(We sell only vintage original movie posters -- never copies or reproductions.)
Mexican Poster Sizes and Styles
Some Mexican Horror Film Poster Highlights
Some Mexican Wrestler Film Poster Highlights
It wasn't so long ago that posters for U.S. sci-fi titles like Attack of the 50-Foot Woman or Invasion of the Saucer Men were considered sleazy trash. Well, many still considered them sleazy trash, just a more valuable variety. Today, the onesheets for these titles are selling for well into the four-digit range.
The appeal of Mexican horror and masked hero film posters is similar to that of their U.S. cousins. The graphics on Mexican genre posters are often bizarre and flamboyant, and they are usually colored quite vividly. These posters were produced not to inspire thought in adults, but instead, to thrill and titillate their target audience: teens and children. As such, normal constraints, such as realism and logic, did not shackle the artists who created them. Their goal was to overwhelm -- a goal in which they succeeded admirably.
The Mexi-horror film shares an affection for naively absurd creatures like those made famous by Paul Blaisdell, a Roger Corman-alumni (Attack of the Crab Monsters, It Conquered the World, Invasion of the Saucer Men, etc.). Blaisdell's creations are monsters as a child would conceive them grotesque creatures with over-sized heads, extra eyeballs and built-in, hideous, sneering snarls. Like Blaisdell's creations, there's a distinct lack of subtlety in the creatures of Mexican genre films. From the Brainiac's dangling, cranium-sucking tongue to the pack of long-fanged cannibal midgets in El Increible Profesor Zovek, Mexican monsters have a wonderfully naive innocence and charm (or at least as much charm as a pack of long-fanged cannibal midgets can have).
Though U.S. and Mexican genre film posters may share a similar appeal, there are major differences when it comes to collecting them. Perhaps the biggest difference is availability. While admittedly expensive, U.S. posters are still rather plentiful for most 1950s titles. Not so with U.S. paper from their Mexican counterparts. While many Mexican films had some theatrical bookings in the United States, and many of them were endlessly shown on television during the mid to late 1960s, there are almost no U.S. posters available for these English-dubbed versions. So, all the baby boomers who grew up watching Curse of the Doll People on Saturday afternoon TV, and want to collect the posters, will have to buy the only pieces available; the original Mexican material.
Another huge difference between U.S. and Mexican posters is cost. While some of the most sought-after U.S. titles are becoming unaffordable to the average collector, even the best Mexican titles, though difficult to find, are still quite reasonably priced, much as U.S. genre titles were 20 years ago.
In addition to the discrepancies in availability and price, there are several physical differences between U.S. and Mexican movie material. For example, U.S. posters came in a wide variety of sizes (one-sheet, half-sheet, insert, window card, lobby card, three-sheet, six-sheet, twenty-four-sheet, 30x40, 40x60), but there are only three basic sizes in Mexico: one-sheet, window card and lobby card. And while U.S. posters are uniform in size (for example, all lobby cards are 11" x 14"), Mexican posters can vary from piece to piece (Mexican lobby cards range from 10" x 13" to 13" x 17").
Mexican Poster Sizes and Styles
The Mexican one-sheet is slightly smaller (approximately 27" x 37") than the U.S. version (27" x 41"). The paper used is also thinner and more fragile, making it extremely difficult to find these posters in nice condition.
Mexican window cards are also smaller (the average size is 12.5" x 19.5") than their U.S. counterparts (14" x 22"). Like the U.S. versions, they're printed on thicker stock paper, with a blank strip on top for writing theater information.
Mexican lobby cards are generally larger (usually around 12.5" x 16.5") than U.S. cards, but size isn't the main difference. Most U.S. lobbies consist of a large, color-tinted scene from the film which covers the majority of the card. Typically, there's usually no more than a small portion of the surface (perhaps 10 to 20 percent) devoted to border graphics and many cards have no border art at all. Desirability of U.S. lobby cards is therefore almost entirely based on the quality of its scene. A U.S. card not picturing a collectible star or an impressive monster is quite often nearly valueless.
In contrast, colorful artwork tends to cover the majority of Mexican lobby cards (often 75 percent or more). These cards have only a relatively small inset, picturing a scene from the film. (These inset scenes were usually black & white in the 1950s and 1960s and color thereafter.) Thus, the Mexican lobby cards are far less dependent on the quality of the scene pictured.
Mexican lobbies usually have the same artwork as a film's one-sheet poster (although due to on the horizontal format of lobby cards, the layout of this artwork is sometimes a bit different). So, if you're a fan of the one-sheet from the classic Mexican vampire film, El Vampiro, you're sure to like all lobby cards from that film as well and you'll be able to buy them for a fraction of the price.
