A regular feature of movie fan magazine Screenland was "The Most Beautiful Still of the Month". In the July 1936 issue the honor went to a Roman Freulich-lensed photograph from Dracula's Daughter. The still depicts Marguerite Churchill and Otto Kruger in a pensive moment from the film. Freulich was a staff photograher for Universal. He was the brother of the head of Universal's photography department, Jack Freulich. In 1944 he became head of the stills department at Republic.
Another pre-code perversity was Universal's very loose adaptation of Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue". Bela Lugosi and director Robert Florey had both been ushered (no pun intended) from the production of Frankenstein and Murders in the Rue Morgue was their consolation prize. Even with the advantage of hindsight, it is hard to imagine that a Florey-directed Frankenstein would have eclipsed Jame Whale's, Arthur Edeson's, and Jack Pierce's creation of monsterdom's most iconic imagery. Presented here is a two-page spread of an on-the-set photo from the filming of Murders in the Rue Morgue (Universal, 1932) from the February 1932 issue of Photoplay. Also seen in the shot is the Rue Morgue's murderous ape. Although Charlie Gemora designed and created the ape makeup, it appears in the photo to be more likely stuntman Joe Bonomo, who doubled for Gemora. Nearly a decade earlier, Bonomo had also doubled for Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Included here are full-page ads from the February and March issues.
Universal's odd and perverse thriller, The Black Cat, had premiered just a couple of months earlier when this on-set shot of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi appeared in the July, 1934 issue of Modern Screen magazine.
Just a month after its world premiere at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, Universal was puffing the latest Lon Chaney picture, Phantom of the Opera, with a two-page ad in the May 23. 1925 issue of the trade magazine, Motion Picture News.
"You cannot feel horror without imagination." - Lionel Atwill
Early movie fan magazines were notorious for their writer's "embellishing" when it came to describing people and events. For example, it was said in one magazine that when Boris Karloff's daughter, Sara, was born, he rushed directly from the Son of Frankenstein movie set to the hospital, still wearing Jack Pierce's Frankenstein Monster makeup! Although he did rush to see her as quick as he could, according to Sara herself, he did so sans makeup.
Boris Karloff and his new-born daughter, Sara.
In the January, 1940 issue of Modern Screen, Martha Kerr's article, "Horror Men Talk About Horror", asks four actors who played in horror films of the day, what horror meant to them. Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lionel Atwill all gave somewhat surprising answers, but considering the context of "monster movies" during the period, they're not entirely outside the realm of reason. Basil Rathbone, for instance, replied to the question with a single word: "War!" Most likely chosen because of his country's recent entry into the Second World War, he went on to explain that war, to him, was a "monstrous, gigantic, inconceivably barbarous trap. And there you have it. A trap is the most horrible thing in the world." Karloff again eschews the term horror when talking about the roles that he plays. He tells the author: "Living with the macabre, as I do -- I prefer to call it the macabre, not 'horror' -- does not induce me into the morbidities (sic) you may suppose." He credits his makeup men as the "unsung heroes" of creating horror -- or, rather -- the macabre on the screen. Lugosi waxes the most introspective, and in his short narrative, only reinforces what draws fans to his tragic but noble nature. "Horror, to me," he says, "comes not from the other world but from this one." He tells the author that he had not worked for two years, and in that time had a son. His fear was of not having the things necessary to raise his own child. "Fear is horror," he concludes. "Not fear for one's self -- fear for those you love better than yourself." And finally, Lionel (The Maddest Doctor) Atwill admits that "paralysis, would be the real horror to me." Perhaps alluding to his role as Inspector Krogh in the recently released Son of Frankenstein, he goes on to say: "It would be pretty horrible to have an arm or leg torn off. But you cannot feel horror without imagination and at the time of such a fatality, the imagination is paralyzed, ceases to function." Upon scrutiny of this article, it's hard to say if everything related by each of the actors is what they actually said at the time. But one cannot suppose that there are embellishments here just because some statements in other articles were later dis-proven. However, there are inaccuracies in the text itself. Karloff is said to have been on the set of the film, Enemy Agent, at the time of his interview. Unless his part ended up on the cutting room floor, he was not in Enemy Agent, but either working on or finishing up a film titled British Intelligence. Also, in his always gracious words about his makeup men, he names a "Gordon Barr" (and surprisingly not his friend, Jack Pierce). Perc Westmore was his makeup man in British Intelligence. Perhaps either Karloff misspoke or the author was incorrect. However, there was a Gordon Bau who did the (uncredited) makeup for Karloff's latest Mr. Wong mystery, The Fatal Hour. Coincidentally, it was released in January, 1940 as well.
