Tomorrow will see the grand opening of Mondo’s new gallery space in Austin, Texas. Mondo, the art boutique offshoot of the Alamo Drafthouse, has been creating t-shirts, posters, and other movie-related items for several years now. In light of the new gallery opening, it seems as good a time as any to take a look back over their illustrious career.
Many current poster hounds may not realize that the Mondo legacy goes back as far as it does, but old school fans will remember the phone booth-sized storefront Mondo enjoyed at the original Alamo Drafthouse on Colorado. No bigger than a postage stamp, the Mondo room was packed to the gills with t-shirts and posters. Mondo recently put up an online archive of all of their prints dating back to 1998, which frankly made this article much easier to put together. But it also serves as a window into their fantastic past, showcasing many prints you probably missed and will now furiously try to track down. Speaking of tracking down prints, here’s the top 13 on our radar.
In chronological order (as much as possible) from oldest to newest:
Yes, we’re cheating right off the bat by putting two posters in one slot. Don’t worry about it. The fact is, both of these posters are awesome in their own way and they celebrate a magical series of events that are among some of the greatest the Drafthouse has ever hosted. Quentin Tarantino is obviously a gifted director, but he’s first and foremost a cinephile. His wealth and status has allowed him to amass a massive personal collection of films, many on 35mm and many unavailable on DVD or even VHS in some cases. QT used to come to the original Drafthouse and bring boxes full of his own prints to unspool before eager Drafthouse patrons. These posters were made to commemorate some of the last of these amazing events. QT Fest Six is thin and long and looks like an old concert poster, while Best of QT Fest is a great play on the original one-sheet for Friday the 13th.
Bullitt – 2005 – Stainboy
One of my favorite aspects of movie-watching is the discussion and debate that occurs over differences in opinion. While that’s awesome, the sheer badass on display in Bullitt is nigh undeniable and Steve McQueen is, was, and always will be the epitome of cool. What better film for the Drafthouse to select for its annual Rolling Roadshow series? The idea is to play films in iconic locations from the films themselves and in 2005, the Drafthouse took their show to San Francisco where they staged a full on road rally before screening the film. The poster that accompanies it is a perhaps a little strange, but I love the sections and the strong primary colors and especially the landscape orientation like a British quad poster.
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North By Northwest - 2007 – Jeff Kleinsmith
Even if you’ve never seen Hitchcock’s masterpiece starring Cary Grant as a regular Joe mistaken for a secret agent, you’ve surely seen the iconic sequence where Grant runs away from an airplane while still looking impeccable in suit and tie. Another Rolling Roadshow entry, this time at Mount Rushmore, North By Northwest is simply a fantastic film that deserves a great poster. Luckily, Jeff Kleinsmith delivered with a minimalist take on the classic scene which draws similarities to Olly Moss’ work. This is simply a beautiful print.
Goldfinger – 2007 – Todd Slater
Man, the 2007 Rolling Roadshow was a kick-ass year for both screenings and posters. Of course the Alamo Drafthouse took a print of Goldfinger and showed it at Fort Knox. Of course they did. No other movie theater in the world can pull off the sort of hijinks that the Drafthouse pulls on a regular weekend, let alone when they really put their mind to something. Todd Slater turned in a fantastic print for the screening featuring Sean Connery’s Bond made entirely out of gold bricks. I have to assume the print used metallic inks for the gold, making it stand out from the background of muted screenshots even more. Just looking at the low-res 2D image on the website, it has almost a 3D effect to it with the Bond face standing out from the background almost as if it’s actually a little closer to you and the background is a little farther away. Mondo went on to use this image on a t-shirt as well.
Robocop – 2008 – Tyler Stout
In 2008, the Alamo ran a series called Big Screen Sci-Fi Classics. They had to show Robocop and they decided to commission a poster as well to go along with the screening. Possibly the very best poster on the list, Tyler Stout’s Robocop poster was groundbreaking for Mondo, marking the first time the art boutique tried screen-printing on different materials. D&L did the work, producing one of Mondo’s smallest print runs ever. Alongside the standard screen-printed posters, they created 35 posters printed on sheet metal. Bitches leave, indeed. JFC auteur Brian Salisbury and I actually have one of the coveted 35 and it hangs above our fireplace from a frame his wife handmade with lights that make it glow red from the edges. This is an incredible work of art.
