Monday, June 27, 2011

Fangoria Flashbacks: Issue #5

Fangoria #5 April, 1980:  Let Fango be Fango!

 Here is the last issue of Fangoria to have an undue amount of Starlog material in it.  Well, the last one I have at any rate.  #6 managed to elude me sadly.  Issue #5 is a dead giveaway that things are goping badly as instead of 64 pages, we get a measly 42 with a 16 page poster book from some obscure fantasy film called Faeries.  I don't have said poster book...And that's okay with me, really.

The cover is also indicative of the apparent internal problems with The Fog, a flat-out horror film if there ever was one, relegated to the film strip while the main photo is given to the rather terrible Saturn 3.  Though to be fair, it is basically a slasher movie...with only a few characters...menaced by a killer robot.

In terms of overall content, we do get a nice little piece on The Fog as well as a good interview with Village of the Damned director Wolf Rilla.   I'm also fond of the John Carl Buechler interview even though it has nothing to do with horror.  The guy is just really fun to read about.  The second part of the animated ape series is also good.

Notable Notes:

  •  Some amusing things pop up in the letters section.  First off is a letter asking for there to be no more gory photos.  I can only imagine what the fellow thought a few issues after this.  Another bit of strangeness comes from two letters about the name of the magazine.  Odd, though understandable.
  • The article on The Fog is quite good (no shock since editor Bob Martin is a very good writer) and on a personal note, I just have to say that it's one of my favorite horror films of all time, right up there with Phantasm which I also love.  Good acting, solid story, nice creepy atmosphere, just an excellent movie.
  • There's a preview of the little known Bert I. Gordon film The Coming, one of the few films he did that didn't involve huge creatures/actors.
  • Serving as a nice little companion piece to the Village of the Damned retrospective is an article on the classic giant ants running wild flick Them!
  • One article that is glaringly out of place is the piece on the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica.  While it is true that the Galactica: 1980 spin off was a horror, that doesn't mean it fits into the horror genre.
At the end of the day, this is a very underwhelming issue of Fangoria, though there are some things worth reading in it as with all issues.  Change would be coming quickly though, very quickly.

Coming Soon:  Issue #7, Witness the rebirth of fear!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fangoria Flashbacks: Issue #4

Fangoria #4 February, 1980:  The Search for Identity

 We skip over to the fourth issue and in a sign that things were somewhat amiss at the office, the main cover shot is given to Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Now granted, this was a pretty big movie at the time but it was already getting tons of coverage in Starlog, making the article here on the movie come across like leftovers from big brother.

Adding to the "Starlog leftovers" feel of the issue is the piece on giant robot cartoons from Japan.  The article is good and informative, but it just feels out of place next to the coverage of Salem's Lot and retrospective piece on the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

As usual, everything is pretty well written (this has generally been the case so I won't harp on it too much unless something egregious pops up) with the Caroline Munro interview taking top honors.  We also get a glimpse of what the magazine will eventually evolve into with a piece on gore film maven Herschell Gordon Lewis.  As is the case with the retrospective articles, this is a well done, amusing interview that gives plenty of amusing details.

Design-wise there isn't much to say.  The film strip is still there in all its glory and as usual, the color scheme is very well planned, though it is a little odd to see the Fangoria logo in aquamarine.  Not the first color one thinks of when it comes to this magazine.

Notable Notes:
  •  The first two pages of the Caroline Munro interview are maybe the most eye-catching in the entire run of the magazine, which is impressive when you stop and realize we're talking a periodical famous for gory photos and monsters.  That stuff will get attention, but a scantily clad Caroline Munro will get the job done too.
  • The H.G. Lewis and Invasion of the Body Snatchers articles are prime examples of the early retrospective articles done in the magazine.  Brisk, informative and well written.  In later years, the format will expand a bit.
  • Equally nice is the piece on Curse of the Demon.  One of the better horror films of the 50's and one I still really need to see (my backlog is quite impressive).
  • A Stephen King film makes its first appearance here with an article on Salem's Lot.  More will come in the next few years.  Oh man will we ever get more!
  • Well done as they are, the giant robot article and bit on the robots of The Black Hole are just out of place.  More justifiable is the opening article on animated apes as King Kong can sort of be considered sort of a horror film if you show it to a little kid who gets scared real easy.  This applies for both remakes as well, though not for King Kong Lives.  That's just horrible.
  • The Monster Invasion section gives us one big thing to look forward to with the blurb on Friday the 13th.  Other than that and a little note about the upcoming Scanners, it mostly tells us about stuff better off in Starlog.
In the end, this a well written but tonally uneven issue.  It will get better soon but as it has been said, sometimes you need to hit rock bottom before you can get back up.