Paramount Pictures celebrated its 20th "Birthday Jubilee" in 1931 with a glitzy publication that promoted -- what else? -- their upcoming films. Monster fans are lucky that among those films being publicized was the soon-to-be-released Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Shown here is a full-page ad and portraits of the leading stars, Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins. If you look close, there is a thumbnail of Fay Wray as well. Also included are images of Anna May Wong. Besides being seductively beautiful, Miss Wong was the first Asian-American star and one of the very few ethnic actors working regularly in Hollywood. Her father, a Chinese laundryman, objected greatly to his daughter being in front of the camera. He is quoted as saying, "Every time your picture is taken, you lose part of your soul".
First Robin Williams, now Lauren Bacall -- I can hardly take it! Not a Scream Queen, but worthy of mention anywhere actors and actresses are appreciated... like right here. Just put your lips together and blow -- Good Bye to both.
To regular readers of MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD, Pete Von Sholly needs no introduction. I have chatted with him once or twice via interviews, reviewed some of his work, and he in kind, has graciously allowed me to use his art a time or two, most notably being the "Deadtime Stories" title.
A week ago, I mentioned Pete's series of illustrated H.P. Lovecraft books from PS Publishing in the UK. I was intrigued enough to want to know more about his interest in Lovecraft's work.It seems whether he's taking a dip with the Deep Ones off Devil Reef or curling up with with the foetid stench of a volume of the dreaded Necronomicon, Pete Von Sholly is quite at home basking in the cosmic horror of Lovecraft's universe.
MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD: In your afterward to the PS Publishing volume of H.P.
Lovecraft’s The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, you mention the Modern Library
omnibus, Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural as your first exposure to
Lovecraft’s writings. As I cut my literary horror teeth on the same volume, I’m
curious to know your impressions of the sheer depth of material within that
massive page count.
PETE VON SHOLLY: I remember it as having a lot of stuff I did not really
love. Or a lot of stuff I maybe wasn’t ready for- there was nothing close to
contemporary in it- and this was around 1966 or so when I found the book. But
it did have a bit of Lovecraft as we know and that was what made all the
difference for me in the long run. But I will say that the broad exposure to so
many literary styles in the book will make your brain work and make you look
things up- and thus learn things! Some writers are so “of their time” they may
be difficult to read “today”. I think we (society) have been steadily moving
away from reading and vocabulary building and literature, unfortunately. Access
to so much human experience and expression is cut off because of that trend and
… Oh, the book! (I do go on, sorry!) I should say I didn’t own that book so I
could only read it in the school library and didn’t have the chance to really
wallow in the totality of it- but what a treat it was to find something like
that in the dull-ass place!
MMW: You call HPL “wild and wordy”. What do you think it is that
attracts younger readers to his archaic writing style?
PVS: ARE they attracted to his work? I know his popularity grows
and endures but do younger readers today embrace him? Not just the surface
stuff but the actual stories? As I said, it seems we are getting less literate
all the time and things are dumbing down so… and Lovecraft is not for people
with really short attention spans is he?
MMW: How did your relationship with Peter Crowther and PS
Publishing come about? Did you pitch the Lovecraft series to them or were they
looking for someone to illustrate their project?
PVS: I did the first batch of pictures (based on The Dream-Quest
of Unknown Kadath) a few years ago with a hope that somebody would like to put
the story and pictures together in a book, but I failed to find anyone
interested in that. So the art was “on the shelf” so to speak for a long time.
