Tuesday, January 29, 2013

FAMOUS MONSTERS NO. 267 SNEAK PEEK



Hot on the heels of their latest issue, the fear-folks at FAMOUS MONSTERS have wasted no time in revealing the cover(s) and contents of their next issue, #267, to be exact (only if you count using Forry math, if you know what I mean!).



The newsstand cover image is a beauty of a Bob Eggleton rendition of the H.P. Lovecraft cosmic horror known as The Great Cthulhu. Plus, Lovecraft expert S.T. Joshi discusses the mythos that the famous pulp writer created (actually, the term was never used by Lovecraft -- it was coined by August Derleth -- but I'm sure Joshi will explain that.


The subscriber cover (God! Why do they do this?!) is a nice Kong vs T-Rex. Like with the current Sanjulian CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON cover, a bonus 3-pack is being offered with the Kong/Rex image.


Here's the 4-1-1 from FM:

“FAMOUS MONSTERS #267 is now available for PRE-ORDER! Skull Island reveals its secrets once more. 80 years ago, Merian C. Cooper and Willis O'Brien unleashed the 8th Wonder of the World on filmgoers: King Kong! We'll look back at the cast, crew, and legacy of filmland's tragic King. We'll also explore the stories of one of Hollywood's most influential, yet seldom seen, monsters: Chtulhu. Scholar S.T. Joshi leads a team of experts as we dive into the "Mythos" and uncover the hidden power behind Lovecraft's greatest creation. Plus: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, our new TERROR BY DESIGN column, and much more!”

Way to go, guys!

 


Saturday, January 26, 2013

MONSTERS CARRYING GIRLS NO. 1: OF TROLLS, TROPES AND TROLLOPS



When I sat down at the keyboard, I had a totally different idea to begin this new series of posts on the subject of “monsters carrying girls”. However, “Fortune Favors the Brave” as the motto goes, so I’ll forge ahead on the never-ending and tangential narrative path, Quixotic-like, with lance in hand to ward off the skeptics and cynics along the way.

While reading various blogs and websites, I frequently come across certain catch-phrases and other colorful labels used to conveniently describe oft-occurring and familiar thematic features found in seemingly countless horror films. One of the terms used to define this phenomenon is the word “trope”, which is commonly used to describe any familiar motif or device – usually, but not always, visual – that crops up repeatedly (like either a flower or a weed depending on your perspective) in horror movies. So easy can the term be used for monster flicks that, for their example of the use of the word, the venerable Merriam-Webster opts to go with the phrase: “the usual horror movie tropes”.

As in the case of numerous other decorative, academic, and other, highfalutin-sounding words, I believe “trope”, at least in the context of horror film criticism (and of the kind found online mostly), is very often incorrectly used. I also happen to believe it’s one of those words that come so close that it seems to best fit what the writer is trying to express when otherwise too many more words, and perhaps a little more thought, would more clearly delineate the idea. You see, the proper use of the word “trope” means something – like in the aforementioned theme or scenic image – that is (eek!) overused, even to the point of being – heaven help us! – cliché!

Now, I think that most readers, when they come upon the word “cliché”, they know that it is most certainly being used to mean “overused”, maybe to the point of being “trite”, “dull”, or even “hackneyed”. Conversely, I suspect that writers really mean something a little less negative when they mention tropes. As a matter of fact, I fancy that often they should really be using another term: “iconic”.

Maybe some horror film situations, plots, and themes deserve to be labeled as a trope, but I prefer to think lots of these same ideas are considerably less tiresome than the term implies, and should instead, be more properly relegated to the loftier realms of the iconic.

But then again, perhaps using the term “iconic” is not quite accurate, either. An icon, you see, is usually reserved to define a sculpted bust or statue that has been memorialized, sometimes even being exalted to the state of being symbolic. All this just might take us down still another, entirely different road, and end up with the possibility of discussing yet another term -- like “tangential”, wouldn’t it?

Hey, I’ve told you many times before: this is my blog, and this is the place where I get to write what I want. And that, dear readers, is what I could honestly call a trope! So let’s get on with the post, shall we?

Scene from Universal's MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS.
 As the title of this post implies, the subject contained in this feature is “monsters carrying girls”, and the image has been seen many, many times in horror films. For the sake of argument, I’ll call it iconic.

Besides the immediate feeling of anxiety, the sight of a monstrous troll or other unsavory, hulking beast carrying aloft a beautiful woman, whether she be tramp, trollop, or the All-American Girl Next Door, there is something mighty unsettling going on – especially in the “what if” department. I think you know what I mean; it’s one thing to see a beast on two legs carrying away a damsel who’s fainted dead away – it’s another to think what’s next? And with all that leering, slobbering and grunting going on, it’s not hard to figure out.

