Friday, August 23, 2019

It's Alive!

July 2019 - Toronto ON

ROM Royal Ontario Museum

A horror film is a film that seeks to elicit fear for entertainment purposes. Initially inspired by literature from authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, horror has existed as a film genre for more than a century. The macabre and the supernatural are frequent themes. Horror may also overlap with the fantasy, supernatural fiction, and thriller genres.

Famous guitarist Kirk Hammett, of the heavy metal band Metallica, has created one of the world’s most extraordinary collections of classic horror and sci-fi movie posters. This exhibition explores Hammett’s significant collection and examines the connection between artistry, emotion, and popular culture through a selection of works from 20th-century cinema.

It’s Alive! Classic Horror and Sci-Fi Art from the Kirk Hammett Collection is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.

The exhibition traces how, decade by decade, horror and sci-fi cinema responded to a number of broad cultural events and developments. Each section of the exhibition uses poster art to convey underlying anxieties of particular eras, including the fear of mortality around the Great Depression of the 1930s; scientific progress in the mid-20th century; the fear of invasion and espionage post-1945; and the rise of feminism in the 1960s.

The exhibit was set in a series of darkly lit rooms with black walls, creating a sinister setting while at the same time making the colourful posters pop out.

The posters were organized by genre, There was a Frankenstein section, and a vampire section, and an alien section.

We were greeted by the sounds of crackling electricity, as if walking into Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. Surely enough, a poster from the movie Frankenstein adorned the little nook that makes up the entrance to Kirk Hammett’s magnificent collection of science fiction and horror movie posters.

Frankenstein is a 1931 American pre-Code gothic monster horror film from Universal Pictures. It is about a scientist and his assistant who dig up corpses to build a man animated by electricity. The project goes awry when Frankenstein's assistant accidentally gives the creature an abnormal, murderer's brain. The film was directed by James Whale, and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling, which in turn was based on Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. The created "monster" is portrayed by Boris Karloff in the film. A hit with both audiences and critics, the film was followed by multiple sequels and has become one of the most famous horror films in history.

Bride of Frankenstein (often incorrectly styled The Bride of Frankenstein) is a 1935 American science-fiction horror film, the first sequel to Universal Pictures' 1931 hit Frankenstein. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest sequels in cinematic history, with many fans and critics considering it to be an improvement on the original Frankenstein. As with the first film, Bride of Frankenstein was directed by James Whale and stars Boris Karloff as the Monster.

William Henry Pratt (23 November 1887 – 2 February 1969), better known by his stage name Boris Karloff, was an English actor who was primarily known for his roles in horror films. He portrayed Frankenstein's monster in Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939). He also appeared as Imhotep in The Mummy (1932).

In non-horror roles, he is best known to modern audiences for narrating and as the voice of Grinch in the animated television special of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966). For his contribution to film and television, Boris Karloff was awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Boris Karloff's suit from The Black Cat


A famous scene from the 1922 German horror film Nosferatu.

 My favourite horror movie growing up. I also loved Wait Until Dark.

They had other movie props as well, including a zapatron – a lightning-generating movie prop to go with the electrical noises – and lighting effects aimed at the floor to create the illusion that it was working.



Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó (20 October 1882 – 16 August 1956), better known as Bela Lugosi was a Hungarian-American actor best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film and for his roles in other horror films.

This painting was in the section with the guitars.

Leonidas Frank "Lon" Chaney (April 1, 1883 – August 26, 1930) was an American stage and film actor, make-up artist, director and screenwriter. He is regarded as one of the most versatile and powerful actors of early cinema, renowned for his characterizations of tortured, often grotesque and afflicted characters, and his groundbreaking artistry with makeup. Chaney was known for his starring roles in such silent horror films as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925). His ability to transform himself using makeup techniques he developed earned him the nickname "The Man of a Thousand Faces".

Beauty and the Beast (French: La Belle et la Bête – also the UK title) is a 1946 French romantic fantasy film directed by French poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau. Starring Josette Day as Belle and Jean Marais as the Beast, it is an adaptation of the 1757 story Beauty and the Beast, written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont and published as part of a fairy tale anthology.

The established precedent for modern horror is Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho, which, David Thomson has argued, “taught America to love murder. Many others would follow Psycho's successful reinvention of the horror genre—locating it squarely in the Freudian family and showcasing newly explicit onscreen violence. “Hard-boiled action director Robert Aldrich would begin a new horror formula by casting Hollywood's aging leading ladies in roles as psychopathic gothic grotesques: Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Source

Another alcove contained a stage area where Hammett’s guitars, decorated with images of the posters, hung on walls, their coffin-shaped cases lying below them. Inspirational quotes were imprinted on the stage.

Kirk Hammett portrait with some of his collection.


  1. What a fun exhibit! Love the old Frankenstein posters and the painted guitars.

  2. What a fantastic exhibit. Many great movies in those posters. And I didn't know he had guitars with movie posters on them. Thank you for sharing your photos of this.


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