Wednesday, February 26, 2014

KARLOFF IS OFF THE CHARTS


Making the rounds on various TUMBLR posts is this advertisement for BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. From "Thrill" to "Terror", the copy asks: "How much can your nerves stand?" Pictured along with Karloff is Dwight Frye and a pre-unraveled Elsa Lancaster that looks like it is from the well-known promo shot of her on a break sipping a cup of tea.

Friday, February 21, 2014

HOWARD CARTER AND THE MUMMY'S CURSE

Jack Pierce adds the finishing touches to his re-creation of a 3,000 year-old mummy, played by Boris Karloff in Universal Pictures' THE MUMMY (1932).

Ninety-one years ago, on 16 February 1923, archaeologist Howard Carter entered a sealed tomb in Thebes and discovered what was not only the most amazing find in Egyptology, but in the entire field of archaeology as well.

Carter had unearthed the resting place of non other than fabled boy-King Tutankhamen. The sarcophagus wherein lay the King was fashioned from solid gold! A huge treasure trove was found inside the burial chamber that included more gold, jewelry and other precious metals. It was the find of the century,

But it seemed there was a price to pay for the defilement of the ancient laws that guarded the dead in their rock-hewn burial crypts called pyramids. Not long after the discovery of Tutankhamen and the subsequent removal of his mummified body and the possessions meant for his afterlife, mysterious deaths seemed to surround some of the people that had entered unbidden, into the tomb. History has since proven that these deaths were more coincidence than curse, but nevertheless the thought remained that somehow bad luck had befallen Howard Carter and his crew. It was this so-called curse that fueled the headlines of papers across the world for a time. Still, it was not enough for the continued plunder of Egypt's noble and glorious past that continues to this day.

Ten years later, Hollywood picked up on the "mummy's curse" and capitalized on it, producing a film that expounded on an amplified "what if" idea that there was something truly otherworldly and supernatural surrounding the ancient tombs. Universal Pictures brought to life Im-ho-tep, the living mummy, who lusted after his long-lost love and whose soul resided in the body of a modern day woman. Thus was born the legacy of a series of films starring some of horror's classic stars, including Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr.

Making these men into 3,000-year old mummies was the work of Jack P. Pierce, then head of the Universal Pictures makeup department. He employed cotton and collodion, as well as yards of gauze and fuller's earth to create amazing recreations of the Egyptian walking dead.

Universal enjoyed the popularity and box office receipts from the franchise, but without the discovery by an intrepid archaeologist named Howard Carter years earlier, there would be no Ardath Bey and no Kharis. Another example of art imitating life . . . or is it death?

In this article from FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND #92 (Nov. 1974), Jack Pierce is acknowledged as the genius behind the makeup. Although Pierce always deferred his work to the ability of the actors under the makeup, they still would have been far less convincing in the hands of lesser talent.

In this photo, Jack is seen giving Lon Chaney Jr. the "brush off". Jack was meticulous in his work and the application of complicated makeups like these took hours.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

SMOKIN' MONSTERS: INTERNATIONAL PIPE SMOKING DAY


Today is International Pipe Smoking Day. The venerable pipe has been around in one form or another for centuries. From clay to corncob, to Meerschaum and briar, the handy instrument was probably the first hand-made implement ever used to burn and smoke tobacco.

Pipe smoking can be seen in many horror films of yesteryear. It was once a very popular form of smoking until cigarettes eclipsed its use with the its seductive cylinders that promised a quick, no muss no fuss smoke.

Below we see one of the actors who is identified with pipe smoking, Basil Rathbone. In a pensive mood, his pipe offers him something comfortable to hold in his hand while he ruminates upon his reading.

Rathbone is best known for playing the iconic Sherlock Holmes. In a series of films for both Universal and 20th Century Fox, Holmes battled all sorts of mysterious monsters, from the legendary Hound of the Baskervilles, to the murderous Hoxton Creeper (played by cult favorite Rondo Hatton). With magnifying glass in one hand and his pipe in the other, Rathbone's Holmes solved many a' puzzling case.

