Tuesday, May 3, 2011

UNDYING MONSTERS NO. 1


UNDYING MONSTERS
Vol. 1 No. 1
Editor: David Davey
Publication Date: May/June, 2011
Publisher: David Davey
Color covers/ B&W interior
68 ppg. (including covers)
Cover price: $9.95
Available from MONSTER MAIL ORDER

Editor and Publisher Dave Davey has something very special here. With print quality that rivals even the most attractively produced of the so-called “fanzines”, UNDYING MONSTERS is unequivocally one werewolf pup of a publication that can easily lead the pack on looks alone.

We saw the test tubes bubbling and the cauldron boiling with the inaugural Limited Edition that was introduced to the slavering hordes at last year’s Chiller Theatre Convention. Now we are witness to the “official” first edition rise up from the slab, fully formed and ready to take on the torch-bearing villagers by storm.

There were a number of covers nominated for the 2010 Rondo Awards, all of which deserved recognition. Mark Maddox’s painting of the titular creature from Jacques Tourneur’s NIGHT OF THE DEMON will no doubt be a front-runner in this year’s nominations. Why? Because it is absolutely stunning.

And that seems to be the point of the philosophy behind the mad genius of UNDYING MONSTERS – provide maximum shock and awe through visuals. Since the subtitle of the ‘zine is “A Pictorial Homage to Past Horror, Sci-Fi, & Fantasy Media”, the intent seems obvious. The end result exceeds expectations. Indeed, Davey has taken a page from Jim Clatterbaugh’s MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT and has delivered a sight for bulbous and bloodshot eyes with some of the sharpest and well-produced movie stills, posters, and screen caps imaginable. In fact, Davey does give a nod to the aforementioned Clatterbaugh for offering up a few pointers along the way.

As for content, this issue covers a couple of my most favorite vintage fright films of all time. First up is Vogue Pictures’ CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN, and it’s given as much coverage as I’ve ever seen in a monster movie mag. Producer Robert E. Kent and Director Edward L. Cahn teamed up for a few low-budget (but really cool) monster flicks back in the late 1950’s that have unfortunately garnered little notoriety over the years.

With exteriors filmed at Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, science fiction author Jerome Bixby’s script tells the story of the resurrection of a love-starved victim of the volcanic eruption that occurred in Pompeii, Italy over two millennia ago after he is disturbed during an archeological dig. While the “monster stalks reincarnated love” theme that we have seen numerous times in other films is integral to the plot, the film offers enough in the way of unique locale and unusual historical perspective for the viewer to almost forget they unconsciously mouthed the name “Ananka” earlier on.

Another spoiler is the on-screen evidence more than once that the menacing monster (played by Bob Bryant) is nothing more than the proverbial “man in a rubber suit”, when we see deep creases form whenever he bends down to pick up his screaming victim. In actuality, the creature’s costume is fairly effective in overall appearance. Ironically, it was designed by a person best known as the “man in a monkey suit”, actor and make-up man Charles Gemora (billed as Charles Gemorra, and identified as “Gammora” in the article).

Nevertheless, the idea of the lava-encrusted Quintillus Aurelius coming back to life from the ancient ruins of Pompeii to claim his lost love and wreck vengeance on anyone who stands in his way, coupled with the brassy strains of ominous music scored by Gerald Fried, make CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

The other classic horror film given extensive coverage in this issue is another favorite of mine, NIGHT OF THE DEMON (a.k.a. CURSE OF THE DEMON). The story takes on a muted, other-worldly personality against a backdrop of murder, madness, and a pretty nasty creature from Hell. From the Montague R. James’ short story, “Casting the Runes”, the villain of the movie is reportedly fashioned after the infamous 19th Century magician, adventurer, drug addict, womanizer, and all-around dyed-in-the-wool British scoundrel, Aleister Crowley.

Now, I have read much on Crowley and I have to say that there is little in the character of Dr. Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis) that can be directly related. The idea of a nefarious sorcerer with a cult following seems to be enough, I suppose.

Despite his alcoholism and general on-set crankiness, Dana Andrews (playing Dr. John Holden) maintains a healthy veneer of supernatural skepticism that underpins the film’s more occult premise.

A lot of critics bristle at Director Tourneur’s decision to offer the viewer two distinct glimpses of the titular Demon a the beginning and end of the film, I, for one, favor the idea of showing what must have been the insurmountable hopelessness that the cursed victim had to have felt when gazing upon the agent of their impending doom.

Both articles on CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN and NIGHT OF THE DEMON are told in the nostalgic “filmbook” style so fondly remembered in its earlier incarnation within the hallowed pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. Each also includes a few words on the production of the film.

Rounding out this successful first issue monster magazine is an article on the giant bug and nature gone wild movies of the atom-age 1950’s, a look back at the 1959 Topps “You’ll Die Laughing” series monster trading cards illustrated by Jack Davis, and an affectionate remembrance of cult monster maker, Paul Blaisdell.

In conclusion, one would be hard pressed to find a better trip down monster memory lane than with UNDYING MONSTERS. A near-perfect combination of pictures and story to rekindle those recollections from long ago when the biggest problem a monster kid had was having enough money to buy all the good stuff. Dave Davey, you’ve got a winner here!

MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD has had the opportunity to acquire a stock of UNDYING MONSTERS #1. As part of a special Limited Edition Bonus Pack, you can purchase it directly from this blog by clicking right HERE.

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