Saturday, December 31, 2011

THIS WAS THE FEAR THAT WAS . . . THE MASK

This is a movie about addiction, obsession, and murder -- and it’s pretty good. That it’s also 50-years old this year makes it pretty good, too. With a theme that’s a distant relative of W.W. Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw, it is not only the first Canadian film to be widely released in the United States, but it’s also the first Canadian horror film to be widely released as well. Even considering that Canadian horror films were few and far between at the time, it’s still an accomplishment.


Cranking up the cool factor were several sequences shot in 3D. When the voice over exclaimed in a booming, ominous voice to “PUT THE MASK ON NOW!”, he not only meant for the lead to do it in the picture, but for the audience to put on their supplied 3D glasses as well!


In FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FIMLAND #16 (March, 1962), THE MASK was featured in a photo story.








A PACKAGE FOR DR. BARNES


MASK DISPLAY AT TIFF BELL LIGHTHOUSE, TORONTO


Friday, December 30, 2011

THIS WAS THE FEAR THAT WAS . . . AURORA FRANKENSTEIN PLASTIC MODEL KIT


In 1961 Aurora Plastics blew the coffin lid off the monster craze that started with TV's Shock Theater and Warren's FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND by releasing the first in their line of Universal monster kits, the Frankenstein monster. The craze quickly caught on and soon the company was cranking out models 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Now, a half century later, Aurora monster models have not lost their mystique as several companies have re-issued the line over the years, re-introducing the magic to youngsters today of "making your own monsters" just like us Monster Kids did!


A now grown-up Monster Kid who goes by the name of Monster Man Dan is selling a 50-year Anniversary Frankenstein model tribute T-shirt at Cafe Press. Click HERE to take a look.



SPOOK STORIES -- 2ND SERIES "RARITIES"



SPOOK STORIES Card #141, depicting a scene with
Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren from Alfred Hitchcock's
THE BIRDS, a Universal Pictures release.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

THIS WAS THE FEAR THAT WAS . . . FRANKENSTEIN 1931


This year, MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD celebrated the 80th Anniversary of the release of Boris Karloff's immortal classic, FRANKENSTEIN. Directed by James Whale and with make up by the legendary Jack Pierce, Karloff became an instant star. People crammed into dark movie houses to watch and riots broke out in the lines outside, even to the point of crushing the box office at one theater!

SPOOK STORIES -- 2ND SERIES "RARITIES"



SPOOK STORIES Card #138, depicting a scene from
Hammer Films' 1962 NIGHT CREATURES (USA title).


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

THIS WAS THE FEAR THAT WAS . . . DRACULA 1931


Celebrating its 80th year, the 1931 Universal Picture, DRACULA, starring the incomparable Bela Lugosi, has become a true icon of the horror film. Sometimes panned today for its static camera work, the film still chills with its stark silence as the immortal vampire and his minions strike fear and terror in the hearts of their victims. It was selected for the National Film Archives and will be preserved for years to come.

SPOOK STORIES -- 2ND SERIES "RARITIES"



Leaf SPOOK STORIES Card #136


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

THIS WAS THE FEAR THAT WAS . . . SPOOK STORIES TRADING CARDS

The year 2011 marked another five-decade milestone in monster history -- the Leaf Brand SPOOK STORIES monster trading cards! Although copyrighted in 1961, the first series was not officially released until 1962. That means here at MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD, I will be recognizing both the year the cards were designed and the next year, when they were distributed to a mass market. That means the SPOOK STORIES celebration will go on into 2012!

I do need to tell you, though, about one Monster Kid memory I have about these cards: I had the absolute pleasure of saving up enough to buy a whole box of 'em! Considering that single pack purchases yielded copious double, triples, and more with some ubiqitous card numbers, I was hoping to fill out a complete run by buying an entire 36-pack box. At the time, the highest number that my pals and I thought the series ran to was around Card 70 or so -- if memory serves me right, the highest number card we ever got out of a pack had the image of Lon Chaney, Jr. from FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN.