In these days of militant health warnings about smoking, it is worth noting that pipe smoking -- while not entirely without its risks -- is a much safer alternative to cigarettes. With a wide variety of tobaccos and blends, the pipe smoker can pick from an almost endless array of flavorful and aromatic experiences.

So, I doff my deerstalker to fellow pipe smokers today. If the weather allows, I will be on my deck, puffing away with a bowlful of McClelland's Deep Hollow in my favorite briar.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

JOHNNY ECK: KING OF THE FREAKS

Johnny Eck (left) with his co-stars in FREAKS (1932)
 Known at the height of his popularity as "King of the Freaks", the human torso who went by the stage name of Johnny Eck would go on to accomplished more with his life (79 years) than most "normal" people.

Born John Eckhardt Jr. in Baltimore, MD on 27 AUGUST 1911, he lived all of his life in one house. With his "normal" twin brother, Rob, they enjoyed a long, lucrative career capitalizing on Johnny's condition. While some may call it exploitation, it is a credit to his bravery and fortitude to make a name for himself . . . and make a fairly good amount of money at it to boot.

Eck is most famous for his role in Tod Browning's FREAKS (1932), but he enjoyed a long and varied career as the amazing "Half-Boy", including stints with Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey, and Rilpley's Odditorium. Eck claimed that Browning wanted to make another film with him, this time with him as the product of a mad scientist's creation, but the project never got off the ground because of the stigma that FREAKS had caused at the box office.

Among other talents, Eck was an accomplished photographer, painter and model maker. He built his own race car and fully-functioning train, and fashioned an entire model circus out of wood.

Collector of "Eckiana", filmmaker Jeffrey Pratt Gordon, has over the years amassed a huge collection of Johnny Eck's possessions, much of it acquired right out of the house where he lived all of his life. The collection is on display through March at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Below is an article from the UK "body art" mag, BIZARRE, that tells more of the life and accomplishments of Johnny Eck, a truly remarkable individual.




Tuesday, February 11, 2014

EARLY MONSTER 'ZINES ON EBAY


Current bids on a group of early monster magazines on eBay range from $32 to $200. After the first issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND was published in February of 1958, it wasn't long before the competition sprang up, sensing that this team of Warren/Ackerman were on to something big.

MONSTER PARADE hit the stands in September, and in October, a close copy of FM (including its title) called WORLD FAMOUS CREATURES appeared. Both titles succumbed after only 4 issues. It wouldn't be until January 1962, with the publication of CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN, that there would be another monster magazine with any notoriety.














Monday, February 10, 2014

GIANT MONSTER MAG COLLECTION ON EBAY


With a couple of days left, there's still time to bid on a sizable monster magazine collection offered on EBay. As of this writing, the bid stands at $1,046.00. That makes it just about 3 bucks apiece for the 330 magazines in this lot. Most are Warrens, but there is a generous helping of other titles, such as CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN, including first issues of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, MONSTER WORLD, HORROR MONSTERS, and HOUSE OF HAMMER. While not a complete collection in any way, it still would make a good base collection for anyone who wants to start a vintage monster magazine collection.

The examples below are just a small sampling of what is pictured on the bid lot. There is also a complete list of the titles being offered. To view the lot, go HERE.























Saturday, February 8, 2014

LA COLECCION DE TERROR DE MISTER ACKERMAN


The first Spanish-language version of Warren's VAMPIRELLA published in Argentina was a bit unlike the original. The famous Frazetta image of the vampiric beauty from the planet Drakulon was the only thing recognizable from the first issue of the American version. The logo was different and a sidebar was included that pictured four rather cartoonish monsters. After all, Vampi was the star of a horror comics magazine.

While there was a Spanish-published version of VAMPIRELLA that was distributed in Argentina, this version, first released in July 1970, was published by Editorial Mazzone and was wholly Argentinian. The magazine ran for 32 issues with 4 specials. It included comic stories and text and photo features that were unique to the title. The first issue had a story on "Mister Forres 'Horror' Ackerman" and showed FJA amongst his "Coleccion de Terror".

These sample pages are from the SHADOW PIKCHURS blog.


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