Sunday, May 23, 2010

30 Years of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK - part 23

It is generally considered that Star Wars spelled the beginning of the end for Famous Monsters magazine, and that the splatter films of the 1980s killed it for good. i don't at all disagree with this assessment. The monster boom that began in the late 1950s was beginning to trickle out by the mid-1970s, and Star Wars pretty much put it to rest as a whole, Famous Monsters was just one of the final casualties, but who can blame james Warren and Forrest J Ackerman for including so much Star Wars coverage in order to boost sales, and if some kid drawn to picking up a copy of Famous Monsters because R2-D2 was on the cover found himself interested in the Frankenstein monster as a result than even better.

Famous Monsters was an erratic staple of my childhood, along with comic books. I didn't always find it on the newsstand, but when I did, I usually picked up a copy. After the two issues with "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" on the cover, much longer periods would go by between copies that I'd pick up, and I'd long stopped reading it, or comics for the most part, before Star Wars ever came along. Star Wars may have been the only comic book I began reading regularly again for years. So, how did I find my way back to Famous Monsters?

I couldn't tell you exactly, but The Empire Strikes Back had  a lot to do with it. For some reason I found myself in the local drug store looking through a copy of Starlog, which had the first photo from Empire I recall seeing (it was a bunch of rebel troopers fleeing from Imperial Walkers which would be matted into the frame behind them, but were then not visible). I bought this issue, and the next, and so on until my early college years. Starlog led me to Famous Monsters (which I picked up again regularly until the end) and led me to Fangoria which I also read until early college (one of my old college friends is now an editor at Fangoria).

One of the things I always appreciated about Famous Monsters is that often  if an appropriate photo wasn't available for an article about a particular movie, Forry Ackerman would run a photo from a different movie to illustrate his point, also making you keenly interested in the movie the photo came from at the same time. This added a nice variety to the look of the articles, and created excitement for something tangental to the article the photo accompanied. The article below is a perfect example of just the right photo being used in an unrelated article.


After the glimpse of the back of Darth Vader's bare, scarred head that we were treated to in The Empire Strikes Back I wondered what the rest of his face looked like. What I had in mind was far more severe and horrendous than what we would later get in Return of the Jedi. The shot of Vincent Price in burn makeup from House of Wax really hit the mark in suggesting what Vader might look like beneath that helmet. I was well acquainted with the work of Vincent Price by then, but had never seen House of Wax, but after this article I began to scour TV Guide's listings for the 4:00 Movie in case it might be on.

The use of the Vincent Price photo resonated with me enough that I even wrote a letter to Famous Monsters to tell them.

This letter appeared in Famous Monsters # 172, the issue with Lilly Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman on the cover. The letter was edited down quite a bit, and Forry Forry'd the spelling of photos to fotos, but it got across what I'd wanted it to.


John Rozum said...

Sorry the layout for this one is such a mess. Blogger was giving me trouble no matter what I did and the preview always looks different than the final outcome. I finally just gave up.

L.A. Jim said...

What? You didn't run my picture of you with Uncle Forrey along with the Famous Monsters article?

John Rozum said...

Jim, I used that photo back in December 2008 when Forry died.

Michael Jones said...

By coinkidink, today, I plan on posting a copy of Starlog that I picked up the other day. It doesn't have much Empire goodness, but it does have a Frazetta cover & a Harryhausen article!

Robert Pope said...

whatta great post!

Todd Franklin said...

I always wanted to send in a letter to FM, but never did. Glad you did!