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MONSTERS - A Tribute to the Black & White Classic Films of Universal Studios

Updated on April 26, 2011

Famous Monsters of Filmland Revisited

MONSTERS: A Celebration of the Classics from Universal Studios

Roy Milano, Bela Lugosi, Jennifer Osborne, and Rick Baker

Del Rey/Ballantine

Hardcover: 176 pages

 

Rating ♦♦♦♦♦

In September 2006, this collectors' item was released to celerate the 75th anniversary of the release of the black and white Universal Studios film Frankenstein. Terrifying movie patrons in 1931, the film has become a cult classic popular with connosuiers of the history of terror in art and film and with elementary school children near Halloween.

Forrest J. Ackerman kept the popularity of horror and cult sci-fi films alive with his publciacation Famous Monsters of Filmlandfor many years. The are collectors items. Mr. Ackerman even turned his home into the museum of sorts, referred to as the Ackermansion. AMong the films, the mansion and the magazine, filmgoers enjoyed horro and sci-fi excitement for many years and continue to do so.

As a professional tribute to the famous actors that portrayed the monsters and misfits featured in Mr. Ackerman's magazine, Roy Milano has produced MONSTERSwith striking, large-sized photos and interviews with realtives and friends of these cult screen legends. It is a beautiful book that brilliantly highlights an important era in Hollywood history.

FRANKENSTEIN

As a piece of collector's nostalgia, MONSTERS was released for publcation in 2006, during the year in which the 75th anniversary of the horror/sci-fi cult classic Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff, was released. His phota as the creature appears on the cover of the coffee table book.

In 1931, Karloff, the former lorry driver from London, became famous for his role in Frankenstein, followed by another favorite of mine - his role as the inventor in Night Key - as well as others. In Night Key, Karloff played a middle- aged inventor that had developed an excellent burglar alarm system. However, its design was stolen from him in a manner similar to that in which the automatic wiper was taken by Ford (see the movie Flash of Genius).

In retribution to the men that stole his invention, the inventor enlisted the help of a local character to break into all the shops that had purchased the alarm (he had still retained the disarming code) and play practical jokes at night (the night key was the code). In the umbrella shop, the duo opened up all of the umbrellas and left. In the clock shop, they set all of the alarm clocks (100s of them) to go off during store hours all at once. They did many of these stunts, were attacked by the thieves of the invention, but gained victory at the end of the film.

The book Monstersitself is a museum quality piece of collectible work that contains photos never seen anywhere together previous to publication. I feel fortunate to have one of the first copies produced.-- I had never seen some of these photos in any publication or online previously at all, let alone together. The cover photo of the creature form Frankensteinis particularly striking and probably recognize by new generations beyond those that first viewed the film when it was released and all the folks that saw it on Thriller Theater type television shows from the 1950s to today. Younger generations are more familiar with Hammer Films productions of these stories and with Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein - even with Bram Stoker's Dracula, which was more horrifying in several ways than the original. These generations can see some similarity with the old classics, even upon first meeting the old films..

Although some fans of Dracula would prefer to have Bela Lugosi's Dracula on the cover of the book, there are plenty of exciting pictures of both characters inside its covers. Ther are also phots of Wolfman (Lon Chaney, Jr.), The Mummy, the Creatuer form the Black Lagoon, and several others first made popular in classic black and white film. The shadows and light contributed tension and terror to these films, as they did to film noir crime stories,but some audiences simply laigh at these genres today.

Essays in a Monster Book

The book holds not only excellent phographs of Hollywood stars portraying famous classic film monsters popular fomr 1925 - 1956, but also a classy series of essays about them, their work, and their families that readers will find nowhere else. Bela Lugosi died in 1956, and I wish he'd lived to make more of his films.

I watched Chiller Theater in middle school on Friday nights when I was old enough to stay up later. The films I saw were Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolfman, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man and about a dozen others. Science fiction films like Things to Come were also shown ina double featuer each Friday. For a few years, they repeated over in a series beginning each May. it was not until much later that I leanred that the theme song for Dracula is actually from Swan Lake. Years later, I still have the handsome Vampire and the ballet inextricably combined in my mind. I feel that someone should combine the two stories.

Monsters contains essays on all the major horror stars and bring back the memories provided by viewing Chiller Theater.

Filmland's Forrest J. Ackerman

Forrest J. Ackerman (age 91 in 2008) is popular with science fiction and futurists fans as much as he was among fans of horror films.

