As a kid growing up in the 1950s, I went to the movies almost every Saturday. In those pre-video, pre-cable days, neighborhood theaters offered “kiddie matinees,” consisting of double- and triple-features of monsters and cheap science fiction. Admission was 35 cents. Most of the movies were pretty lame. I remember seeing “Frankenstein’s Daughter,” “I Was a Teenage Frankenstein,” and “Teenage Caveman” at about the same time, but never felt cheated. As long as there was a monster (no matter how poorly conceived), we were satisfied.
A big part of the experience in these cavernous movie palaces, with their high ceilings and richly carpeted lobbies, were the posters on display. The posters were usually 14″ x 36″ Inserts and were placed near the entrance to advertise next Saturday’s program — just in case anyone missed the previews of coming attractions on the big screen. How often I wished I could buy a poster and take it home, but the managers always refused my requests. (“Sorry son, those posters have to be returned,” was the typical response.) The vibrant colors and dynamic graphic art on these posters were often far more spectacular than anything the movies themselves could possibly deliver!
Many years later I learned that one man was responsible for many of the best of these posters, the artist Reynold Brown. In 1994, PBS aired a fine documentary on Brown entitled, “The Man Who Drew Bug-Eyed Monsters.” More recently, Daniel Zimmer and David J. Hornung have written a book, Reynold Brown: A Life in Pictures (Illustrated Press). They’re all here — “The Mole People,” “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” “Tarantula!,” “Attack of the Puppet People,” “Cult of the Cobra,” “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman,” “Creature from the Black Lagoon” — those very same images that drew me into the darkened theater fifty years ago. I still want to take them home.
John Skillin: For more information on horror, sci-fi, and other vintage movies, see John’s blog at http://drive-inmemories.blogspot.com