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Horrorwood Babbles On: Going Once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten)

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Driving past the recently “EX” Ackerminimansion onto the ever-congested Hollywood freeway, I had the feeling you get at the beginning of a nasty flu or on the morning of a newly minted depression. I felt like I was standing over my own shoulder, shaking my head at myself. No matter the spin I put on it, I was motoring toward the final nail in the coffin of an era. A nail called: the Forrest J Ackerman Estate Auction. The era that was ending had practically built me. Maybe you too?

Horrorwood Babbles On: Going once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten) (click for larger image)

In the 45 minutes it took to clear Hollywood and touch the far edge of the San Fernando Valley, I thought a lot about Forry and how he might be feeling if he were sitting next to me on this trip …

4E: Well, pal. Woulda’ liked for the collection to have ended up in a museum. I’ll never understand how the city of Los Angeles couldn’t afford to find a home for it. I offered it all to them for free!

Joe: (a BMW cuts me off) The dead shouldn’t be given driver’s licenses! (to Forry, sheepishly) Sorry, Ack …

A Forry eye-roll followed by a change of subject –

4E: Did you hear about the boy who broke his neck on a first date?

Joe: Uh (cringing), no …

4E: He was giving his girl a goodnight kiss…and she crossed her legs!

Joe: (groaning) Oh, boy. That was ba-a-a-a-d, Ack!

4E: Well, you should have thought of that before you got in a car with ME!

Back to reality. Eyes on the road…

By now, suburban sprawl had turned to green hills as I took the off-ramp heading to the Profiles in History auction house. The Profiles building was located among many commercial buildings tucked into glens in the lushest industrial park you’ll ever see. I parked, grabbed my phonebook-sized, one-pound auction catalog and with trepidation, headed for the entrance.

Horrorwood Babbles On: Going once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten) (click for larger image)

Profiles President Joe Maddalena greeted me warmly and led me into the display room. There, Joe and Brian Chanes graciously gave me a tour of the pieces on offer. The staff on-hand seemed aware of the unique and emotional nature of this sale and were most compassionate. Bela Lugosi Jr. arrived unexpectedly to pay respects to Forry and to view his dad’s items. There were other prominent collectors I won’t name out of respect for their privacy.

Horrorwood Babbles On: Going once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten) (click for larger image)

After donuts and coffee, everyone took their seats and the auctioneer assumed his place at the podium. The room held around 50 bidders (mostly lookie-loos) while the perimeter of the room was lined with banks of about 20 phone and Internet agents poised to take absentee bids. The Profiles office phone rang incessantly with calls from collectors wanting to register last minute for the auction. 11AM rolled around and the event began. The auctioneer waited an extra minute while the first phone bidders were contacted. Then we were off!

Horrorwood Babbles On: Going once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten) (click for larger image)

Most Lots started with absentee bids and the phone banks were brisk. The gavel banged down on lot after lot. There were some close calls as phone bidders interjected just as the gavel struck the podium. Dracula 1st Edition signed sold for: $25,000. The Dracula Crest ring: $40,000. The Plan 9 Lugosi cape: $32,500. London After Midnight Lon Chaney Sr. Teeth: $3,750. London After Midnight Lon Chaney Sr. Top Hat: $27,500. A swatch of Mummy Cloth: $5,500. Lugosi “Count Dracula” signature: $4,250. Marry Shelly’s signed Frankenstein (“The Man Demon”): $5,500.

Horrorwood Babbles On: Going once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten) (click for larger image)

Even reproduction paintings sold for above their estimates. Often, bidders in the room were outdone by phone bidders. For me, some highlights and surprises were; Forry’s Metropolis Robot selling for $40,000! Also a 1/4 scale nude statue of Marlene Dietrich, estimated to sell for around $500, sold for over $9,000. Even a sentimental lot – Forry’s living room set was picked up for $1,100. Wonder who got it? Sure would be great to walk into that room again some day.