Also sometimes different is the number of cards in each lobby set. U.S. sets usually contain eight cards (although some sets have only 4 cards), as do most post-1961 Mexican sets. However, most earlier Mexican films were released with an "A" and a "B" set of cards. Therefore, 16 different cards exist on these titles.
A nice feature of many U.S. lobby sets is the title card. This card features the same artwork that appears on the half-sheet poster. Approximately half of the U.S. lobby sets from the 1950s have title cards. However, the extensive artwork on all Mexican lobby cards, eliminated the need for a title card so they were not produced.
A final difference in the posters of the two countries, is the printing and lithography processes used in their production. Because the technology used by Mexican printers was far behind that used in the U.S., the Mexican graphics have a far older feel to them (at least 10 years older). This out-dated look gives many Mexican posters, even relatively recent ones from the1960s and early 70s, a beautiful style which is far more attractive then U.S. posters produced during this same period. And Mexican posters from the 1950s are often similar in look and style to beautiful U.S. examples from the late 1930s and early 40s.
So, while they may not have reached the popularity that U.S. posters have achieved, Mexican film posters certainly have a lot to recommend them.
Highlights of Mexican Horror Film Posters
Here's an overview of some of the more interesting examples:
The best known Mexican genre films (In the U.S., at least) are those that were part of the K. Gordon Murray horror package dubbed into English in the mid 1960s. These titles also represent some of the most entertaining horror films produced in their native country. El Vampiro is considered by many critics to be "The" classic Mexican horror film. The posters for El Vampiro are magnificent, with a striking image of blood sucker German Robles. Other Mexican vampire movies also sport stylish graphics. El Ataud del Vampiro (Vampire's Coffin sequel to El Vampiro) is almost as attractive as its predecessor. El Vampiro Sangriento (Bloody Vampire) and La Invasion de los Vampiros (Invasion of the Vampires) both feature beautifully designed posters with great color and superb artwork. Even the poster art for El Mundo de los Vampiros (World of the Vampires), Mexico's goofiest vampire film, is striking. Each of these titles also feature excellent lobby card sets, with well-chosen scenes. Lobby sets for El Vampiro and El Ataud del Vampiro include 16 cards, while the other Mexican vampire films (all produced in the early 1960s) have 8-card sets.
Perhaps the best known Mexi-monster creation was the "Aztec Mummy." This is a far more horrific mummy than the Egyptian variety for there are no bandages to cover its sunken, decayed features. The posters for the Aztec Mummy trilogy are also impressive. In fact, I feel that posters from the third segment, La Momia Aztec contra el Robot Humano (Robot vs the Aztec Mummy) are among the best ever produced for any (including U.S.) horror films. The first two films in the series, La Momia Azteca (Attack of the Mayan Mummy) and La Maldicion de la Momia Azteca (Curse of the Aztec Mummy) are also graphically well represented, with glorious colors and bizarre designs. All three films in this series have excellent 16-card lobby sets.
Werewolves are shown to best advantage by a trio of Mexican posters. La Casa del Terror features a full-bodied image of Lon Chaney Jr. in the makeup for which he's best remembered. A quick comparison of this poster and the U.S. poster for the same film (called, Face of the Screaming Werewolf, for the U.S. market), shows just how superior Mexican graphics can be. The Mexican one-sheet and the 16-card lobby set are must-haves for any serious horror collector. Just as impressive is El Hombre y el Monstruo (Man and the Monster), with its incredible closeup portrait of the werewolf-like monster. For a distaff slant on the legend, there's La Loba. This film's poster art features a rendering of Mexico's sexiest female monster, and of the film's lobby cards shows the slinky female beast to especially good advantage.
Unfortunately, two of the classic Mexican Frankenstein films have never been released in English-language versions. But no English is needed to appreciate the beautiful posters for this rare and highly sought-after pair. El Monstruo Resucitado expresses the Frankenstein myth with a twist. The doctor is hideously deformed, while his creation is quite attractive. The posters, thankfully, concentrate on the monstrous doc. The artwork for Orlak, el Infierno de Frankenstein, focuses instead on the misunderstood monster, and the unfortunate results to his carefully sculpted facial features when he stands too near the fireplace. The Orlak graphics are among the most vibrant and vividly colored of all horror poster art.
