Thursday, December 29

NEW LON CHANEY SR. BOOK


  
I received some information from my pal Scott Essman recently about a new book coming out soon that looks promising. It's called "The Man of a Thousand Faces: The Art of Bill Nelson."
In 1970, internationally renowned artist Bill Nelson created "The Lon Chaney Portfolio," an exquisitely rendered series of black and white illustrations devoted to Hollywood’s beloved “Man of a Thousand Faces.” The collection showcased portraits from many of Chaney’s most memorable films, including The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, London After Midnight, The Penalty and Laugh, Clown, Laugh.

At the time, Nelson had made a name for himself providing standout cover art and interior illustrations for such genre magazines as Cinefantastique, The Monster Times, Gore Creatures, Midnight Marquee and Photon, though in years to come, his work would appear in Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Esquire, both the Los Angeles and New York Times, and even on a series of postage stamps dedicated to famous Big Band orchestra leaders for the United States Postal Service.



Now, 40 years later, Nelson showcases not only his original portfolio drawings, but also more than 50 brand new color and black & white illustrations, accompanied by Nelson’s insightful personal commentary.

The book also includes introductions from 7-time Academy Award winning make-up artist Rick Baker and Ron Chaney, Lon Sr.’s great grandson and owner of Chaney Enterprises.


This lavish tribute is being offered in two hardcover editions, both 160-pages and measuring 10-1/2 x 14”.  The regular version is limited to 1,000 copies and comes with a special bookplate, hand-signed and numbered, for $49.95. The second offers the same, plus an original Lon Chaney sketch by Nelson for $100 and is strictly limited to 100 copies.  Both are available exclusively through www.creaturefeatures.com.

Thursday, December 22

Horror Host Podcast from 6ft Plus



My buddy Strange Jason over at gravediggerslocal.com has a new episode of the excellent podcast 6FT+ dedicated entirely to horror hosts and music by and for them. Highly recommended - check it out!
http://6ftplus.gravediggerslocal.com/2011/12/09/episode-18-hail-the-horror-host/

Wednesday, December 21

Amazing Universal Monster Paintings

 

I stumbled across the work of Spanish artist Enrique Jiménez Corominas today and was blown away - these paintings are spectacular! Beautifully rendered with a real energetic style and vibrant colors, these are some of my favorite renditions of the Universal Monsters. You can visit the artist's site at: http://corominasart.blogspot.com/



Monday, December 19

Frankenstein at the Fordham Theater 1931

This photo is from the premiere of FRANKENSTEIN at the Fordham theater in NY, late 1931 or early 1932. Note the name on the marquee and the old cars parked out front. And all the men in hats. Kind of wish men still wore hats nowadays.

Sunday, December 18

Perhaps Dr. Frankenstein should have used THIS brain

From the January, 1956 edition of Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine - an ad for the Geniac ''electric brain" -


Build your own brain for $19.95 - pretty pricey for 1956! "Build any one of 34 exciting brain machines in just a few hours - nice! Even better than the ad for this issue was the cover - check out this timely Christmas themed sci-fi Santa


FOUR ARMS! Now I know how Mr. Claus got so much work done! Awesome cover - this pulp had a lot of great covers - and several cool Christmas themed ones, many featuring this four armed Santa. I'll post more over the week leading up to the big day next Sat.

Saturday, December 17

Monsters from the Basement interviews Cameron McCasland


Check out this in-depth interview with my director, Cameron McCasland, on the Monsters from the Basement podcast. Host James Downing visited the McCasland castle and talked with Cameron about his film (The Lashman), his horror roots, Dr. Gangrene Presents and more. Great interview and look around at his site, there are close to 100 interviews there available for download and listen. Good stuff.

Tuesday, December 13

Monday, December 12

Here's a sneak preview of the upcoming Scary Monsters Magazine, issue #81 featuring another braintastic Scary Terry Beatty cover!! It's alive in early January, so keep your eyes open at a finer book & comic dealers near you! My column for this issue features an interview with my good friend Robert Taylor, Vincent Price collector and aficionado, talking all things Price as my final wrap up to the Vincentennial Price 100th celebration!

Friday, December 9

The Frankenstein That Might Have Been...


