After a long hiatus, We Belong Dead returns to satisfy our taste for classic (and not so classic) horror movies. Unlike some magazines catering to modern fare--and all those attached commercial necessities to keep the studio doors open--it's refreshing to read articles that examine movies with a more discerning eye and a fan's enthusiasm. I wished the editor had a more discerning eye for typos and some grammar lapses, but overall, this 9th issue of We Belong Dead is a welcomed addition to the horror movie magazine scene that appears to be experiencing a rebirth of readership.
There's so much here to curl up on the sofa with for a good read: an excellent comparative study of Night of the Demon to its literary source, M.R. James's Casting the Runes, a closer look at Reeve's Witchfinder General, and a bloody good rundown on Salem's Lot. Throughout, domestic and foreign poster art is amply sprinkled, making me wish this issue was in full color.
For Aurora model kit fans, Cage's The Thirteen Monsters of Aurora is a nostalgic reminder of just how good we monsterkids had it back then, and the pleasures of the printed medium are covered by Peter Benassi's childhood memories of pleasant chills pulled from the magazine and book racks. An endearing part of this magazine is how it captures the personal experiences of its contributors with their passions for the horrors of their childhood (and misspent adulthood, I'd warrant).
If you're like me and always on the lookout for a good listing of movies to watch next (or avoid, for that matter), you will find the coverage of the 5 best Ripper movies, Peter Cushing's Amicus roles, and a neophyte's guide to the curious amalgam of The Blind Dead movies a rewarding experience. Not so rewarding are the interviews with Barbara Shelley (everything was marvelous and modern horror shows too much) and Jean Rollin (bits and pieces from a longer interview that was lost) lack the more probing questions that would truly satisfy the jaded horror fan like myself. I know, it's a curse, but I bear it well.
But how can you find much fault with a magazine that dares to hammer Hammer's Dracula films and dares to find some semblance of enjoyment in Dracula vs. Frankenstein?So yes, let's hope We Belong Dead 10 won't take as long to hit the racks as issue 9 did.
With permission from Arena Publishing and Dr. Vollin, MD (aka Freddie Poe), here's How to Collect a Monster from issue # 711, September 2007, of Movie Collector's World. Wherein the good Dr. V pays a visit to the metaphysically inspiring Monster Bash Convention.
Funny, but we must have brushed shoulders without realizing it because I was at the Bash that year, too. On top of that, it was the first time I met up with the zany Drunken Severed Head (aka Max). Max spent a good amount of time at the convention carrying around Bela Lugosi's pants. But that's another story.
For over 10 years Dr. Vollin, MD (aka Freddie Poe) has been sharing his monsterkid passion with fellow enthusiasts through his column, How to Collect a Monster, in Movie Collector's World magazine. All good things, as the saying goes, and MCW is one for posterity. But the good doctor still makes house calls and Zombos invited him over for a chat.
How did you come to write your long-running column, How to Collect a Monster, in MCW?
I was an English/Theater major back in my college days. I did lots of stage acting and wrote my own plays, some of which were produced here in Worchester, Massachussetts. I also wrote poetry, for which I won contests, and got to read my poems at the Worchester Public Library.
When I started re-collecting movie memorabilia (I had an earlier collection in my teens), I was looking to write for some of the monster magazines. I thought they were pay jobs, but soon found out most genre writers do it for the love of it. The stuff I was writing was about chasing down movie posters, the hunt, etc, so I didn’t really fit into Scary Monsters, Monsters From the Vault, and the others.
I hooked up via the Internet with PJ Angel of Pocatello, Idaho, and we began my column “How to Collect a Monster from the House of Poe” on PJ’s Planet Mopo movie poster site. About a year later I submitted an article called “Universal Scream Queens” to Movie Collector’s World magazine. Brian Bukantis loved it and it went to print in 2002 (or maybe it was 2003). Brian got such a great response to it that he asked me for more. I already had stuff from Planet Mopo, so I submitted more articles to MCW.
From there we just went monthly. I did the column from 2002 to 2012. Brian had me take a few months off here and there so I wouldn’t burn out. Unfortunately I ran into health problems and stopped writing in 2012. MCW continued another six months or so without me and then called it quits in 2013. The magazine was certainly a staple to the hobby and will be missed. Brian Bukantis sacrificed a huge slice of his life for that magazine. He is a great man. He is my brother.
What are the high points that stand out for you from the many interviews you've conducted?
That’s a tough one. There have been so many. Definitely hooking up with the great Harry Wise, Spook Show Master and Magician Exraordinaire! Harry was my brother of another mother. Our relationship didn’t end with the interview. We talked everyday for 5 years before he passed away, just when I was on my way to Florida to finally meet him in person. It was a great loss to me. Harry was like my Dad.
