Saturday, July 29, 2017

THE FIRST MONSTER MAGAZINE? A NEW DISCOVERY


The controversy over the first monster magazine is, in my opinion, much ado about nothing, barely rising to the level of little more than a tempest in a Tana leaf teacup. It is most widely accepted that it was Forrest J Ackerman, inspired after seeing a copy of the annual French film magazine, CINEMA 57 (the issue for 1957, titled Le Fantastique), who came up with the idea for the first film monster periodical (and thus, by default, the first monster magazine) along with publisher James Warren, in 1958. The magazine was to become FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, and it even had a test drive as a special "monster" section in Warren's AFTER HOURS #4.




For the last of the holdouts that stubbornly maintain that CINEMA 57 deserves the honor of being the first monster magazine, their assertion lies in the fact that the entire issue is a cover-to-cover, monster movie-themed magazine. It's hard to argue about that, but it was still only one issue in the periodical's history of covering the oeuvre of world cinema, not just monster movies. If it had been a one-shot, independent publication, the veracity of the argument would be greatly increased. But alas, it was only one of many in the life span of the popular French film magazine.



So, by following the same criteria, it may come as a surprise to know that even the lauded CINEMA 57 drops from the running. Why? Because another French magazine (ah, those French!) qualifies under the very same rationale -- only this one wasn't published in 1957 -- it was published 35 years earlier, in 1922!

Actually, it was two numbers of the French magazine LE FILM COMPLET (The Complete Film) that contained full issues dedicated to F.W. Murnau's NOSFERATU. Interestingly, the first of the issues, with a publication date of 3 March 1922, was just the day before the German opening of the film (it had premiered earlier, on 17 February at The Hague, Netherlands). This is not too surprising as advance promotion for the film was heavy and is no doubt how the publishers of LE FILM COMPLET received their materials. It was these same costs for promoting the film that far surpassed the eventual boxoffice returns, and was part of the reason for occultist/film auteur Albin Grau's Prana Films, the production company that financed NOSFERATU, to go out of business after just one production.

The March issue of LE FILM COMPLET contained 9 photos from NOSFERATU, as well as a 13-page synopsis of the first part of the film. The second issue, dated 6 December, 1922 again included 9 photos and a 15-page synopsis of the second part of the film. It is estimated that between the two issues is the most complete "filmbook" of the legendary vampire movie ever published.

LE FILM COMPLET published over 500 issues from the 1920's through the 1950's. It maintained the basic format of a  7" x 10" page size and a length of 16 pages. Not as lengthy as most magazines, it still qualifies as the first "almost" monster magazine (and first "filmbook"), again using the criteria mentioned earlier.

The images of the issues shown here are from auction Lot #83908 sold by Heritage Auctions, Dallas, TX in November, 2012 for $1,015.75. They are considered extremely rare and, unless the owner of these magazines discloses more, or until other copies are discovered, what you see here will likely be the extent of the available images.

As you can see, there is a compelling new argument for provenance of the "almost" first monster magazine. I have laid out the reasons and rest my case!




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