When I was a little boy of ten or eleven, I used to go up the road to the shop which sold newspapers and magazines to see if anything new had come in. One day, the proprietor, Albert Taylor, had taken delivery of some recently arrived American magazines called “Famous Monsters of Filmland”. In 1963, they were absolutely amazing from a ten year old’s point of view.
They allowed me to meet people I had never encountered before. Elsa Lanchester as the Bride of Frankenstein in the Universal film of 1935, one of the very few sequels better than its original:
I met Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula in 1931, with his wonderful line of “I never drink….. wine.” and “To die, to be really dead, that must be glorious! ”
Here’s the werewolf who, in 1961, barked at the postman and chased cars in “The Curse of the Werewolf”:
There were also more recent monsters such as Gorgo, who I later found out was, more or less, the British Godzilla:
Here is the demon from “Night of the Demon”, a film from 1957, which certainly spent most of its life in the UK at least, banned completely, as being too horrific even for the censor to watch:
Occasionally, some of the magazines actually featured a compilation of all the monsters. Can you find Christopher Lee, or Claude Rains in this one? Lon Chaney Senior? More difficult to find is Fredric March:
I was actually quite disappointed when I eventually found out that only the cover of the magazine was in colour. This was because the majority of the films inside the magazine had been made in black and white.
In actual fact, the black and white photographs could still be very striking. Here’s Boris Karloff and Una O’Connor waiting for a bus:
Or what about this wonderful shot from “The Bride of Frankenstein” ?:
To finish with, look at Boris Karloff’s spiritual son, Christopher Lee. In this shot, Lee was playing Kharis, the muddiest boy ever to lose his mummy. See how Tommy Cooper on the left is still working on one of his magic tricks:
Who’s Tommy Cooper? Never heard of him? Well you have a treat in store:
I hope you watched Tommy Cooper. He could make statues laugh. He actually died of a heart attack on stage and people laughed because they thought it was part of the act.
24 responses to “Famous Monsters of Filmland (1)”
I think I might have seen Tommy Cooper once before – many, many years ago. You were right – I was laughing. Ya gotta love that last “trick” and his duck!!
Absolutely, Tommy Cooper was one of those comedians who had the priceless gift of being funny without ever being nasty about anybody. There was no putting down people of another race or religion, no laughing at women, nothing like that. He laughed most at his own stupidity,. I suppose. He was completely anarchic on live television, with the audience always watching his every move. Any serious politician on a late night chat show must have despaired when he saw Tommy was a fellow guest.
Reminded me of the Hammer Horror Films. The werewolf always frightened me the most. My grandson one time went through my DVD collection and insisted on watching “American Werewolf in London”. He only managed the first five minutes!
Yes, there is nothing like one of the classic horror films, whether Hammer or Universal from the 1930s. I know that my Dad was terrified as a boy by the old Mummy film with Boris Karloff, and I have always had a soft spot for the old Frankenstein films.
“The mummy” is an absolute classic.
A splendid collection, John
Thank you, Derrick. I hope you’ve seen them all !
I suppose I’m an old curmudgeon, but I would prefer to watch any of these old horror films rather than the more recent ones which always seem to be so violent and sometimes excessively misogynistic.
Love your monster collection, John. Godzilla remains my favorite. I look forward to watching the latest movie, Godzilla vs Kong, to be released on HBO Max on March 31 in the USA.
Yes, Godzilla was a marvellous creation, way back in 1954 originally. There is an old 1960s version of King Kong v Godzilla which was just two men in special suits. If you can get to see it, it is a splendid inadvertent comedy especially when Godzilla pulls up a tree and tries to push it down Kong’s throat but it doesn’t really fit. How we laughed !!
I must admit I’m not a horror fan at all, and don’t watch them. But I wonder how horrific “Night of the Demon” is compared to its modern day equivalents. More Tommy Cooper than horror I should think!
To be honest, it is quite a horrific film and well worth seeing. Set in 1950s England, a black magician can summon demons out of hell, and if he gives you a piece of parchment, the demon will come and get you. Our hero duly receives his parchment and the rest of the film is how he tries to get out of the situation, The only remedy is to pass the parchment back to the magician but he must accept it willingly. It is a really good film, and was banned for the best part of thirty years because it poses the question: “Is the world like this? Can people summon up demons? Does Satan rule in hell?”
It sounds a bit deeper than many other horror films which (to me) seem to be gore for gore sake. Maybe I’m just biased though.
You are absolutely right about most of the modern horror films, but the old b/w Universal films of Frankenstein and Dracula from the 1930s are superb achievements that stand on their own as films.
Horror movies and stories were thrilling in childhood 😁 I still remember biting my nails and reading on. Thank you for the pictures.
My pleasure, Lakshmi. Here in England, the unchallenged master of horror and ghost stories is MR James, an old Cambridge professor.
His complete works are easily available on Kinder and they can be quite frightening. A lot of them have been changed into short TV films by the BBC and they are regularly shown at Christmas.
Thank you for sharing!!… I have seen some of the stories you have mentioned… my favorites are not the monsters though, I like the old English movies with dark foggy nights and suspense in the air… one of my favorites that come to mind was “The Hound Of The Baskervilles”… 🙂
Hope all is well in your part of the universe and life is all that you wish for it to be!… 🙂
I am referring to the 1939 version of the hound of the baskervilles… 🙂
You are absolutely right. The “Hound of the Baskervilles” of 1939 with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce is a superb film, but the Hammer version of 1959 with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee is not far behind.
Better than both, arguably, is the Universal “Invisible Man” of James Whale with its huge snowstorms over the moors of Devon.
Over here in Merrye Englande the lockdown goes on, but a huge number of vaccinations have been done, and many people see that as the light at the end of the tunnel.
Make sure you get vaccinated when it is offered to you, and make sure you wear a mask. So many people over here just won’t do either, which is very dangerous.
There is something about those old black and white “thrillers” that adds a chill to the bones… not sure if I have seen the version of “Invisible Man” that you have mentioned… 🙂
I am in communications with the local health authorities and awaiting the vaccine, giving those in the need the priority…
Fortunately I can accomplish all I wish while staying near home, have all my supplies and food delivered, and when I do venture out I wear a mask and follow safety guidelines… 🙂
I think the thing to do is to follow the guidelines and we should all get through it safely.
Yes, Tommy was blessed with funny bones and the public loved him. But I remember Bob Monkhouse being interviewed about Tommy; he described him as a very nasty piece of work, once he had had a drink or two. And Tommy was known for his love of a drink or two.
I think I would have prefered an evening with Bob rather than Tommy..
I suspect that a lot of public figures are very different once the cameras have stopped rolling. I wasn’t very impressed with John Prescott on one occasion at the football at Mansfield. I haven’t ever heard anything negative about Tommy Cooper and Wikipedia mentions his drinking but only from the point of view of his health. Bob Monkhouse I have never warmed to,but my own personal nightmare man to be stuck in a lift with,would have to be Arthur Askey.
Thank you so much! I’m glad that you enjoyed it!