Then I met Ramsey Campbell online. I knew his work since his first Arkham House
collection in the sixties- in fact he and I both corresponded with August
Derleth around the same time as it happens! I sent Ramsey a copy of my History
of Monsters mural and he asked if he could show it to his publisher. Naturally
I said he could and then I got this wonderful email from Pete Crowther telling
me how much he liked the mural and so son. So, seeing as he was a real live
publisher and liked my work I showed him some other stuff, including the Kadath
art and he loved it and wanted to do a whole bunch of things. Which we are,
have and will over the next years. It’s been a great boon meeting Pete
Crowther. I have done a book of Stephen King stuff for him and one for Joe R.
Lansdale (fully illustrated) and pitched him several books of my own, which he
has enthusiastically embraced. The message for young artists is keep working,
and FINISH things, and even if you don’t sell them right away, keep going! You
never know when such chance opportunities can pop up that make all the
MMW: Lovecraft has been called “un-filmable”, but nevertheless
movies have been made from his stories. Likewise, imagery from his tales is
many times I’ve been told a kind of personal experience. How do approach a
PVS: Honestly, I just have some kind of impression in my head
when I read the story, of course. So I sit down with pencil and paper and start
scribbling until something forms there in the graphite swirl. When I feel I’ve
got something decent there I scan it and go to town in photoshop, shading
rendering, coloring. All the stuff I used to do with watercolors, airbrush,
acrylics etc. I think digital art is awesome when done well. Photoshop is a
tool, nothing more or less, same as a pencil. People gripe about it sometimes-
but dig it- photoshop doesn’t write jokes, draw pictures, lay out compositions
for you, give you ideas, enhance your creativity. It only does what you tell it
to do so it all comes from you, same as with any other medium. People go “oh
Photoshop, big deal” sometime but that’s like saying “Oh, Lovecraft wrote with
a pen” or “Frazetta used oil paint and Jack Kirby just used pencil and paper-
big deal”. As though the way something is done EXPLAINS something about how
easy or hard it is.
MMW: Your composition and use of color is fabulous and works just
right for fantasy and horror. Can you explain your illustration technique?
PVS: I think maybe I just did! (And thank you for the kind
words!) I do LOVE this stuff and that makes me spend time with it. I think spending
time with your tools is what makes you get good, nothing else. So it helps a
lot if you love what you’re doing.
MMW: You say you don’t recommend Lovecraft to people. What is it
that makes you hesitate?
PVS: I have no idea whether a given person would like Lovecraft
or not. I can’t talk them into it, you know? And I don’t really care if they do
or not. I know I do and that’s about it. I know people (writers) who DON’T care
for HPL and what am I going to do, argue with them? Who really knows why
anybody likes anything?It would be nice
if one of our PS books got somebody to read Lovecraft and discover that it hits
them the right way. I don’t think HPL is going away, however it’s working.
MMW: It has been said that one can judge a writer’s success by
how much and how well they can be satirized or parodied. There seems to be a
plentiful amount of material available that finds the humor in Lovecraft. How
would you explain that?
PVS: I think HPL took his stories dead seriously when he was
writing them. I think he tried his best to create a weird and terrifying
atmosphere every time out. But you can stand back and see it all as absurd- and
whatever it is, it’s certainly EXTREMELY that! So when something is that
extreme it’s easy to pick on the standout features. Verbose descriptions,
people who faint all the time, silly unpronounceable names and all. There’s one
story (AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS I think) wherein the narrator spends a
couple extremely lengthy and heavily detailed paragraphs telling you all about
how horrible something is and how he can barely stand to speak of it and how he
dreads telling you about it, and how mind-boggling it is… and the next
paragraph begins- “To be brief, this is what I saw…” You have to laugh out loud
sometimes at things like that.
But despite what some scholars think I think HPL tried very
hard to write great stories, and he was his own biggest critic. If you read his
letters though you discover a man with a tremendous sense of humor,
self-deprecating and witty. Depending on who he was writing to he could be
quite funny and come off as a wonderful person to know. He LOVED to travel- he
made itNew Orleans, all up and down the
east coast including Florida, up to Quebec. He was not the reclusive weirdo people
think, he was a weirdo who got around! And he had a deep and brilliant command
of language, was widely read, love the sciences… an amazing mind. You need to
read the letters to get that, I think. The proof of what I’m saying is that so
many of his correspondents SAVED his letters which is why so many thousands of
them still exist. The exchange between HPL and Robert E Howard is fascinating
in places as you might image. (See“A
MEANS TO FREEDOM” from Hippocampus Press for that and many others).
