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Horrorwood Babbles On: Forrest J Ackerman – Alive and Well in Fandom!

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Finally, we take a breath, clear the cobwebs of mourning and peek out from beneath the shadows to find out how the late Forrest J Ackerman continues to do us good. At genre conventions from coast to coast, fans and friends pay tribute to the grand old man who made us monsters!

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Ken-tucky? Yep, they Ken!

Any horror fan, young or old, who’s in it for the scare-making arts, crafts and monster makers, MUST experience Wonderfest. I flew over the cool greenery and picturesque graveyards of Louisville, Kentucky to attend the first Con I’ve been to without Uncle Forry by my side. While most travelers rushed to the baggage claim to pick up luggage and trot off to watch horses run some derby, I was there for the monsters!

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In its 20th year, Wonderfest is a gathering place for modelers. Make that “Super-modelers.” Builders, sculptors, painters, collectors, you name it! Hot-rods to Spaceships. Gearshift-knobs to war dioramas. Resin kits to scratch-built Anime figures. And of course, PLENTY of monster models. They’re all here! The vintage Auroras as well as reissues and custom homage kits. I bought a Geometrics Design Blacula bust, sculpted by Joe Simon and a Polar Lights reissue of the original 60’s Aurora “Odd Job” (Goldfinger) snap-and-glue kit. Looks like I’m now a collector of ethnic genre figures! You can find casting compounds, paint, sculpting tools and even attend “how-to” workshops at Wonderfest.

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In addition to the incredible buys and over-stimulating visuals, The Universal Monster Army was stationed at one end of the model contest room. These guys and gals put on a museum-quality display of Classic Horror toys and collectibles. I lent my pal Robert Taylor and the UMA some of my Forry-effects and they made a wonderful showing of them for fans. Beloved Bob & Kathy Burns are institutions at Wonderfest. Bob brought original Alien movie props as well as a fascinating slideshow-history of his infamous back (and front) yard Halloween attractions. In his usual unselfish spirit, Bob gave tribute to departed friend, Mike Minor, Star Trek designer and major contributor to the neighborhood shows. Cortlandt Hull and talented partner Dennis Vincent were also on hand with their display of full-sized horror figures from their Witches Dungeon Museum in Bristol, Connecticut.

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No Gloom at the Inn

Bevare! Take care! Bevare! Out of place among the stacks of cookie-cutter hotel rooms at the Crowne Plaza, there is an elegant and mysterious room called The Old Dark Club House. There, horror luminaries and fans congregate. Gary Prange is the mad mastermind that themes, decorates and hosts this (not overly) exclusive hospitality suite. Imagine Halloween and every Retro-monster icon you can think of blanketing every square inch of a hotel room. That’s the Clubhouse! Our childhood dreams in the form of a kickback-lounge. Horror-heaven! This year’s theme was Captain Company – the mail order section of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Every toy and gadget was represented wall to wall. There was even an electric chair bonnet hovering over the toilet. So, I aimed extra carefully … Wonderfest hosts Dave Conover, Donnie Wadell, Dave Hodge, John Davis, Lee Staton and crew are a powerful force in the preservation and promotion of our classic horror heritage and the memory of our common Uncle, mentor and friend Forrest J Ackerman. The folks at Wonderfest have created a BIG con with an intimate classic-horror-heart. Thank them by doing yourself a BIG favor – come to the next Wonderfest. Believe me, these guys deserve an award! Ooh, they got one!

And the creepy, misshapen statuette goes to…

Wonderfest was also host to this year’s Rondo Awards and winner of Classic Horror Con of the year! Named after the tragic, afflicted character actor Rondo Hatton, the Rondos top the list of the most prestigious nod within the genre as it’s presented to pros and fans that have contributed to the advancement of classic horror. Most importantly, the community nominates and votes the awards.

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David Colton finds time from his day job as editor of some newspaper; U.S. something? It’ll come to me…USA Today, that’s it! Heard of it? Anyway, David puts on a great show that singles out genre contributors. Your own Joe Moe (that’s me) was honored with the Monster Kid of the Year award for my work in taking care of Forry. My pal Jovanka Vuckovic won an armload (4) of Rondo trophies for a variety of accomplishments related to she and her talented crew at Rue Morgue Magazine Rue Morgue Magazine. Horror literary heavyweights like Jim and Marion Clatterbaugh (Monsters from the Vault), Tim and Donna Lucas (Video Watchdog) and other notables received awards too. For great coverage and pics of the event PLUS the chance to participate in next year’s awards, visit the lively and informative Classic Horror Film Boards.

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Con of 1000 (messed up) faces!

