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January 2013
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Horror movie magazines; I’ve been reading them ever since I was a kid back in the days of Monster Mag, House of Hammer and the very first issues of Fangoria. They were my doorway to the classic monsters, exploitation movies and brand new horror films that I was way too young to go and see at the local cinema in the days before videos, dvds and the internet. You would think that in this modern age of advancing technology these magazines would have died out, completely replaced by websites, “aps” and digital downloads. And yet you couldn’t be further from the truth! There are more monster movie magazines being published in print than ever before and for fans of classic horror films of the ghoulden age the choice of publications geared specifically towards this end of the market is phenomenal!

It’s hard to pick out which magazine is the leader of the pack in terms of classic horror film and nostalgia-based coverage since they all have their own particular strengths. In the UK we have Bedabbled! which focuses specifically on British horror and cult cinema. What is interesting about this journal is that it delves deeper into the more obscure films, pushing aside the obvious Hammer and Amicus coverage in order to look at some of the mostly forgotten or ignored genre gems such as Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly (1970) and Nothing But The Night (1972). You can read our exclusive interview with Bedabbled! editor Martin Jones here. Also from the UK is Cinema Retro, which celebrates films of the 60′s and 70′s. Admitedly, their coverage crosses all genre boundaries but if you are a fan of classic cinema you must seek out this magazine and their analysis of classic horror films is extensive.

 Over in the US there seems to be a whole bunch of cottage industries built around classic horror film coverage with a plethora of magazines devoted to our favourite old monster movies. The worlds first regular fantasy film magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland began way back in 1958 and has gone through various incarnations over the years but one of its most interesting spin-offs is the irregular publication Famous Monsters Retro. Back in the early 70′s, due to the publication of a FM spin-off called Monster World, the original Famous Monsters magazine jumped from issue number 69 to 80. Now Famous Monsters are filling in the gaps with these retro-styled magazines, produced and featuring content as if it were still the 1970′s! Pulp paper and bad puns included! The most recent issue however, featuring the never-published “final issue” of 1982 FM#192 has been heavily criticised over at the Classic Horror Film Board magazine forum for its poor quality printing and photo reproduction.

And speaking of Famous Monsters of Filmland, former FM editor Ray Ferry now publishes his own classic horror film magazine Freaky Monsters. Taking its approach from the ghoulden days of the original Famous Monsters mag, Freaky Monsters’ layout is virtually identical and is full of Forry Ackerman-style puns and wonderful images from the early black and white movie classics.

A nostalgia fans dream, Scary Monsters magazine is published quarterly by Dennis J. Druktenis, is printed on old-school style pulp newsprint and really captures the look and feel of those old monster movie magazines of yesteryear. Scary Monsters is now in its 20th year and is more popular than ever with its focus on fandom, monster memories and the classics although it reminds me more of the old Quasimodo’s Monster Magazine from the 70′s than Famous Monsters of Filmland…but that’s no bad thing!

Monster Bash is a glossy black and white publication which stems from the phenomenally popular Monster Bash Classic Monster Movie Conference which takes place on various dates and at different venues across the United States. Now published quartely, Monster Bash is a nice, simple, nostalgic magazine with an emphasis on classic monster movies and television shows from a black and white era. It includes some lovely personal reminiscences from fans and film makers alike alongside some beautiful stills and rare photographs.

Undying Monsters is a relatively new kid on the block currently approaching its fifth issue and once again nostalgia is very much at the forefront of this publication both in its look and its content. Undying Monsters specialises  in old-school “filmbooks”, retelling the full plotline of a classic horror movie illustrated with numerous stills and screen shots. The magazine’s strengths are the superb visuals and its obvious love and knowledge of the subject matter. Although some fans question the need for “filmbooks” in this modern age I think they are somewhat missing the point since these magazines are purposely harking back to a bygone era with nostalgic affection.

 For those classic horror film fans looking for a magazine that delves a little deeper than just filmbooks and nice visuals there are two that immediately spring to mind that should cater to their needs; Monsters From the Vault and Little Shoppe of Horrors. Monsters From the Vault is published twice a year and features in-depth articles on old horror and sci-fi films from some of the best writers in the business. Editor and publisher Jim Clatterbaugh says ” Monsters From the Vault’s sole purpose is to keep the memories of the monsters of my childhood alive and well “ and he has most certainly succeeded in his aim.

One of the most respected genre magazines on the market, Little Shoppe of Horrors has been running since 1972. Each issue is so detailed that it is more like a book than a regular magazine. The emphasis has always been on Hammer Films but coverage has extended to Amicus and other British horror over the decades and some issues focus exclusively on one aspect of the genre. Particularly coveted by classic horror film fans are special issues focusing on the Amicus film company, the making of Blood On Satans Claw and Hammer’s 70′s Dracula movies. The latest issue takes an in-depth look at Hammer’s most recent release The Woman in Black.

 Finally, honourable mentions go to the excellent Mad Scientist (giant monsters, classic Dr Who and sci-fi), Creepy Images (a German magazine with English text focusing on exploitation movie memorabilia from the sixties to the eighties), Filmfax (cult movies, b-movie stars and pop culture nostalgia) and Mondo Cult (an eclectic collection of articles covering the whole cult and classic movie spectrum). Most of these magazines are now available to buy in the UK from specialist stores such as Forbidden Planet and The Cinema Store as well as via mail-order from the exemplary Hemlock Books. So if you’re a fan of classic horror, science-fiction and fantasy films treat yourself to some copies of these magazines, kick off your shoes, pour yourself a glass of wine and take yourself on a trip to nostalgia heaven.

