Take care of your posters, kids!

Over on the myfinances.co.uk website, there’s a fairly fascinating article about collecting movie posters as an investment. Tying things in to the mounting mania for James Bond and Quantum of Solace info, they’ve titled the article “Quantum of Interest: movie posters break investment crunch.” Go on and read it — it’s really very interesting, and it’s got some things to say about vintage James Bond posters. Just come back here when you’re done.

For me, reading it brought back horrifying memories of one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. I can actually feel my guts tightening up inside of me whenever I think back on the events of this tale, which I’ll share with you, if you’re in the mood for a tale of horror…

I began buying James Bond movie posters in the early 1970s. I actually ordered original Goldfinger and From Russia with Love US one-sheets from an ad in the back pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, for the princely sum of, respectively, five dollars and four dollars. The words “rare” or “valuable” or “investment” or even “collectible” never crossed my mind; they were just way-cool Bond posters to tack up on my bedroom walls. Over the remainder of the decade, I picked up more of these amazing gems at a Chicago-area comic book store whose owner, apparently, didn’t know — or didn’t care about — what he had. At any rate, original one-sheets for Diamonds Are Forever and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service were mine; $12 each. Same price for the “Christmas present for James Bond” poster for The Man with the Golden Gun and the fantastic Moonraker teaser by Dan Goozee. There were plenty of others, but those are the ones that leapt immediately to mind.

Oh, yeah… there was this one, too: the You Only Live Twice door panel poster, with the McGinnis artwork of Sean Connery avec gun and space helmet. The last of a series of four sheets designed to be put up over the windows of the movie theater’s doors. I’m not sure exactly how rare these were by the time, but I’ve heard the adjective “pretty goddam” applied more than once. At any rate, I liked it so much that I took away with me to college, where it had pride of place on the bulletin board in my dorm room. It always grabbed a lot of attention, and even a dolt such as I began to get concerned about all the inspection and handling it was receiving. So, wise college man that I was, I took it down, put it back in the cardboard tube it had been rolled up in (did I mention that, in addition to its rarity, it had always been rolled and never folded?), and squirreled it away for safe keeping in the back corner of my closet. Yup, I had my thinking cap on for sure.

Flash forward six months, well into the next semester. Late, late at night, I and the thousands of other residents of my 22-storey dormitory are wakened by a fire alarm — at 1:30 in the morning, this is not a drill. Everybody gets out of the building safely, and, as we’re all shuffling around in the parking lot, watching the smoke coming out of the top floor cafeteria, we see water beginning to cascade down the walls, starting at the eighth floor. Apparently, some mouth-breathing chucklehead of a college boy opened up the standpipe on that floor, and when the fire department began pumping water up to the top of the building, the eighth floor was as far as it got. Did I mention my room was on the fifth floor? No? Well, that’s a salient fact in this little drama, so bear that in mind. Anyway… a little while later, the fire, such as it was, is extinguished, and we’re allowed back into the building. Allowed back into the building to behold the wondrous sight of at least six inches of standing water on our floor! Being industrious college students, we promptly crack open a multitude of beers, and eventually get to cleaning the place up. Obviously, anything on the floor is soaked in filthy water. Wet clothes and bed linens are dispatched to the laundry room; sodden garbage and paper and unidentifiable lumps of cardboard from the back corners of closets are hauled off to the garbage chutes. It’s a long night of nasty, dirty work, but we have a can-do spirit and a lot of beer, so we turn it into a party as best we can. As the days and weeks go by, as the hallway carpeting is replaced and the study lounge furniture is dried out and cleaned, as final exams approach, that crazy night fades in memory and significance; it becomes the subject of jokes more than anything else.

Finals are finished, the semester comes to an end, farewell tears are shed and summer get-togethers are planned. We all go home to our respective towns and cities, simultaneously hoping to have a fun and relaxing summer, and to have the opportunity to work our asses off to make money for the next school year. About halfway through my summer, mid-July-ish, it’s a perfectly beautiful Sunday morning, and I’m in church. The candles and incense and chanted Slavonic prayers of the Russian Orthodox liturgy puts me in a dreamy, spiritual mental state. The choir is singing beautifully; the honey-colored light streaming in through the stained glass windows seems, the way it pours over the bowed heads of the parishioners, to actually have weight and heft. Many of the icons in the church have been recently cleaned, and seem to glow from within. My eyes go from the icons, to the murals on the walls, to the other various objets d’art scattered throughout the hundred-year-old cathedral. These graphic representations of the faith remind me, in a general way, about other uses of the graphic arts in our culture…

“FUCK!” I shout, simultaneously slapping my forehead with a violent crack! sound, as the correct synapses fire, and a crystal-clear memory of tossing a water-soaked cardboard poster tube down a dormitory garbage chute instantly crystallizes in my mind. The entire sequence plays itself out in my memory like a Technicolor, Dolby 5.1 surround stereo IMAX film shot in high definition by Brian de Palma with nine cameras at 700 frames per second. Images of that 5 foot tall, four-color poster of Sean Connery in his iconic “Bond stance,” slowly dissolving in at a sodden, rotting trash heap are interspersed with thoughts of how much money that pretty goddam rare poster might be worth. I’m more or less oblivious to the shocked expressions and popping eyeballs of my neighboring fellow Christian worshipers; I’m just thinking about how fucking cool that poster was, and how I had once owned it! I make my way out of the church on rubbery legs, managing, somehow, not to drop any more F-bombs in God’s house. In retrospect, He must not have been too mad at me, I think, because He let me drive home safely, despite an industrial-sized headache and singing blood in my ears.