Although it pains me to say that the lion's share of my duplicate cards and stickers ended up being used in my homemade monster magazine (see the MONSTERS MAGAZINE post from a few months ago), it sure didn't seem like a problem at the time. I was more than happy to cut off the white borders and the silly jokes and stick 'em in my own, very serious publication!

A page from my homemade monster 'zine
MONSTERS MAGAZINE vintage 1963,


Well, it turns out that there were not one, but two series of SPOOK THEATRE cards. The first, in an orange wax pack with gum and a sticker, ran from Card #1 to #72. The second series, SON OF SPOOK THEATRE, came in a purple wax pack with gum and a sticker, and ran from Card #73 to #144.

I don't recall ever seeing or having the opportunity to buy any of the second series cards, which would explain why we never saw cards with higher numbers than we did. Turns out today that these higher number cards are a little more scarce (some dealers label them as "rare", but, outside of maybe a few single cards, I don't see much truth in that) than numbers from the first series.


I had the recent fortune of picking up a few of these so-called "rare" cards numbered over 100. In celebration of their 50th (well, maybe 49th if you're being picky) anniversary, I thought I'd share a few of them with you throughout the rest of this week. The captions are pretty much the same as in the first series, so I'll give you fair warning on that.

Oh, and you may be wondering if I ever filled out my run of the first series of SPOOK STORIES. As Ripley would have it, believe it or not, after opening up every single pack, I still didn't have the entire set!


Leaf SPOOK STORIES Card #91


Monday, December 26, 2011

THIS WAS THE FEAR THAT WAS . . . VINCENT PRICE


This year (2011) marked the 100 Anniversary of Vincent Price's birth. The people of St. Louis, Missouri, the birthplace of Vincent Price, honored their favorite son's memory with a "Vincentennial" celebration.

A large size of the photo shown above (Vincent Price at Edgar Allan Poe's Grave) can be purchased from the newly-launched MONSTERPALOOZA magazine. Just click on the magazine cover on the sidebar to the right of this blogroll to order.

MONSTER CARD MONDAY



Saturday, December 24, 2011

ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING . . . (PART 2)


And now, we continue with our story. This being Christmas Eve 'n all, I figured it fits right in with the festivities . . .

“G’night, Gram,” he managed to say, and spied the Santa treats on the mantle. At least if he got hungry later, he wouldn’t have far to go, he thought. After the soup, could Grandma’s cookies and milk be any worse?

He reached down, unzipped his book bag and pulled out his penlight and a dog-eared copy of Fangoria. He clicked on the slim flashlight and began flipping through the pages of the magazine. “Santy Claws,” he said out loud, and snickered. He stopped at a picture of a zombie, covered in gore and stalking a young, obviously frightened female victim, probably as its next meal.

Fango was great. He loved all the newer horror flicks and didn’t care at all for the old stuff. The more blood and guts, the better. The issue he was reading was quite a few months old, as he had to be careful not have too many of them laying around. Mom and Dad thought they were “awful”, even “pornographic”. Jeez, you would have thought they were Playboys or something the way they carried on. They missed the whole point that it was fun to get scared. Anyway, in the middle of reading a DVD review his eyes began to feel heavy and he drifted off to sleep.

The sensation of something scurrying across his blanket woke him up. What the hell was that? he thought, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He wondered if one of the stray cats that Grandma was always feeding had snuck in and camped down on his warm covers. It didn’t feel as heavy as a cat, though. It felt smaller.

He thought he heard a noise, and sure enough, Grandma’s shadow once again showed itself at the fireplace. He couldn’t exactly tell what she was doing this time as the logs had burned down to faint embers and cast little light. He figured she probably had come down to eat the milk and cookies and hang up the stockings. Maybe there was still a part of Grams that was a little normal after all. He conceded the fact that she did try to do what she could to make him feel a little like a grandson. Besides, it was more than Mom and Dad had done for him recently.

