Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fangoria Retrospective of Fear: It Takes All Kinds of Critters to Make Farmer Vincent's Fritters

Well horror fans… it’s time for another episode of a little blog we like to call Fangoria Retrospective of Fear. For this week’s entry I want all to know that I have eaten two different kinds of meat stick, one being the delightful pepper stick from Cabela and the other a Jack’s Link standard issue beef stick. I thoroughly enjoyed both of them even though I am quite certain they were made with preservatives. I’m fairly certain neither meat stick was made of organically grown humans planted in the ground and then harvested via tractor, hacked to pieces with a chainsaw and smoked. I’m even more certain that Rory Calhoun was not the preparer of the meats (he is dead, more likely the beef stick than the beef stick maker). Farmer Vincent would unleash his unholy secret, “I used preservatives” onto the world in Motel Hell and issue #9 of Fangoria features his delightful visage plus chainsaw and pig head mask on its cover. This had to be a bold move for the early 80’s. Blood on a chainsaw on the cover of a magazine… pushing boundaries. Setting the bar just a little higher and truly capturing an audience. The cover promises The Howling previewed including the chance to win a Howling T-shirt, He Knows You’re Alone, Terror Train and … Conan?

Let’s get down to the guts of issue #9…

Nice opening statement from the publisher, Kerry O’Quinn about that guy in every bunch. The guy who’s afraid to be scared and who will avoid all things horror at all costs. Her friend, Martin, leaves the room whenever she brings in a copy of Fangoria. If he could only see what’s to come out of this mag he’d avoid Kerry altogether. The Postal Zone is filled with people each month commenting on the amount of gore in the magazine. Tone it down? (They have yet to turn it up!) Fans were even requesting the “Fantastic Art” feature be reinstated after it was abandoned. There’s a reason this magazine become famous and beloved by horror fans and not fantasy dorks. Apparently these letter writers couldn’t handle the Friday the 13th spread, the Maniac spread, but thank fuck some reader finally made comment about the overabundance of Sci Fi themes in these early issues and told them to leave those to their Sci Fi mags. Star Wars may be amazing, but truly has a limited place in Fango. Now for the juicy stuff.

As the cover boasts, Motel Hell: Beauty and the Beast … with chainsaws! And inside, “From the produces of Time After Time (?)… From the writer of Demon Seed (computer rape!)… From the director of Arabian Adventure (one of the worst films with some of the best magic carpets in the last… forever!!!)… something a little different…” I thought I used elipses a lot. Jesus Christ, how did Motel Hell ever get made? The people behind it must have looked into the future and stole it from a worthy group of creators. You know the outcome of their $3,000,000 effort is a fantastic horror comedy, one of my favorites. According to Fango it exceeds the budget for Halloween, Friday the 13th, Phantasm and Dawn of the Dead. Seeing as its gross revenue is listed at $6.3 million I think they made out alright. It came straight out of the minds of writers consciously trying to test the boundaries of good taste and what had been done. Axe-ploitation they call it in the article. I’d say this is your 1980 equivalent of torture porn from the sound of the write up and audience response.

Onto the Howling and a very young picture of the magnificent Joe Dante. The article details on the struggle of Dante transitioning a somewhat unbelievable but well selling novel into a believe script. The famed character names based on various directors. Dante had to play with modern and traditional werewolf myth to fit the timeline for his film and that meant revising the werewolf canon. Werewolves don’t need a full moon after Dante gets through with them. I’d go a step further and say we see some werewolf transitions in the daylight hours in this picture. That seems to break with tradition too doesn’t it? One thing that breaks with horror movie tradition is the special effects. These werewolves look angular with pointy ears and larger than wolfman proportion builds. These aren’t your grandma’s werewolves. Kudos to Rob Bottin for taking on this job and blowing away Rick Baker’s American Werewolf in London’s werewolves (in my humble opinion and I never use the word “kudos”).

The only note I wish to make on the Conan “progress report” is that it is exactly two column widths wide with a giant picture of a sword in a pile of skulls. The caption reads, “Yes, Virginia, there will be a Conan movie…” I find that you have two short columns of data and then an immediate jump to the end of the mag truly captures just how little everyone is concerned with Conan. The rest of the article is buried deep in the heart of the magazine where you’ll find Arnold Schwarznegger’s chance at running for president of the U.S. post-affair.

This is immediately followed by the recollections of Alex Gordon, the American International Pictures producer responsible for Bride of the Monster, Voodoo Woman, She-Creature and Day the World Ended. He discuss old Hollywood, the transition into 50’s picture making and his relationship with Bela Lugosi. He mentions that he wanted to make a bio picture of Lugosi’s life he he could get the write budgeting and mentions that one of American’s earliest efforts was to take footage from Vampire over London and use it in a new picture called King Robot. This never actually gets off the ground, but King Robot would make a great band name (and somebody’s already using it, bummer). His commentary on the British film rating system of the 1930’s lets you know that some things never change. We have the MPAA and they had the British Council.

