Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fangoria Flashbacks: Issue #14

Fangoria #14 August, 1981:  Something to Howl About

Issue 14 is a good one, just the cover alone with that great shot from An American Werewolf in London and the film strip photos should be enough to get the average horror fan drooling like a Saint Bernard on a hot summer day.  Let's check it out.

Notable Notes
  • After an editorial about the ratings system (which carries over into the letters section), we get another edition of The Pit and the Pen as Alex Gordon examines German horror/mysteries.  It's an okay piece but a sub genre as vast as this one really needs a longer examination.  It's a rare misstep from Gordon.
  •  We kick things off with John Carpenter discussing the second Halloween movie and his remake of The Thing.  Yep, our starter plate is an interview with one of the best horror directors of the 80's.  As usual, Carpenter is a terrific interview and we get some good info on Halloween II and a nice preview of things to come...pun intended.
  • Next up is an interview with Rick Baker on the makeup f/x for An American Werewolf in London.  An interesting bit is how he ended up leaving The Howling (the other big werewolf movie in 1981) in the hands of his protege Rob Bottin who ended up delivering some great f/x of his own.  There's also a little bit on what would have been a horror flick called Night Skies if Steven Spielberg hadn't changed the script.  The script ended up being E.T. so I think it all worked out in the end.
  • Following that is a piece on the underrated zombie flick Dead & Buried which I have reviewed in tandem with Strange Behavior right here on the blog.  After that is another Tom Savini interview (the guy really got around in the early part of the decade) and an interview with f/x artist Tom Burman.  Burman is another of the great f/x guys from the period and the interview is chock full of good info on his work.
  • The MPAA comes back into play in a good article on the debate over horror going on at the time.  After that little serious interlude, it's back to the good stuff with an interview with the lovely Jenny (American Werewolf in London) Agutter more on horror in comics, and a great triple header of interviews to round things off.
  • First up is the late, great Stan Winston who was really starting to come into his own in 1981 with Dead & Buried.  It's followed up by the first part of a good Ray Harryhausen interview and capped off by another meeting with Chris Walas.  This time, Jim Wynorski is nowhere to be found which means the article is going to be accurate this time.  With Bob Martin writing it it also means it's going to be a standout piece as well.  Amusingly enough, Wynorski was hired by Roger Corman as an advertising director before Fangoria could fire him.  Irony can be so...ironic sometimes.
  • As for the actual interview, Walas is always very candid and this piece is no exception.
  • We finish things off with the Monster Invasion section.  It's more of a general update piece this time out but there is one thing I'd like to highlight.  There's a bit on an upcoming horror film called Slayride that promised a supernatural creature called Chanks.  There's also a preview of it in an old issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland I have laying around but it would seem that outside of the poster art seen in the preview, it was never made and in fact was a bit of a sham from the production company involved..  Oh well, that's life in the fast lane I guess.
Issue 14 is one of the most jam packed issues I've seen in any magazine.  Just an all around fantastic edition.

Coming Soon:  Issue 16, Ghost of a Chance

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Graveyard Shift (1990)

    The history of Stephen King adaptations is long and for the most part, rather underwhelming.  Sure, you occasionally get the masterpiece like The Shining, Stand By Me or The Mist but more often than not the results are...Well, like today's subject.  Graveyard Shift is an adaptation of King's short story which appeared in the Night Shift anthology.

    It tells the gruesome tale of the problems facing the Bachman Mills (a clever in-joke) in Gates Falls, Maine.  Along with the poor working conditions, a foreman who would be lucky to be called a scumbag and the fact that the mill is the only thing keeping the town afloat, there is also a massive rat infestation along with something even worse.

    David Andrews plays John Hall, a drifter looking for a fresh start who ends up working for Warwick (a hilariously bad performance by Stephen Macht), running the cotton picker in the mill.  It's a lousy, sweat drenched job and the only joy Hall seems to find is in shooting soda cans at the rats with a slingshot.  Genre fave Brad Dourif is also on hand as a rather demented exterminator with a deep personal grudge against rats thanks to his experiences in Vietnam.

    Eventually, Hall and some co-workers end up working over a holiday weekend to clean up the basement and one by one they fall victim to both Warwick and the gigantic rat-bat thing that lives under the mill.

    Yup, it's that kind of movie.

    Director Ralph Singleton creates a fantastic atmosphere with the mill but sadly that's about all the film has going for it outside of Dourif's usual nutty performance and the unintentional humor of Macht's accent.  The film is set in Maine but Macht seems to lapse into sounding like a tired South African man every third word or so.  Outside of that, the creture f/x are pretty damn good and the end credits feature a very funny compilation of sound bites from the film loaid over a cool beat.

    It's an easy movie to skip, but well worth seeing at least once so you can have a good laugh.

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Fangoria Flashbacks: Issue #12

    Note from the author:   Beginning with this issue, I will be focusing more on the 'notable notes' than general commentary.  The magazine is consistent enough in quality that it would make things too repetitious for my liking and I would prefer to focus on the content of each individual issue. 

    Fangoria #12:  More Gore!  More Gore!