She disappeared back up the stairway and what was left of the light stretched a distorted shadow along the wall of the staircase. That is Gram, he thought. Had to be. Nothing moved that slow.

The room soon returned again to near darkness. He focused on the ever-faintly glowing embers in the fireplace. They were making a crackling sound as they slowly burned themselves out.

After a few minutes passed, he thought he heard the crackling sound joined by another, fainter, but no less distinct noise. He listened closer for a second or two as the sound continued, and his very creative imagination decided it was similar to crabs scuttling across rocks, like he’d seen at a recent trip to the tide pools.

Okay, it definitely wasn’t a cat. But what was it?

Soon, the scuttling was combined with a skittering -- yes, just like a bunch of scarab beetles would sound like crawling along a brick wall. This is getting kind of creepy, he thought, and let himself succumb to the shiver that had been pent-up inside him for the last few minutes. With that, he was acutely aware of another noise -- growing louder and more distinguishable now -- that sounded like a chittering, like these things were ... communicating with each other.

This is frigging insane, he thought. Could it just be that the radio was still on? Could it only be that the volume had been turned down and not off, so what he was hearing was just static? He suddenly felt scared, and this time it wasn’t so fun. Still, he was dying to find out what the hell was making all this noise.

“G-Gram?” he called out weakly. “Is that y-you?” His ears were met with more of the noise, now growing in volume and sounding like it was emptying into the room from some vast, gaping hole in the wall, traveling restless, determined.

Okay, Bill, he thought. Time to buck up and grow some cajones. Maybe a couple of squirrels have crawled down the chimney and invaded the living room. But then, squirrels didn’t come out at night. What was it that sounded like this, but comes out at night?

He mustered what there was of his bravery and groped around for his penlight. Probably was Santa Claus. After all these years, he’d finally find out Santa was real. Ah, c’mon, ya moron, that’s ridiculous. Can’t be Santa. Has’ta be Grandma ... or maybe Gramps finally got up and was traipsing around.

“Gramps?” he called again. “Are you there?”

His answer came unexpectedly in the form of still another noise, that of rasping, tiny teeth gnashing away at something hard and brittle. Suddenly there followed a crash of glass and porcelain. This sound he knew was coming from the area of the fireplace.

His blood began pounding at his temples. Beads of sweat erupted into rivulets down his forehead. His fever was now long forgotten. A new sickness was upon him, and it felt frost-cold and ice-numbing ... this was pure, unadulterated, high-octane fear.

“Oh, God, I think I know what you are!” His voice trembled with the realization.

He rose up from the sofa, frantically searching in the dark. “Where’s my goddamn flashlight?” he whined.

He found it, clicked it on, and stabbed it in the direction of the fireplace.

In the quavering light he finally saw them ... and knew he’d been right.

Rats. Dozens of them. Maybe a hundred or so. Everywhere. All over the floor, the furniture, even the fireplace hearth and mantle. The living room had been invaded.

Transfixed by the sudden light, they all seemed to stop and stare back at him, reflecting tiny, blood-red eyes. They seemed impudent and irritated like he’d interrupted them in the middle of something. Then he saw what they had been doing.

If ever he had felt true horror in his life, it was then. He felt his ears uncontrollably rise up the side of his head and he could feel every hair on his body stand on end.

The rats continued staring at him for another moment, then returned to their task ...

... and the scream that had been stuck in his throat finally found its way out.

It wasn’t really the sight of the rats themselves that had sent him bolt upright from the sofa and running headlong for the front door, then howling and shrieking out into the night in nothing more than his shorts. It wasn’t even the fact that they looked scarier in real-life than in any horror magazine. It was what they were feeding on ... and it wasn’t the cookies and milk.

Grandma had come down to hang up the Christmas stockings, except they weren’t the usual, red and white striped cotton stockings, and they weren’t even the homemade, felt stockings with all the glued-on glitter and sparkling sequins ...