The device of the monster menacing the maid is not only ubiquitous in horror films, its damn near expected. This morbid and more than slightly perverse interaction has not been lost on critics, reviewers and historians alike. Even monster movie magazines picked up on the recurring theme. For example Jim Warren’s FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine often showed pictures of monsters carrying girls, a feat not hard to accomplish as many film studios posed their mon-stars and maidens in this way on photo stills and lobby cards to transfix the viewer in an instant of quasi-sexual tension, hoping, I'm sure, to stimulate ticket sales. After FM’s first half-hundred issues, Editor Forrest J Ackerman ran a series of features with the title “Girls and Ghouls” (later expanded to "Girls and Ghouls Gallery"), replete with photos of swooning and innocent girls being dragged, carried, or otherwise man . . . er, monster handled. The first installment appeared in issue #64 (April 1970), and featured the BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. It didn't take long, however, for FJ to show what was expected -- the Mummy, with a hapless, swooning beauty under his arm (FM #66, June 1970).



[To be continued...]

Friday, January 25, 2013

MONSTERS AFTER DARK: POTPOURRI AND COUNT DRACULA

Among its other, more visually appealing features, the venerable men's magazine called PLAYBOY has long contained copious editorial departments of the non-pictorial kind. One of them, Playboy After Hours, covers, among other topics, the movie, television, and music scenes. Over the years, the magazine has lost a good share of its readership, along with its relevancy in relation to society and pop culture. Back in the day, however, Hugh Hefner and his publication were a force that many considered to be leading edge. It's really too bad that many 'zines of this type have turned away from fiction and feature-heavy content and instead populated most of their pages with the "kind of pictures that men like". While a shadow of its former self remains, personally I miss the days when PLAYBOY teemed with stories by Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, and Ray Russell, and the multitude of cartoons were usually more clever than coarse.



The Playboy After Hours department of the October, 1974 issue contained a Television column that discussed the upcoming season. Among the shows was a new science-fantasy entitled, PLANET OF THE APES, starring original APES actor Roddy McDowall. It mentioned that it took 3 hours a day to apply his make-up. "Such TV make-up", says the author in a wispy sort of mood, "we haven't seen since President Nixon's last press conference." A less intentional quip, but one that was far funnier, was the statement by one of the producers at a press conference for the show -- with an apparent straight face, no less -- that the new program PLANET OF THE APES was "a story about people"! And, yes, that's Sean Connery of JAMES BOND and ZARDOZ fame, lending his visage to sell Jim Beam.

 
 In the same issue, this time in the Playboy Potpourri column, was a mention of Dr. Donald Reed's famed, but now defunct, The Count Dracula Society. Again, the topic was treated in a light-hearted tone. Still, PLAYBOY would every once in a while include features and tidbits regarding horror, science fiction, and fantasy topics they felt had either some relevance at the time or, at the very least, some interest to the readership. As Monsterologists, we can treat them now as visual artifacts useful in our horror history perambulations.



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

FAMOUS MONSTERS NO. 266 UNLEASHED! PLUS A BONUS DEAL!


According to Captain Company the latest FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND is "now shipping". Issue #266 features coverage of the making of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, and the monsters and creepy things from THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Here's the 4-1-1 from Captain Company: 

"FAMOUS MONSTERS #266 has arrived and is now shipping! From the depths of the Amazon comes one of horror's greatest monsters: The Creature from the Black Lagoon! In this issue, we revisit the Universal classic and look at the people and stories that made the legend. We're also taking you to the merry ol' land of OZ to take a look at one of filmland's most notorious monsters: The Wicked Witch of the West. Margaret Hamilton's legendary performance has given entire generations their first true movie scare. From the big screen protrayal to L. Frank Baum's original concept, follow the yellow brick road to this issue. Featuring CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON cover by Sanjulian and WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST cover by Simon Thorpe."



They are also offering a special "3-fer" deal if you order the package before the end of January. Go HERE for the details.

 

Monday, January 21, 2013

MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT NO. 31 UNLEASHED!


Now available for purchase is the latest from Editor and Publisher James Clatterbaugh's phenomenal indie monster 'zine, MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT. Support Mr. Clatterbaugh's products by buying straight from him. Just click on the MFTV cover image on the sidebar to the right of this post, and spend a few bucks on an exceptional publication.


MONSTER CARD MONDAY




ATTENTION, MONSTER TRADING CARD COLLECTORS!