Another father figure for me, and a great interview, was with local, forty year theater manager, Johnny “Dee” DiBenadetto. The man was a plethora of movie knowledge. He rubbed elbows with all the big names of the era (1940s to 1980s), including Jayne Mansfield (I have an 8 x 10 still of the interview).
And the Yvette Vickers interview led to a long friendship with many a late night phone call until her horrible death a few years ago. Ben “The Gillman” Chapman was another dear friend of mine. Benny and I had a special relationship. He was my party buddy at conventions. I really miss Benny.
Being invited to Carla Laemmle’s 100th birthday party at the Egyptian Theater in LA was another unforgettable event. At that time I also got invited to Ron Borst’s house to see the greatest collection of monster movie memorabilia on the planet! Bar none!
Meeting Ray Bradbury was another high point. I said "Ray! want to see the real illustrated man?" and then I showed him my monster tats which include a portrait of Forry and the quote "sci-fi is my high," and Ray said "bless you my son". Imagine being blessed by the greatest sci fi writer of all time. I can take that one to my grave!
There are far too many highpoints in my ten years with MCW to mention, but they all hold a special place in my heart.
How did you become a monster kid?
This is an easy one. My mother was a movie fanatic. She let me watch Frankenstein on Shock! Theater in 1959, on a Saturday afternoon, and that did it. When it became an obsession for an impressionable five year old like me, my mother called the family doctor (they made house calls back then), who was her cousin, Dr. Arthur Haddad. Well, I found out he was married to Laura Zacherle, John Zacherle’s sister! Yes, the Cool Ghoul himself! Next time Dr. Haddad made a house call he brought me a Zacherley Fan Club Kit, which included the passport to Transylvania, an item I’ve retained my whole life (so far). From that point on I was a monster addict, buying Aurora model kits, Famous Monsters, and Spook Stories trading cards.
Another big influence, during my teen years, was Blackie Seymour. A lot of people didn’t like Blackie and a lot did. Nevertheless, the man was nice to me. He taught me the movie poster business, not to mention all about Universal Studios. No one knew more about Universal than Blackie. He passed away last year.
Tell us about your favorite horror movies and stars and why you like them.
Okay, here is the hard question I’ve been asked a million times. Also, it’s one I can’t answer. But I will say this. Bela Lugosi is my all time favorite. I especially like any films Lugosi did with Karloff. They played off each other very well. It seemed so natural. I love The Black Cat, The Raven, and The Invisible Ray. Murders in the Rue Morgue is another Lugosi landmark. I like Dracula, but I think the Spanish version of the same era is a better film technically and certainly atmospherically. But Carlos Villarias is no Bela Lugosi, even if Lupita Tovar states they were very much alike in their portrayal of Dracula. She is wrong. Villarias couldn’t carry Lugosi’s cape!
I love The Wolf Man, King Kong, The Man Who Laughs, Things to Come, The Mysterious Island (1928), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932), and The Werewolf of London. One Karloff film that really stands out is The Body Snatchers (1945). Most people would say Frankenstein was his greatest role. I would beg to differ. And that’s all I have to say about it. LOL!
Next to collecting monster stuff, boxing is my other passion. My father was a top ranked boxer back in the 1940s and 1950s, Johnny Potenti. He was such a devastating puncher that he was ducked by many champions of the era. The only champion that ever gave him a shot was the legendary Beau Jack. They fought in 1950 at Boston Garden, both well past their primes and Beau Jack squeaked out a split decision; while some in attendance said my father won.Beau Jack said in Ring magazine that Potenti had the best left jab/hook he had ever faced.
I followed in my father’s footsteps, getting into the ring at 10 years old. I had a pretty good amateur career in the “no head guard era,” and had my last bout at 28. But I never turned pro. I was, however, a professional sparring partner for the rest of my life. I just stopped boxing at 56 on doctor’s orders. I can’t even go into a gym now because I know I will get in the ring with men much younger than myself and bang it out. Boxing is like a drug in my veins. If I go into a gym it won’t be long before I put on the gear. So to be fair to my girlfriend and my family I have stopped, but it appears the damage is already done.
What's the one question you would love to be asked and what's your answer?
Question:What do I love about my life now as opposed to my past?
Answer: As I’ve aged I have lost all my anger. I was what I called a “hater.” I hated everything and everybody. I don’t know what it was. Even when I was boxing I wanted to get hit and hit. I wanted to kill my opponents, not defeat them. I took a lot of beatings I didn’t have to take. I guess I had a lot of problems I didn’t know about. Every relationship I had with girlfriends went bad. I fought with the police, and every form of authority out there. I drank a lot and was always saying “I’m sorry” to people. I think I hated myself more than anyone.
Now at 57, I have the best girlfriend any man could ever hope for, two great kids from my only marriage (when I was 17), and 7 grandchildren; also two dogs (my best friends), and one cat that I took off the street.