Once again, the impressive quality of Mexican posters can be seen by comparing the north and south of the border posters produced for El Monstruo de la Montana Hueca, aka Beast of Hollow Mountain. (The film was a U.S./Mex co-production and released in both countries in 1954.) While the U.S. paper features drab coloring and a poor, blurry image of the monster, the Mexican artwork is richly colored and has a far superior rendering of the Beast.
A few more horror titles worthy of mention: Among the best-loved multi-Mexi-monster bashes, El Castillo de los Monstruos has a great montage poster design, picturing a gaggle of famous monsters; vampire, Mummy, Frankenstein's monster, werewolf and even the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The lobbies are also great, with mucho monsters pictured on every card. The poster art from another all-monster extravaganza, La Nave de los Monstruos, borrows the rocketship from the 1950 U.S. film, Destination Moon, but the various space creatures which surround it are wholly Mexican in design. From the drooling Cyclops and mini Martian with an exposed brain, to the tin-can robot recycled from La Momia Aztec contra el Robot Humano, it would be hard to imagine this film being produced anywhere but in Mexico. The posters for Munecos Infernales (Curse of the Doll People) are surprisingly understated, and in my opinion, a little disappointing but the lobby cards are a lot more fun. Many cards from this 16-card set contain great shots of the scary living dolls. El Ladron de Cadaveres is a movie that fans of the magazine, "Famous Monsters of Filmland" might be familiar with. Stills of the gruesome monster were pictured in that publication on more than one occasion. However, few of those readers have seen this superior, atmospheric horror film. Mexican film critics have voted El Ladron de Cadaveres as one of the two best Mexican horror films ever made and placed it in the top 50 Mexican films of all time. The poster art and lobby cards are equally impressive and atmospheric however, the paper produced for this classic Mexican film is difficult to find.
This only scratches the surface of Mexican horror film posters. Now let's take a look at an equally popular genre, the luchador film.
Highlights of Mexican Wrestler Film Posters
No look at these films would be complete without discussing the "masked hero" sub-genre. While bizarre may be the best word to characterize Mexican horror films, there is no word to adequately describe those films featuring masked wrestling heroes. Imagine a 1930s sci-fi serial combining strange monsters, spies, masked men, wrestling matches, mad doctors, odd musical interludes and fights where no one ever seems to get hurt. This might give you a idea what to expect. And what give's these films a surreal quality (not unlike The Phantom Empire or The Lost City, two of the strangest chapter-plays ever produced) is that they are played totally straight.
The best known Mexican wrestler, in the ring and on the screen, was "El Santo, Enmascarado de Plata" (aka The Saint, Samson or The Silver Mask). Santo appeared in over 50 "Batman-like" adventures during his long screen career. If Mexico City was invaded by creatures from outer space, you could be sure that the police chief's first call would be to the silver-masked hero. Leaving his underground hideout, he'd arrive in a sports car and head-lock the evil creatures into submission. Of course, several times during the run of the film, Santo would have to excuse himself from the action to participate in a wrestling match at the arena. But at least one could always hope that his ring opponent would turn out to a mind-controlled zombie or a werewolf in disguise. If you've never seen any of these Mex-flex films, you have no idea what you're missing. They're half horror and half-Nelson.
Among the most collectible Santo titles are:
Santo contra Cerebro del Mal. His first film posters and lobby cards from this movie are scarce.
Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiras (Samson vs. the Vampire Women). His most famous film and justifiably so. It co-starred the wonderful Lorena Velazquez and is part of the K. Gordon Murray package released in the U.S. The one-sheet is very attractive and fairly easy to find, making it one of the most popular with collectors. The 16-card lobby set (one of only two Santo sets to contain 16 cards) is a bit harder to locate, at least in good condition. Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiras was such a popular movie, that it's lobby cards were often used over and over again, until most of them literally fell apart.
Santo en el Museo de Cera (Samson in the Wax Museum). Another amazing, English-dubbed horror film. Posters and lobby cards feature nice monster graphics.
Santo contra los Zombies (Invasion of the Zombies). The last of the trio of Santo films dubbed into English during the 1960s. In this one, Santo is called by his proper name, "The Saint." Like Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiras, the lobby set for Zombies consists of 16 cards.
El Baron Brakola. An early Mexican vampire/wrestler film, the posters, and U.S-sized (11x14") lobby cards are all difficult to find.
Santo y Blue Demon vs. los Monstruos and Santo y Blue Demon contra Dracula y el Hombre Lobo. Two amazing all-star monster/wrestler extravaganzas, each with attractive poster art and many great lobby card scenes.
Santo en el Tesoro de Dracula. Also released in a "sex" version, El Vampiro y el Sexo. If a normal Mexican wrestler film is odd, than an x-rated version is down-right unbelievable!
