Sunday, August 24, 2014


Just a month after its world premiere at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, Universal was puffing the latest Lon Chaney picture, Phantom of the Opera, with a two-page ad in the May 23. 1925 issue of the trade magazine, Motion Picture News.

Friday, August 22, 2014


"You cannot feel horror without imagination." - Lionel Atwill 
Early movie fan magazines were notorious for their writer's "embellishing" when it came to describing people and events. For example, it was said in one magazine that when Boris Karloff's daughter, Sara, was born, he rushed directly from the Son of Frankenstein movie set to the hospital, still wearing Jack Pierce's  Frankenstein Monster makeup! Although he did rush to see her as quick as he could, according to Sara herself, he did so sans makeup.

Boris Karloff and his new-born daughter, Sara.
 In the January, 1940 issue of Modern Screen, Martha Kerr's article, "Horror Men Talk About Horror", asks four actors who played in horror films of the day, what horror meant to them. Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lionel Atwill all gave somewhat surprising answers, but considering the context of "monster movies" during the period, they're not entirely outside the realm of reason.

Basil Rathbone, for instance, replied to the question with a single word: "War!" Most likely chosen because of his country's recent entry into the Second World War, he went on to explain that war, to him, was a "monstrous, gigantic, inconceivably barbarous trap. And there you have it. A trap is the most horrible thing in the world."

Karloff again eschews the term horror when talking about the roles that he plays. He tells the author: "Living with the macabre, as I do -- I prefer to call it the macabre, not 'horror' -- does not induce me into the morbidities (sic) you may suppose." He credits his makeup men as the "unsung heroes" of creating horror -- or, rather -- the macabre on the screen.

Lugosi waxes the most introspective, and in his short narrative, only reinforces what draws fans to his tragic but noble nature. "Horror, to me," he says, "comes not from the other world but from this one." He tells the author that he had not worked for two years, and in that time had a son. His fear was of not having the things necessary to raise his own child. "Fear is horror," he concludes. "Not fear for one's self -- fear for those you love better than yourself."

And finally, Lionel (The Maddest Doctor) Atwill admits that "paralysis, would be the real horror to me." Perhaps alluding to his role as Inspector Krogh in the recently released Son of Frankenstein, he goes on to say: "It would be pretty horrible to have an arm or leg torn off. But you cannot feel horror without imagination and at the time of such a fatality, the imagination is paralyzed, ceases to function."

Upon scrutiny of this article, it's hard to say if everything related by each of the actors is what they actually said at the time. But one cannot suppose that there are embellishments here just because some statements in other articles were later dis-proven.

However, there are inaccuracies in the text itself. Karloff is said to have been on the set of the film, Enemy Agent, at the time of his interview. Unless his part ended up on the cutting room floor, he was not in Enemy Agent, but either working on or finishing up a film titled British Intelligence. Also, in his always gracious words about his makeup men, he names a "Gordon Barr" (and surprisingly not his friend, Jack Pierce).  Perc Westmore was his makeup man in British Intelligence. Perhaps either Karloff misspoke or the author was incorrect. However, there was a Gordon Bau who did the (uncredited) makeup for Karloff's latest Mr. Wong mystery, The Fatal Hour. Coincidentally, it was released in January, 1940 as well.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Paramount Pictures celebrated its 20th "Birthday Jubilee" in 1931 with a glitzy publication that promoted -- what else? -- their upcoming films.

Monster fans are lucky that among those films being publicized was the soon-to-be-released Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Shown here is a full-page ad and portraits of the leading stars, Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins. If you look close, there is a thumbnail of Fay Wray as well.

Also included are images of Anna May Wong. Besides being seductively beautiful, Miss Wong was the first Asian-American star and one of the very few ethnic actors working regularly in Hollywood. Her father, a Chinese laundryman, objected greatly to his daughter being in front of the camera. He is quoted as saying, "Every time your picture is taken, you lose part of your soul".

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


First Robin Williams, now Lauren Bacall -- I can hardly take it! Not a Scream Queen, but worthy of mention anywhere actors and actresses are appreciated... like right here.

Just put your lips together and blow --

Good Bye to both.

Friday, August 8, 2014


To regular readers of MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD, Pete Von Sholly needs no introduction. I have chatted with him once or twice via interviews, reviewed some of his work, and he in kind, has graciously allowed me to use his art a time or two, most notably being the "Deadtime Stories" title.