    Issue 12 kicks off with a nice gory shot from Friday the 13th Part 2 and the promise of more gruesome goodness inside.  Let's check it out.

    Notable Notes
    • We begin with a nice editorial from Bob Martin concerning gore in the magazine and there is even an entire page of letters devoted to the issue.  Needless to say, Bob stands firm in the magazine's usage.
    • Moving on, we find the second (I think) edition of producer/writer Alex Gordon's 'The Pit and the Pen' column.  Gordon was active in the 50's and 60's, working with AIP and writing two Ed Wood films and he always brings a nice personal touch to the column.  This edition is no different with a nice piece on Boris Karloff.
    • In current films, we get a piece from Uncle Bob on The Hand, Oliver Stone's second directorial effort.  Yes, the director of Platoon and JFK got his start in horror movies, bad ones.  I haven't seen his debut film Seizure (not many have as it's rather obscure) but I have seen The Hand and it's definitely one to miss.  The article is good though as Stone has always been a good interview and Bob makes a very accurate prediction that Stone's best days as a filmmaker are in front of him.  Cut to five years later as Platoon cleans house at the Oscars and Salvador, his second film from 1986 lands James Woods a Best Actor nomination.
    • Next up is the feature piece on Friday the 13th Part 2. It's a nicely expansive six page article that covers an impressive amount of information.
    • Up next is a good interview with George Romero about his new movie Knightriders.  It's not a horror movie at all (more of an autobiographical character study) but since Romero is directing and Tom Savini has a supporting role, I can get behind it showing up here.
    • Equally just fine with me is the Robert McKimson tribute.  As always, I will never argue against a Looney Tunes article.
    • We next find an overview of the sadly short-lived Hammer House of Horror anthology series.  Hammer had gone out with a whimper in 1976 with To the Devil...A Daughter and this was an attempt to revive the brand on television.  It didn't work but a more recent attempt has been more successful with the remake of Let the Right One In (Let Me In).
    • On the retro side of things, we find a nice overview of William Castle's career and the first part of a Roger Corman interview.  As always, Corman is a great interview with tons of great stories and an easygoing charm.  The first part covers his series of Edgar Allen Poe films for AIP in the sixties which means stacks of great Vincent Price anecdotes.
    • There's also the beginning of a good series on horror in comics.  Maybe the most frustrating thing about the early issues I have is that inevitably, a neat series like this is frustratingly incomplete.  Same goes for a later one on horror in music but we'll get to that later.  This article is a good one with some neat bits on early characters and an amusing reprint of an old Batman comic where he off a vampire with a silver bullet.  Not the best way to kill one but would you argue with frigging Batman?
    • Along with some short pieces on the British Alien riff Insemenoid, Howling actress Elisabeth Brooks and Clash of the Titans, we get a good interview with Tobe Hooper.  He talks a bit about his career up to that point along with his current film The Funhouse and the upcoming Poltergeist.
    • Amusingly enough, the cover boy of the previous issue was printed accidentally as it gives away the look of the monster.  Damn fine monster too.  As for the movie itself, it's merely okay.  Some pacing issues coming from the rather sluggish script hold it back.
    • In the Monster Invasion section, we get some nice blurbs about An American Werewolf in London, Videodrome and Blade Runner.  I should also mention that book reviews were in this section at the time.  This will continue for a few more years.
    Issue 12 is another solid collection of articles and columns.

    Coming Soon:  Issue 14, Something to Howl About

      Friday, July 8, 2011

      Fangoria Flashbacks: Issue #10

      Fangoria #10 January, 1981: So good, your head will explode!

      We're back with the ultra-rare tenth issue.  I seem to be able to only find even numbered issues from the early run of the magazine for some strange reason and there are some large gaps up until 1988.  So be aware, the numbering sequence from here until about issue #72 will be somewhat erratic at times.

      As you can see from the cover, the David Cronenberg classic Scanners gets the big cover photo with the most memorable image from the movie. The rest of the cover is great too with the film strip promising us looks at the hallucinatory (with Ken Russell at the helm this is to be expected) Altered States, retrospectives on The Outer Limits and Tex Avery; and a preview of Mother's Day, a proto-Troma production.

      The streak of consistency which started with issue 7 and grew in the sadly all but impossible to find issues 8 and 9 is on and will continue for quite some time.  Needless to say, I'll try not to repeat myself too much for the next eighty articles or so.

