Friday, October 29, 2010


Did you love monster movies as a kid? I know I did. Lucky for me, my mom was a big fan of all kinds of movies. Our family watched all the classics on TV, via The Late Show, Million Dollar Movie, The Fabulous 52. But it was mostly Mom and me who curled up together with a bowl of hot popcorn to watch Saturday afternoon monster movies.

The misunderstood monster heroes of the '30s and '40s were our favorites—The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Bride of Frankenstein. Bela Lugosi's suave, courtly Dracula probably had the all-time greatest single line of monster movie dialogue: invited to join an unsuspecting guest in a toast, the silky old bloodsucker demurs, "No thank you. I never drink … wine." But the one we loved best was dear old Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster. No other actor who ever strapped on the bolts and the boots ever brought the same measure of poignant heartbreak to the role.

Not that we only watched the classics, not by any means. Probably our single favorite movie, ever, was The Brain That Wouldn't Die, a no-budget, 1962 sci-fi epic of such resounding idiocy, it's kind of endearing. It's about a rogue scientist who keeps the severed head of his girlfriend alive in the lab while he haunts strip joins and beauty pageants to find her a hot new body. It's just so wrong, on so many levels (the closing-titles credits even misidentify it as The Head That Wouldn't Die), that we could never get enough of it; we had to watch it again every time it was on.

But monster-loving kids not fortunate enough to grow up with my mom had no one else to turn to in their addiction but Forrest J Ackerman. Longtime editor of "Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine," the monster movie bible, "Forry" not only ceaselessly promoted the genre, he amassed a personal collection of some 300,000 items of monster movie memorabilia in his lifetime of fandom.

At this most witching time of year, it's appropriate that Santa Cruzans Al Astrella and James Greene have just published a book about Forry's amazing collection, "A Forbidden Look Inside the House of Ackerman" (Midnight Marquee). Read their story here, and plan to drop by Atlantis Fantasyworld from 2-5 p.m., this Halloween Sunday, where they will be signing copies of their book. Come in costume and receive a special treat!

(Top: Munsters memorabilia from the Al Astrella collection.)

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