posters intentionally mischaracterized the movie.
Remember what I said about the U.S. version of the HIGH AND LOW poster? It is sadly typical of the way movies were sold in the U.S. market. Lure them in by whatever means necessary. Fill those seats!
Moving on…the photo above is of my actual One-Sheet. Standard One-Sheets were 27″ x 41.” This one was a special type printed on thicker paper and used in the early 70s that was a little larger at 30″ x 40.” Knowing the exact size of the theatrical posters used is a key way to determine if the one you’re considering buying is an original or a reproduction.
You might notice that my poster has folds, some discoloration and even a tape mark at the very top. It was classified as in “Good to Very Good” condition. Such grading systems are highly subjective. You can only take what a seller tells you as a guide. The rest you have to try to deduce from seeing it in person or, more likely, photographs.
Truth be told, you’re not going to know exactly what you have until you get it home. But if you’re dealing with a good seller that’s not usually an issue. I have yet to feel “burned” by a product description.
It probably helps that I don’t mind my poster having a few marks or signs of use on it. To me, it’s part of the wabi-sabi. Reminders of its history. However, there are a lot of collectors that would not touch such a thing.
Which brings me to linen backings and poster restorations. There are professionals who will take a paper poster and give it a linen backing to preserve it and make it much stronger. Some of these same people will go even further and “restore” a poster and try to remove some of its damage.
The linen part I get. It’s an archival technique which makes sense if you’re talking about an original CITIZEN KANE poster or something else worth a lot of money. However, the “restoration” part I am usually not a fan of.
Luckily for me, I don’t have the sort of money or expensive posters to ever have to worry about such things.
Which, at least for now, I’m OK with. I will stick to my method of collecting posters where things like rereleases, chirashi and not-quite-perfect condition are just fine.
As long as such movie posters keep making me happy, I don’t see why I would change a thing.
See. Grateful. I told you I could do it!