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Peer Into the Horror That Is Kirk Hammett’s Movie Poster Collection

They’re watching you.

<em>The Bride of Frankenstein</em>, 1935.
The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935. Courtesy of the Kirk Hammett Horror and Sci-Fi Memorabilia Collection and Universal Studios Licensing, LLC.

Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett was six years old when he first saw Frankenstein, in the late 1960s. When it was released in 1931, the film was so successful that it spawned multiple sequels, including The Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein—and earned it a place as one of The New York Times’ 10 best films of the year. It also made an impression on young Hammett. It started his lifetime obsession with horror movies.

For three decades Hammett has fueled this interest—and his own creativity—with a collection of classic horror posters and memorabilia. “My collection takes me to a place where I need to be,” he says. “Among the monsters, where I’m most comfortable and most creative.”

Classic film posters are big business, particularly those related to horror. In 2012, it was reported that six of the 10 most expensive film posters sold at auction feature Boris Karloff—Frankenstein’s monster himself. Many of these set auction records: An original 1932 poster for The Mummy sold for $453,000 in 1997, at the time the most ever paid for a American movie poster. (That honor has since gone to a poster for Frtiz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi epic Metropolis, which sold for $690,000 in 2005).

<em>The Mummy</em>, attributed to Karoly Grosz, 1932.
The Mummy, attributed to Karoly Grosz, 1932. Courtesy of the Kirk Hammett Horror and Sci-Fi Memorabilia Collection and Universal Pictures Licensing, LLC.

The Mummy was released in December 1932, just over a year after Frankenstein. Karloff’s face once again adorned the posters, despite the fact he was barely recognizable under all that make-up. Karloff’s his ravaged head takes up nearly a third of the poster, designed by Universal Studios’ art director Karoly Grosz, and now famously adorns one of Hammett’s custom guitars.

For the Metallica guitarist, part of the reason he collects horror memorabilia is to share it—in his 2012 book Too Much Horror Business and his Fear FestEvil conventions, for example. Now, a selection of his prized posters and other memorabilia are on display at the Peabody-Essex Museum in (appropriately?) Salem, Massachusetts. Atlas Obscura has a selection of his posters, which are on view from August 12 through November 26, 2017.

<em>Creature From the Black Lagoon</em>, Reynold Brown, 1954.
Creature From the Black Lagoon, Reynold Brown, 1954. Courtesy of the Kirk Hammett Horror and Sci-Fi Memorabilia Collection and Universal Studios Licensing, LLC.
<em>Hamlet</em>, Franz Peffer, 1920.
Hamlet, Franz Peffer, 1920. Courtesy of the Kirk Hammett Horror and Sci-Fi Memorabilia Collection
<em>Nosferatu</em>, c. 1931.
Nosferatu, c. 1931. Courtesy of the Kirk Hammett Horror and Sci-Fi Memorabilia Collection.
<em>Frankenstein</em>, Roland Coudon, c. 1931.
Frankenstein, Roland Coudon, c. 1931. Courtesy of the Kirk Hammett Horror and Sci-Fi Memorabilia Collection and Universal Studios Licensing, LLC.
<em>Dracula</em>, 1931.
Dracula, 1931. Courtesy of the Kirk Hammett Horror and Sci-Fi Memorabilia Collection and Universal Studios Licensing, LLC.
<em>The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari</em>, Lionel Reiss, 1921.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Lionel Reiss, 1921. Courtesy of the Kirk Hammett Horror and Sci-Fi Memorabilia Collection.
<em>Frankenstein</em>, 1931.
Frankenstein, 1931. ourtesy of the Kirk Hammett Horror and Sci-Fi Memorabilia Collection and Universal Pictures Licensing, LLC/Photo by Heritage Auctions, HA.com.
 <em>The Mummy</em>, attributed to Karoly Grosz, 1932.
The Mummy, attributed to Karoly Grosz, 1932. Courtesy of the Kirk Hammett Horror and Sci-Fi Memorabilia Collection and Universal Studios Licensing, LLC.