Rare 1932 'The Mummy' film poster poised to hit record $1 million at auction

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A rare, original poster from the Boris Karloff horror classic, “The Mummy,” is expected to sell for over $1 million, a record price for a film poster, Sotheby’s said on Thursday.

An original 1932 lithographic film poster designed by Karoly Grosz, for the movie "The Mummy" is seen in this handout photo provided by Sotheby's, October 11, 2018. Courtesy Sotheby's/Handout via REUTERS

One of only three known surviving examples of the original lithographic poster from the 1932 film, the piece set a film poster record more than 20 years ago when it fetched $453,500.

The auction house expects it to sell for $1 million to $1.5 million, breaking the auction record for a film poster of $525,800 set in 2017 by a poster from “Dracula,” the 1931 horror film starring Karloff rival Bela Lugosi.

A California collector paid $690,000 in 2005 for a poster from the German silent film, “Metropolis.”

The starting bid is set at $950,000 and bidding in the online auction is open until Oct. 31.

Designed by Karoly Grosz, Universal studios advertising art director, the poster continues to influence film posters more than 80 years later, Sotheby’s said, citing its “vivid, painterly splashes of color, a dynamic composition, and minimal white space.”

The work depicts Karloff in the title role as “The Mummy,” with eyes closed and hands crossed over his chest, and Zita Johann, the subject of his desire, in an alluring, red V-necked gown.

Enticing filmgoers, the tag line reads, “It comes to life!”

The poster was exclusively created for movie theaters’ promotional purposes and was never made available to the public. It has been featured in a 1999 exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum and will go on display at Sotheby’s from Oct. 14 to 18.

“‘The Mummy’ is one of those early horror movies that really cemented the genre as the type of horror master film that we see today,” Sotheby’s prints specialist John Maher said in a statement.

Noting the original lithograph’s condition, he noted, “you rarely see - in any poster - colors that are as well-preserved as these are.”

“This is a really exceptional example, that was such an impactful image to begin with,” Maher said.

Editing by Jill Serjeant and Bernadette Baum