And finally, piece of mind: all the hatred is gone, and when I’m by myself I find ME in good company.
Zombos Says: Very Good
The Walking Dead magazine debuts today. Newsy bits on everything you can stuff a Walking Dead survivor or zombie into abound. Both the comic book series and the AMC television series are covered. Toys, games, events (like the 2012 San Diego Comic Con), you name it, it's all here, published quarterly. Here are some highlights of what I enjoyed reading the most in this first issue.
Stuart Barr's The Story So Far...covers the comic book's storylines up to the present. Don't read it if you're skittish on possible spoilers for the television series (or the comic book if you're a spotty reader), but here's your chance to come up to speed on the Walking Dead comicverse. And just when you come up for air the third season preview does tempt you with spoilers; I love spoilers, especially the who-lives-and-who-dies kind. Just keep in mind the television series and the comic series don't always jive, so expect surprises and fresh takes on characters and their travails. Looks like the Governor and Woodbury will be popping up, though, sooner than later.
Tara Bennett takes us to the West Georgia Correctional Facility set (Raleigh Studios, Atlanta) to provide us with some insight on the design, like how the prison cell lighting is toned to create just the right mix of gloom and despair, and there are a horde of interviews covering a wide range with Charlie Adlard talking about drawing the Walking Dead comics and Glen Mazzara, the show's executive producer and showrunner, giving us his daily grind on making the television series. Of course there's an interview with Danai Gurira and her new role as Michonne, the Katana-wielding zombie slayer with her two leashed, and defanged, walking buddies. Gurira talks about her prep work for the role.
A quick read but very informative is the article, Anatomy of a Story. In this first installment, A Larger World (a storyline which played across comic issues 91 through 96) is examined. Storyline insight is not only useful to writers looking at how key elements of character development drive successful plots, but it also can be fun for any Walking Dead fan who's interested in knowing why they are a fan. Sure, the zombies are cool, but it's the walking living that keep us coming back for more.
Speaking of cool, there's a shot of Gentle Giant's The Walker Horde, a scrumptious set of little plastic zombie figurines, due on toy shelves sometime in 2013. Here's my plan: I take these little terrors and pile them up around my Clone army. Yeah, baby, now that's what I'm talking about. Lightsabers, Clones, and zombies! George?
For completists, here are the variant covers:
While discussing horrible things (movie related, of course) with Professor Kinema one sunny Sunday, he tossed this replica of Eerie No. 1's 24-page ashcan, 1st edition, over to me. While I vaguely knew about it, I had never seen this pocket-sized first issue, which was quickly slapped together in 1965 by Warren Publishing, and distributed briefly to lock in the magazine title's name before a rival used it, or so the story goes.
Here's the entire ashcan for your edification pleasure (although the stories were pulled from Creepy issues). From what I've read on the web, this replica indicates it's from the 1st edition because: on page 18, panel 5, what should be recognized as the back of a bald-headed man in the upper left corner shows only black; and in the margins of certain pages you can see the paste-up instructions. Bootleg copies abound, making it a difficult item to purchase without authenticating it first. Warren complained about the bootleg copies in Creepy No. 81 (see page at the end).
Zombos Says: Very Good
"Let me in! Let me in! For the love of god, man, let me in!" I screamed while pounding on the garden shed door.
Pretorius, our groundskeeper, unlocked the door quickly, pulled me inside, and slammed it shut almost before I was fully through. He was out of breadth as much as I was. The walking tree trunk we were running away from started slamming against the shed door. I cautiously peered through the small window. Its googly eyes stared back at me, then, frustrated it couldn't reach us, it shambled off.
"What the hell is that thing?" I said to Pretorius. "And...are those your garden shears sticking out of it?"
"Snuck up on me...it did...while trimmin' the rose bushes," he said, in between huffs and puffs of air. "So startled...I stuck my shears in it. Don't know where...it came from...or why."
I leaned against the wooden potting table and caught my breadth, but my heart was beating a mile a minute. "Hey, what's that?" I asked, looking at the new bags of fertilizer. I read the label out loud. "Golgothan Fertilizer. The very best poop to make your flowers pop. Arkham Nurseries, Massachusetts."
"New stuff," said Pretorius. "Zombos wanted... to cut expenses...so I found--say, you don't think?"
Before I could answer, Zombos started pounding on the garden shed door, yelling to be let in. I opened the door and pulled him to safety.
He tried to catch his breadth. "What the hell...is that thing? Never in... my life...have I--and why are garden shears stuck in its bark?" he asked, in-between taking mouthfuls of air.
From his frock coat pocket--yes, his warddrobe was as old as he was--tumbled issue 4 of Undying Monsters, though crumpled and torn badly. I picked up the magazine.