Santo vs. la Invasion de los Marcianos. The poster art from this film was copied from the U.S. artwork for Robinson Crusoe on Mars. But again the Mexican artist out did himself, turning the decent looking original, into what many collectors feel is among the most beautiful sci-fi posters ever produced. (It was a lobby card from this title that got me started collecting Mexican posters).
"Blue Demon" was a masked wrestling star in his own right, and was Santo's closest rival in popularity. He appeared in 28 films over his prolific, 28-year career. However, Blue is not as well known as Santo in the U.S., perhaps because none of his films have ever been dubbed into English. Among Blue Demon's most desirable poster titles are:
Blue Demon el Demonio Azul. The title may be redundant, but the film is actually quite good. This was Blue's first starring role and he's pitted against a vicious werewolf. All paper from this title is tough to find, especially the one sheet.
Aranas Infernales. The masked hero battles spider-women from outer space. A very hard-to-find sci-fi film with equally hard-to-find posters and lobby cards. But its well worth the effort to locate them, as they are beautifully designed with garish colors and bizarre images.
La Sombra del Murcielago. Great horror graphics grace the posters of this film, which is loosely based on The Phantom of the Opera.
Blue Demon vs Cerebros Infernales. Nice graphics of Blue and the title nemesis, "giant infernal brain".
Blue Demon y las Invasoras. A fun little female-invader film, was also released in a nudie version.
Invasion de los Muertos. A Night of the Living Dead-like film which co-starred Mexico's answer to Houdini, "Zovek". Actually, Blue was only brought into the project after Zovek was killed during this film's production, while the magician was performing a death-defying stunt. The posters and lobby cards for this title are particularly nice, with great "naive" artwork picturing some gruesome zombies.
The amazing Los Campeones Justicieros (Champions of Justice) series. This is Mexico's answer to the "Justice League of America." A band of heroic masked wrestlers battle the forces of evil usually personified by a gang of nasty dwarfs. In the first film of the series, Los Campeones Justicieros, these dwarfs have the strength of 10 "ordinary wrestling dwarfs." In the second film, Vuelven los Campeones Justicieros, they form a pack of half-man and half-rat monsters. In the third installment, Triunfo los Campeones Justicieros, a tiny alien leads an invasion force from outer space. These may be the most entertaining horror films, that were never dubbed into English. An interesting note on the last two films of the series; the lobby cards for these titles are much larger than the average Mexican lobby card. During this early-70s time period, Producciones Filmicas Agrasanchez experimented with releasing "giant-sized" lobby cards. These half sheet-size cards were approximately 16.5" x 24.5" and consisted of mainly garish artwork. These very impressive giant lobby card sets (each set containing 8 cards) exist for about a dozen Agrasanchez genre films, all released during the early 1970s.
A few of the other well-known masked hero/wrestlers are also worth seeking out; Mil Mascaras, Neutron, La Sombra Vengadora, Huracan Ramirez and Las Luchadoras (The Wrestling Women).
"Mil Mascaras" may be the best known Mexican masked wrestler the world over. In addition to being a headliner in his own country and extremely popular in Japan, he was the first masked wrestler to ever appear in New York's Madison Square Garden. Mil's most desirable posters are from; Mil Mascaras (Mil's first film), Los Canallas (his second film), Las Momias de Guanajuato (the first teaming of the "big three" of Mexican wrestling: Santo, Blue Demon and Mil. At the time of release, this was the most successful wrestler film ever made) and Misterio en las Bermudas (the final teaming of the "big three" of the wrestling world).
The first "Neutron" series consisted of a trio of early 60s films (there were 5 Neutron films in all); Neutron el Enmascarado Negro (Neutron and the Black Mask), Automatas de la Muerte (Neutron vs. the Death Robots) and Neutron contra el Dr. Caronte (Neutron vs. the Amazing Dr. Caronte). The graphics on these one-sheets (and also shared by the three lobby sets) are superb and they make a beautiful addition to any collection. The artwork from the first film features a stunning, full-body shot of our hero standing with his hands on his hips obviously influenced by Superman's famous pose. The material from the second and third installments combine naive artwork, good color and an art-deco style to great effect. Posters from all three films are highly recommended. All five of Neutron's films have been dubbed into English. This fact, combined with the beauty of their design, make the Neutron posters very popular with U.S. collectors.
