Saturday, January 4, 2014

Great Monsters of the Movies

It all began with a tattered paperback book found at a random yard sale at some point during my youth...

It was probably on a warm summer day in the early 90's that I found it. Somewhere amidst the clutter cacophony of bric-a-brac, old excersise equipment, and mothball-scented sweaters (Who went to yard sales for clothes? I was on the hunt for books and toys!)...

I found it...
My precious...

"Great Monsters of the Movies" by Robert K. Davidson

Having been interested mainly in dinosaurs up to that point I suppose I was drawn to the book and subsequently begged my mother for the 25 cents to purchase it because there was a brief chapter about Godzilla in the back (A legitimate reason for anything's necessity if there ever was one...).

Aside from the orange cover, the contents of the entire book was printed in black and white which was unusual for me, but it added to the mystique of the titular monsters contained within.  Black and white photography always seems to make things more mysterious even to this day, at least in my mind.

I always had to skip this page with this picture of Lon Chaney in London After Midnight.  It legitimately creeped me out.  Still kinda does... 
They were all there...  Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula, Wolf-Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon!  I pored over that book for years, reading the synopses of the classic Universal, Hammer, and Toho films.  It was one of my first introductions to the iconic movie monsters and the actors that portrayed them.  Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney (Sr. and Jr.), Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Vincent Price.  I yearned to see them all in the movies themselves, but would have to wait many years to do so.

There was also the occasional insight into the making of the movies.  It was in these pages that I first learned of special effects and make-up techniques.  Rather than destroy any remaining air of mystery the descriptions actually increased my fascination and inspired me to make my own monsters in later years.  

I didn't grow up with these classic movies on the big screen and it wouldn't be until much later in life that I heard of publications like Famous Monsters that kept the flame going, but I always considered myself a "monster kid" thanks to this book.

Eventually, the its cover disintegrated, even with multiple attempts to salvage it with tape and contact paper...  But the book itself made an impression that has lasted for years.

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