      Notable Notes:
      •  The letters section highlights a bit of a divide in the readership over the level of gore in the photos used by the magazine.  This will eventually morph into a debate over censorship as we are now hitting the point where the Video Nasties controversy was starting up in Great Britain.  This trend will continue for a good portion of the decade.
      • Siskel and Ebert are mentioned and I really wish I had the issue containing the interview with them.
      • Scanners gets the lead off article and ends up being a solid look at the making of the movie, as tends to be the case with Bob Martin articles.
      • Mother's Day is up next and it's another good article.   It's one of those movies where I really only want to see one or two bits in it (near the end when the killers get what's coming to them) and thanks to YouTube, I can.  Beats having to sit through the entire movie.
      • Ed Naha (who edited the very first issue) contributes the Altered States piece which focuses on the incredible Dick Smith makeup f/x.  Smith also did work on Scanners, with the two highlights being the cover shot we spoke of earlier and the finale which manages to be even more gruesome.
      • Probably the highlight of the issue for me is the "Anatomy of Terror" piece, a huge article on what makes the genre work featuring a veritable who's who of early eighties horror starting with John Carpenter.  I really wish that anthology film with segments from him, David Cronenberg and Walter Hill that gets mentioned would have been made.
      • Avco Embassy is up next with talk of Phantasm and George Romero also has a spot.  This is seriously one of the greatest articles I've ever read simply going on star power!  Ade in bits with Wes Craven and some guys from Roger Corman's New World Pictures and you have maybe the best article in the entire run of the magazine.  I mean it, this is one of the best things I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
      • On the retro side of things, we have interviews with writer Theodore Sturgeon who talks about his career in television (Star Trek and Tales of Tomorrow), Hammer scribe Jimmy Sangster (the article is the usual loving Hammer tribute we get from Fango), another animated apes article (this time featuring Mighty Joe Young) and the second half of an Outer Limits piece.
      • We also get a nice tribute to Tex Avery who passed away the previous year.  As with the Chuck Jones article, I won't dispute this article showing up here.  Looney Tunes shorts are just that cool.
      • As always, the Monster Invasion section is full of previews of things to come.  Highlights for me are Contamination (reviewed right here on this blog), Swamp Thing (maybe my favorite comic book movie) and The Great Muppet Caper (If you don't love the Muppets, you have no soul).
      • On the slightly negative side, we get another lame Count Fangor comic (with an ad for a mask on the last page of the magazine to boot) and for some reason, that Faeries project that took up a 16 page insert in issue 5 makes a reappearance with a piece covering the making of (it ended up being a television special).
      Those last two elements aside, this is a truly brilliant issue.  The huge horror article alone makes it a genuine classic in the magazine's run.

      Coming Soon:  Fangoria #12:  Head in the fridge, blood in the magazine.

        Friday, July 1, 2011

        Fangoria Flashbacks: Issue #7

        Fangoria #7 August, 1980: Oh yes, there will be blood!

        With the fantastic cover to the left, Fangoria finally had its own identity.  It began with the Friday the 13th piece in #6 but with this issue, it was finally a full blown, in your face horror mag.  Gone is the 'Starlog Presents' preceding the title and the main cover is given to a huge closeup of Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

        The issue begins with a nice tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, Mario Bava and George Pal, all three had recently passed away at the time.  following the letter, we leap right into the grue with not one but two articles on the gore fest that is William Lustig's Maniac.  The first article is the usual set visit but the other one is a real gem, a look at the great Tom Savini makeup f/x.

        Other good articles include a piece on Curse of Frankenstein, a look back at the underrated Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and a tribute to Hitchcock.

        With this issue, as I said earlier, the magazine truly came into its own with gruesome photos and a strong emphasis on horror movies with a little outside stuff thrown in (I will never argue against a Chuck Jones article).

        Notable Notes:
        •  As you can see, that cover is just fantastic.  The Shining is great,one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King novel.  Yes, even if you do factor in that most of them are terrible.
        • The two Maniac stories are quite excellent, though I think it will still be a long time before you ever get me to watch that movie.
        • The level of gruesomeness in this issue is quite impressive.  I guess they decided "Hey, if we're going to establish our own identity, let's do it in as over the top manner as we can!"  The stills from Maniac alone are enough to make you forget the first six issues ever happened!
        • The magazine's long standing love affair with Hammer Horror kicks into gear with a piece on Curse of Frankenstein, appropriately titled "The Dawning of a New Era of Fright!"  Even better, they also give us a piece on the wonderful Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter.  I highly recommend you check that one out, it's worth it.
        • Schlockmeister Jim Wynorski scores several articles this issue,  including the Shining cover story and profiles on effects artists Bob Short and Chris Walas.  The articles are entertaining, to be sure but sadly there are "accuracy issues" as we will find out in issue 14 that override the legitimacy of the pieces.  He would later become maybe the most prolific director of B-movies in the 80's and 90's besides Fred Olen Ray.  He's still active, though whether or not this is a good thing is entirely up to you.
        • Om the flip side, the second part of the interview with Vincent Price on his career (man do I need to grab issue 6!) is quite good as one would expect from a piece on the man.  Generally, putting a guy with a notebook and a pencil together with an actor with loads of stories is a recipe for success.
        • The piece on Chuck Jones is excellent, as is the first part of the Hitchcock tribute.
        • Putting in an appearance is the rather odd Count Fangor comic.  Not entirely sure why they felt the need for a cartoon mascot or whatever but it's really corny.  And this is coming from the guy who enjoys the 60's version of Batman, mind you so when something is too corny for me...
        • The Monster Invasion section is chock full of great upcoming films.  Scanners, Halloween II, Escape from New York, Lucio Fulci's Zombie.  Man, the 80's were a great time for sci-fi and horror!
        Issue 7 is a real landmark issue for the magazine.  It made a bold statement about the future and is still one damn fine issue.

        Coming soon:  Issue 10, Heads-a-poppin!

          About Me

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