MMW: August Derleth is credited with coining the term, “Cthulhu
Mythos”. Do you see a structured pantheon to Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones and
Elder Gods, or merely a chaotic menace from Yuggoth and other cosmic worlds?
PVS: I think HPL made all that up as he went along and really
never codified any of it much, which leads to many inconsistencies which drives
scholars mad. Derleth and othes have tried to impose structure and meaning
where there never was any. I think HPL just grabbed stuff out of the air and
tossed it into a given story to add atmosphere and menace. He wanted the reader
to feel the “alone-ness” of our race and our planet and the meaninglessness of
ALL human emotion and artificial constructs like good and evil. We are a blip
on the cosmic radar and that’s it.
MMW: Will the Lovecraft series continue with you and PS
PVS: Yes! The next three will be THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME, THE
SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH and AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, later this year, or
Then three more for a total of nine. For now anyway.
MMW: Do you still have any of your monster ‘zines from back in
the day? Do you still buy monster ‘zines today?
PVS: I still have a bunch of FMs and Castle of Frankensteins plus
a few of the odd “off brand” goodies like Monsters and Things and Fantastic
Monsters. I will buy Rue Morgue and Fangoria once in a while if they feature
something I’m interested in, or just to keep an eye and what’s going on. Dip a
toe in the water so to speak. Mainly I work obsessively on my own projects. I
am now an “old fart” and want to get things DONE. I’ve spent my whole creative
life getting to this place and I must say I love it here.
MMW: You have had considerable success with your art in various
forms of media. What would be your best piece of advice to aspiring
illustrators wanting to break into the field of fantasy and horror?
PVS: Like any field, just do it. Keep doing it. Then do it some more.
Show it to people, if they don’t like it show it to other people. And keep
doing it. If you love it you will get good at it and find your own visions and
voice. And if you keep doing it and showing it to people eventually you will
somebody who sees the quality in it and maybe you can make a living doing it.
Don’t giveup, don’t stop, don’t get
discouraged ( and you do, don’t STAY discouraged).
In one word
MMW: Finally – people are dying to know – is The Necronomicon
PVS: Of course!
Thank you, Pete Von Sholly!
You can order Pete's books from PS Publishing right HERE.
Just when you thought all the eldritch had been wrung out of
H.P. Lovecraft’s so-called Cthulhu Mythos, along comes a series of new
collections of his writings, freshly illuminated by none other than the man who
has earlier this year given the world the “History of Monsters” 22-panel mural,
Mr. Pete Von Sholly.
If you’ve yet to read any of HPL’s stories, I can’t think of
a better place to start than with these books by Peter Crowther and Simon
Conway’s UK-based PS Publishing. Beginning with The Dream-Quest of Unknown
Kadath, Lovercraft’s homage to the British master of fantasy, Lord Dunsany, the
series has been quickly followed by The Dunwich Horror and The Dreams in the
A true anachronism, Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) no doubt would
have been elated to see his work printed in England, as he fancied himself
always loyal to the “King and country” of a bygone age. And while but a scant few
drawings are known to exist of Lovecraft’s imagining of his cosmic creatures
that were drawn by his own hand, I am equally certain that he would have
approved of Mr. Von Sholly’s renderings as well.
Nicely reproduced in the pages of these volumes, I was
immediately struck by the colors (…out of space, perhaps?) and the thematic
palette that Von Sholly deftly puts to use. I believe he captures beautifully
the cosmic horror that Lovecraft envisioned.
By no surprise, the books are introduced by Lovecraft
scholar S.T. Joshi with additional essays and commentary by other students of
All in all, while Lovecraft’s work has been printed and
reprinted to death, one would be hard pressed to find another series as
visually appealing, thanks in large part to Pete Von Sholly’s artistic talent
and long-time dedication to the legacy of Lovecraft.