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Homemade Monsters: DIY horror movie makeup from 1965

Martian #1.
In 1965, Forrest J. Ackerman hired legendary movie make-up artist Dick Smith to produce a Famous Monsters of Filmland Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-Up Handbook. Smith (1922-2014) was the guy who did the award-winning make-up for movies like The Exorcist, Little Big Man, The Godfather, Taxi Driver and Ken Russell’s Altered States. Smith’s special edition illustrated magazine presented a 100-page step-by-step guide on how to get the look for some of cinema’s best-known movie monsters. Using a range of everyday objects—from crepe paper and breadcrumbs to ping pong balls—Smith shared some of his best-kept secrets of the trade.

In his introduction to the handbook, Smith wrote:

Make-up is an exciting hobby, but it has been enjoyed by only a few young people because learning how to do it was very difficult. It was my hobby when I was a teenager, so I know both the difficulties and the excitement. I enjoyed make-up so much that I became a professional make-up artist, and after twenty years, I still love it.

What I want to do with this book is to provide you young amateurs with the information you’ll need to make it easy for you to understand and enjoy this art. The book begins with very simple make-ups and ends with some complicated ones.

Any kid who grew up on black & white Universal and RKO monster movies would have dug Smith’s book. Nearly every kid loves the thrill of making themselves into monsters and scaring the bejesus out of grown-ups. It’s all the fun of growing up. And Smith’s Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-Up Handbook certainly offered the young and those old enough to know better that chance.

Dick Smith’s Do-It-Yourself Monster Make-Up Handbook is still available to buy as a paperback. But here’s a taste of how it looked when first published in Famous Monsters of Filmland in 1965.
Martian #2.
Werewolf #1.
See more of Smith’s scary monster make-up tips, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
11:48 am
Classic covers from ‘The Monster Times’

I couldn’t begin to tell you why The Monster Times failed in only four years. It seems like a great idea—a sci-fi/horror/comics tabloid newspaper with poster quality cover art? It’s not like horror fans are so small a niche, but the paper launched in New York in 1972 as a bi-weekly, then soon went monthly, then sporadic, until its quiet death in the summer of 1976, when an all-poster issue failed to revive its fortunes.

You can hardly blame it staffers for its demise—it was helmed by people who knew their business, veterans of The East Village Other, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and Screw. The result was a snarky, streetwise variation on Famous Monsters with deep coverage. But clearly the mag’s cult wasn’t enough to sustain it. Fangoria announced plans to revive the publication in 2009, but those plans were cancelled, along with plans to republish the original issues online. There’s a terrific and obsessively detailed rundown of the magazine’s history on Zombo’s Closet of Horror because of course there is. Back issues are findable on Amazon, mostly in the $15-$30 range, but can be had on eBay for under $10.


More Monster Times after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch
09:08 am
Famous Monsters: The eerie movie-monster portraits of Basil Gogos
09:04 am

In it’s late ‘50 to early ‘70s heyday, Famous Monsters of Filmland became legendary. Though it thoroughly covered the horror film scene, it did its job with a surfeit of cheek that made it accessible to younger readers, making it a semi-serious film rag that appealed to the MAD magazine demographic. (Its publisher, Warren Publishing, was also home to MAD visionary Harvey Kurtzman’s Help!.) It spawned imitations, and soldiered on for over a decade past its useful life, to fold in 1983. The mag was revived in 1993, and after some legal contention, it continues today as a web site and a bimonthly print publication.

Between MAD magazine and Playboy, there was Famous Monsters of Filmland. For kids growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it was one of the landmarks of adolescence; something that was frowned upon or simply beyond the comprehension of their parents; something that was uniquely their own. It was Forrest J. Ackerman’s genius to recognize that kids would love exploring the worlds of horror and science fiction and it was Jim Warren’s genius to grasp that by making the magazine scholarly but humorous, it would diffuse the subject matter’s dark side and make that younger readership feel welcome. In fact one of the striking elements of FM’s early years is how much interaction there was with its readership, through its lengthy letter column (which regularly printed reader photos) to the “You Axed for It” request pages and the fan club/“Graveyard Examiner” sections. The magazine had a curious innocence (engineered by Ackerman’s persona of a friendly, endlessly punning uncle), mixed with a sense of transgrescence. For all the jokes an light-heartedness, this was still a publication filled with images of monsters, the undead, vampires, and corpses which carried with it a frisson of danger and the forbidden.

The Warren Companion

One of the factors that distinguished Famous Monsters in its prime was stunning cover art, most notably the expressionistic character portraits of Basil Gogos. Gogos was a Greek national born in Egypt, whose family moved to the US when he was in his teens. He studied illustration under the Art Student’s League’s Frank J. Reilly, and began illustrating pulp westerns at the end of the ‘50s. His leap to the horror genre came quickly—his first FM cover was a 1960 portrait of Vincent Price, and he went on to do more than 50 utterly distinctive works for the publication.


Plenty more, plus a TV documentary about Basil Gogos, hosted by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch
09:04 am