Tag Archives: Boris Karloff

Famous Monsters of Filmland (2)

I thought I’d cheer you all up with a few more covers from the American  horror film magazine from the 1960s called “Famous Monsters of Filmland”. There was nothing subtle about them. Here’s Boris Karloff, real name William Pratt, as “The Mummy”:

And here’s the long forgotten film star Duncan ‘Dean’ Parkin in the long forgotten film, “The War of the Colossal Beast”:

They’re all here. King Kong. And tonight, it’s Kentucky Fried Pterodactyl. Save me a wing :

And here’s Lon Chaney senior in the silent film of “The Phantom of the Opera”, still the best version to watch:

And here’s the little Martian guy from “War of the Worlds”, and I don’t mean Tom Cruise. This is the 1953 version, one of my favourite sci-fi films ever, produced by George Pal, one of my favourite sci-fi directors ever:

This is a very stylised cover based on the film “Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man” Note the damsel in distress and her gravity defying bosoms:

Having said that, it is arguable that the magazine cover does no more than echo the feel of the original film poster:

In a strange twist the two protagonists are played by Lon Chaney junior (the original Wolf Man, and completely expected) and Bela Lugosi (playing Frankenstein’s monster, an incredible piece of irony, given that Lugosi rejected the chance to be Frankenstein’s monster in the original film and let Boris Karloff take the role. Apparently, the monster wasn’t worthy of his acting talents).

Here are two wonderful Wolf Men (or Werewolves, or perhaps even Werewolfs). (Or even Wolf People). They look as if some buffoon has put them through the wrong cycle in the washing machine. This is the first one:

And here’s his younger brother. What a strange dental arrangement:

Here’s “The Monster from the Black Lagoon”, wishing he’d never used that cheap moisturising cream  :

This cover is about the silent film that does not exist any more in its fullest form, “London after Midnight”. It is available only in a reconstructed version. It looks like it’s back to strange dental arrangements again:

Not all of the artwork is good. Here’s a daubed Frankenstein, painted with a brush big enough to clean the garage out with:

Only the covers of the magazines are in colour, but there are some very striking black and white photographs inside. I have chosen some characters from my favourite horror films, the old 1930s Universal productions:

Here’s Doctor Pretorius. The man with all the best lines:

His toast:    “To a new world of gods and monsters! “

And:     “Do you like gin? It’s my only weakness. “

And:   “Have a cigar – they’re my only weakness! “

And then, in the mausoleum when the Frankenstein monster makes a sudden unexpected appearance:

“And I thought I was alone!”

And here’s the studio where Godzilla trashes Tokyo on a daily basis. Occasionally his Monkey Mate, King Kong, comes along to help him. The original film, “King Kong v Godzilla”, of course, was voted “Best Film for a late night beer drinking session” for eighteen consecutive years:

And finally, John Cleese’s entry in the Christmas Competition at the Ministry of Silly Werewolves:

 

 

 

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Famous Monsters of Filmland (1)

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.

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My Dad, Fred, and the Hollywood cinema of yesteryear

When he was a little boy, perhaps around ten or twelve years of age, around 1933, my Dad, Fred along with some friends, walked the mile or so to nearby Swadlincote, to go to the cinema. Here is the cinema:

That’s not the best of views, so here is the “Empire” but in later years:

Swadlincote has always had two cinemas but never at the same time. The sequence is usually

Cinema 1 open

Cinema 1 goes bust

Interval of five years

Cinema 2 open

Cinema 2 goes bust

Interval of five years

Cinema 1 is reopened by over-optimistic idiot

Cinema 1 goes bust

Cinema 2 is eventually reopened by another over-optimistic idiot

And so on

Anyway, Fred and his pals, all around ten to twelve years old, weren’t there to see any old film. They were there to see Boris Karloff in “The Mummy”, one of the most frightening horror films of that decade. Feeling extremely brave, they sneaked in and settled down, waiting to be frightened:

Fred was not, of course, like the modern child, immured to fear by hour after hour of relentless television, and he came out chilled to the core by Karloff, completely terrified by the whole film. And so did the rest of them.

There could be no sharper contrast, however, than that between this Karloff chiller and Fred’s favourite, and funniest, Laurel and Hardy film. The latter was “Fra Diavolo”, which, again, he would have seen at the cinema in Swadlincote:

One other tiny detail that I can remember my Dad supplying, which must have come from this era, was how, when watching silent films at the cinema, however old you were, you were expected to read the words of the dialogue for yourself. Nobody would help you. If you asked for assistance, you would be told contemptuously, “Learn to read !”

Overall, Fred must have been very interested in the cinema. His collection of old magazines, kept for thirty or more years in the glass fronted bookcase in the front room of his parents’ house, contained ones which featured German expressionist cinema of the 1920s, including both Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and “The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari”. The stills featured included Rotwang’s house, Maria the Robot and the somnambulist Conrad Veidt carrying his victim high above the rooftops.

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On one occasion, Fred was actually able to meet a real, genuine Hollywood star. Just after the war ended, he was in Brighton for some long forgotten reason. He decided to visit a very distant cousin who worked in a local cinema, and who may well have been one of the Sussex branch of the Knifton family.

At the time, this particular cinema was the centre of all attention, as it was being visited by Charles Laughton, the world famous English and Hollywood film actor. Laughton was there to give a little publicity to one of his less famous films, a rather unloved feature entitled “The Beachcomber”, made with his then wife Elsa Lanchester in 1938. All of the cinema employees lined up to meet their famous guest, and Fred, at the urgent bidding of his cousin, joined on to the very end of the line, thereby managing, eventually, to shake hands with the great man:

Years earlier, of course, Fred had watched the inimitable Laughton in the 1933 film, “The Private Life of Henry VIII”. In common with countless thousands of other cinema goers, he had particularly vivid memories of the greedy king eating a whole chicken with his bare hands, and then throwing bits of meat and bone over his shoulder to the waiting hounds:

Who said that table manners were a thing of the past?

But, please be aware. Restaurants of all types seem to frown on throwing bits of meat and bone over your shoulder, and there are very seldom any waiting hounds to tidy up the mess.

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