Mama Marias! Rare Metropolis Poster Sells Big at Auction

By Nick Venable | Published

metroWhen you take look at Hollywood blockbusters of today, there isn’t a huge amount of range separating one film from the next. Something like The Dark Knight Rises looks completely different from The Avengers due to a much grittier atmosphere and lack of pronounced CGI effects, but they’re still in effect action movies with huge set pieces built around escalating conflict. Explosions here, explosions there. Or if superhero movies are a lame comparison to you, just compare Battleship and a .gif of someone spitting into a cup full of diarrhea. But turn the clock back 85 years, when the scene was a lot less dominated by all things epic, and you’ll find Fritz Lang sitting atop his mountain of talent, clearly ahead of his time even now, when film inflation is taken into account.

His 1927 film Metropolis is celebrated for many things, such as being one of the first major science fiction classics. While not seen in quite as favorable a light at the time of its release, the story of class differences only seems to become more relevant with time, as the metaphorical 1% distance themselves from the rest of us. This article itself is a microcosm of that struggle, as I sit here earning a few bucks to write a story about Ralph DeLuca, a man who dropped over a million dollars for a set of nine rare movie posters. The posters were being auctioned off by California collector Kenneth Schachter, who went bankrupt after not being able to pay back loans used to buy film memorabilia, which is a problem I will never have.

The prize of the bunch is the Metropolis poster, designed by Heinz Schulz-Neudamm, and is one of only four known copies left in the world. One of the other copies is held in the New York Museum of Modern Art, which DeLuca says confers the poster’s value as art. I can’t fight that; it’s a gorgeous poster. Other posters included in the mondo deal were the original King Kong poster, and one for 1933’s Invisible Man. To give a sense of the relative worth, Schachter bought the Metropolis poster in 2005 for $690,000, and the auction’s bidding for the posters started at $700,000, which would have certainly been a loss for the seller.