The Creature from the Black Lagoon makes a splash in issue 5 of The Monster Times, dated March 29, 1972. This is the first issue that starts an odd but noteworthy article style that would devour the later issues: a first person narrative by the issue's featured-creature. In this one, The Memoirs of Gilbert "Gill" Gillman come right from his gills. It's a bit fishy, but still informative. More MPOVs (monster point of views) would be written, but this first one is perhaps the best. On the comics end, Joe Kubert is interviewed regarding DC's Tarzan of the Apes and Esquire magazine goes for the throat with monster comix. And for Humphrey Bogart fans (like me!) there's coverage on the only horror film he starred in, The Return of Doctor X.
In this 4th issue of The Monster Times, March 15th 1972, the Monster Market provides a "reliable market-test to rely upon before sending money..." for the 7-foot tall Frankenstein Monster from Honor House. I'm sure their advertisers loved this new feature of TMT. The review was not positive by the way, but what do you expect for a buck and 25 cents postage? On a more positive note, The Bride of Frankenstein is led down the isle of fandom, Roger Corman Meets Edgar Allan Poe, and The Pulps get their comeuppance. The usual centerfold poster is replaced in this issue by A Gnawing Obsession by Jeff Jones. The Monster Times Teletype, Con-Calendar, and the Monster Fan-Fair classifieds keep the fan news going, too.
I want the Spaceways plastic helmet! And remember, "You can't hide murder even in a rocket ship!" (And from IMDb's Goofs, here's a hint to watch out for: "At the beginning of the movie, when Howard Duff exits the van inside the base, the whole filming crew is reflected against the side of the van.")
With issue 3 of The Monster Times (March 1972), bugs in movies and buggy superheroes in comic books get the magnifying glass treatment. So does King Kong with part 2 of The Men Who Saved Kong. Them gets a lengthy article. It's not a review but more like a storyline of the movie, including the dialog and events, all very literary--and boring if you've seen the movie. H.G. Wells Empire of the Ants also gets this treatment; the book, not the movie. Dare see the movie only if you want your brain to turn to jelly as Joan Collins screams in terror from the awful special effects. On another note, of particular interest is Dean Latimer's lambasting of A Marvelous Evening with Stan Lee, which took place at Carnegie Hall, 4 dollars and fifty cents a ticket. "The audience left in stunned silence, after often yawning louder than the fabulously fraught festivities."
The passing of Leonard Nimoy rekindled a lot of fond memories of my growing up with Star Trek. While most of the male kids at school wanted to be like Captain Kirk, I wanted most to be like Mr. Spock. I groked Spock. I still do. He was the most fascinating and fun thing about Star Trek. Well, at least Classic Trek, that is. Issue 2 of The Monster Times was devoted to all things Trek, which was indeed "the TV show that will not die!"
The 1970s was a transitional time for many horror fans. Vampira, Forrest J. Ackerman and Famous Monsters of Filmland, and the multitude of horror hosts screening movies of the fantastic (and bombastic) to anyone's rabbit-eared television set, had opened the doors to a wealth of multi-genre popular culture to be experienced. Comic book conventions, science fiction conventions, horror conventions, and fanzines spread that wealth among fans. It was fun, it was new, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to be there when you could buy The Uncanny X-Men No. 1 for 50 cents (which I did), and meet and greet the titans of horror and comics easily, in panel rooms that weren't the size of football fields.
The shift from a preponderance of monster-gag, photo-filled magazines to more written and genre-diverse coverage hit a high mark with The Monster Times. I discovered it while working at the Magic Towne House in New York City. I manned the magic shop during the weekdays and did kids magic shows on the weekends. Since I used an Osborne 1 computer while working there, I'll say it was around 1981. One day I was asked to ship hundreds of copies of The Monster Times to the same address. I don't recall why. Of course I paused now and then to peruse some of the issues I was stuffing into boxes. And became a fan right there and then.
I wonder what happened to all those copies I shipped out?
Link checking last night (I know, I need to get out more) I came across this interview with David Colton I did for Blogcritics, back in 2007 (when the Fifth Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards was in full swing). Amazingly, I hadn't copied the interview to my own blog since it first appeared, so here it is for you newbies to the Rondos. And to think we're at the 13th annual Rondos! My how time flies like a bat out of hell, doesn't it?