At last! A new horror Con crept into Burbank, California like a thick blanket of sinister fog. An early Anti-Christmas for us horror fans – MONSTERPALOOZA! Eliot Brodsky threw his hat into the ring (with his head still in it) and delivered an FX-makeup-heavy show that is sure to stick like The Blob to the West Coast. This intimate show was jam-packed with the best genre artists, sculpture and FX work you could ever hope to see up close and personal. The show was dedicated to Uncle Forry. James Warren was on hand to pay tribute to his old pal. In fact, Warren spent both of his 2 panels over the weekend talking almost exclusively about Forry. Sadly, Warren’s panels were under-attended. But Industrial rock-god Ogre (Skinny Puppy, Oghr, Repo: A Genetic Opera) stepped up to rouse the small crowd with a chant.

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Artist and illustrator Frank Dietz was, as always, a comforting and friendly presence at the tables. Everybody’s favorite bunny, Frank – aka the talented James Duval (Donnie Darko, Independence Day, The Doom Generation) signed autographs and had as much fun as anyone in attendance. 18-year-old Forry-protégé Casey Wong premiered his hyper-realistic bust of our favorite Uncle. Artist Kevin Kirkpatrick (key makeup artist on my own feature Red Velvet – due for release 08/28/09 – plug, plug) debuted a bust of Simon Metz “Schlitzie” (Freaks) that drew “oohs” and “ahhs” from the appreciative crowd.

Renowned sculptor Russ Luckich featured his remarkable, life-sized Vincent Price figure, wearing hand-sewn Pit and the Pendulum costume, in the Museum section of the con. But the crown jewel of the show had to be the figure of Karloff in Jack Pierce’s Frankenstein makeup, perched in makeup chair, sipping tea. The figure was the masterwork of UK sculptor and FX artist Mike Hill. To stand next to this piece was worth the price of admission. The detail was breathtaking right down to the smudge of black lipstick on the rim of the teacup!

Horrorwood Babbles On: Forrest J Ackerman - Alive and Well in Fandom! (click for larger image)

Of course, no monster-mask-centric show would be complete without the presence of Don Post Studios as represented by Don Post Jr. along with Verne Langdon, who was instrumental in bringing classic horror faces to us through Forry, Warren and the pages of Famous Monsters magazine in the 70’s. Speaking of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, at the FM booth I displayed more Forry-items, which I’m slowly but surely preserving and sharing with fandom. 2010 promises an even bigger and better MONSTERPALOOZA! The gauntlet has been cast. Everyone who didn’t attend wishes they had – and will definitely be there next year. Every FX artist will bring his or her best to try to outdo the stunning work that we ogled at this terrific show. Save your pennies and stir your silicone for 2010.

Horrorwood Babbles On: Forrest J Ackerman - Alive and Well in Fandom! (click for larger image)

Cozy Classic Horror Home!

Monster Bash was one of Forry Ackerman’s favorite yearly events. He had a standing invitation to attend every single Bash from the first on and the remarkable Ron Adams and staff always treated Forry like the beloved Uncle he was. They always treated me as Forry’s son – and still do. This show is unique in that it’s family-oriented with a good helping of young Monster Grandkids. This Butler, PA Con is delightfully tunnelvisioned when it comes to its subject – classic horror. You’ll get about as far as the Hammer catalogue there. Any Friday the 13th fan will have set their time machine too far forward. Talk of 80’s slashers? Eyes glaze over – let the puzzled head scratching begin. But it’s a good thing and maybe the very reason Forry loved Monster Bash so much. Like him, it is obsessive about what it loves! These fans can discuss the subtext of a Lugosi film and quote Ernest Thesiger to rival any Klingon-spouting, episode-numbering Star Trek nut! They are immersed in a specific milieu and they will excavate their subject until the bones are picked clean. And these fans savor every nibble.

Horrorwood Babbles On: Forrest J Ackerman - Alive and Well in Fandom! (click for larger image)

This year my good pals Ron and Linda Chaney made a great showing (Ron was actually in full Wolfman makeup by Ron Chamberlain) The Chaney daughters were present at this, only their second Con and fairly overwhelmed by all the attention aimed at them (well, they are Chaneys AND drop-dead gorgeous like their Mom). The remaining cast members of our favorite Universal movies like Ricou Browning (The Creature From the Black Lagoon), Donnie Dunagan (Ghost of Frankenstein) never lose our interest or their passion. Other Monster Bash guests included Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk). My Scarlet magazine pals premiered their new issue #3 featuring a gorgeous memorial to Forry, which they kindly allowed me to contribute to. There are also fascinating articles about Christianity in horror and a touching remembrance of Bob Quarry, which I also proudly contributed to along with Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs, Driftwood, 2001 Maniacs 2).

