Saturday, March 5, 2011

CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN: NO PUN INTENDED?


Okay, it's time I speak out for hardcore FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND fans. I know you have been beaten until pun(ch) drunk, stomped on like a Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot, humiliated like Frankenstein losing his pants . . . and it's time to fight back!

What I am talking about here is the common thought held for many years among a large number of fans, bloggers, and critics that Warren's FAMOUS MONSTERS was nothing more than the vehicle for a movie-still-mogul by the name of Forrest J. Ackerman's gags aimed at a pre-pubescent audience barely able to even read what he was writing. This is the same self-anointed group of high brow horror historians that claim Calvin T. Beck's CASTLE OF FRANKENTSTEIN was the epitome of literary journalism.

I will be the first to say that, in many ways this is absolutely true. CoF at its best could not be matched for it's depth of writing and seriousness of critique-ing. But to say that it was bereft of intentional humor, including the common prop of using speech baloons on monster movie photos that one saw everywhere else, is grossly untrue. Now, granted Forry's flaunting of inflection and phrasing was sometimes phenomenally and fabulously fulsome, but, hey, damn it -- he was good at it! However, before you cross your arms and say, "Harumph! That's what I've been saying all along!", I invite you to take a gander at the photographic evidence I present on exhibit at the end of this rambling text.

Unless you are in denial (and I don't mean the body of water near Kharis' Crib), it is plain to see that Mr. Bates . . . I mean, Beck, had a fling with a funny now and again. I admit, it's not plastered all through the magazine, but he did use the cliched gag gimmicks of the day, lock stock, and barrel. Beck could not, and probably did not want to match Forry pun for pun. But, as you can plainly see, there are immature, sophomoric, even lame jokes within the pages of his magazine, including a handful of dumb cartoons (Baron von Bungle? Good grief!).

So, there you go, fans of Forry's FAMOUS MONSTERS. I did us all a favor and cut through the crap of conceit. FM was really all about the Monster Kid in all of us, even before we knew we were Monster Kids. Yes, the mag was laden with puns, gags and clever turns of a phrase. But you don't learn Esperanto because you're illiterate or childish. FM had quite a few moments of seriousness, and a number of articles found within its many pages are the best ever written for a monster movie magazine. Forry gave us monsters, plenty of them. Forry gave us thrills. And, best of all, I think, Forry gave us fun.

Now, before you run off and continue to espous that CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN was a stolid, academic literary journal, take a look towards the back of many an issue, even starting with #1. If those aren't crummy jokes, I'll sell off my collection of Stan Lee's MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH!


From CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN #1

From CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN #2

From CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN #2


2 comments:

Diane said...

John,
Great commentary on COF and FM. In a recent re-reading of several old FMs, I noticed that there were many more "serious" articles than I remembered. It was revealing and refreshing! Thanks for bringing this up.
Doug in T.O.

Jim T. said...

It's an interesting point, but there was a sort of formula that all of these magazines followed, up to a point, and the combination of horror images and humor was a big part of that. I enjoyed, and still enjoy, both FM and CoF, but in different ways: Beck's magazine more for the writing and variety, especially the later issues, and FM for historical content and design/art direction. I'm guessing there weren't many monster magazines of this type during that period which did not have humor involved--at least, that's constant in the ones I've seen--and FM had a strong edge in terms of publishing schedule and brand-name familiarity, but CoF had examples (but hardly in every instance) of more involved writing. I used to think CoF's monster humor was a bit forced, but I've re-read those issues so often I cannot begin to guess the frequency over the years.

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