What time is it, Monsterkids? It's Rondos time!
Once again, classic horror is celebrated with the likeness of that ugly, but lovable, bald guy — with the huge, misshapen, head and massive hands. Rondo "The Creeper" Hatton thrilled me as he tried to twist Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes into a pretzel in Pearl of Death, and chilled me as he murdered off a bunch of annoying critics in House of Horrors. His unmistakable visage graces the Classic Horror Awards, affectionately known as the Rondos, which are given in recognition of notable achievements in the classic horror genre. Chief instigator of the Rondos is David Colton. I locked him in Zombos' closet until he agreed to talk about the award that everyone in classic horror craves.
What are the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards, and how did they come about?
DC: The Rondos are a fan-based awards program designed to honor the fans and pros who work hard year after year, through writing, through research, through illustration, or through any form of creativity to keep the classic monsters of the last century alive and well.
The Rondos are not about favorite monster, or even favorite horror movie, but about picking the best book about classic monsters, the smartest piece of research that reveals something new, or the strongest or most fun works that capture the spirit of being a monster kid.
By "monster kid," I mean the generation of baby boomers who discovered the classic films of Universal, AIP, Hammer and Japanese giants in the '50s and '60s through Shock Theater on TV, Famous Monsters of Filmland at the newsstand, and Christopher Lee and Vincent Price at the movies. Monster kids can be of any age, but the distinction with modern horror fans is that we embrace Frankenstein, Dracula and Godzilla over the more gory films of today. This is not to say we don't enjoy Jason or Saw, but our hearts lie in Transylvania.
As for the awards themselves, like many lapsed monster fans, I rediscovered the genre in the mid-'80s with the birth of home video. A new breed of monster magazines such as Filmfax and Cinefantastique had emerged. In addition, writers such as David J. Skal, Greg Mank, Tom Weaver, Gary Don Rhodes, Don Glut, Bill Warren, Paul Jensen, and many more were revealing new truths about the monsters in books, in magazine articles, and in videos and, later, DVD commentaries.
There was little recognition anywhere for their work, however, which was as strong as any mainstream research or scholarship except it existed in the genre ghetto of vampires and B-movies. Enter the Rondos.
I remembered that in the '90s, the folks at Midnight Marquee had presented a series of awards at their Fanex Convention called the Laemmles, named after the family that ran Universal in the '20s and '30s. The awards only lasted a few years. But a community of fans at the Classic Horror Film Board (a discussion group once at AOL), decided to inaugurate our own awards. We started in 2002, and the awards have grown and prospered ever since.
Why use actor Rondo Hatton as the award image?
DC: We discussed a variety of names — the Clives, the Ygors, the Whales — but someone, I forget who (it might have been me but I'm not sure), suggested Rondo Hatton. The Rondos SOUNDED perfect.
Still, it was all just fanboy talk until Kerry Gammill, a brilliant artist who once drew Superman, and is one of the genre's top illustrators, sent me a sketch of what a Rondo statuette could actually look like, based on the giant bust of Hatton used in Universal's House of Horrors in 1946. Once I saw the sketch, I said yes, of course.
Kerry sculpted the bust to perfection, and then Tim Lindsey, a top model-maker and designer, offered to make the casts for the individual busts.
I still remember the gasps and applause when we gave out the first awards at the Old Dark Clubhouse hotel room at the 2003 Monster Bash in Pittsburgh. "Our first winner is Bob Burns," I said, "and THIS is a Rondo." Everyone fell in love with the little guy immediately.
Even though they are painstaking to make — each one is cast and painted individually — we've now given out almost 50 busts over the past four years. Everyone who gets one loves it. Haven't seen one on eBay yet, they are so precious to the winners.
Looking over the ballot for this year, I'm excited to see Smallville (one of my favorite TV shows), Dr. Who (ditto), and Battlestar Galactica listed (ditto again). How are nominees selected?
DC: We try to go a bit beyond just classic monsters, so current films and TV are included. "Classic" is a state of mind more than a time period, and it's easy to see why Smallville or Battlestar Galactica or Dr. Who, as modernized as they are, still retain that "classic" feel. Lost and Heroes, too.
