Wednesday, March 9, 2011

GET YOUR FREAK ON WITH THE PHANTOM: LET'S TALK MONSTER MASKS! (PART 1)

What's there not to like about putting on a mask at halloween and going out to either amuse or scare the crap out of somebody? It seems some people like monster masks so much that they not only wear one on Halloween, but they make, buy, sell, and collect them all year long! There's even a monster mask convention for the hardcore among them.

One such enthusiastic gentleman is Mr. Pete Infelise, who more often goes by the name of his alter-ego, The Yellow Phantom. Pete is one of those guys that got bit by the monster collecting bug, and the mask thing stuck more than anything. How can something like this be possible, you may ask? Well, you'll have to read the following interview to find that out.

Pete runs THE BLOOD-CURDLING BLOG OF MONSTER MASKS blog, and it's a dandy. Several times a week he posts up some monster mask goodness that is not only educational, but it's also entertaining as hell. You see, monster masks are an integral part of the entire monster fan experience. If you don't believe me, just check out a few of the advertising sections of any number of monster 'zines over the years, especially FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. And, who among us has never wanted to know what it feels like to be the monster we see in the movies and magazines?

Monster mask maker Pete (his site is cleverly called THE DEVIL'S WORKSHOP after the cult B-movie monster creator, Paul Blaisdell) is gearing up for the 3rd annual MASK FEST coming up this month, but he took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to speak to you, the readers of MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD.

MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD: Why monster masks?

PETE INFELISE: I fell in love with monster masks fairly young, around 8 years old. There is something really amazing about being face to face with a life size monster. Not to mention the fact that you could wear the mask, and actually become the monster!

I bought my first mask when I was 10, it was a Distortions Unlimited Skull. But I suppose I was truly hooked by the very next Halloween when I bought a mask without the intent of ever wearing it. I picked up a Don Post Herman mask to use as part of a life size corpse in a coffin display at my Aunt’s Halloween party.

The rest is history!

MMW: Do you have any other monster collecting interests other than masks?

INFELISE: I used to collect any vintage monster memorabilia I could get my hands on. I realized after a few years that I didn’t have the space, or funds, to continue down that path. So, these days, it’s only masks. I still have a decent stash of magazines and a few models, but I’ve sold most of everything else. Tiki mugs are my only other vice.

MMW: What’s the monster mask market like these days? Growing?

INFELISE: Today, there are definitely more mask makers than ever before. There are a lot of collectors too. Perhaps a few more active collectors on the scene before the economy tanked a few years ago.

MMW: Describe your own monster mask collection.

INFELISE: I would classify my collection as mish-mash or new and old. My favorite mass-produced masks come from Be Something Studios, and I managed to track down most of the characters I loved as a kid. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Death Studios masks which constitute a large part of my collection. Don Post masks occupy a special shelf in my collection. In addition, I have a ton of masks that aren’t on display that I use for my Halloween yard display.

The "Super Frankenstein" replica mask from The Devil's Workshop.

MMW: Have you designed or made any of your own masks?

INFELISE: Yes, indeed. I’ve made masks on and off for 15-16 years. I’ve been focusing most of my attention over the last year on retro-style masks. I’ve been having a ton of fun with the Famous Monster Cover Project, and recently finished a Super Frankenstein replica, which will debut at Maskfest next month. Folks can see my masks at THE DEVIL'S WORKSHOP.

MMW: Lots has been said about Topstone masks. Were they the first to mass produce and market monster masks?

INFELISE: No. Don Post Studios released the first mass produced masks back in the 1930s he released a set of “villains” of the time: Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. Apparently, these masks were a huge hit!
A vintage Don Post masks ad with some interesting characters.


MMW: The so-called “Shock Monster” mask has become something of a legend. What can you tell us about how this came to be?

INFELISE: Ah yes, the beloved Shock Monster. While this was a Topstone creation, it really was made popular by the famous Captain Company ads. The Shock monster has definitely become a mask celebrity through the years and has since been re-created over and over again by a number of independent artists. In fact, the 2011 Don Post is slated to release their rendition of the Shock Monster!

MMW: What’s the most valuable monster mask? Is there a “holy grail” mask for mask collectors?

INFELISE: The Verne Langdon Zombie. Verne estimated that 30 copies were produced back in 1972.

MMW: Did you ever meet Don Post or Verne Langdon?

INFELISE: I’ve met Don Post Jr on a few occasions, but not Don Sr. or Verne. I was looking forward to meeting Verne at the Monsterpalooza out in Burbank this year. Verne’s passing this past January surprised so many of us. He will certainly be missed.


The "Holy Grail" of monster masks: Verne Langdon's Zombie.
[To be continued tomorrow here at MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD!]


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