This original, 40-by-60-inch promotional poster for Forbidden Planet shows the 1956 film’s real star, Robby the Robot, carrying a supine Anne Francis. Considered one of the best science-fiction movies of its era, Forbidden Planet marked the screen debut of Robby, cinema’s first robot with a personality. In the film, Robby bantered with astronauts and cooked lunch for them, and he short-circuited when commanded to harm a human being. Robby has been described as “part gentleman’s gentleman, part Shakespearean clown, part potbellied stove.”
Joseph Maddalena, 46, is the president and CEO of Profiles in History, an auction house in Calabasas, Calif., that specializes in movie memorabilia. Profiles in History, which was founded in 1985, sold the pair of fiberglass prop tablets that Charlton Heston hoisted in the 1956 film The Ten Commandments, as well as the command chair from the set of the USS Enterprise, where William Shatner emoted throughout the three-season television run of Star Trek. (The chair that held Captain Kirk’s backside fetched $304,750, while the tablets that bore the words of God sold for $63,250.)
About 100 original Forbidden Planet posters of various sizes have survived, and they can sell for as much as $15,000 at auction. The one shown here is the only 40-by-60-inch version known still to exist. Studios printed only small quantities of 40-by-60-inch posters, for use at select metropolitan theaters, making them inherently rarer than smaller posters emblazoned with the same image. “I’ve been offered $50,000 for it, but I won’t sell,” says Maddalena. “I love fifties sci-fi stuff, and posters are one thing I do collect. The Forbidden Planet poster is indicative of what I do, and it speaks to my business.”
Maddalena purchased the Forbidden Planet poster from a picker who found it somewhere in New Jersey four years ago. (Pickers serve auction houses in the same way that scouts serve baseball teams: They scour the countryside, looking for prospects.) “It came direct from the picker to me,” Maddalena says. “The Forbidden Planet one-sheet [a 27-by-41-inch poster, the size with which most moviegoers are familiar] is striking, but the 40-by-60 blows it away. It literally looks like it was just shipped from the studio.” Maddalena paid $16,000 for the poster, which he displays in the lobby of a private entrance at the Profiles in History facility.
Maddalena’s personal collection consists of approximately 200 posters, the majority of which advertise science-fiction films. One trumpeting his favorite movie from the genre, 1982’s Blade Runner, hangs behind the Profiles in History facility’s reception desk. The private-entrance lobby’s walls are adorned with additional posters that are nearly as striking as the Forbidden Planet image: a 40-by-60 from 1933’s King Kong; a three-sheet (40-by-81) for the 1960 screen adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine; and the only known 40-by-60-inch poster for the notorious 1968 movie Barbarella, which depicts its star, Jane Fonda, in a green, form-fitting leather outfit. “Even if you don’t like the film,” Maddalena says, “the poster is so cool.”