Saturday, June 26, 2010
A LITTLE TALK OF HORRORS (PART 3)
We continue with the final installment of the MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD interview with Richard Klemensen, Editor and Publisher of LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS. He discusses what it's like to keep publishing his labor of love against all odds and reveals the many HAMMER STUDIOS luminaries that he has met over the years. I want to thank you again, Dick, for providing the photos from his private collection. They were a rare treat for me and I'm sure the readers of MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD will appreciate them as well.
MONSTER MOVIE WORLD: I see that a few British monster mags, including Dark Side, have folded. Is there a declining readership for monster ‘zines in Great Britain? Matter of fact, things are tough these days for small press publishers. Where you one of those that got dropped from the Diamond Distributors catalogue or are you hanging on?
DICK KLEMENSEN: There is a declining readership for monster zines everywhere I’m sorry to say. LSoH was a victim of the Diamond Comic Distributors dropping many genre zines last year. I’m lucky because I have a solid base of subscribers, and I’ve been pushing my mag more on-line (my website has saved the magazine. It is designed and kept up by my oldest son (42 – hard to believe), Tom, who is a real computer whiz, and will shortly have his college degree in various computer areas. Good kid, too.
Anyway, if you are hoping to make a living off publishing about monsters and fantasy, with all the competition that the free internet now offers – good luck!
What is funny is that just over a year before Diamond dropped LSoH, our issue #19 was voted one of the 10 best media magazines of that year, by Diamond’s on line web magazine. Quality has nothing to do with it, only that there is a limited audience for ancient British horror flicks. LSoH, through Hemlock books, the Cinema Store and FAB Press, sells very well in England and the United Kingdom. It also hurt when Tower Books and Records bit the dust. They were our largest distributor and many fans discovered us for the first time on their shelves. But we muddle on into another decade.
MMW: You devoted an entire issue of LSoH recently to Amicus Films. What do you think of the quality of their films as compared to Hammer? Do they hold up as well or better?
KLEMENSEN: Amicus vs. Hammer? Well, Hammer all the way. I like Amicus films, but always found them too mild compared to Hammer. But I liked what Milton Subotsky did with his imagination and the company, and knowing that my pal Phil (“Phil-bert”) Nutman had been researching the company since 1984, I kept on him that if he couldn’t get a book out on Amicus, we’d turn over a whole issue of LSoH to the subject (well I didn’t expect it to take up the whole issue. But it worked out that way. We could easily have done another 20-30,000 words).
MMW: What can you tell us about the newly resurrected Hammer Studios? Will you be covering any production news in a future issue?
KLEMENSEN: The new Hammer? I wish them well, but from what I’ve read of their films, they seem to mirror just what is current now (which really isn’t that different than Sir James Carreras of the old Hammer – “give me another one like the last one that made money!”) We will have updates on their projects in our Hammer news section, from Robert JE Simpson, who is involved with the new Hammer. But don’t look for anything too in-depth. Our future issues are the old Hammer and older British horror and fantasy.
I DO like the idea that there still is a Hammer. But what we loved about Hammer can never be recreated again, only remembered with affection. The fact that Bray Studios will be torn down soon, and have housing put up on the old back lot tells you a lot about what has happened to the British Film Industry.
MMW: Over the years, have you personally met any of the famous directors and stars of British horror films?
KLEMENSEN: I’ve met many of the people involved with Hammer. Producers Michael Carreras and Anthony Hinds. Brian Lawrence (long-time business manager and once-owner of Hammer, he told me in 1994 that I was part of Hammer, which made me feel terrific), Kenneth Hyman, Terence Fisher, Michael Ripper, Ingrid Pitt, Suzan Farmer (a very close and dear friend), Hazel Court, Veronica Carlson, Yutte Stensgaard, Freddie Francis, Jimmy Sangster, Hugh and Pauline Harlow, Christopher Lee (briefly), Damien Thomas, Ralph Bates, David Prowse, Francis Matthews, Andree Melly, Oscar Quitak, Yvonne Monlaur, Julie Ege, Eddie Powell, John Hough, Edward de Souza, Roy Skeggs, Harry Robinson, Philip Martell, James Bernard (went to Disneyland with him and friends), Frank Godwin, Barbara Shelley, Len Harris, Roy Ashton, Phil Leakey, Val Guest….well, the list could go on and on. I’ve been to Bray Studios several times, as well as Pinewood Studios, Shepperton Studios and Elstree Studios. I’ve really lived a Hammer fans’ dream.
MMW: HORROR OF DRACULA or CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN?
KLEMENSEN: HORROR OF DRACULA flat out. THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN started it all, but HoD works without missing a beat. My favorite Hammer film is THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, but HORROR OF DRACULA is probably the greatest Hammer film!
MMW: If you could wave a magic wand and do anything with LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS that you wanted, what would it be?
KLEMENSEN: Do anything with LSoH? Quit my job; find some sugar daddy to underwrite the mag to go four times a year, with the interior loaded with color. Discover the hidden/lost/production files and pre 1961 photos of Hammer and Bray Studios, to recreate ‘making of’ articles on more of the classic Hammer horrors. Try to cover as many films and people as I can before they all have passed away (and I’m not too far off from joining them myself!)
MMW: Any words of wisdom for the aspiring monster magazine maker?
KLEMENSEN: Starting a monster mag now? Good luck!! You need to find a particular niche – the general interest horror zine has a tough road to hoe. I wonder how the resurrection of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND will go. Know that getting on-shelf distribution is probably impossible (the big distributors like Ingrams and PDI rape the small publishers – stay away from them. And you will have trouble now getting in with Diamond.), you need to advertise and establish a subscriber base. A viable and easy to navigate web-site. And the few specialty shops that are still around, give them a good deal so they take the magazine. You might not make much money out of those, but it will get the name out and create subscribers and buyers for back issues (if you get that far along!) You CAN consider just being a web-zine. But I’m too old-school, paper oriented, for that.
MMW: And lastly, who is Elmer Valo [Klemensen dedicates his magazine to this mysterious person]?
KLEMENSEN: Elmer Valo was a major league baseball player from the 1950s to the 1960s. I was always impressed with him because he lasted 20 years without any appreciable talent, and hardly ever being a starter. He pinch hit for the Minnesota Twins among others. He had about the same amount of at-bats in 20 years that Pete Rose has career hits! Elmer stuck with it, and LSoH is kind of like that. With all our ups-and-downs we have stuck with it. I’d love to win a Rondo Award for best ‘zine, but I know in my heart it isn’t going to happen. Our readership is too small to compete against class ‘zines like RUE MORGUE, VIDEO WATCHDOG, SCARY MONSTERS, MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT, etc. [Editor's Note: Add "humble" to Dick's list of personal virtues! I'm sure that anyone would agree that LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS is right up there with the aforementioned 'zines!]