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2008 Big Screen Sci-Fi Classics series also yielded not one but two posters for Ridley Scott’s fantastic film Alien. Ken Taylor really went all out with a British quad style landscape print which features some great sectioning off, character faces and color work as well as a standard portrait oriented print which showcases the infamous Alien egg opening up to reveal the treacherous facehugger ready to attack. These prints are both great in their own right but would look even better framed side-by-side.
Gremlins – 2009 – Rhys Cooper
Moving onto 2009, Mondo did yet another sideways quad-style print for a Drafthouse screening of Gremlins with special guest MC Chris in attendance. The print shows all the mayhem and insanity that the Gremlins bring about in the second half of Dante’s sometimes overlooked classic. On top of that, the print utilizes glow in the dark and metallic inks to make for an interesting work of art even when the lights are off.
R2D2: A Linch Pin Droid – 2010 – Kevin Tong
2010 was another banner year for Mondo who pulled off a major achievement by negotiating licensing rights with Lucasfilm for a series of Star Wars prints. Suddenly the galaxy far, far away was in their grasp and they wasted no time, releasing a flurry of prints. My personal favorite was Kevin Tong’s exploded view of R2D2. The dark blue makes the print look like actual blueprints or schematics for building your own droid and just like the previous Gremlins print it also features glow in the dark inks, making it a poster sized beacon in your darkened hallways.
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I’m cheating again since there are actually 6-9 prints here (if you count variants) but how can we talk about the Star Wars Mondo prints without talking about the trilogy one-sheets? We can’t, obviously. To cap off a fascinating series of posters, Mondo teamed up with two titans of movie art, Tyler Stout and Olly Moss, to do one-sheets for each film of the original trilogy. The result was staggering. Stout’s posters are intricate and detailed with lots going on, while Moss’ are predictably more minimalistic but clever and creative with small flourishes. Both sets are beautiful, but I have to give the slight edge to Stout as we have his set hanging on our living room wall.
Dracula – 2011 – Martin Ansin
Mondo has done several prints of classic Universal monster films, and they seem to keep going back to artist Martin Ansin for most of these. And with good reason too, as Ansin has done some fabulous work. His print for The Mummy is amazing and the variant features the credits in actual correct Egyptian hieroglyphics. Mondo hired an expert to do the translation. But his Dracula print is certainly no slouch. It also marks another first for Mondo. While they had done variants printed on wood before this one, this was the first wood variant that was cut to a specific shape, namely a coffin. Yes, folks, Martin Ansin’s beautiful Dracula print was also made available in a variant version screen-printed on wood cut in the shape of a coffin. I covet this piece of art most of all.
My Neighbor Totoro – 2011 – Olly Moss
Another licensing partnership, this time with Studio Ghibli, allowed for this understated but awesome Olly Moss print for Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro. I prefer the variant with the fluid Japanese lettering. There are plenty of Mondo Olly Moss prints to choose from and they’re all great, but this one stands just slightly above the rest of the pack.
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The Burning – 2011 – Phantom City Creative
Mondo is successful in part because it teams up with great people and companies. One such collaboration has been with Toronto-based design house Phantom City Creative. While they’ve done incredible work for films like Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Trick ‘R Treat, and Sleepaway Camp, it’s their poster for The Burning that really draws my eye. The Burning is, in many ways, a standard 80s slasher, but it also happens to be the first Miramax film; it was based on a screenplay by Bob Weinstein from a story by his brother Harvey who also produced the film. Phantom City Creative’s poster features Cropsy’s lethal garden shears spilling out a literal river of blood. It’s a great image for an under-seen film.
Frankenstein – 2011 – Drew Struzan
Last, but by no means least, is Mondo’s incredible poster for the original Frankenstein. Pulling off another seemingly impossible feat, Mondo managed to coax legendary artist Drew Struzan out of quasi-retirement to construct this masterpiece. Utilizing 21 different colors, the most on any Mondo screenprint to date, Struzan’s famous style pays homage to the truest monster among the Universal monsters. It’s a stunning print that you find yourself gravitating towards from an artist at the top of his game, and a truly great print to round out our list.
Obviously Mondo has an incredible archive of beautiful artwork and they’re still going strong in 2012, with posters for films like Drive and the Back to the Future trilogy. The problem with lists is that they’re subjective and even more so when talking about a subjective topic like art or movies. These are the posters that we love. Which ones do you love? Fire away in the comments and let us know which ones we missed and which posters you have.
For those in Austin who would like attend this weekend’s big gallery opening, here’s the official invite. It will be just you and several thousand other film art lovers, lined up down the street to see the next big thing that Mondo has coming: