I axed for it. And what a thrill the answer was yes!
With a scheduled debut of January 18, we at Movies Unlimited/MovieFanFare will become regular contributors on the new Famous Monsters of Filmland website. We’ll be offering freshly dug up MovieFrightFare videos featuring our own Ghouly Irv as well as some (hopefully) entertaining and enlightening articles about the old and new classics of the horror, sci-fi, and fantasy genres, and the people who make them possible. This opportunity is especially rewarding for me, as I was an avid young reader of the magazine during its print run, and can trace the breadth of my appreciation for classic horror in part to the monstrous amount of fun packed inside every issue.
How many “children of Famous Monsters of Filmland” are out there?
The world of horror movies was opened up to me first through television—as I recall, on Saturday afternoons, when a Philadelphia horror host named Dr. Shock (in real life, Joe Zawislak, a stage magician hailing from Manayunk, Pennsylvania) introduced a variety of classic chillers during his “Mad Theater” program on Channel 17. It was on these afternoons I was introduced to the vast library of classic monster movies from a (now way) bygone era. Boris Karloff in Frankenstein. Lugosi’s Dracula. The Wolf Man. The Invisible Man. Countless other delightful shockers took up entire Saturday afternoons for me, while “normal” children played outside in the sun.
I became so obsessed with these movies that I decided to put on a Frankenstein play of my own, and did so in the sixth grade (making the acquaintance of a fifth grader in the audience who would soon become my best friend and artistic collaborator for decades to come). Imagine my delight when, while looking around for comic books at a local newsstand, I discovered a magazine dedicated to the celebration of these…famous monsters.
Famous Monsters of Filmland is a cultural touchstone for so many who grew up with a love of horror films made decades before they were born, filled as it was with huge photographs of our most-admired actors and eerie moments from our favorite fright films. The articles were clearly written by those who had just as much of a passion for the art and craft of these movies as we had, and—what with its occasional typographical errors, odd grammatical constructions, and clever catchphrases like “You Axed For It”—seemed directly plugged in to the sensibilities of ardent young fans who simply wanted more, more, and still more information about, pictures of, and opportunities to share terror-ific trivia with like-minded readers.
First published in 1958 by James Warren and Warren Publishing, the magazine carried a unique personality most associated with editor Forrest J. Ackerman. “Uncle Forry” tutored fans in the appreciation of actors and films we hadn’t yet seen (in particular the works of Lon Chaney Sr., whose films—in the pre-home-video age—were tough to come by, along with other silent-era classics like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu) and regaled readers with tales of his own encounters with icons like Karloff and Vincent Price, as well as remarks about the ever-expanding collection of rare and unique treasures to be found in his “Ackermansion,” a near-legendary museum of horror and science fiction props and other rarities.
One particular highlight of FM was always its letters page, on which I could see letter after gushing letter from children devoted to the minutiae about movies of the macabre. The friend I mentioned earlier even had one of his own letters printed, I think during the time we were “producing” horror stories on audiocassette tape with titles like Corpse in Blue Water, Hang Me ‘Til I’m Dead, and our magnum opus, The Mortician. I don’t think I ever wrote in myself—but that was quite impressive at the time.
What am I saying? It still is.
FM is at least somewhat responsible for me spending so much of my early moviemaking time toiling away in the horror genre. I guess parents were right all along to “blame” the magazine for having an undue influence on impressionable young minds. It’s at least partially the fault of Famous Monsters of Filmland that I made this:
Come to think of it, it’s still going on!
Other stellar magazines devoted to all things scary and cinematic (Fangoria, etc.) have come and (some have) gone, but Famous Monsters of Filmland truly remains the benchmark standard for blending fright with fun. We’re looking forward to being a part of their rebirth on the web, and hope you’ll drop in and see what we’re up to.
(Vampires, take note: You’ve been officially invited inside, so it’s safe to cross the threshold.)