He is still well known among sci-fi fandom of all ages. Special sections of all major sci-fi conventions are dedicated to him and Famous Monsters of Filmland, his magazine of 1958 - 1983.

Ackerman was a familiar friend to all of the horror stars and promoted their work with his magazine. Of his many pen names, Dr. Akula was a favorite.

As of 2008, he continues to preserve their memory in an 18-room home that he has turned into a museum that he named the Ackermansion. To read Monsters is much like taking a tour of Ackerman's museum.

Bela Lugosi

(Photos public domain)
(Photos public domain)

Dracula

Bela Lugosi was a classically trained actor on the serious stage and appeared is several dramas and musicals before he became well known for his roles in horror films. He played Dracula, Frankensteins' creature, Wolfman, mad scientists, and other related roles. He was also in Plan 9 from Outer Space.

During the Cold War and the related communist witch hunts of Joseph McCarthy and the Republican administration, many Hollywood stars were blacklisted for communist party membership or sympathies. Bela Lugosi was quite concerned with the unfairness of the movement and rose to gave a speech to a group of people interested in the matter. He became so emotional that he switched from English to his native Hungarian early in his speech and the crowd still understood him and were moved to tears.

Lugosi's son had written about his father in an essay in Monsters and in a biography. In his essay he included the lines

"...Dad was above all a family man who placed my mother and me at the top of his list...I realized that things he taught me were not just idle preaching. He practiced what he preached and was able to overcome obstacles in his life that few men could conquer." (Monsters, p. 41)

A video presentation below offers additional views of Bela Lugosi, Jr.

Official Bela Lugosi Site:

Dracula and Dr. Van Helsing

Bela Lugosi Jr. Speaks about His Father

The Career of Bela Lugosi

Martin Landau Speaks on His Role as Bela Lugosi in "Ed Wood"

From Universal Studios
From Universal Studios

Favorites Forever

Frankenstein and Dracula were always my favorite horror film characters, while there are several others featured in Monsters.

The essays about Lon Chaney, Jr. and the actors that portrayed other classic characters are unforgettable.  Collectors of classic films in general and of memorabilia associated with them will ebjoy this book.The Classic Monster Collection from Universal Studios is a related compilation, but does not contain the essays that Monsters includes.

Monsters is the one that I will read and re-read and never give away.

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    • B.T. Evilpants profile image

      B.T. Evilpants 

      9 years ago from Hell, MI

      But of course! Another of my faves was, I think, exclusive to the Detroit area. His name was Sir Graves Ghastly, and he was an absolute riot! He hosted the weekly horror flick, and did schtick between the commercials.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Remember Count Floyd on SCTV?

    • B.T. Evilpants profile image

      B.T. Evilpants 

      9 years ago from Hell, MI

      Now how did I miss this little gem? The old black and white horror flicks are my favorites! I also love the less scary, but equally classic renditions offered by the great Abbot and Costello. They just don't make 'em like that anymore. *sigh*

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks very much for our web address.

    • GhostlyChills profile image

      GhostlyChills 

      9 years ago

      High i own a small horror web store named GhostlyChillsBookStore.com and i've done some basic research on the Frankenstein monster. David Skal's "The Monster Show" has a in dept story on the Frankenstein Monster.

      If you want to check out my web store use the url: www.HorrorBookStore3.com

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Most of the horror films these days are so full of blood and gore that audiences have become desensitized. I remember a group of college students laughing at Dracula and Frankenstein at a horror show marathon a couple of years ago.

      I agree that the back-and-white films could do a lot with shadows that enhanced suspense. I guess I liked Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman, too. Hammer Films remakes or spinoffs weren't as good imo. And Friday 13th series got old fast.

    • smart cat profile image

      smart cat 

      9 years ago from Kentucky

      Great page! I love Bela!! To bad most new monster movies are crappy! I am surprsied of how many movie that are new are actucally just spin off of the great oldies. But lucky I am able to watch the REAL deal, in the black and white days! I hope the new wolf man movie that is coming out is not 2 bad!

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 

      10 years ago from London UK

      Now these are the guys that used to give me nightmares!! I loved Frankie " Frankenstein" and they should do a modern remake which would be good!

      Nice one;)

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      It sounds like you have a very good time with your father on Wednesdays.

      I liked Chiller Theater on Friday nights, with Lumia afterward, a poetry show!

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      I love those old creepy movies. They always remind me of the wednesday nights Dad and I stayed up for the horror late show.

      Nice HUB regards Zsuzsy

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