A selection of pre-revolutionary artwork from a new book of Russian Film Posters.

By Balthazar Malevolent


“The Abyss” and other pre-revolutionary Russian posters.

Though anyone with even a glancing knowledge of the history of movie posters and/or graphic design knows some of the glories of Soviet poster design (like the work of the Stenberg Brothers, whom I wrote about last year), pre-revolutionary Russian poster design is much less well-known. Susan Pack’s out-of-print Taschen treasure-chest Film Posters of the Russian Avant-Garde is the bible for Soviet movie poster design, but it concentrates on the work of the 1920s and 30s, so I was pleased to receive a brand new coffee-table book called Russian Film Posters 1900-1930, (though the posters in the book actually range from 1908-1935), which includes not only over 100 full-page posters from the 1920s by the Stenbergs, Rodchenko, Lavinsky, Prusakov et al, but also over 40 posters from the the 1910s.

Married by Satan

Influenced primarily by Art Nouveau, whose curves and swirls would soon be tossed out in favor of the geometrics of Constructivism, these early posters are fascinating, though aesthetically a mixed bag, some of them quite crude in execution.

In her introduction to the book, cultural historian Maria-Christina Boerner writes that the birth of Russian cinema exhibition came when Vladimir Romashkov projected his ten-minute film Stenka Razin—recognized as the first Russian narrative film—to the public in 1908. The well-known caricaturist Paul Asaturov designed a poster for the film based on the format of the traditional Russian pictorial broadsheet known as the “lubok,” a print style in existence since the late 17th century which is often seen as the precursor to the modern comic strip.

Creepy Erotic Movie Posters of Late Imperial Russia

Married by Satan (1917)

Director: Viacheslav Viskovskii

A sorceress helps Elena to bewitch a beloved man, so Satan arranges a marriage for them. Later, Elena falls in love with another man and, again thanks to the witch, her husband dies, and Elena marries her new darling. However, the ghost of her late husband haunts her and she, not being able to stand it, dies herself.

Only 23 minutes of the film preserved, but, according to production notes, the film had numerous creepy and daring elements, including Satan in the disguise of a priest conducting a wedding ritual.

Creepy Erotic Movie Posters of Late Imperial Russia

Abyss (1916)

Director: Vladislav Lenchevskii

Inspired by Denmark’s Nordisk films, Abyss is a tragic story of love and deceit in which the main heroine ends up drowning herself.

Creepy Erotic Movie Posters of Late Imperial Russia

Sin (1916)

Directors: Yakov Protazanov and Georgii Azagarov

Sin, co-directed with Azagarov, is considered to be part of Protazanov’s “demonic” drama period, which also includes his more famous films Satan Triumphant (1917) and The Queen of Spades (1916). All these films were made in collaboration with Joseph Ermoliev, producer and a prominent figure in the Russian cinema industry of the Imperial era.

In other news, Rick Owens Fall 2021 fashion show. On the subject of underthings, the pentagram briefs from the January men’s show reappeared here wrapped around evening clutches, the implication being that these alien females had handled the “unhinged male aggression” that those briefs signified.

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