Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Strange Change" Model Kit Ad

The "Strange Change" model kit ads (originally posted on my first blog, Sweet Skulls.)
(Click on images to view full size.)

I've been having a blast going through my collection bookcases lately, mining them for material to post on my blogs, here on Monster Memories. Usually, the only time I would get into them very much was when I was packing them up for a move. That was a killer; if you look at them in this picture, you might never guess that they would fill up ten banana boxes each. That's 30 heavy boxes total. I hope I never have to move them again, but that's hoping for too much, I suppose. Otherwise, I only reached into them occasionally as I was looking for something to read on a bathroom visit that threatened to be of extended length. Under such circumstances, you grab what you can off the top of a stack and hoof it!

Now, though, I am seeing things I haven't seen in years, re-discovering items I had forgotten I had. In many cases it's like seeing a friend you haven't come across in years.

Anyway, these ads for the "Strange Change" model kits from the early 70's were something I had forgotten about completely. It must have been well over 30 years since I saw these ads and thought about them! Or course, I never owned one of the kits; if you've read this blog much you know I kept my collecting to things like books, magazines and comics that could fit flat in a drawer, for easy hiding and quick packing. But that didn't keep me from reading and wishing!

"Ah, excuse me, do you have any toilet paper over there? Hello?"

The Vampire was the one I wanted most; I mean, changing from a "living" vampire to a skeleton, and back, how incredibly cool was that? I thought it was the coolest idea in the whole line of hobby kits put out in the MPC line, including the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean kits. It was like a scene from a Hammer Dracula movie!

"Goodbye, I'm off to the age of dinosau....Aaaiieee!"

I always thought it was "strange" that the time machine had the monsters appear inside the craft, but I guess they were taking dramatic license, and assumed that we kids would figure it out that it wasn't merely a fatal design flaw by a careless inventor.

"Close it, close it! Gosh, this is my private time, Mom!"

The Mummy was kind of neat, but he only got a little distressed and dishevelled in his change, not that big a difference. I think the Wolfman would have been a better candidate for a dramatic change. But what would they have put him in? A dog kennel?

If they wanted a truly strange change, they could have made one where Frankenstein's monster changes into the Bride! But that would have been a little ahead of it's time.

Of course, the ultimate would have been to make one with Vampirella; where she changes between slightly dressed and completely undressed! Ah, one can dream...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Thing

From the July-August 1982 issue of Cinefantastique, comes this extensive article on the original 1951 movie "The Thing." One of the great early sci-fi films, "The Thing" was actor James Arness' first genre role, only glimpsed fleetingly as the menacing alien. Another sci-fi role followed three years later in "Them!" This time he played the hero, his face not obscured in heavy makeup. The snappy overlapping dialog, a trademark of Director Hawks, helped make a film with a way-out premise seem more realistic and down-to-earth.This article is full of facts and behind the scene photos, so enjoy!

(Click on images to enlarge.)

Below, some of the (thankfully) unused makeup tests range from the hilariously thumb-like Thing (which shows they were once considering taking the "intellectual carrot" premise more literally) to a couple that seem to have inspired the look of the drag queen "Divine," without being quite as unappealing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dracula Returns Again... In Book Form!

Note: this entry was originally posted on an earlier blog of mine, "Sweet Skulls." Thought my readers of this blog would enjoy it now!

(Click on images to enlarge)

"Hey, I'm over here, behind this big ol' skull!"

My grandma's house was a few miles from a small bookstore called Bill's on Ingleside Ave in Macon, GA. As a young teen, when visiting her house on the weekend, I would sometimes walk the distance to look for the latest issue of The Monster Times or other cool magazines. After all, they had a better selection than the closer-to-home drugstore where I usually went. One summer, in 1973, I came upon the first in the Dracula Horror Series titled "Dracula Returns," and had read it nearly halfway through on the walk back to her house. It's a wonder I made it without getting run over, but I was pretty good at walking and reading. I still recall exactly where I was in the book at particular points as I walked home, passing under the oaks draped with spanish moss, blowing in the faint breeze.

Most horrifying of all, the flower in his buttonhole seemed fresh! Aaaiiiieeee! I never knew the Count liked wearing a daisy on his suit.

The series was begun as we learn how the telekenetic wheelchair-bound Professor X... uh, I mean, Professor Harmon, is drawn by Dracula's consort/slave (and sometimes black cat) Isis... I mean, Katara, into bringing the Count back to life. The Professor thinks he can control the Prince of Darkness by implanting a sliver of wood next to his heart, and triggering the mechanism with his mind to temporarily kill him should the need arise. He intends to use the vampire as a weapon in the war against crime. Needless to say, you can't keep such a creature on a short leash without getting bitten. I might point out that close to the same time, Marvel was publishing the first issue of "Tomb Of Dracula," which I bought and still have. The wheelchair-bound protagonist Quincy Harker (depicted to the right) resembled the character of Professor Harmon, at least superficially, but with the publishing dates so close it might have only been a coincidence. However, Harmon wanted to use Dracula, and Harker only wanted to kill him.

