FROM MOVIE PALACE TO DRIVE-IN, by Cheryl Duran; The Monster Club.Com
Perhaps no other genres invites its frenzied, fang-toothed fans to contribute to its preservation, growth, and enjoyment than Horror and Science-fiction, particularly that dependable deadpan and horrific staple the Monster Movie. Throughout its long dishonorable history of horrific hootenanny, terror has proved an essential component of the in-human condition; it's what made our hairy ancestors first look fearfully into space (and in the darkness of the cave) wondering what was growling at them; it was there when the first person died, and his mate cried for ghosts. As an emotion, dread will be here long after we're ashes, as a cinematic art form, it is often celebrated in little magazines -- fanzines -- whose heart and dedication often make up for what publications lack in budget.
Inspiring fear and fun, the horror tale, from primal ghost stories found in cross-comparative mythology and folklore to the undeniable influence of the Silver-Scream, does far more than express to us reflections of our own anxieties and apprehensions. They also allow us to enjoy them. By finding faces for our nameless terrors in rubber masks, gleefully cackling mad scientists, and lumbering 'creatures of ze night!, we're offered the opportunity to poke fun at, joke with, and mock the very same things that horrify us -- dismemberment becomes child's play (sometimes literally!), death is a practical jokester, and scares are laced with sex, laughter, and the pure joy of knowing that we, watching the creature wade deep in bloody waters, are alive! Now that's art . . . And it's certainly entertainment. Both are the driving force behind monster movies and the fans whose love prompts them to make home-spun publications honoring them. One such zine is Monster News, a simplistic if enthusiastic black-and-white mag devoted primarily to the older horrors of monsterdom. Mirroring the joy and deadpan humor of Famous Monsters of Filmland (which was, of course the Grand-Daddy of the monster mag), Monster News has an online sister, The Monster Club.com, both of which emit enthusiasm and dedication to all things dead and dreary. Fun, fear and frolic are what Monster Movie Memories: From Movie Palace to Drive-In is all about! Continuing a long-line of fan publications devoted to monster cinema, Cheryl Duran's collection of fun facts and trivia is a freak-fest of old transplanted into the brain of an attractive paperback book. "IT LIVES!"
Focusing primarily on the creature-features, monster melodies, and sci-fi spectacles of traditional horror, Cheryl Duran's simply written, accessible terror trove of reviews re-visiting the tombs of terror past is as fun to read as it is unpretentious. Forsaking theory or laborious criticism for quick, simple, honest appraisals of some of the meatiest monster movies of our times, this volume is more of a fan's list of favorites than a critical analysis of genre. And that's okay. There are plenty of the later already gathering dust in your local library. Monster Movie Memories never pretends to be anything other than what it is -- a knowledgeable fan's celebration of the genre, its legends, its makers, and the feelings of awe, delight, and dementia that we have all at one time or another received from the flickering images of big and small screen.
Written in the quirky mock-serious tone of the playful Horror Movie Host once so popular in television circles, many of whom were partially responsible for preserving/provoking continued interest in the monster movie by keeping dead bones rattling across the medium of TV, Cheryl is a literary Zacherly, poking fun at what she loves most, and herself, all for the love of glistening fangs, rubber-gloved hands, and the emotional importance that these films have as both intimate friends and universal teachers. Tracing the general development of the 'scary' movie from around 1930s to 1960's (arranged by alphabetical order, not date), she selects personal favorites to wax enthusiastic about. The meat of the book, Classic Fright Films Not To Miss: A - Z, offers straight forward, minimalist reviews of plot, a movie's date of release, its primary sub-genre, and tid-bits of information and/or criticism. Each review is then followed by a selection of intriguing trivia about said movie, supporting small reviews with interesting bursts of gossip about some of your favorite B-movie stars, creatures, and sex-bombs. Lastly, each entry includes a short snippet -- " a spotlight" -- about a particular actor or director.
Don't expect to find many of the axe-wielding madmen, slashers, zombie gut-munchers, or splatter that lent greater realism, emotional vivisection, or relevance to the dark cinema of the late 60s-80s. DO expect to re-visit the fears of other areas and social unease, including the cold war threats embodied in Alien invasion flicks, the atomic age uncertainties mirrored in such Big Bug movies as Them and Tarantula, and the traditional gothic, folklore inspired efforts of Tod Browning, Terence Fisher, and James Whale. From American Universal epics to the techno-color fear-feasts of Britain's Hammer Studios, from Poe homages to the so-bad-they're-good atrocities of Ed Wood, this volume is a wonderful hodge-podge of yester-fear sure to nurture the demon within who recalls these gory-glory days. The book is also a primer for younger fans sensitive enough to desire information about the older horror icons. Including enlivening poster art, advertising, and stills, this volume rounds out its reviews with sections exploring Movie Palaces and Houses, the age of the Drive-In Theatre, Movie House Gimmicks(Great Fun!), Movie Advertising Art, From Silver Screen to TV, and a Time-Line of Horror Cinema.
The only flaw I found herein was the condition of the book itself -- pages kept falling out as I was reading! But since I suspect this was an exception and not the rule, I'll say no more about it. On the whole, this is a treasure trove of the days when terror was hot in tinsel town, and as celebratory in its approach as it is informative in its coverage. While long-standing fans or scholars will find little new, they'll still have fun browsing through it. New fans of the genre will benefit most from its dark wonders, and no doubt be encouraged to start their own monster-mags by way of tribute!
Review by William P SimmonsBack