The title ‘Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze In America: 1957-1972’ gives away what this book by Mark Voger is about. It’s just a shame, it has such a rubbish cover, even if it is an illustration of a Don Post mask, which I’m sure would put off readers who would really enjoy the contents. Why not go for the mask itself?
Basically, this book is about the rise of the horror geek tastes in the USA and a snapshot of everything horror related, helped along by various sources, like Roland/Zacherley to Jim Warren/Forrest Ackerman’s ‘Monsters Of Filmland’ at the start and even Bobby Pickett of ‘Monster Mash’ fame. All of which is helped along with two page interviews with all the main players involved who were purely experimenting with horror material and found an audience. Much of this is unknown to us UK people at the time. I only came across Roland in a painting by Gogos in a book of his work a few years ago and thought that his lips were painted to look like teeth although revealed here that it was supposed to depict his lips sewn together like the Mummy.
What was more pertinent was Aurora’s horror creature model kits. In my youth, I made the luminous-headed and hands ‘Dracula’ and the standard ‘Prisoner Of Castle-Mare (and spent a long time trying to hunt down what film it came from – there isn’t one) and made a far better job of it that the made versions shown here. Saying that, there were 33 box covers painted by James Bama, some shown here, and his interview reveals interesting photo sources and not always from where you expected them to come from.
What would a book like this be without features on TV’s ‘The Addams Family’ and ‘The Munsters’, with interviews with the various surviving and not so surviving cast members which gave some insights. There are also photos of various merchandise associated with the shows which are also pretty rare. There is also an extended look and brief interviews with the cast from the original ‘Dark Shadows’, which wasn’t shown here.
Let’s not forget the magazines from the likes of Warren Publications to others a little less worthy like the ‘Castles Of Frankenstein/Dracula’ to Eerie Publications, which always caused name confusion with Warren’s own ‘Eerie’ magazine. Speaking of which, did you know that actor Alastair Sim was the model for Uncle Creepy?
The opportunity to see the late Don Post latex masks is interesting, especially as the one of Tor Johnson was its biggest seller, although I can’t help wondering if people were selecting it because of the resemblance to Uncle Fester. There’s also a selection of plastic masks that are really ghastly but more for their look as much as anything.
There’s even a look at George Barris’ cars for ‘The Munsters’ and the reveal, if not known, that the designs came from Tom Daniel, that was made full-size and as a model kit.
Shall we speak models? There are pages of them at the back of the book. If you ever wanted to see what ‘Big Frankie’ looked like, here’s your chance. Although it’s not mentioned in the text, I’m sure I saw the 1963 ‘Rosko’s Frankenstein Lose His Pants’ in ‘Close Encounters Of The Third Kind’. The reveal of Aurora’s ‘Bride Of Frankenstein’ shows that unlike the Bama cover being upright was on a bed, and one of the better paint jobs, too. Probably the funniest is Aurora’s 1966 ‘Godzilla’s Go Cart’ which surely deserves being re-released.
There’s a fair bet that if you leave this book on your table-top with people of the right age, you’re going to stir up a lot of memories. It even works for me, a non-American. For the more younger generations, you can use it as a reminder of the roots of horror merchandise and series and how far it’s gone since then. Voger points out that he saw this era running out in 1972 where horror got more serious and the classification ‘X’ seriously took it away from the American teen-age audience. Don’t forget to do body searches to ensure this book stays in your hands and not ‘borrowed’ by your friends. Now, will TwoMorrows do a Science Fiction version of this book?
(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 191 page illustrated hardcover. Price: $39.95 (US), £29.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-60549-064-9. Direct from them, you can get it for $33.96 (US))