Horrorwood Babbles On: Forrest J Ackerman - Alive and Well in Fandom! (click for larger image)

Max Cheney cobbled together a magnificent Frankenstein toy display (with an assist from my monster-sis Elizabeth Haney and Jane Considine) that gave the fans a chance to see hundreds of examples of “merchandise of the monster.” I displayed a few key pieces of Forry memorabilia which fans could spend quality time examining and enjoying. The Forry-stories I was able to share visibly comforted fans that wondered how the end was. The conversations also uplifted me immeasurably.

At midnight Saturday, in the main theater, a group of us got up on stage in front of a full house and silently read our first issues of FM in tribute to Forry. Next a photo-montage and audio interview was played. Yet another emotional time at a Bash that unabashedly credits Forry with starting it all! Then Ron Adams gave out his version of the Forry Awards to guests who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to promote the legacy of classic horror. Terrific makeup artist Ron Chamberlain, Monsters from the Vault publisher Jim Clatterbaugh and long-time pal and Bash staffer Barb Heiss were recipients. Ron Adams was surprised to be awarded a special Rondo by his own staff! If anyone deserves to be handed their own copy of the award they give out, it’s Ron!

Horrorwood Babbles On: Forrest J Ackerman - Alive and Well in Fandom! (click for larger image)

Later there was an outdoor, drive-in screening of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein interrupted by Ron Chaney’s Wolfman and Mike Thomas’s Dracula as well as a couple of dead-on A&C impersonators. Real bats buzzed the outdoor screen! I think you’re getting the idea of just how immersed in the past an event can be. And how much FUN it is! Come and get your retro-horror freak on. If you have little monsters you’d like to share your obscure hobby with, Monster Bash is surely the place to gently and positively do it.

Horrorwood Babbles On: Forrest J Ackerman - Alive and Well in Fandom! (click for larger image)

4e Forry-ever!

All over the country, in every corner of every venue I’ve attended, Forry-fans come out of the weirdwork to tell me just how much he’s helped them. Not just “pleased” them but actually HELPED them. Make-up artists tell me of how Ack’s forrywarding of their fan mail to heroes like Dick Smith and John Chambers (who replied to them) sealed their fate as artists and put their goals within sight. Movie makers and actors relate how they remember Forry, ever accessible, sitting with them and tirelessly telling his stories – more importantly, listening to THEIR stories. Artists rave about Forry hooking them up with patrons who nurtured and launched their careers. With every foot of hotel carpet I hike in every dealer room and corridor, I meet people who credit their happy beginnings in fandom, filmdom, high-art and lifelong friendship to one Forrest J Ackerman. I nod and smile in knowing agreement. It seems Forry was the secret handshake that got us past the door and into a fantastic future.

To the classic horror fan I’d say, thanks for making these events an incredible oasis full of great people and wonderful “stuff.” To the uninitiated I’d suggest traveling to one or all of these shows. You’ll feel the years, worries and the weight of the world drop from your shoulders. You’ll meet friends you never knew you had and see wonders you thought you’d left behind, way back in your childhood. These Cons are the sanctuaries where misunderstood monsters get together to understand each other. You’ll never imagine the new meanings your fellow fans are mining from 100-year-old material. These fans run deep. You might find out what brand of cigar Lugosi smoked or what flavor of tea Karloff favored. Did Vincent Price have a trick-knee or Tod Browning a pet skunk? What did James Whale eat for breakfast? Who cut Jack Pierce’s hair?

Forrest J Ackerman dreamt of a Utopia. In the classic horror world he left behind, everyone IS welcome and there’s definitely something special for everyone. A perfect world of Gods and Monsters!

Joe Moe

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Dread Central UK Enjoys a Box of IT

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One of the best things about writing for Dread Central is the cool gifts companies send us in exchange for covering their releases.

With Stephen King’s It now being available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK, Warner Bros. were kind enough to send me an It-themed gift box absolutely free of charge. I collected this beautiful piece of merchandise from Organic Marketing’s London headquarters, and it is quite possibly my favorite thing in the world. And that’s not an exaggeration.

Inside this beautiful box were four Pennywise-themed cupcakes, a Pennywise Vinyl Pop figure in its original packaging, a laminated flyer, and of course, a copy of the film on Blu-ray. As you can see from the images below, a red balloon, just like the one held by Pennywise in the film, was attached to the box, although I’m sorry to say that it has now been burst (and I’m keeping the remains).

It, which now has the honor of being the highest-grossing R-rated horror film of all time, was directed by Andy Muschietti and stars Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Wyatt Oleff, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, and Finn Wolfhard. With the film now being available on home video in the UK, you shouldn’t waste any time ordering your copy, especially since we gave it a perfect score in our review.

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Fearsome Facts

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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3.0

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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