... these stockings were tanned, wrinkled, and parchment-dry, almost like a dog’s chew toy -- and there, on one of them that was swinging back and forth from the mantle like the pendulum on an old clock -- was the unmistakable image of a mermaid -- smiling and waving.

THE END

[Copyright (C) John Navroth. All rights reserved. Do not copy or distribute without permission.]

SCARY CHRISTMAS TO ALL
AND TO ALL
A GOOD FRIGHT!

CHRISTMAS "SCARE-OLS" HOLIDAY SING-A-"LON"

AURORA MONSTERS: THE MODEL CRAZE THAT GRIPPED THE WORLD!

Yesterday's post talked about a DVD that featured the history of the original Aurora Plastics monster model kits. This homage to "The Model Craze That Gripped the World" is not to be missed if you're at all interested in model making or this particular line of kits. Introduced and "moderated" by none other than Zacherly, The Cool Ghoul, the film contains historical commentary and tons of interviews with both past and present scultptors, artists, and fans.

Perhaps the highlight of the documentary is a rare interview with James Bama, the artist responsible for painting the box art on the original Aurora kits. It's an amazing walk down memory lane for us Monster Kids, but it is also of value to new fans who seek the origins of one of the most enduring hobbies ever.




Friday, December 23, 2011

ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING . . . (PART 1)

For a little something different I decided to unearth a short story that I wrote a few years back to share with you. Call it a sort of Scary Christmas present to all of you. It was originally a submission to the H.P. Lovecraft Amateur Press Association. Tonight is the first part. The second and concluding part of the story will be posted right here at MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD tomorrow on Christmas Eve. I hope you enjoy it.

ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING . . .
A Christmas Story by John Navroth


Christmas always scared the hell out of him. This one wasn’t any different. After all, what could be more frightening than spending the holiday with Grandma and Grandpa?

Mom and Dad had been arguing again, this time over how to put up the Christmas lights. Well, one thing led to another and he’d wound up here, sprawled on his Grandparent’s smelly old sofa, flat out with a hundred-degree temperature and feeling like crap. No telling where Mom and Dad ended up, but he was sure wherever it was, they weren’t together.

He seemed to always be sick at Christmastime. At first, he thought he was just some wuss who caught everything that came around this time of year. But as he got older he realized he wasn’t getting sick because of any flu bug. It was his parents that were the cause. They were the bugs.

Now he lay here, wrapped up like Im-ho-tep the mummy, in one of Grandma’s ancient and musty quilts. Gramps was nowhere to be seen and he was too tired to get up and go looking for him. Besides, Gram had said “Grandpa isn’t feeling too well, either,” in the apathetic voice she usually reserved just for him. “He hasn’t been well for some time, you know.”

He looked over to the fireplace. The vaguely cheerful flames were tempered by the blackened, soot-stained hearth, looking something like the witch’s oven in Hansel and Gretel, he thought. In one corner of the tiny living room, by the front window, stood a Christmas tree ... or something that pretended to be one. There were a scant few antiquated, flaking spheres of indeterminate color hung haphazardly on its scrawny branches and some equally ancient, gun-metal gray tinsel had been thrown on for effect. Christmas, he thought. Big deal. It might have just as well been any other day so far as he was concerned.

His eyes wandered from the tree to Gramps’ enormous, easy chair, with its time-lacerated arms oozing out its own stuffing -- to the rickety endtable were countless, still-burning cigarette butts had missed the ash tray and created small, black craters. On the wall hung a few paintings (from some dead person’s garage sale, no doubt), including a few yellowed family pictures that looked old enough to have been taken during the Civil War. In fact, everything in here was old -- and disgusting -- to him.

There wasn’t even a damn TV. Gram and Gramps wouldn’t have one in the house. Nothing but “smutty” sitcoms and bad news, they said. Instead, there was a radio -- pockmarked with age and looking like a miniature cathedral -- with the name “Philco” stamped in tarnished brass on the front of it. There had been some kind of noise coming out of it ever since he got here, sounding like a cross between Christmas carols and religious talk shows. He ultimately didn’t care. This sucked.