A week ago, I mentioned Pete's series of illustrated H.P. Lovecraft books from PS Publishing in the UK. I was intrigued enough to want to know more about his interest in Lovecraft's work.It seems whether he's taking a dip with the Deep Ones off Devil Reef or curling up with with the foetid stench of a volume of the dreaded Necronomicon, Pete Von Sholly is quite at home basking in the cosmic horror of Lovecraft's universe. 

MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD: In your afterward to the PS Publishing volume of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, you mention the Modern Library omnibus, Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural as your first exposure to Lovecraft’s writings. As I cut my literary horror teeth on the same volume, I’m curious to know your impressions of the sheer depth of material within that massive page count. 

PETE VON SHOLLY: I remember it as having a lot of stuff I did not really love. Or a lot of stuff I maybe wasn’t ready for- there was nothing close to contemporary in it- and this was around 1966 or so when I found the book. But it did have a bit of Lovecraft as we know and that was what made all the difference for me in the long run. But I will say that the broad exposure to so many literary styles in the book will make your brain work and make you look things up- and thus learn things! Some writers are so “of their time” they may be difficult to read “today”. I think we (society) have been steadily moving away from reading and vocabulary building and literature, unfortunately. Access to so much human experience and expression is cut off because of that trend and … Oh, the book! (I do go on, sorry!) I should say I didn’t own that book so I could only read it in the school library and didn’t have the chance to really wallow in the totality of it- but what a treat it was to find something like that in the dull-ass place! 

MMW: You call HPL “wild and wordy”. What do you think it is that attracts younger readers to his archaic writing style? 

PVS: ARE they attracted to his work? I know his popularity grows and endures but do younger readers today embrace him? Not just the surface stuff but the actual stories? As I said, it seems we are getting less literate all the time and things are dumbing down so… and Lovecraft is not for people with really short attention spans is he? 

MMW: How did your relationship with Peter Crowther and PS Publishing come about? Did you pitch the Lovecraft series to them or were they looking for someone to illustrate their project? 

PVS: I did the first batch of pictures (based on The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath) a few years ago with a hope that somebody would like to put the story and pictures together in a book, but I failed to find anyone interested in that. So the art was “on the shelf” so to speak for a long time. Then I met Ramsey Campbell online. I knew his work since his first Arkham House collection in the sixties- in fact he and I both corresponded with August Derleth around the same time as it happens! I sent Ramsey a copy of my History of Monsters mural and he asked if he could show it to his publisher. Naturally I said he could and then I got this wonderful email from Pete Crowther telling me how much he liked the mural and so son. So, seeing as he was a real live publisher and liked my work I showed him some other stuff, including the Kadath art and he loved it and wanted to do a whole bunch of things. Which we are, have and will over the next years. It’s been a great boon meeting Pete Crowther. I have done a book of Stephen King stuff for him and one for Joe R. Lansdale (fully illustrated) and pitched him several books of my own, which he has enthusiastically embraced. The message for young artists is keep working, and FINISH things, and even if you don’t sell them right away, keep going! You never know when such chance opportunities can pop up that make all the difference. 

MMW: Lovecraft has been called “un-filmable”, but nevertheless movies have been made from his stories. Likewise, imagery from his tales is many times I’ve been told a kind of personal experience. How do approach a “Lovecraft illustration”? 

PVS: Honestly, I just have some kind of impression in my head when I read the story, of course. So I sit down with pencil and paper and start scribbling until something forms there in the graphite swirl. When I feel I’ve got something decent there I scan it and go to town in photoshop, shading rendering, coloring. All the stuff I used to do with watercolors, airbrush, acrylics etc. I think digital art is awesome when done well. Photoshop is a tool, nothing more or less, same as a pencil. People gripe about it sometimes- but dig it- photoshop doesn’t write jokes, draw pictures, lay out compositions for you, give you ideas, enhance your creativity. It only does what you tell it to do so it all comes from you, same as with any other medium. People go “oh Photoshop, big deal” sometime but that’s like saying “Oh, Lovecraft wrote with a pen” or “Frazetta used oil paint and Jack Kirby just used pencil and paper- big deal”. As though the way something is done EXPLAINS something about how easy or hard it is. 

MMW: Your composition and use of color is fabulous and works just right for fantasy and horror. Can you explain your illustration technique? 

PVS: I think maybe I just did! (And thank you for the kind words!) I do LOVE this stuff and that makes me spend time with it. I think spending time with your tools is what makes you get good, nothing else. So it helps a lot if you love what you’re doing. 