Be sure to visit the all-new YOU'LL DIE LAUGHING blog -- Today's post features the "lost" 89th card in the Creature Features series! Don't miss it!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A LITTLE MORE MEGAERA



The GORGON "feature" that was in CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN #6 was a part of an interview with Christopher Lee. There are several stills and a listing of the main characters in the cast, but I'll be darned if I can find any mention of it in the article!



The Gorgon herself was played by Prudence Hyman (a British name is I ever heard one!). She was born in 1914 and was a famous ballerina before donning the wig of snakes for her role in THE GORGON. She died in 1995.

Below is another "Reference Only" head shot of Miss Hyman used by regular Hammer make-up artist, Roy Ashton during his creation of the character. I include the caption that accompanies the photo describing its provenance.


Picture number:2000-5000_0048 
Credit:Ashton & Leakey Collection at NMPFT/Science & Society Picture Library
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Caption:
A reference photograph of Prudence Hyman (died 1995) as Megaera the Gorgon, taken by an unknown photographer in 1964. Roy Ashton (1909-1995) used the image for developing the special effects make-up of Megaera in 'The Gorgon' (1964). This photograph is from the Ashton & Leakey Collection. Roy Ashton and Phil Leakey (1908-1992) worked for Hammer Films during the 1950s and 1960s. They were pioneers of special effects make-up - using cosmetics and prosthetics to transform an actor's appearance. Hammer Film Productions was founded in 1947. Initially, it made low-budget movies based on popular television and radio series, such as Quatermass. In 1957, it released the first colour gothic horror film, 'The Curse Of Frankenstein', which was an enormous succes. During the 1950s and 1960s it went on to produce a series of popular gothic horror films for which it has become renowned.
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In Collection of: National Museum of Photography Film & Television.




 And, now . . . for those of you who want to view the movie in its entirety, here is presented the full-length version of Hammer's THE GORGON (1964).

This link is especially for you, "Wobble The Witch Cat"! 


 A SPECIAL BONUS MONSTER MOVIE WORLD PRESENTATION:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

OH MEGAERA! -- WHAT SCARED ME


Contrary to the 1964 Hammer Film's title, THE GORGON, the monster named Magaera (a.k.a. Megara), who menaces Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in the movie, is more accurately known as one  of the "Furies" from Greek Mythology.

The most famous of the gorgons (which means "dreadful") of course, was Medusa; the other two were Stheno and Euryale. Magaera, on the other hand, means "the jealous one", and was aptly named for her role in the Hammer film. Never letting a man out of her sight (pun half-intended), she made sure anyone gazing at her horrifying visage was turned to stone. Even one of the men, who was able to avert his gaze after looking at Mageura only for an instant, eventually found himself literally cracking up.


Publicity still from Hammer's THE GORGON (1964).

Detail of a reference shot taken for make-up artist Roy Ashton.


After watching this movie on TV for the first time, this impressionable young Monster Kid, was properly creeped out by the ugly hag with snakes for hair, made quite terrifyingly real by make-up wizard Roy Ashton. The grotesque incongruity of female-gone-ugly and frightful image was enough to send the hairs on the back of my neck standing up!

You may like to know that I reconciled myself with THE GORGON after another couple of viewings years later, and it has since become one of my favorite Hammer horrors. Ironic, ain't it?

A publicity still from THE GORGON.

The film was featured in CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN #6.


Friday, January 18, 2013

CHECK PLEASE, MR. SERLING


Memorabilia collectors will go to great lengths to own the tiniest pieces from their favorite actor or actress's life. Seeming insignificant minutiae to the layman can be a veritable Holy Grail to a collector.

Case in point: offered by an auction house in 2011 was a signed check by Rod Serling. The Bank of America (San Vicente, Los Angeles branch) check, dated 7 JANUARY 1967, is made out to General Telephone Co. in the amount of $271.22 and clearly signed by Mr. Serling.



The auction closed with the item selling for $369.00, a bit more than the original amount of the check. Equally interesting to me is how much Serling's phone bill was. At almost $300 for a single month, that is a hefty sum in those days, making it quite obvious he spent a lot of time on phone calls to New York and other places afar.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

INTL 'ZINES: MAD MOVIES


The French film magazine, MAD MOVIES, is a genre 'zine very much in the tradition of English language publications such as TOTAL FILM, and SFX. Besides covering new movies and blockbusters such as THE HOBBIT, STAR TREK, and WOLVERINE, they usually reserve a few pages for monsters and horror.

In their Janvier -- or, January -- issue, are a couple of interesting-looking (as I can't read or speak much Francais) articles on the silent classic, A TRIP TO THE MOON, the films of Roman Polanski, and a two-page spread on the quirky Ted Post flick, THE BABY.






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