Grandma came out of the kitchen, shuffling along in her worn-through slippers and moth-eaten nightdress. She gingerly held a bowl in her hands like it was the Holy Grail.

She started to say something, then phlegm caught in her throat -- then, “Here, William. I’ve got some nice hot soup for you.” He hated being called that. My name’s Bill, he thought -- Bill.”

She finally made it to the sofa and set the bowl down on his chest. It smelled like something dead and he couldn’t tell if it was the soup or Grandma. “You need your nourishment, William,” she said, spooning some of it up and thrusting it towards his mouth. “Especially on Christmas Eve”.

The spoon clanged against his teeth and he couldn’t help but to swallow some of the greasy stuff. His taste buds immediately rejected it and he coughed the soup back out into the bowl. He felt a slick dribble down his chin.

“There, there,” Grandma said, and took the bowl away. She shuffled back toward the kitchen, mumbling to herself.

This was just great. He’d always known Gram wasn’t -- “quite right” -- he thought the term was. Ever since he could remember, when she’d say something to him, it was always as if she were speaking to him from some far away place ... like another planet, for instance.

As for Gramps, he was just as weird. He knew he’d had a career with the merchant marine but had been retired for some years. Gramps would hold him down by the shoulder at the foot of his easy chair and tell him about his seafaring adventures, all the while smoking one Chesterfield after another and taking constant pulls from his bottle of “medicine”. He’d go on and on about life on the seas, then he’d pull off his shirt and show off his tattoos. He had an anchor on his chest and a heart with “Mom” written in the middle of it on one bicep. Then, with great aplomb, he’d pull up a pants cuff and proudly display his favorite: a mermaid, smiling and waving on the calf of his leg. “Lady of the Sea!” he’d loudly declare, then would -- more often times than not -- pass out.

Well, he thought. They were both nuts.

He just lay there for awhile. Pretty soon, the kitchen light went out and he saw Grandma’s silhouette pass by, first to the fireplace, then to make its way up the stairs. She stopped for a moment, resting herself on the banister, and looked down to him.

“Christmas is coming soon, William,” she croaked. “I’ve left cookies and milk for Santy Claus.”

Her eyes looked empty in the half-light.

[Copyright (C) John Navroth. All rights reserved. Do not copy or distribute without permission.]

[Continued tomorrow.]


THINGS MADE BY TINY HANDS

In RUE MORGUE's 13th Anniversary issue (#105, October 2010), they discussed a then-recently released DVD that covered the history of the Aurora monster models. Produced by Cortlandt Hull, it soon became evident that this was to be the historical document preserving the memory of the Aurora monster model phenonmenon.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

MONSTERS UNLEASHED! FANGORIA NO. 309 NOW ON SALE!



POLAR LIGHTS: KEEPING THE AURORA LEGEND ALIVE

Model kits have nearly always been a niche market, but with the advent of high-tech entertainment such as computer games and toys, the industry found itself in lean times. Aurora figure kits, including our beloved monsters, slowed down to a halt, then disappeared -- including the well-recognized Aurora logo -- for good.

Attempts were few and far between in the ensuing years to keep the monster model kit hobby alive, but it wasn't until a company that went by the name of Polar Lights (an obvious take on the Aurora brand name) that things started really rolling along in Wolfman's Wagon again. To the delight of Monster Kids old and new alike, Polar Lights not only manufactured and marketed monster models, they re-issued some of the original Aurora monster kits!

This article, from the now-defunct MODELER'S RESOURCE (#27, April/May 1999) magazine, describes how it all happened.






Wednesday, December 21, 2011

DON'T FORGET -- DONATE!

I don't usually put my hand out for money, but please click HERE and donate to The Salvation Army this holiday season. I did. Just a little bit from you will do a monstrous amount of good.

MONSTERS UNLEASHED! RUE MORGUE NO. 118 NOW ON SALE!


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