Article by Richard Gladman

Useful links and related websites:

Bedabbled!

Cinema Retro

Creepy Images

Famous Monsters of Filmland

Filmfax

Freaky Monsters

Hemlock Books

Little Shoppe of Horrors

Mad Scientist

Mondo Cult

Monster Bash

Monsters From The Vault

Scary Monsters

Undying Monsters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

An article by Eric McNaughton

“They don’t make them like that anymore” is something you often hear said. And as far as horror films go I think that’s true. The great days of the atmospheric horror movies ended, in my opinion, in the 1970s. Perhaps it’s just that I grew up with those films on TV and that each generation has an affinity with the films that first brought them into the genre.

Sure the Hammer films of the 60s and 70s had plenty of gore, but it wasn’t used as a substitute for a story. Those films might have had blood and nudity, but they also had great sets ans atmosphere, and were made by craftspeople who knew their job and took pride in it.

Can the same really be said for Friday 13th or Saw or Hostel and their seemingly unending sequels and impersonators. Having a group of dumb, sex obsessed teenagers slaughtered one by one is no substitute for a good script and gets downright tedious after the 7th or 8th murder.

Why this fascination with gore and splatter effects and CGI? Some of the scariest films ever made had no bloodletting at all. Films like Night of the Demon and The Innocents. Just look at Robert Wise’s The Haunting. Who can forget that chilling scene where ‘something’ is pounding at the door trying to get in at Claire Bloom and Julie Harris. In todays climate the ‘something’ would not only get in but would dismember and disembowell half the cast in the first ten minutes of the film.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m as against censorship as the next fan – but I wonder just who the hell would want to watch a film like Hostel.

I hope I’m not being too naive here, but I prefer to have a monster like Dracula who, while evil, is far removed from reality. Isn’t it sad when a character like Freddy Kruger, a child molester and murderer can become a hero. He, unfortunately, is not so far removed from reality. Wes Craven’s original Nightmare On Elm Street is, paradoxically, a very good horror film. But from then on as sequel followed sequel and making a buck became the big incentive for making a film, the whole thing becomes dross. And don’t even get me started on the so-called ‘horror porn’ of Hostel and its ilk.

Now it may be argued that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was nothing but a slasher film. But what do we actually see? The murder of Janet Leigh in the shower is all the more horrific for what we didn’t see than for what we did. Our mind filled in the missing bits and there is nothing more horrifying than what we imagine ourselves. There is no need to see the victim being hacked to death à la Saw.

The slasher films following Friday 13th were no masterpieces of the horror cinema as some claim. They were, for the most part, total garbage of the most reactionary kind.

Horror movies used to mean Karloff as the Frankenstein monster, Chaney unmasked as the Phantom, Lee as the undead Dracula and many more classic images. To today’s audiences it means a child murderer with razor gloves, a hockey mask wearing psychopath and a hundred and one varieties of sickos, psychos and butchers, leaving a veritable river of gore in their wake.

Where are the successors to Cushing, Lee and Price who, in their turn, had succeeded Karloff, Lugosi and the Chaneys? There is no one of their calibre any more. How many of the audience reared on the rubbish that passes for horror films these days has ever even had the chance to see James Whale’s Frankenstein, Chaney Jnrs Wolfman or Lee’s Dracula? And if they did, would they find them dull and boring, with not enough deaths or CGI explosions? Ever the optimist, I like to think they would be as enthralled as we, and many generations before us, were. These films are the true heritage of horror and it would be a shame if they were allowed to be lost in the mists of time.

As Steve Vertleib in his article Texas Chain Saw Rip-Off (Midnight Marquee 37) has said, there is a victim of todays excess of gore films: “It is the horror film itself…The genre that gave us Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, Lorre, Cushing, Price and Lee has been rendered utterly unrecognisable. The genre that heralded the proud, triumphant road of King Kong has been muted forever. The genre that first unwrapped the torn, muddy bandages that reveal the face of Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy has been buried, perhaps forever. The genre that first instilled a magical sense of wonder into the minds and hearts of children everywhere has itself become discarded into the realm of forgotten history”.

Steve was writing almost 20 years ago and, as it turned out was unduly pessimistic. While we are still swimming against a tide of blood there are some excellent atmospheric horrors being produced. Films such as Windchill, The Ruins, Rogue and Splinter. But they are still very much in the minority.

Yes my fellow fans, there was once a time when a good story and good atmosphere counted for something. When gore and splatter were not the be all and end all. Perhaps you disagree, perhaps the world has moved on. But I’d wager I’m not the only one who yearns for the days when Universal gave us Karloff and Frankenstein, AIP gave us Price and Poe and Hammer gave us Cushing and Lee. This is our history, one we should be proud of. Let’s not forget it. In the words of Dr Pretorious “Here’s to a new world of Gods and Monsters!”.

Eric McNaughton is the editor and publisher of the much loved classic horror fanzine We Belong Dead (soon to be returning in print!) The views expressed in this article are Erics and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Classic Horror Campaign (although many of them are one and the same!)

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