MMW: You say you don’t recommend Lovecraft to people. What is it that makes you hesitate? 

PVS: I have no idea whether a given person would like Lovecraft or not. I can’t talk them into it, you know? And I don’t really care if they do or not. I know I do and that’s about it. I know people (writers) who DON’T care for HPL and what am I going to do, argue with them? Who really knows why anybody likes anything?  It would be nice if one of our PS books got somebody to read Lovecraft and discover that it hits them the right way. I don’t think HPL is going away, however it’s working. 

MMW: It has been said that one can judge a writer’s success by how much and how well they can be satirized or parodied. There seems to be a plentiful amount of material available that finds the humor in Lovecraft. How would you explain that? 

PVS: I think HPL took his stories dead seriously when he was writing them. I think he tried his best to create a weird and terrifying atmosphere every time out. But you can stand back and see it all as absurd- and whatever it is, it’s certainly EXTREMELY that! So when something is that extreme it’s easy to pick on the standout features. Verbose descriptions, people who faint all the time, silly unpronounceable names and all. There’s one story (AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS I think) wherein the narrator spends a couple extremely lengthy and heavily detailed paragraphs telling you all about how horrible something is and how he can barely stand to speak of it and how he dreads telling you about it, and how mind-boggling it is… and the next paragraph begins- “To be brief, this is what I saw…” You have to laugh out loud sometimes at things like that.

But despite what some scholars think I think HPL tried very hard to write great stories, and he was his own biggest critic. If you read his letters though you discover a man with a tremendous sense of humor, self-deprecating and witty. Depending on who he was writing to he could be quite funny and come off as a wonderful person to know. He LOVED to travel- he made it  New Orleans, all up and down the east coast including Florida, up to Quebec. He was not the reclusive weirdo people think, he was a weirdo who got around! And he had a deep and brilliant command of language, was widely read, love the sciences… an amazing mind. You need to read the letters to get that, I think. The proof of what I’m saying is that so many of his correspondents SAVED his letters which is why so many thousands of them still exist. The exchange between HPL and Robert E Howard is fascinating in places as you might image. (See  “A MEANS TO FREEDOM” from Hippocampus Press for that and many others).

MMW: August Derleth is credited with coining the term, “Cthulhu Mythos”. Do you see a structured pantheon to Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones and Elder Gods, or merely a chaotic menace from Yuggoth and other cosmic worlds? 

PVS: I think HPL made all that up as he went along and really never codified any of it much, which leads to many inconsistencies which drives scholars mad. Derleth and othes have tried to impose structure and meaning where there never was any. I think HPL just grabbed stuff out of the air and tossed it into a given story to add atmosphere and menace. He wanted the reader to feel the “alone-ness” of our race and our planet and the meaninglessness of ALL human emotion and artificial constructs like good and evil. We are a blip on the cosmic radar and that’s it. 

MMW: Will the Lovecraft series continue with you and PS Publishing? 

PVS: Yes! The next three will be THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME, THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH and AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, later this year, or early next.

Then three more for a total of nine. For now anyway. 

MMW: Do you still have any of your monster ‘zines from back in the day? Do you still buy monster ‘zines today? 

PVS: I still have a bunch of FMs and Castle of Frankensteins plus a few of the odd “off brand” goodies like Monsters and Things and Fantastic Monsters. I will buy Rue Morgue and Fangoria once in a while if they feature something I’m interested in, or just to keep an eye and what’s going on. Dip a toe in the water so to speak. Mainly I work obsessively on my own projects. I am now an “old fart” and want to get things DONE. I’ve spent my whole creative life getting to this place and I must say I love it here. 

MMW: You have had considerable success with your art in various forms of media. What would be your best piece of advice to aspiring illustrators wanting to break into the field of fantasy and horror? 

PVS: Like any field, just do it. Keep doing it. Then do it some more. Show it to people, if they don’t like it show it to other people. And keep doing it. If you love it you will get good at it and find your own visions and voice. And if you keep doing it and showing it to people eventually you will somebody who sees the quality in it and maybe you can make a living doing it. Don’t give  up, don’t stop, don’t get discouraged ( and you do, don’t STAY discouraged).

In one word


MMW: Finally – people are dying to know – is The Necronomicon real? 

PVS: Of course!

Thank you, Pete Von Sholly!

You can order Pete's books from PS Publishing right HERE.