Nominees are solicited all year at the Classic Horror Film Board or through emails. At the end of the year, I start going over everything, and about 20 CHFB members email one another, argue things out, make suggestions and deletions. In the end, though, I make the final call on what makes it and what doesn't. Send those complaints to me!
The ballot is very long — some say too long — but we want the Rondos to not only be about the year's best work, but to show everyone how much really cool work is being done out there. A book or DVD commentary might not win, but those who see it on the ballot may be intrigued enough to buy it and check it out. If that happens, Rondo has done its job, no matter who ends up winning.
Who does the voting?
DC: Voting is by email to email@example.com. We have discussed using voting software that allows clicking on categories, but the personal nature of having to copy the ballot into an email, or type out your selections, helps ensure the voting is by fans and not some mass voting drive. It's for sure okay to ask for votes or urge friends to vote, but we draw the line at duplicate votes already filled in, which in past years got sent around. That happily hasn't happened yet this year.
The first year we were thrilled to have 198 people vote! The next year we topped 600, then 1,600 (!), and last year 1,200. The voting so far this year is at a pace to top 1,000 again and that's fine with me since I have to hand count every vote. Friends come over and say, "Where's David?" and my wife says, "He's downstairs counting votes.'' They laugh.
Finally, what's your impression of the current crop of horror films?
DC: The world of modern horror, sci fi, and fantasy is very schizophrenic. On the one hand you have the CGI world of Star Wars and Peter Jackson, wonderful visions of fantasy that, overblown or not, recreate '30s New York for King Kong, energize Star Wars and make anything possible on-screen. And these films have good hearts, just as afternoon kid-friendly in many ways as the Harryhausens and George Pals of the '60s.
But then there's the gruesome new trend of torture films — Saw, Hostel, Turista and the like — which have no real monsters except human cruelty. These films make millions, and obviously are a form of release perhaps in this 9/11 mindset, but still leave me repelled and quite cold. An ax through the head in Friday the 13th somehow was okay, and you could tell it was fake; these new ones are too real, the blood too dark, the screams too affecting. I'll take Karloff anytime.
Do you think Zombos' Closet of Horror will ever have a chance at getting a Rondo?
DC: No comment.
I want to thank David Colton for stepping into the closet to tell us about the Rondos. Zombos insisted I keep him locked in until he gave us a Rondo, but someday we'll win one of those little noggins on our own
Realart printed 4-page pressbooks for re-releases of movies. Here's the one for Flesh and Fantasy with Edward G. Robinson and Barbara Stanwyck. It's a very good anthology movie with three supernatural tales that twist toward their endings. Wikipedia mentions Universal shelved the original opening sequence, which was more violent and dramatic, and replaced it with a humorous one, even though preview audiences "raved about this scene." Intriguing to note, the second story involves a murder that brings to mind 1945's Dead of Night's bewildered architect and his, well, that would be telling, wouldn't it?.
Ron Weiss contributes more articles to this issue with The Great Ghoul of Great Britain...Christopher Lee, The Monster Explosion, and Earthquake, while Don Wiegel (sounds like a pseudonym to me!) adds What's Flash Gordon Doing in Monster Magazine? and a Two New Monster Books review. The Monster Explosion is a wonderful nostalgic trip for those who attended the comic conventions in the 1970s, and the Flash Gordon serials went through a revival in the 1970s, as did much of classic fantasy movie fare, as horror fans matured into exploring other realms of the fantastic.
Issue 3 of Quasimodo's Monster Magazine was cheaply printed, with a poor layout to boot, but filled with articles on new and old horrors. Notable here is Lugosi, The Man and the Vampyre by Ron Weiss, which references Arthur Lennig's The Count: The Life and Films of Bela (Dracula) Lugosi. The sci-fi horror Phase IV is also reviewed.
Here's the entire first issue of Shock: Chilling Tales of Horror and Suspense from Stanley Publications. If you can shed any light on the artists and writers of these stories, please do so. Unlike Eerie Publications, or Skywald, Stanley doesn't get as much love. And with such a nice assortment of death and mayhem in this issue, too: The Gossips wag their tongues a little too often; Voodoo Dolls needle people the wrong way; a professor puts his mind to a gruesome end in Eternal Death; a dinner guest splatters all over the room in Last Supper; and a small town gets ripped apart in the Premonition.