The 1931 film FRANKENSTEIN, released 80 years ago this month by Universal Studios, is rightfully regarded as one of the classics of horror cinema. Directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff and Colin Clive, it is a tale of mad science run amok and the consequences of man’s attempt to play God. The story has stood the test of time and remains the greatest adaptation of the Shelley novel (despite it’s wide variance from the plot of the novel).
This film was very nearly a different movie, however, if Universal had followed through with its original plans for this adaptation. Director Robert Florey originally brought the Frankenstein story to Universal, and in fact wrote a screenplay for the film along with Garrett Fort. This was after the wild success of DRACULA months earlier, with Universal attempting to cash in on the horror bug while it was still biting. According to Gordon B. Shriver, in his book BORIS KARLOFF, THE MAN REMEMBERED, he interviewed Robert Florey in 1973 and asked him about his original film treatment. Here is what he said:
             “While writing the adaptation of Shelley’s story, my idea was to give the role of Dr. Frankenstein to Lugosi.”
Interesting. It was natural for Florey to have Lugosi in mind, as he was the biggest horror star of the day. Universal ordered Florey to shoot a test reel of Frankenstein. Perhaps curious or nervous about how it would look, they had Florey shoot the test footage on the castle set of Dracula, which was still standing. However, Universal didn’t buy Florey’s plan for Bela as Dr. Frankenstein and wanted him in the role of the Monster, undoubtedly thinking about the success of Lon Chaney Sr. years earlier and hoping to duplicate it with Lugosi.
Here’s Florey again:
            “I directed several sequences –about two reels—of the first Frankenstein script with Bela as the Monster. I told Dick Shayer (head of production at Universal) that any tall bit player could play the Monster, but apparently my suggestion was rejected.”
This is backed up by horror scholars Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas, and John Brunas in their book UNIVERSAL HORRORS, THE STUDIO’S CLASSIC FILMS: Florey’s test reel of Frankenstein…photographed by Paul Ivano on the Dracula castle set (which lasted only 20 minutes after editing) starred Bela Lugosi in Jack Pierce’s early makeup design.         
This footage is long lost, sadly. No one knows what Lugosi looked like in those test reels or how it played out, and this bit of film is as highly sought after as LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT. There have been reports Lugosi wore an early version of the Pierce design, as well as Lugosi appearing in makeup and wig (a-la the Edison Frankenstein version) But whatever the case, after Florey turned in the test reels the project was handed over to James Whale. Was it so laughingly bad that Universal felt the need to hand the reins to someone else? Or was it so successful that Whale, a rising force at Universal, inserted himself into the project and took it over?

It is interesting and fun to speculate on what might have been. Had Florey gotten his way, the film might have looked something like this:           



FRANKENSTEIN

Directed by Robert Florey
Seen here with Karloff on the set on the greatest THRILLER episode ever,
THE INCREDIBLE DR. MARKESON, directed by Florey.

 
Cinematography by Karl Freund
(who worked with Florey on his subsequent picture, Murders in the Rue Morgue)



Starring
 
Bela Lugosi

as Dr. Henry Frankenstein


The Monster ?
Insert tall actor – perhaps even Boris. 
According to Shriver Robert Florey had actually met Boris Karloff in the past, while working on a film called OMAR THE TENT MAKER. Shriver asked Florey if perhaps he suggested Karloff play the part of the Monster, but he said no, that wasn’t the case. But the fact he knew Karloff certainly makes the idea of Boris playing the Monster in this scenario still possible. Perhaps it would have been destiny...


 

Sidney Fox as Elizabeth

Florey's leading lady (and Bela's costar) in Murders in the Rue Morgue was the diminutive 4'11" Fox.The nearly 7 ft Monster would have looked HUGE next to her, and rumors abounded later that she was having an affair with studio head Carl Laemmle Jr., which certainly wouldn't have hurt her chances of getting the role...



 
Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Waldman
One of two men to appear in both Frankenstein and Dracula, there is no reason to think he wouldn't have played the role had Florey directed.


 Dwight Frye as Fritz
The other of two men appearing in Frankenstein and Dracula,
he would fit the role perfectly.

Wednesday, December 7

Jeffrey Combs Nevermore coming to Nashville



The fine folks at the Nashville Public Library contacted me yesterday with details about an upcoming event that sounds really amazing - it's a one man play called Nevermore starring Jeffrey Combs and directed by Stuart Gordon. It takes place Thursday, January 19th at the library. Reception is at 6, performance begins at 7 - and best of all- It's FREE!! You don't wanna miss this!

Tuesday, December 6

Coffeebreak Frankenstein style

Colin Clive and Boris Karloff enjoying a coffee/smoke break on the set of FRANKENSTEIN 1931. Boris looks tired here, no doubt it was a long shoot, and hot under that makeup. Looks like someone'
sandwich is sitting on the table behind them, too.


Here Boris kicks up his heels with a smoke and a spot of tea as Jack Pierce and assistant touch up his makeup between scenes.


And another picture of Clive and Karloff relaxing together over tea. The two seem to enjoy one another's company quite a bit...

And finally a collection of shots of Boris relaxing between takes with tea. I think so many shots were taken of him taking breaks just because it is such an odd dichotomy seeing such a fantastic monster in such mundane everyday tasks. Pretty neat stuff.




Monday, December 5

Dracula 1931 Premiere

Check out this lobby display for Dracula as it premiered in the Kentucky Theatre in Lexington, 1931! Now THAT'S how you do it! To find out more about this historic theater visit: http://www.kentuckytheater.com/about/the-history-of-the-kentucky-theater/

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