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Fangoria Flashbacks: Issue #2

    Fangoria #2 October, 1979:   Bearing with Growing Pains

    We begin our journey with issue #2.  The earliest issue I have, the sophomore effort for the magazine is a solid little number that is one of the few early issues that could possibly fit in with the ones that would come in later years.  Already some of the staples of the magazine are firmly in place with the distinctive film strip on the side of the cover and the logo which would stay pretty much the same for twenty years.

    Also interesting to note is the main cover boy is the monster from Prophecy, a rather awful eco-horror flick directed by John Frankenheimer of all people.  The film strip promises a look at one of the best horror films of the era and a personal favorite of mine, Phantasm.

    In terms of the actual content, it's a bit half-and-half as the early days of the magazine seemed unsure of what they wanted to focus on.  On the one hand, there are pieces on straight-up horror films like the two Dracula films that came out in 1979, Prophecy, the 1931 version o0f Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Phantasm along interviews with Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson in this issue and makeup F/X god Tom Savini in the first issue.  On the other, Starlog's influence seems to creep through as we are also given an odd selection of art, a solid yet somewhat out of place piece on War of the Worlds and an article on Dr. Who creatures.

    The overall issue is well done and well put together but one can see the underlying internal dilemma the magazine was going through.  This will become more pronounced in the next few issues.

    Notable Notes
    •  The first iteration of the editorial column is called Imagination Inc.  It will stay this way for the first fifty issues with Bob Martin as editor.
    • For the first six issues, the title of the magazine is preceded by 'Starlog Presents'.
    • In the letters column, there is one concerning an old Armor All ad that featured a really cool looking monster.  I have seen it and it is just as cool in a retro way as one would imagine it to be.  Seriously, you need to check it out.  It has a viking fighting an alien, come on!
    • Right after the main part of the quite good Phantasm article, there is a small article that is mainly pictures regarding an Italian space opera called The Humanoid which features Bond alumni Barbara Bach and Richard Kiel.  I can't imagine it being that good, though that's never been a deal breaker for me.
    • There's a neat little article about how Bela Lugosi was almost cast as The Creature in Frankenstein
    • As usual, the retrospective articles are fantastic, mainly the Richard Matheson interview.
    • Proving Hollywood has always done things in multiples, we get two Dracula film pieces with the Werner Herzog version of Nosferatu and the Frank Langella rendition of Dracula getting coverage.
    • I love looking at the Monster Invasion sections of these old issues, there are always a few chuckles to be had.  Granted, the notes about the upcoming Saturday morning cartoon lineup are better off in Starlog but still.
    • There's an odd little section called 'Fantastic Art' in the first few issues that is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.
    Overall, this is one of the better early efforts for the magazine.  It has some good points but is a little rushed in some parts and uncertain of itself.  Sadly, things won't really kick into gear for a few more installments.

    Coming Soon:  Stuck in a Rut

    Fangoria Flashbacks: In the Beginning...

    Since 1993, I've been an avid reader of the venerable horror fanzine Fangoria, the last magazine standing from Starlog Press.  Starting up in 1979 but announced in 1978 as Fantastica, it was initially intended to have a focus on fantasy films as opposed to the more straightforward sci-fi approach its big brother, sci-fi juggernaut Starlog took.  After some litigation over the name of the magazine being to similar to a few other publications on the market, the name was changed to Fangoria and issue #1 was unleashed in August of 1979.

    After some growing pains (as in losing around $20,000 an issue and an overall feeling of defeat in the office), it changed to a straight-up horror magazine and flourished throughout the 80's and 90's with the occasional slip popping up every now and then.  It still runs today with a cool retro look and feel to it that really takes one back to the mid-80's when the fanzine was huge.

    This series is not intended to be a full accounting of the magazine's history as I simply do not have all of the issues and would prefer to keep things more nostalgic in terms of scope.  I will be examining the issues I have (a ton, believe me) as well as some of the movies and people covered throughout the years with the occasional note on design and layout.

    Coming Soon:  The Journey into Fear Begins!

    Fangoria Flashback Series Coming Soon

    I love Fangoria Magazine with a white hot passion so I thought I'd do an extended tribute to it by way of reviewing the bulk of my collection of back issues.  I'll be doing it in chronological order and hopefully will be able to do justice to the last of the great 80's fanzines.  Look for the first entry in the next few days.

    About Me

    I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.