BLACK AND WHITE MAGAZINE # 71
Though more amusing than arousing to the contemporary
porn posters are hot stuff among collectors, writes John Windsor.
WITH titles such as Come Play With Me and Days of Sin and Nights
of Nymphomania and Is There Sex After Marriage? (with the tagline ‘Don’t
ask the Wife, Ask Julie’), the films were a headache for
film censors from the late ‘50s to the mid-‘70s.
But posters for X-rated American films are now the next hot collectible.
Britons Tony Nourmand, co-owner of The Reel Poster Gallery in London,
and Graham Marsh have just published X-Rated, the first ever guide
Unlike mainstream movie posters, not many of the X-rated posters
that were issued have survived. There is no record of some of the
films they advertise and only a couple in the book have been reproduced
In their day they were cheaply printed trash, binned at the end
of their runs in sleazy cinemas. Today their lurid designs, mostly
by unknown artists, and the cornily suggestive wit of their taglines
have acquired a kitsch appeal. Linen-backed, framed and hung in
the hall, they are eye-catchers. Collector-investors should learn
to rattle off the socially conscious excuse for buying them: “Of
course, you realise that this was the era of sexploitation”.
Since Nourmand and Marsh’s first, ground-breaking volume,
Film Posters of the Sixties (1997), their books – eight of
them- have won a reputation as market makers. The posters they
illustrate shoot up in value. Before the Sixties book was published,
you could buy an original British posters for Goldfinger (1964)
for $130-180 retail. Now you would have to pay about $7000. The
Italian Job (1969) rose from about $70 to today’s $7000.
A new genre within a growing market, X-rated posters are already
rising in price with the book’s publication.
The poster for Emmanuelle, the story of the bride of a French
embassy official in Siam initiated by friends into various forms
of sexual activity, is priced at $800. Made in France in 1974,
Emmanuelle was one of the first two sex movies to break into mainstream
cinema, being hailed as ‘porno-chic’. (The other was
The Story of O, 1975). The distributors of Emmanuelle hired the
ace poster designer and copywriter Steve Frankfurt, now best known
for his tagline for Alien – “In space, no-one can hear
you scream”. His tag for Emmanuelle’s award-winning
poster, showing sensuous lips, is “X was never like this”.
Halliwell’s Film Guide notes: “This fashionable piece
of sub-eroticism took off like a bomb”.
Emmanuelle belongs to the ‘golden age’ of sex movies,
the 60s and 70s, when production budgets were bumped up, plots
became less banal and camerawork slicker. Stars of X-rated films
emerged, such as Marilyn Chambers, John Holmes, the well-endowed
stud of 200 full-length productions, and Linda Lovelace of Deep
Throat (1972), who earned enduring fame for an on-screen career
lasting just over five hours, and whose autobiography told of her
coercion into the sex industry.
Collectable directors’ names include Russ Meyer, Radley
Metzger and Joseph Mawra – and you will have struck gold
if you can find any X-rated film posters for legends such as Marilyn
Monroe and the director Francis Ford Coppola, who both kicked off
their careers by making blue movies.
Nearly all of today’s sex movies, more explicit than their
predecessors in those sleazy cinemas, are on video and DVD. The
few X-rated posters that survive tell of a brief era when sex on
film was new. After three decades, their prurience has acquired
an almost schoolboyish charm.