Horrorwood Babbles On: Going once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten) (click for larger image)

The following are accounts from bidders who won the lots (or tried to). These folks may come from all walks of life but they share a common bond in their love of the genre and Forrest J Ackerman:

Horrorwood Babbles On: Going once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten) (click for larger image)

Dad bought me my first FM in 1977. I was 5. I had to find out more about this Ackermonster! I corresponded with Forry at age 11. He’d send me mags and books as gifts with instructions to pass them down to my grandchildren. I was invited to Forry’s New York Guernsey’s auction in December of 1987. I was just a teenager and couldn’t make the trip then. I was so glad to be a part of this recent auction. The Lot of Metropolis items I won is important to me because it was Forry’s favorite movie and, oddly enough, the lot I won included a one-of-a-kind poster a friend and I sent Forry a decade ago! I plan to share duplicate items with other Ackerfans and to keep some items to enjoy and then pass down, likewise. I carry on Forry’s tradition of collecting by acquiring horror and sci-fi filmbooks in domestic and foreign editions. Forry liked to have a worldwide representation of material too. I’ll keep the memory of Forry alive with my eBay handle “ackerfan” and fans are welcome to contact me at my ackerfan@msn.com e-mail address. I’ve also created a Forry gallery at my website Forry Forry-ever – Dustin Andrew Jablonski

I bid on the Metropolis paintings because when I visited Forry he talked about Metropolis and the paintings were on display in his home. I also bid on signed books, especially those signed by Ray Bradbury since I have been a fan of his since I was 14 yrs old. Seeing the collection in general brought back so many fond memories. I have a very strong interest in movies because both my father and uncle were assistant directors and as a child I worked as an extra and spent many hours on movie sets. I still see myself on TV when they show “I Married a Witch”. I played Veronica Lake and Frederick March’s son at the end of the movie. When I was outbid on everything I was interested in, I realized there are still a lot of people out there with a lot of money to spare”. – Doug Mull

Horrorwood Babbles On: Going once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten) (click for larger image)

Forry had a huge influence on me as a collector and today I have my own “Ackeroom” of vintage robots, posters, autographs and 16mm prints. While I’m usually eager to add to my collection, the PROFILES auction caused mixed emotions for me. I was sad that Forry would no longer be the caretaker of these things. If I had my way, there would always be a home in the Hollywood Hills where you could go visit Forry and see everything. But I was excited to have a small piece of the Ackermansion to enjoy for years to come and share with others who might have never heard of FAMOUS MONSTERS and its most famous monster; Forrest J Ackerman. In my Lot #728 of Nuetzell paintings, my favorites are the two rocket ships. This is as close to owning an original Nuetzell FM cover as I’ll get. In the second Lot there’s an original Frank R. Paul drawing which is important because he was one of Forry’s favorite illustrators. I took the day off to attend the auction in person, so I was a “floor bidder.” I’ve been to many auctions since I got the collector bug, so no nerves, but I do find that my hand tends to shake a little as I’m lifting that card to bid. I’m off to PROFILES tomorrow morning to pick up my pieces. I’m happy!” – Michael Dean

Horrorwood Babbles On: Going once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten) (click for larger image)

Lot 715. That’s it! The one lot that said to me, “Bid on me little boy – you will love me!” These scrapbooks represent Forrest J Ackerman more than all the Dracula rings, robes, lobby cards, one-sheets or even his beloved Robotrix. Not a prop from a famous film, but an actual segment of Forry’s life. Each item in those books meant something to him. To me those scrapbooks held a “micro-mini-Ackermansion”. Maybe just a note reminding him to answer a fan letter? A casual dinner invitation from an old friend? Whatever each scrapbook contained, it was sure to be something Forry kept for a reason known perhaps only to himself. I did not win but suspected from the start I couldn’t come anywhere near the true value of Lot #715 (ultimately $2,250). But I had to try. I understand that the entire collection could never have been preserved and loved as it was before. Because fans didn’t go to see the “stuff.” They went to see “Uncle Forry” and his stuff. That’s why other Hollywood Museums have come and gone but the Ackermansion went on for decades. It had a soul. It’s still hard to believe that for a time, in Hollywood, there lived a man who invited any and all people into his home to share with him the artifacts of a genre they enjoyed together. FORREST J ACKERMAN SHALL NOT DIE!” – Bill Shafer

Horrorwood Babbles On: Going once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten) (click for larger image)