"Put your head on my shoulder..." The awkward positioning of Katara makes it look as if her head has been grafted onto Drac's right shoulderblade.

Assisted by Cameron Sanchez, a strong and devoted friend, Harmon unleashes this supernatural force on those seemingly above the laws of man. The shape-shifter Katara helps out, but always with her Master's best interest in mind. Although Harmon considers himself morally above the criminal element he is seeking to expunge, Dracula knows that he in his own way is as blood-thirsty as the vampire he is using, and points that out, to the Professor's unease. Is he any better than the criminals and Dracula, by using such harsh and brutal methods? He is certainly no hero, but the thought doesn't hinder him from continuing to risk using his unwilling ally. And the blood flows copiously as Dracula, unleashed upon various criminal elements, metes out gory justice with slashing fingernails and fangs. They'd have been better off in jail.

The part of Professor Harmon will be played this episode by Boris Karloff.

As a youth I enjoyed the book, detailing Drac's return to "life" in modern times, and the various missions he sends the Count on fulfill his thirst for blood and the Professor's for justice. But Vlad's own agenda and desire for freedom mean that he is always looking for ways to escape the restrictions and feast on the Professor's own blood. Travelling from country to country during their adventures, the unlikely quartet meet with what seems to be a supernatural threat, but only turns out to be someone faking it. Though not always the case, this happens to such an extent that you begin to think that at the end, the bad guys are going to say "and I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for that meddling wheelchair guy and his vampire!" Then Dracula slaughters them.

"One... two... three! Three million beautiful gold coins! Ah-ah-ah-ah-aaaaah!"

The series was successful enough to generate eight followups, which came out in extremely rapid succession, three of which I was able to find. After that I lost track of them. From what I've seen, after about #5 the artwork started to slide and Drac became more of a cartoon figure. But if I were to run across any at a used bookstore, I would pick them up and read them just for old time's sake. If the series were honest, it would end with Dracula finally turning on Harmon, proving the truth of the saying "he who lives by the sword dies by the sword." The revenge on evil, using evil to inflict it, that the Professor engineered would certainly turn on him at last. I doubt that ever happens, though. A continuing series such as this rarely ever concludes and wraps things up, as there might always be another book if the last sold well. The author is not willing to burn his coffins behind him.

Ad from Famous Monsters about the book series...

Kids! Ask your parents for the money to order!

Side note: In the same "vein," we have a novel that was published in 1973 that purports to be "non-fiction," in which a series of letters, journal entries and newspaper clippings tell the story of Dracula's resurrection and subsequent neck-bitings. Although a fun read at the time, the cover art depicts a very anemic-looking, not to mention fey, Count which reinforces the common Lugosi stereotype.

"I vant to suck... your blood! Vhat did you think I vas going to say, you naughty, naughty boy?"

Just to be a completist, below you will find the remaining covers to the rest of the books in the series. These I scavenged from around the web, but the ones above this I scanned in from my own copies.

The complete list:

#1: Dracula Returns (Pinnacle 1973)

#2: The Hand of Dracula (Pinnacle 1973)

#3: Dracula's Brothers (Pinnacle 1973)

#4: Dracula's Gold (Pinnacle 1973)

#5: Drums of Dracula (Pinnacle, 1974)

#6: The Witching of Dracula (Pinnacle, 1974)

#7: Dracula's Lost World (Pinnacle, 1974)

#8: Dracula's Disciple (Pinnacle, 1975)

#9: Challenge to Dracula (Pinnacle, 1975)

Update: Hey, you want to really know more about the Dracula Series, from someone much more erudite than I am? Read the excellent and comprehensive post on it over at the Groovy Age of Horror blogspot! Makes me want to take mine down out of shame.

4-18-2011 Update: Dracula author Robert Lory is alive, and interviewed on Sidney Williams' blog... check it out!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Castle Of Frankenstein #2: The Many Faces Of Christopher Lee

From the second issue of the great monster mag, "Castle of Frankenstein," published in 1962, comes this photo-heavy feature on "The Many Faces Of Christopher Lee." I consider myself very lucky to have this issue!

(Click on images to enlarge.)

I'll be posting more from this issue is the near future!

Monday, February 21, 2011

1974 FM cover article on Christopher Lee

Welcome back! I've been so busy lately, that this blog kind of got neglected. But hopefully I can update it regularly for awhile now. Thanks for hanging around (like a vampire bat.)

From the March 1974 issue #105 of the beloved Famous Monsters, comes a 12 page article and interview with the Prince of Darkness himself, Chris Lee. We start with the awesome cover by the legendary Basil Gogos...

(Click on images to enlarge.)

and the article itself... enjoy!

Bonus: the Lee-as-Dracula cover from issue #84, which, oddly enough, does not feature anything significant about Lee inside; so I thought it would go nicely here. What a great photo, that made a striking cover!