Here at Screenbid, we’re currently auctioning off rarely-before-seen images taken from the sets of classic horror and cult movies from the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s. These images are a glimpse into classic Hollywood and the iconic films from this era.
All the images we’re auctioning off come from the Del Valle Archives. David Del Valle is a renowned film critic and historian who’s spent 50 years collecting images from all eras of cinema. We spoke to Del Valle about his archive and the collection currently up for auction here at Screenbid.
Screenbid: Tell us a little about the Del Valle archives
David Del Valle: The Del Valle Archives has been a running business for the last 25 years. I’ve provided photographs for cash and press, I’ve lent my images to countless books for the SyFy channel and, of course, Turner Classic Movies. It’s a work in progress.
When I first started collecting when I was a kid, I was primarily collecting images from horror science fiction and what would be known as cult films later on, because that’s what I was attracted to as a kid. As I got older, I maintained the collection. I became quite well known as one of the premier critics and authorities on the horror genre, which is why the horror film is so important. I’ve long ago branched out into all genres. I’ve done over 65 audio commentaries as of the present.
The reason I have images from so many different genres, is that I long ago abandoned trying to collect things just for myself, and started collecting with the concept of having a working research library that people could access for specific genres.
You’re collection is obviously quite massive, but how do you actually acquire these images?
It’s like anything, when you start collecting things, they just come to you because people find out you collect this stuff. It was a little more difficult prior to the internet. I’ve been collecting since the late 1960’s, so you can imagine the change in culture, not to mention what social media has done. It’s made everything available to everyone. The downside of it is people get an awful lot of misinformation online.
Tell me a little about the collection currently up for auction.
These photographs are a constant reminder of what used to be. The nostalgia factor is quite high, but I do think that each image has its own fluidity. Some people look at it as a monster photo, some people look at it as a makeup photo, some people look at it and it triggers something in their childhood. I think a lot of the reasons that horror movies resonate so much with people today is that if you see something in the first 12 years of your life, it remains with you forever.
Is there a particular image in this collection that triggers those types of feelings for you?
Yes, I’m very attracted to the images of Lon Chaney Sr. from London After Midnight, because London After Midnight was made in 1927 from MGM and it’s a lost film. It’s considered the Holy Grail of lost movies. It’s right up there with Von Stroheim’s Greed, because all we have are these mouthwatering stills that tell us what it might be.
So, London After Midnight, definitely, and I Would Marry the Monster from Outer Space, which is pretty spectacular makeup. I don’t know whether he’s an insect or he’s just a big ugly alien monster. I love titles like that, I Married a Monster from Outer Space, or I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, or I Was a Teenage Werewolf.
Is there any image from your personal collection that you’ve found over the years that you would never, ever part with no matter what?
Well, my favorite pre-code horror movie is The Black Cat, 1934, which was the first pairing with Karloff and Lugosi. Even then, Karloff got top billing. In fact, they just used his name Karloff. No other actor except Greta Garbo had that kind of marquee value. Poor Bela Lugosi was, “and Bela Lugosi.” So right from the very get go, they have this Betty Davis-Joan Crawford rivalry, only they’re horror stars instead of divas, but it’s the same thing.
The Black Cat is my favorite, so I have probably 15 or 20 original, original stills from that, that I’ve held onto through thick and thin. Those will probably be the last things to go.
What images from the collection up for auction do you think will excite horror fans the most?
There are a number of unusual images, key book stills that have holes in the top, of Boris Karloff in various make ups, from a lot of his lesser known Columbia mad doctor movies. Those are interesting and there are some set stills from the Mad Love with Peter Lorre and some set stills from Mask of Fu Manchu, with Boris Karloff and Myrna Loy. Those are probably my favorite images from this particular collection.
Is there any image from a horror or classic movie that you’re dying to add to your collection?
Absolutely. When Dracula was so successful at Universal, they made a sequel to it called Dracula’s Daughter, and that movie along with the The Black Cat, became one of my other favorite pre code horror movies. The actress in that, Gloria Holden, made one more movie for Todd Brown, who directed Dracula, and it was called Miracles for Sale. I’ve been collecting photographs for over five decades and I’ve never found stills from Miracles for Sale.
Then, of course, finding any stills or offset photographs from early Lugosi movies like White Zombie is very rare. The rarest photographs ever are the test make ups done of Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein before Karloff was chosen to play Frankenstein. They did this test footage of Bela Lugosi with the wig and very polished green skin, kind of looking like the Golum, more that the Frankenstein that we’ve come to know.
This test footage is absolutely the rarest thing in horror.
To see the images available for auction from the Del Valle archive, click here.