Sunday, January 31, 2016

TODAY IS NATIONAL GORILLA SUIT DAY!

Charlie Gemora and Lon Chaney in THE UNHOLY THREE (1930).

Today is not only the last day of January, but it's National Gorilla Suit Day!

Just got word from movie documentarian Jason Barnett that his brand new film, CHARLIE GEMORA: UNCREDITED, is being burned to DVD this week. As a contributor to his crowdfunding project, I am really excited to finally see the fruits (mainly bananas, I'm sure) of his labor!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

RARE "GILL MAN" PROP AT AUCTION


Coming later this year is bidding on one of the more unusual objects d' art to land on the auction block of late -- this "life-sized" foam cast of the Gill Man from REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (Universal International 1955). Granted, the auctioneer is still in the process of verifying and vetting information, but for now, the hand-(re)painted lot is described (without knowledge of what exactly its purpose was) as a possible pre-production character prototype.


Since the foam figure was formed over an articulated mannequin, I thought it might have been fabricated for use during camera set ups without having the live actors suited up as the Gill Man for lighting, exposure, etc. But, after doing a little digging, I believe I may have the answer to the figure's actual purpose -- or at least one of its uses. But first, a little more of the background on the provenance of this intriguing piece.


The 72" x 27" x 8", 40 lb. figure is from the personal collection of Earl Jernigan, Jernigan is claimed to have been hired as a grip during the Florida shooting of REVENGE OF THE CREATURE. I do not find his name listed in the IMDB  cast and crew for the film or in the extensive credits listed in Tom Weaver's monumental The Creature Chronicles (McFarland 2014), but that doesn't exactly mean he didn't work on the film. With a crew that immense, there might me a number of individuals still unaccounted for and have yet to be acknowledged. The auction description goes on to state that Jernigan kept it after the film was completed. The now-deceased Jernigan (1998) lived in Florida and was known as a local filmmaker who owned a film processing lab by the name of "Jernigan's Motion Picture & Video Service". An online feature of The Gainesville Sun (see complete article below) elaborates by stating that Jernigan spent nearly half a century filming local events and historical sites. He was a prop man and assistant set director (which might explain him having the Creature figure) on the movie FOLLOW THAT DREAM, a 1961 film starring Elvis Presley. The tale is told of Jernigan taking his young nephew to the set to meet Elvis. The 10-year old later became famous as a musician in his own right -- his name is Tom Petty!

Now we come to the point where the rubber flippers meet the road. On page 204 of Weaver's aforementioned The Creature Chronicles, are two photos of publicity events for the movie ... using the very likeness of the figure up for auction! Whether it is the same figure or if multiple figures were cast for use around the country, it is quite clear to me that the "prototype" is indeed, a publicity prop (or at least was used as one after its original, yet unknown purpose)!


To add veracity to this assertion, I located in the Monsterology archives here at the Mysterious Mansion a page from the April 18, 1955 issue of FILM BULLETIN, entitled, "What the Showmen Are Doing: Merchandising & Exploitation Department." Pictured are two of the same shots that are in Weaver's book, one of them of the Gill Man foam figure as he appeared in the Detroit area (hence the "mostly black crowd" comment noted on Weaver's caption).




In conclusion, until another, more convincing theory is proposed, I maintain that the figure shown here for auction was used as a publicity prop.

From The Gainesville Sun (2004):


LIGHTS, CAMERA, HISTORY
by Diane Chun
What E.H. Bone did chronicling Gainesville people and life in still photography, filmmaker Earl Jernigan did with motion pictures.

Starting in 1938 and continuing for 49 years, Jernigan shot film of local events - Gator football games, Homecoming parades, three-alarm fires and much more - for movie-house newsreels that were shown at the old Florida Theater.

When Jacksonville television stations began reporting on Gainesville events, they got their footage from Earl Jernigan.

The owner of Jernigan's Motion Picture & Video Service ran the underwater camera for three seasons of television's "Sea Hunt," filmed at Silver Springs in the late 1950s. In 1961, Jernigan was on the set as prop man and assistant set director when Elvis Presley's movie "Follow That Dream" was filmed in Inglis, Yankeetown and Ocala.

Jernigan's last project before his death in 1998 was "The Gainesville Movie Album," a series of videos spanning more than 60 years of local history. The videos, available through the Alachua County regional library, offer a glimpse into our not-too-distant past.

BONUS: REVENGE OF THE CREATURE was released in the US on March 25 1955. Below is a pre-release review from the March 15, 1955 issue of MOTION PICTURE DAILY, along with a full-page ad from the same magazine on April 8.



[NOTE: Excerpts from other sources besides the author are intended to lend a historical and educational perspective to this blog post.]


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

THE CREEPS NO. 5 NOW SHIPPING


Keeping to a planned schedule, THE CREEPS #5 is now shipping direct from the publisher. You can also find it at Barnes & Noble (the copies at my local store were so buried with other magazines that I hardly found it -- and did what only a true Monsterologist would do -- pulled out the stack and put it in front of the rack!).

Saturday, January 23, 2016

HEIDI SAHA, POP CULTURE CURIOSITY


If you've got an extra grand to spend on one of Warren's weirdest magazines, then hop on over to eBay where you'll find a copy of AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF HEIDI SAHA. The magazine that promises all you could possibly want to know about "fantasy fandom's famous femme" is offered with the "Buy it Now" price of $999.99. The seller is graciously shipping it free to the buyer.


This 1973 one-shot publication is a bit of an oddity, even for a lineup of monster, sci-fi, and other miscellaneous 'zines from Warren. Miss Saha was a teenage fantasy fan who showed up at the 1973 New York Comic Art Convention wearing nothing more than a few strips of cloth called a Vampirella costume and immediately got the attention of Forrest J Ackerman. Smitten by the young miss with the famously oblique rationale that he did it as a favor to her parents -- or, alternately, as a business deal -- FJA dedicated an entire, 36-page (not 30 pages as the eBay seller claims), exclusive, mail-order only edition of the teen's story in fandom.

The cover image shown on the eBay listing.
The 'zine is filled with the Acker-ese language that Forry was ever fond of, and lent a lighthearted -- dare I say -- innocent air to the proceedings. Had Saha been just a few years older, the magazine would have conveyed an entirely different image. As it is, it's exploitative factor cannot be denied, even for those days. Taken at face value, however, and considering the original motives were true, the Heidi Saha magazine is, at the very least, a pop culture curiosity. Whatever the reason for the magazine's existence, the Saha saga continues to be controversial, especially when seen through a contemporary lens.

Heidi with Forrest J Ackerman.
The companion poster is rarer than the magazine.
From FAMOUS MONSTERS #65 (May 1970).
The "infamous" Vampirella costume.

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