"Sorry," he said, "post brought it. I was bringing it...to you when...that blasted stump crept up on me. Magazine...is useless as a weapon."
I uncrumpled the cover. "Hello. Does this look familiar?" I held it up for Zombos and Pretorius to see.
"Good lord, it looks like the stump chasing us!" said Zombos. "Quick...find out how they kill it in the movie. Maybe that will help us."
I thumbed through the pages of the From Hell It Came film book.
"Will you stop looking at the pictures!" said Zombos.
"I can't help it, they're very good, and there are a lot of them." I replied. "Let's see. Island prince framed for murder he didn't commit and stuffed in tree trunk, tree trunk, called Tabanga, comes back to life to shuffle slowly after people, and--heh, heh, heh--"
"What are you laughing about?" asked Zombos.
"I can't believe they went to all this trouble to write up this goofy movie. I mean, come on, look at how slow the darn thing shuffles along. And its limbs are so stubby, there isn't enough room for a bird to nest on, let alone worrying about getting strangled by this thing. If you ask me--"
Pretorius jumped in impatiently. "I'm askin' you: how'd they stop it?"
"Right, that, well..." I thumbed through to the end, "okay, here it is. They shot the knife that was previously plunged halfway into its heart, pushing it in to the hilt. Bingo!"
Pretorius said,"then all I need do is push the garden shears in all the way. Hmph. How to do that, then?" He looked around the shed until his eyes lit on a long-handled shovel. "Perfect. I won't need to get too close with this baby." He picked it up, looked out the window to make sure the coast was clear, and opened the door. "Who's with me?"
Zombos and I looked at each other for a long time.
"Fine. I'll take care of this myself, then." Pretorius held the shovel tight and headed out to find the tree trunk.
Zombos slammed the door shut and relocked it. "While we wait until the coast is clear, what else is in the issue?"
"Let's see. Here's a nostalgic article on old monster board games. Shame the pictures are in black and white, but they've got the classics listed here. Nice rundown from the 60s up to the 70s. Good list for a collector. Never knew there was a Mummy Mystery boardgame. Wish I had this Boris Karloff Monster game. Great box cover and board art on these games, too."
I flipped to another page.
"Here's an interesting and lengthy article on Nostalgic Fear for Your Ears! by Ed Gannon. Caedmon, Pickwick, Peter Pan, Troll, Power, Electric Lemon, boy, he's covered the records pretty well. Brings back a lot of memories. Never could get into the spooky sounds records, but these spoken word ones were great to listen to in the dark, late at night."
I flipped to another page.
"Now you, especially, will find this noteworthy," I told Zombos. Here's an article on Clark Ashton Smith paperbacks. Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and Smith made up the Weird Tales triumvirate of terror masters. His work is essential reading for anyone who deems him or herself a horror fiction fan."
I was about to mention the article on the Criterion Collection of DVDs, but was interrupted by Pretorius yelling and banging on the garden shed door. I let him. He held the shovel, the handle now broken into two pieces.
"Not long enough," he said.
Zombos looked around the shed. "I have a better plan."
He picked up the chainsaw and handed it to Pretorius. "Go get it!" he said, opening the door.
Zombos Says: Very Good
For Dark Shadows fans, HorrorHound issue 34 has two very interesting articles on the original soap opera series and its creator, Dan Curtis. There's also a bland, Extra-depth, interview with director Tim Burton that eschews any meaningful exploration of his motivations or intentions in reimagining the series into a Beetlejuice-styled quirky mix of humorous vampire Gothic. Burton even pretends to not know his movie's being referred to as comedy Gothic, and seems reticent to acknowledge how different his approach is to the original series. Unfortunately, the interviewer lets Burton's answer-pablum remain fluffy, which left me unsatisfied.
Jessica Dwyer's mind-boggling retrospective on Dark Shadows not only covers the many rich--and confusing--storylines the show ran through during its 6 year run, but liberally illustrated throughout her article are the comic book covers, paperback covers, toys, bobble-heads, model kits, and other mechandise the show's popularity produced. She also gives a concise television and movie production history for Dan Curtis in her second article, The Man Who Built Collinwood, which is essential reading for younger fans who may not fully appreciate Curtis's influence on horror television and the vampire romance theme he solidified with Barnabus Collins.
In addition, Christopher Lee (he plays the manager of the Collins fishing fleet in Burton's movie) is highlighted in a movie retrospective compiled by Aaron Christensen, which neatly bookends Nathan Hanneman's Hammer on DVD list. As Christensen's title alludes to, Lee's movie range contains "the good, the bad, and the Ughhhh, Lee." I won't admit its good or bad, but one of my favorites covered is Mario Bava's Hercules in the Haunted World.
All in all, a very good issue to spend a few hours with.