Not too much to tell after that. I eventually got over it, and my fellow church members eventually got over my sudden onset of Tourette’s syndrome. More college, and then the rest of my life, followed, and — I guess — I wasn’t permanently scarred. Nevertheless, sometimes, at three in the morning of the dark night of the soul, I remember drinking beer and slinging trash without a moment’s thought. And then I remember yelling “fuck!” in church and, maybe smiling a bit, reflect on what an idiot I sometimes am.

Take care of your toys, boys and girls. And don’t leave anything of value laying on the floor.

— Paul

9 Responses

  1. I love that Goozee Moonraker teaser.

  2. As a hard-core fan, it’s certainly not one of my favorite movies, but that teaser poster — DAMN! — one of the coolest posters in the entire series. It’s too bad they didn’t use Goozee more; IMHO, he certainly the equal of Robert McGinnis. (interesting in that they’re both renowned Western artists. Maybe they should’ve used James Bama also.)

    — Paul

    Thanks for all your kind comments, Zencat!

  3. what a horror story! I feel your pain. I too bought the Bond posters from FM. Traded a Dr. No one sheet for a… Beast of Hollow Mountain poster – duh! I left many of my posters in my old bedroom in my parent’s house… for about 20 years. My folks shut off the ac in my room and a year or two ago I opened up a poster roll to find Mildew across a half sheet. Fortunately it was For Your Eyes Only – which I gave to my mom to start HER collection (!) and got everything out of there pronto. the problem with collecting is – eventually you don’t own your collection, it owns you!
    great story, though – thanks!

  4. I can relate to your feelings: I used to have a fairly big poster collection, Thunderball 6-sheet, stuff like that. Then I needed to pay for my studies and sold the whole lot – for a modest sum. Looking at the latest auctions at Sothebys and Christies I could bite myself ….

  5. Ah,ehm, would you believe ( not a Maxwell Smart’s imitation btw ) I have French Goldfinger & 1967’s Casino Royale vintage posters actually …Scotched on a wall at Home ??? And , to add insult to injury , did the same abominable thing to all the original US 70’s Bond posters I bought as a teenager in various movie shops ??? Guess my reputation as a serious Bond Fan will go down the drain now…Heck you need space to be able to properly collect Poster …And I’m the Gugenheim Museum, unfortunately…

  6. Kevin, I’ve done the same thing to my original FRWL and Goldfinger (US) one sheets — there were thumbtacked to my bedroom wall to most of the 1970s. I also had the genius (not!) idea of bonding my original OHMSS and DAF one sheets, as well as the original Goozeé Moonraker teaser, to matting boards with the notion of (one day) having them professionally framed. These are just some of the abuses I’ve heaped on my Bond movie posters…

  7. I live in a city that has a movie poster warehouse and retail store. One day I got a call at work from a local reporter who wanted to interview me for a center spread he was doing on film poster collectors. The operator of the warehouse had given him my name – apparently my collection had reached newsworthy proportions.
    My collection is made up mostly of reprints, except for Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me (which were folded) so it’s not particularly valuable, which is fine – it means I can display it without worrying much about devaluing it.

  8. I feel your pain buddy! I was out of the country for a month, so the management of my apartment complex decided it was the perfect time to have my apartment refurbished. First they shampooed the carpeting. Then they decided to lay new tile in the entryway and hall closet. In the closet were tubes of 007 and other film posters most they piled on the couch. A few they stood on end, leaning against the couch, but the bottoms on the carpet which was still damp from shampooing. I returned a couple weeks later to find the moisture had wicked up the tubes and their contents…things such as a set of rolled, mint YOLT British horizontal one-sheets, mint large-format French OHMSS poster with James Bond in the blue snowsuit, Swedish one-sheets, etc. I was heartbroken. I asked the manager how I could file a claim for the damage. She responded, “Well, did you want your apartment refurbished or not?” Luckily they fired that Rosa Kleb-look-alike a few months later for pocketing some residents’ rent.

  9. A really funny and well written story.I can understand your feelings.When I was a kid a get all poster variations from GoldenEye.My parents didnt allowed me to put nails in the wall, so I used stickers from a magazine to put the posters on the wall.Now the posters are still in good shape but have pictures from Take That,Backstreet Boys etc in the corners. Your. poster from you only live twice is also a favorite of mine.I have a small printing of it signed by Karin Dor.She signed it twice.First next to her picture on the black background, so that you can hardly read it.When she take notice of that she signed it a second time at the white background.

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