Saturday, February 14, 2009

Aussie Monster Mags

Famous Monsters of Filmland was never widely distributed in Australia. The country had very little history of filmed or written horror until quite recently. Horror films were actually banned outright for decades.

For the young horror lover (lover of WHAT? wouldn't be an inappropriate question), there were magazines like these, which were filled with licensed or stolen horror articles from other countries where horror was embraced with less contempt.

The generically titled Monster Terror was published on the crappiest paper possible by PAGE PUBLICATIONS, a Sydney-based mass market magazine publisher that specialized in "hobby" mags.

The printing process used for these was so cheap and nasty, the ink still isn't dry today; the images are easily scratched and scuffed.

Despite the company's appalling quality control, there was plenty of gold to be found amongst the wheat.

For example, this article on Murneau's Nosferatu (above) was written by Gary Gerani, who would soldier on to write Fantastic Television, a landmark book on fantasy-based TV that pioneered the concept of "Episode Guides".

For years, it was one of my beloved, non-Christian "Bibles".

Although a couple of stills from Todd Browning's Freaks ('32) had appeared in Dennis Giford's Horror movies, this one-off edition of the company's Monster Horrors featured the first lengthy dissection of the film.

A terrible itch to see the film, an itch that wouldn't be scratched for another seven years, began after several readings and many nights spent staring at amazing photos like these.

Ironically, Page's lousy printing often resulted in grainy reproductions of stills that lent the films a more disturbing quality.

This illustration of a staked Christopher Lee as Dracula always struck me as powerful and gloriously lurid.

For some inexplicable reason, I found this image of Carol Speed as Abby ('74) exceptionally grotesque. Was it her parched and pinched appearance? Or was it the cadaverous facial structure? The twelve year old me found it difficult to reconcile with this publicity pic from AIP. Even now, it makes me feel ill.

The career of the young Jack Nicholson is given a thorough comb-over in this fascinating article.

Note that PAGE PUBLICATIONS P/L, though a publisher of hobby mags...

never offered subscriptions to its horror-themed publications. Instead, they issued a new title when they deemed it financially desirable... or to exploit a sudden trend.

Back when I first purchased this mag in '75, I could not understand how the publisher could possibly think that these shoddy black and white stills could be considered "mini posters". I still can't understand it. Did they actually expect readers to cut them out and post them on a wall somewhere?

A less than impressive contents page.

A true treasure: A wonderful still from Peter Walker's grim House Of Whipcord ('74) with the great Sheila Keith graced one of the last of the Page Publications' horror mags.

And a truly terrible idea -- a horror movie-themed puzzle.

Thank God Famous Monsters was soon to enter my life.

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