You can’t escape the name Jamie Lee Curtis in early 80’s horror. You just can’t. Why would you want to? This issue we talk about Terror Train. So we’ve got Halloween, Prom Night, the Fog, Terror Train… I’d pretty much have stopped acting right there knowing that I had been in some of the best horror pictures to ever see the screen (and that would be if I could see into the future and understand quite fully the impact these pictures would have on cinema as we know it). Fango gives us a nice history of the use of trains in horror citing Curse of the Demon (Night of the Demon!) and then the Rocky Horror lyric dedicated to the scene in Curse of the Demon and the Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors and finally Horror Express. I think the best part of this article is the mini-interview with Jamie Lee where she mentions that they were discussing doing Halloween II in 3-D. Wouldn’t that have been something? Freddy’s got a 3-D movie (or at least a 3-D sequence in a movie). Jason’s got a 3-D movie. Michael Myers should get one too! Weinstein Company… this Fangoria Retrospective of Fear gives you the mandate. She also mentions she saw Death Ship and she had to put her jacket over her head. That movie was terrible. George Kennedy isn’t scary and neither is a giant tanker ship. Jamie Lee Curtis is a pussy? I’d never believe it.

The next article is on the Elephant Man. Why is it that everyone associates David Lynch with horror. I love Eraserhead. Not a horror movie. I love the Elephant Man… not a horror movie (even the caption to the article says it). I love Twin Peaks… that’s not a horror movie either. Neither is Blue Velvet. Lost Highway… nope! David Lynch creates such disturbing images that you can help but associate him with horror pictures. If you haven’t caught this movie, go get your butterfly net.
Next up we have a full feature on He Knows You’re Alone which really goes more into the back story of its director, Armand Mastroianni who incidentally seems to be somehow associated with more Hollywood royalty than any other one hit wonder in horror history. Coppola, Preminger? This guy mostly made TV dramas, but he makes one horror movie that everyone thinks is the bees knees and knows everyone who’s anyone. Reading this article I kept saying, “who cares how this guy knows… he’s barely done anything.”

The next writer/director/producer retrospective/interview is definitely noteworthy. Leslie Stevens, the man who brought you the Outer Limits or as he makes us aware, the show was originally to be called Please Stand By and he liked it that way. Like the Zone, Outer Limits had some amazing source material to work from challenging social norms but with more of an edge and clearly more of an effects comprehension and budget. Stevens got to work with Orson Welles during his tenor at the Mercury Theatre as an errand boy. He found the best special effects talent. The best cinematographers. Leslie Stevens did one heck of a job on the horizontal… and the vertical too!

As many of us celebrate the centennial anniversary of Vincent Price’s birth, we have been posting articles, writing retrospectives, dedicating whole beautiful magazine entries to his memory… Here we have an article on the making of House of Wax, a pivotal role in the career of Mr. Price. The article itself is an interview with the man responsible for making the film, Andre De Toth. His recollections of Price: “Vincent Price is a very talented actor and a gentleman, not necessarily in order of importance. Nothing falls in place easily with him”. So there’s that. Another powerful observation, “3-D should not be a freak show. Wisely used, it can add to the reality of the story, the scene, the ambiance – can put the audience in the situation, not only viewing it.” Somebody wanna send that certified mail to any Hollywood producer who thinks he’s ready to tackle a 3-D picture?
B-Movie Paul Blaisdell gets part two of an article on this B-movie monster maker and actor of the 50’s. Movies of note here are IT!, Voodoo Woman, Colossal Man, Invasion of the Saucermen, She-Creature, The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow, Monster from Green Hell and Not of this Earth.

Follow that with an article on the Marvel comic turn Saturday Morning Cartoon Thundarr The Barbarian. I will have you know that I watched this cartoon for the short spell that it was on. It was on reruns at that point, but I gotta say I loved every second of it. I’m not filled with the same sense of nostalgia about this particular one because I never owned any Thundarr toys. Pity. I may have to reinvestigate this cartoon. On a slightly different note… Beast Master, Conan, Thundarr… whats the obsession with the barbarian, Viking-esque warriors in the early 80’s and why did Fangoria love to feature them?

Quick Notes: Creepshow was also considered for the old three dimension treatment as well as a Sean Cunningham sequel from Friday the 13th (just maybe not the second one right?... we know better now). As for the aforementioned T-Shirt contest… find the werewolf fang picture… It’s at the end of one of the articles. That’s all I’m saying. I would love to get my hands on one of these shirts. There’s a blip (literally a blip) on the release of the movie Mother’s Day.

Next Issue we will offer you a bright, sunshiney retrospective on Funhouse, Texas Chainsaw, Eaten Alive, Salem’s Lot, Scanners, Altered States, Dead and Buried, Alien… all in the December 80 issue of Fango.

The retro of yester year is the classic of our age. Reading some of these old mags has taught me that in twenty years, someone is going to be examining Insidious in just the same way as I look at Candy Man which is the same way that the Fango folks looked at House of Wax and the 50’s B-Movie invasion. The interviews I read today on obscure authors or directors will seems that much more obscure in twenty to thirty years unless they make something huge and almost horror epic. Something to make the next generation care just a little. Also, Count Fangor… they have a Count Fangor Mask and a comic strip. Count Fangor is the mascot of Fangoria in 1980. How long this lasts will be curious. Maybe our current horror entertainment mags need mascots and accompanying masks?

-Dr. Terror… think I’ll go listen to Bark at the Moon by Ozzy Osbourne and tip my glass to Joe Dante. I already paid a fitting ode to the Motel Hell folks.