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Posts Tagged ‘Frankenstein’

  1. Frankenstein (Assembly Required)

    October 19, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Like  rival hobby company Revell, the mainstay of Aurora Plastics’ line of model kits in the Fifties was scale-model, unassembled replicas of military hardware, although Aurora’s were generally smaller and more affordable than Revell’s. Around 1955, Aurora expanded its line to include plastic figurines of medieval knights, clowns, and traditionally dressed people from around the world (“Guys and Gals of all Nations”).

    Meanwhile, in Hollywood, Universal Pictures realized there was still money to be made off of their old monster films from previous decades. Universal packaged films featuring Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, and other ghouls for broadcast over local TV channels. The local stations created assorted horror hosts to present these films. When the local stations began getting mail from their viewers they were surprised to find that a large percentage of those watching the old monster movies were teenaged or younger. The popularity of these films with children might be explained by the extinction of the horror comic book in 1954 when public opinion and the new Comics Code Authority deemed the horror genre to be inappropriate for children. Children with a taste for horror simply switched from reading comic books to watching “creature features” on their local television stations and maybe picking up a copy of  Forrest Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland.  Knowing that their audience was largely made up of young people, the horror hosts softened the horror they presented with touches of humor and ridicule that made the genre seem less threatening to adults, while Famous Monsters gave a behind the scenes look that assured everyone that it was all just made up.

    Sometime in early 1961, it suddenly became acceptable to directly market monsters to children (TV stations and Famous Monsters could always argue that adults were the target audience). It started with bubblegum cards like Spook Stories and Horror Monsters, however toy manufacturers were still leary. A hobby company on the cusp of adult and childhood pastimes was an ideal path to full acceptance of monsters in the playroom.  Looking to expand its line of figurines beyond little Dutch boys and the Black Knight, Aurora bought the rights to manufacture models of all of the monsters who had appeared in Universal motion pictures.  The models created under this license would prove to be Aurora’s most successful line of plastic models ever.

    Aurora’s first Universal monster model was a 1/12 scale figure model of Frankenstein’s Monster in 1961. Selling for $1.00, the 7-inch tall figurine sold so well that Aurora had to temporarily suspend production of its other models to keep up with demand. Some buyers may have been disappointed when they opened the box to find the plain white pieces of plastic that needed to be carefully twisted apart before undergoing a process that involved several hours, various paints and brushes, and mind-altering glue fumes. Helping sales, no doubt, was the wonderful artwork on the box by James Bama who would do most of the  box top art for Aurora in the Sixties.


  2. Mad Monsters

    August 28, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Charlton Publications was an interesting company. Unlike most magazine publishers and all other comic book publishers, Charlton consolidated the whole process of turning out a periodical into a single vast  factory complex in Derby, CT.  Editorial, printing and distribution were all conducted under the same roof. Not content with the savings from strict vertical integration, Charlton also kept costs low by producing products renowned for their low production values in an industry famous for using cheap materials and presses. The two movie monster publications (i.e. Famous Monsters of Filmland rip-offs) they launched in 1961 were no exception.

    Like other Charlton publications, Horror Monsters and Mad Monsters had thin covers that tore easily and preserved the fingerprints of all who touched them. The interior pages were yellow before they were even run through the presses. The photos inside the magazines were muddy and devoid of any gray-tones. But if you got a chance to see the covers before too many people had handled them, they were quite eye-catching. Only one cover can be credited to a particular artist and only because Steve Ditko bothered to sign his name to the drooling wolf man on the cover of Mad Monsters #1 (1961). None of the writers were credited either and even the editor was anonymous, using the pen names “Sanzar Quasatood” (Horror Monsters) and “Abernathy Farquad” (Mad Monsters)

    Both magazines lasted until 1964. Here are the covers from their inaugural year:

     


  3. What do Ghosts Eat for Breakfast?

    August 21, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Spook Stories was a series of trading cards sold in packs with some stale chewing gum by Leaf Candy Company. Leaf had taken a beating a few years earlier in the baseball card biz and apparently decided to forego sports cards completely in 1961 and instead exploit a resurgence in the popularity of old Universal horror films. Merely licensing the images from Universal wasn’t enough, though. Taking a page (several pages, in fact) from Warren Publishing’s Famous Monsters of Filmland, each monster card was given a witty caption. But the humor didn’t stop there! On the back of each card was a humourous (I use that word lightly) monster-related riddle.

     


  4. Coffee Break

    August 13, 2011 by The Belated Nerd

    Even monsters deserve a break between scenes of horror and mayhem. Vincent Price in 1961 sucked back an iced coffee a la Nancy Botwin during shooting for Tales of Terror. Boris Karloff took numerous coffee breaks as The Mummy and Frankenstein’s Monster. Bela Lugosi as Igor joins Karloff and Basil Rathbone for coffee on the set of Son of Frankenstein. (If anybody knows of a photograph showing Dracula sipping a cup, send it my way.) Lon Chaney Jr. takes a nap while awaiting his next scene in one of his Wolf Man movies. And finally, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre take time out to roast marshmallows.