"La Sombra Vengadora" was one of the first masked Mexican heroes, debuting in 1954. He starred in nine films during his crime-fighting career. Like the Neutron posters, the graphics on La Sombra's material (especially his early efforts; La Sombra Vengadora, La Sombra Vengadora vs. el Mano Negro, El Secreto de Pancho Villa and El Tesoro de Pancho Villa) are quite striking with strong colors and beautiful images. Neutron and La Sombra had other things in common as well. Both were masked heroes who starred in a series of serial-style adventure films, complete with criminal masterminds and cliffhanger escapes. Both characters wore black costumes decorated by lightning bolts. And the movie posters for both are among the most desirable of the masked hero genre, sharing a gorgeous art-deco look. And while the Neutron posters are quite impressive, I think the La Sombra artwork is even more beautiful. The four Sombra films mentioned above each have 16-card lobby sets. (A note of interest: La Sombra was also one of the five original members of Los Campeones Justicieros.)
"Huracan Ramirez" was an actual wrestler, who starred in the first realeased masked-wrestler film, Huracan Ramirez. The film was produced in 1952 and hit the screens in '53 (a few months before the release of El Enmascarado de Plata -- a film which was originally conceived as a showcase for Santo). Huracan Ramirez (1952) featuring the exploits of the popular wrestler of the same name. Interestingly enough, the film's producers, Cinematografica Roma, purchased the rights to use the wrestler's name and mask, but used an actor (David Silva) to portray him in his films. Huracan Ramirez was not only a landmark film in the Mexican movie industry, but it featured superb artwork as well, making it one of the most sought after Mexican posters. Huracan Ramirez has appeared in eight films to date, over a period of 30 years, making his, the longest of all the masked-wrestler film series. A few of his other more collectible posters are; Misterio de Huracan Ramirez, Venganza de Huracan Ramirez and Huracan Ramirez y la Monjita Negra.
In 1962, Lorena Velazquez and Elizabeth Campbell (a beautiful American actress who appeared in numerous Mexican films in the 1950s and 60s) starred in Las Luchadoras vs el Medico Asesino (U.S. title: Doctor of Doom). The popular success of this film spawned four sequels and several copies. "Las Luchadoras," better known in the United States as "The Wrestling Women," starred in their series of five films during the 1960s. While all five titles are highly prized by collectors, Las Luchadoras vs. el Medico Asesino and the second entry in the series, Las Luchadoras contra la Momia (the infamous, Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy), are the most desirable as these were the only two which were dubbed into English. The other three Wrestling Women films are; Las Lobas del Ring (the last film of the series to star Velazquez), Las Mujeres Panteras (the last of the series to star Campbell) and Las Luchadoras contra el Robot Asesino which like Santo en el Tesoro de Dracula, and Blue Demon vs. las Invasoras was also released in a semi-pornographic version. Also worth mentioning is La Mujer Murcielago (Batwoman). This is a film that could only have been produced in Mexico! The beautiful Maura Monti stars as a female wrestler who wears a sexy "bat-bikini" while battling a mad doctor and his Creature-from-the-Black-Lagoon-like monster. It came out during the Batman craze of the 1960s and is highly valued by Batman collectors and Mexican horror/wrestler collectors alike.
In late 1997, Mexican poster collecting received a much needed shot in the arm. In December of that year, a one-sheet for Luis Bunuel's classic Los Olvidados brought a surprising $3,520 at a Christie's poster auction. (I believe this is a record for a Mexican poster.) However, this is only the beginning. More and more people are being exposed to the pleasures of collecting Mexican poster art. Mexican film scholar David Wilt has published a comprehensive article on Mexican poster artist, Ernesto Garcia Cabral. Only recently have U.S. collectors become aware of the talented Cabral, who's work has graced the posters for popular comedians G. Valdez and Resortes, among others. Over the past year, Cabral's distinctive style has caught on with collectors and his posters for films like, Que Lindo, Cha Cha Cha, El Gato sin Botas and El Medico de las Locas have dramatically increased in value.
But, if you're yet to buy your first Mexican poster, this is still a good time to start. With numerous magazines, like Filmfax, Cinema Fantastique and Cult Movies beginning to include more and more coverage of Mexican cinema prices of these under-appreciated pieces of cinematic history are sure to skyrocket in price. And although it may still be a few years before a Mexican onesheet appears on the catalog cover of a premier movie poster auction house, titles like El Vampiro, El Baron del Terror and La Sombra Vengadora certainly have a lot to recommend them to those of us who enjoy things slightly off-center.
This article was written for Mexican Horror Cinema, a wonderful book celebrating the poster art from Mexican fantasy films. The book was compiled by Mexican film historian, Rogelio Agrasanchez Jr.