Get them while they're hot
Sunday September 28, 2003
X-rated film posters dating back to the Fifties are about to become
objects of desire, says John Windsor
Posters for X-rated American films are the next hot collectable.
The first guide to them - by Tony Nourmand, co-owner of The Reel
Poster Gallery in London, and Graham Marsh - will be published in
With titles such as Come Play With Me, 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 the American
film censor from the late Fifties to the mid-Seventies.
Unlike mainstream movie posters, not many of the few 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 a
British poster for Goldfinger (1964) for £60-£80 retail.
Now you would have to pay about £3,000. The Italian Job (1969)
rose from about £30 to today's £750. A new genre within
a growing market, X-rated posters are already rising in price ahead
of the book's publication.
Nourmand is a closely watched kingpin in the international film
poster market. Marsh is an art director, illustrator and author
whose books include The Cover Art of Blue Note Records.
Nourmand and Bruce Marchant, The Reel Poster Gallery's co-owners,
are seeking an exhibition venue for their collection of American
X-rated posters, 150 of which will be shown in the book.
They are offering a few duplicates for sale. The poster for Casting
Call (1972), an eloquent illustration of sexploitation, is priced
£950. Starlet (1969) is £500 and Come One Come All (1970)
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 £350. 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, was '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 Sixties
and Seventies, when production budgets were bumped up, plots became
less banal and camerawork slicker. Stars of X-rated films emerged,
such as Marilyn Chambers, (whose 1972 Behind the Green Door poster
is £600), John Holmes, the well-endowed stud of 200 full-length
productions, and the late 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
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.
Home video made X-rated film posters redundant in 1976. Up to 40
per cent of videos sold in the late Seventies were X-rated, but
because the under-the-counter trade did not sell tickets to the
public it could do without posters. 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.
Information about the book X-Rated Adult Movie Posters of the 60s
and 70s (Volume I), to be published by Snoeck at £19.95, is
Two other sites are in preparation for forthcoming books by Nourmand
and Marsh: www.sciencefictionposterart.com
The Reel Poster Gallery, 72 Westbourne Grove, London W2 (0207 727
The big Frieze
Frieze Art Fair, London's first international contemporary art
fair, runs from 17-20 October in a 100,000 square foot fibreglass
pavilion designed by David Adjaye in Regent's Park, central London.
Trade shows are not usually allowed there - but the Royal Parks
people loved the idea.
London's artists have led the international contemporary market
for the past decade, but until now the capital has never had a fair
to do the international market justice. Even the big annual London
Art Fair in Islington offers only a handful of overseas gal leries
and the city's cutting-edge contemporary galleries have begun to
give it a miss.
Of the new fair's 125 gallery exhibitors, 26 will be from the USA,
25 from Germany and six from France, despite the fact that the increasingly
popular FIAC fair in Paris closes only four days before Frieze and
the international fairs calendar is packed.
'Somebody had to do it,' says fair organiser Matthew Slotover,
co-founder of the contemporary art magazine Frieze.
This will be a fair like no other, with commissioned artists' projects,
performances, talks, music, and food by The Ivy. Opening hours:
Friday 17, (noon-8pm), Saturday/Sunday 18-19 (11am-7pm), Monday
20 (11am-5pm). Entry £8 in advance, £10 on the door.
Box office (0870 060 1789) or www.ticketmaster.co.uk.
Vintage posters, including travel and motoring, go under the hammer
at Christie's South Kensington, 9 October (2pm) www.christies.com
and Onslows, London W2, 31 October (2pm) www.onslows.co.uk.
Britain's biggest private collection of period costume - more than
10,000 items from Castle Howard, Yorkshire - is on sale at Sotheby's
London on 7 October (10.30am). A lot of 14 pre-war European and
Oriental dressing gowns and negligees is estimated at £200-£400.
Bonhams' first sale devoted to caricatures - 14 October (2pm) -
has a private collection of 35 prints by James Gillray, including
his much-loved The Plumb Pudding in Danger of 1805 showing William
Pitt and Napoleon carving up the world. Worth its £4,000-£6,000
estimate. 101 New Bond Street, London W1, www.bonhams.com.
ACAVA, the Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual
Art, has scores of open studios throughout London until 23 November.
Call ACAVA on 0208 960 5015 or go to www.acava.org.