The coming of the auction made for mixed emotions. To see the last of the house on Russell on the auction block brought the end of the living-dream that was the Ackermuseum. But in MY Forry Collection there is always and ever the feeling that I’m preserving a small corner of the Ackermansion(s). Not having deep pockets, I could only window-shop when looking at the rarest lots – the rings, capes and rare signed pieces. But when I saw Lot #750, I knew that was “my Lot”! My happiest Forry memories involved our mutual love for old music. We corresponded about old songs, played “name that tune”, and we sang. When I saw that Lot #750 featured Jolson music, which we both loved, I set my cap for it. Not horror/sci-fi related at all, this lot, for me, was the sentimental favorite. The music, other Acker-bric-a-brac and photos will feel at home in my Forry shelves. This year, at Wonderfest in Louisville, I’m happy to be sharing a few pieces of my collection for the Forry Tribute display in the UMA classic toy exhibit where the original face and hand of robotrix Maria, a Dorian Gray head and many other small keepsakes from the old Ackermansion will be on display for the convention attendees to see. I think Forry would have liked that.” – Robert Taylor

Horrorwood Babbles On: Going once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten) (click for larger image)

It was with sadness and excitement that I participated in Forry’s final auction. I pursued pieces which reminded me that Forry and I bonded over Karloff, Lugosi, Lorre and Metropolis. I came away with Lugosi’s robe worn in 1935’s The Raven when he explains to an ardent Edgar Allan Poe fan how he’s recreated various torture devices from Poe’s tales, concluding, “It’s more than a hobby!” How Forry would grin as he repeated Lugosi’s phrasing when describing his obsessions! I hope I can pass along his joy at sharing memories and insights to those who visit the cinematic treasures now in my caretaking.” – Ron Magid

Horrorwood Babbles On: Going once! Twice! Gone! (But Never Forgotten) (click for larger image)

There were triumphs and disappointments for bidders at the Profiles auction but overall it was a validation of Forry’s life’s work. Not only had he collected and preserved the items that were sold. He actually created their ultimate value by sharing them and making them the icons they’d become to fandom. I believe he would have been thrilled to hear the numbers percolate and soar in the passionate bidding that went on at the auction. Forry would have been surprised to hear even those who won their lots lamenting his absence and the end of his collection. It’s really saying something when a serious collector, finally getting their hands on a prize, is a bit sad that they get to have it! Every single Lot sold, which I am told is a rarity in the auction biz.

About that “glimmer of hope?”

If you’ve ever started a fire without matches, you know the hardest part isn’t always making a spark. Sometimes the hardest part is fanning the spark into a sustainable flame. The Profiles auction scattered a dandelion of sparks and I for one am excited to see where they land and what spectacular fires blossom as a result. Forry always believed that the risk of loss was worth his ability to give visitors a feeling of closeness to the pieces in his collection. He LOVED trading things – even if there was gross disparity in value between what he was giving and what he was getting. I used to moan when anything gorgeous left his wall. But inevitably, the next day there was something remarkable to take its place. So, the tradition continues. This ever-changing organic mass called “the collection.” Always shifting, growing and metamorphosizing. It’s ALIVE!! And so…

Forrest J Ackerman Shall Not Die!

Next: Uncle Forry still wanders the halls of Wonderfest, Monsterpalooza and the most prestigious award in horror: The Rondos!

Joe Moe

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Fearsome Facts – Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

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Sir Christopher Lee returned to portray the charismatic count of Transylvania in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) for the first time since taking on the iconic role in 1958’s Horror of Dracula – an eight year absence. 

And while Lee endured a love/hate relationship playing the Carpathian Count over the years, the actor reluctantly tackled the role a total of 10 times for the Silver Screen. Three of those performances came outside of the purview of Hammer Horror, but this list is dedicated to the first Hammer Dracula sequel to feature the return of Christopher Lee in the lead role.

Now, here are 5 Things You May Not Know About Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

5. Dracula: Speechless

Dialogue never played a crucial part in Christopher Lee’s portrayals as Count Dracula, but this film is the epitome of that contentious notion. Lee doesn’t utter a single word during Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ 90 minutes of run time. In interviews over the years, Lee said that he was so unhappy with his lines that he protested and refused to say them during the filming process. “Because I had read the script and refused to say any of the lines,” Lee said in an interview at the University College of Dublin.

However, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster insisted that the original script was written without any dialogue for Dracula. There was even a theory that circulated for a time which postulated that Hammer could not afford Lee’s growing salary, so the studio decided to limit the Count’s screen time. Did this lead to the demise of Dracula’s dialogue? Regardless of whom you want to believe, Dracula is the strong, silent type in Prince of Darkness. 

4. Double Duty for Drac

Hammer Film Productions doubled down, so to speak, on the production and post-production aspects of Dracula: Prince of Darkness. First, the studio filmed the vampire flick back-to-back with another project titled Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). In doing so, Hammer used many of the same sets, actors – including Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer – and crew members to shoot both motion pictures.

Second, Dracula: Prince of Darkness was featured in a double billing alongside the film The Plague of the Zombies (1966) when it screened in London. Insert cheesy cliche: “Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint Gum.” 

3. Stunt Double Nearly Drowned

Dracula: Prince of Darkness introduced a new weakness in the wicked baddie, but it nearly cost a stuntman his life. During the film, it was revealed that running water could destroy Dracula. Wait, what? Apparently, leaving the faucets on at night not only prevents frozen pipes, but blood-sucking vampires, too.

All kidding aside, it was during the climactic battle scene in which Christopher Lee’s stunt double almost succumb to the icy waters on set. Stuntman Eddie Powell stepped in as the Count during that pivotal moment, as Dracula slipped into the watery grave, but Powell was trapped under the water himself and almost died.

2. Lee Loathed What Hammer Did to Stoker’s Character

Christopher Lee’s return to Hammer’s Dracula franchise was a stroke of genius on the part of producers, but Lee was more than a little reticent when it came to initially voicing his dislike for playing the iconic role. As mentioned above, a lot of speculation swirled around the lack of dialogue given to Lee in the Prince of Darkness script. And if you don’t count the opening flashback sequence, which revisits the ending of Horror of Dracula (1958), Count Dracula doesn’t appear on screen until the 45-minute mark of the film.

Dracula’s lack of character, and presence, began to affect Lee particularly when it came to signing on to play the character in the three films following Prince of Darkness. Indeed, the lack of meaningful character development led to Lee initially turning down Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Scars of Dracula (1970). Lee said in countless interviews that he never got to play the real version of Count Dracula created by Bram Stoker, at least via Hammer Studios. This was a true disappointment to the late actor.

But Hammer guilt Lee into taking on the role over and over again, because the studio claimed to have already sold the aforementioned films to the United States with Lee’s name attached to the projects. Hammer informed Lee that if he didn’t return the company would have to lay off many of their workers. The tactic worked, since Lee was friends with many of the Dracula crew members. Fortunately for fans, Lee kept coming back for blood.

1. Faux Pas

Outside of the character of Dracula only appearing on screen for the last half of the movie, Dracula: Prince of Darkness had even more pressing issues that unfortunately survived all the way to the final cut of the film. One of the most appalling of these occurrences happens during the picture’s climatic confrontation. Watch the skies above Dracula and you will see the trail of a jet-engine plane staining the sky.

Another faux pas occurs in this same sequence when Dracula succumbs to the icy waters. Watch closely as the camera’s long shot clearly reveals the pivots holding the ice up underneath Chris Lee. Finally, watch the dead girl who is being carried during the opening funeral sequence. She is clearly breathing and quite heavily at that.

***

Which Dracula: Prince of Darkness moments did you find the most interesting? Were there any obscure facts you would have enjoyed seeing make our list? Sound off on social media!

 

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Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It

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Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

Directed by David Moscow


It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

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Summary

Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

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Carnivore: Werewolf of London Howls on VOD

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Joining the ranks of The Curse of the Werewolf, An American Werewolf in London, The Company of Wolves, and Dog Soldiers, Carnivore: Werewolf of London is the latest in a long series of fantastic British werewolf movies. Directed by Knights of the Damned’s Simon Wells, the film focuses on a couple trying to save their relationship by taking a vacation in a remote cottage, but rekindling their old flame soon proves to be the least of their worries as they learn that something with lots of fur and lots of teeth is waiting for them in the surrounding woods.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London stars Ben Loyd-Holmes, Atlanta Johnson, Gregory Cox, Molly Ruskin, and Ethan Ruskin, and is available to purchase now on Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, although it doesn’t appear to have received a physical release as of yet.

More information about Carnivore: Werewolf of London is available on the film’s official Facebook account, along with a ton of production photos.

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