Metallica guitarist’s monster movie posters go on display

Kirk Hammett may be known best as the guitarist whose deafening solos have come to define the band Metallica. But a new exhibit is showcasing a different side of the rocker, his passion for sci-fi and horror films.

The exhibit which opens Saturday at the Peabody Essex Museum features 135 works owned by the heavy metal musician, including some Hammett says have inspired his music. It runs through Nov. 26.

“My collection takes me to a place where I need to be,” Hammett said in a statement. “Among the monsters, where I’m most comfortable and creative.”

“That’s where the magic has happened for me all these years and it’s something I’ve come to trust,” he said. “From the moment I first encountered these characters, I could see that these guys had just as much difficulty in coping as I did.”

Daniel Finamore, who curated the show titled “It’s Alive: Classic Horror and Sci-fi art from the Kirk Hammett Collection,” said although the posters may have played a supporting role to the films, they give the mummies and zombies top billing and “deliver on the promise of fear.”

“These are rare works of art, but they’re under-recognized as such,” he said.

There are posters of the undead and unnatural, including ones from the 1931 film “Dracula” and the 1932 film “The Mummy,” which depicts the monster with arms crossed over his chest as he casts a predatory gaze toward a woman wearing a sleek, floor-length red dress. Some three decades later, another poster shows a young, scantily-clad Jane Fonda in the 1968 film Barbarella. In the poster, Fonda is seen grasping weapons, standing on a planet with space aliens in the backdrop.

The exhibit also features some collectible electric guitars, monster masks and sculptures.

One of the stars of the show is the lone-surviving, three-sheet poster for the 1931 film “Frankenstein.” It was found in the boarded up projection room of an old movie theatre. There also is one of the only surviving standing cardboard cutouts for the 1933 flick “King Kong.”

“These posters are part of our cultural history, and they play to many of the same fears and anxieties we still have today as a society,” Finamore said.

The works generally were commissioned by the movie studios and created by anonymous artists. They were mostly produced from the 1930s into the 1970s, but people didn’t focus on saving — or collecting — them until recently.

For those like Hammett who got into the game, it’s been pretty lucrative. The most expensive movie poster — was purchased in 2016 by a private collector for nearly $700,000. It was for director Fritz Lang’s 1927 film “Metropolis.”

“He tapped into a passion and used it to fuel his professional life in a positive way,” Finamore said of Hammett. “If that’s a takeaway from this exhibit, then I’d say it was a success.”

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