Book Review: Making a Monster

Making a Monster: The Creation of Screen Characters by The Great Makeup Artists
By Al Taylor & Sue Roy
Published by Crown Publishers, Inc., 1980. 278 pages.

In today’s world of horror fandom, everyone knows the names of Tom Savini, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, and a dozen other names. In the ’80s, the films really made these people stars, and deservedly so! There were plenty of films I wanted to see simply based on who had done the makeup effect in it. They were sometimes more important to us fans than who starred in it or who even directed it. But what about the artists that came before them? Names like William Tuttle, Ben Nye Sr., John Chambers, or Phil Leaky? These are some of the few that took those first steps into helping filmmakers bring their ideas and imagination to life on screen.

This book highlights 25 different makeup artists that help create and elevate the industry to where it is today. Way before CGI or even basic special makeup effects, these guys were designing, developing, and even creating the makeup and techniques that helped advance the industry, some of which are still be used today. By reading this book, you will learn the important history of this crucial part of the filmmaking world that is so important to us horror fans. The ones covered in this volume are the forefathers and need to be remembered for what they help give us today. Even if you’re not a makeup artist, this is a lesson needed for any fan of the fantastic elements of cinema, bringing imagination and dreams to life on the big screen.

Book Review: Claude Rains: An Actor’s Voice

Claude Rains: An Actor’s Voice
Published by University Press of Kentucky, 2008. 290 pages.
By David J. Skal with Jessica Rains

Like most horror fans, I knew the name of Claude Rains because of his starring role in The Invisible Man (1933), as well his performances in The Wolf Man (1941), and Phantom of the Opera (1943). Eventually I would learn of his other pictures and that he had come from the world of the stage, starting out at a very young age, and even battling a speech impediment and strong cockney accent. I even wrote a retrospective on The Invisible Man for HorrorHound magazine, doing quite a bit of research, and thinking I had a good insight into the actor himself. But like most things in life, there is always room to learn more. And after reading Skal’s book, I realized how much more.

There are several biographies currently in publication on Rains that I had planned on adding to my library, but it was Skal’s book that I acquired first. While looking for the next book to read, this was still sitting off to the side, not yet put away in the bookshelf, I picked it up and started to read the introduction. The next thing I knew, I was already 50 pages deep into this wonderful story. I think that is where Skal excels here, in telling a very compelling story filling it in with bits of information here and there.

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Book Review: Here There Be Monsters

Here There Be Monsters
Published by BearManor Media, 2021. 464 pages
By Bryan Senn

Being a lover and collector of horror reference books, it should be no surprise that I’ve been a fan of Senn’s work and have quite a few of his books in my library, even before I met him at a Monster Bash show in 2016. His work is always a joy to dive into because he not only packs it full of information, but you can tell it is coming from a fellow fan. And while we might always agree on some films, I still enjoy reading his take on whichever film he is writing about.

With this book, it is a collection of essays, reviews, and other writings that were either published in magazines or other books but were cut down due to size limitations or just didn’t fit in that particular publication. In this new volume, we get it all. Plus, we get a LOT of it. This volume is huge and is filled to the brim with just about every classic horror subject there is. The films covered go from the early classics of the ‘30s through the ‘60s, as well as a huge section on Mexican monster films, which I particularly enjoyed. There are even a few book reviews and some personal essays included as well.

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Book Review: Reign of Chucky

Reign of Chucky: The True Hollywood Story of a Not So Good Buy
Published by Harker Press, 2022. 470 pages
By Dustin McNeill & Travis Mullins

We have read and reviewed a few other titles from McNeill and Mullins, specifically the Taking Shape volumes that are essential for any serious Halloween fans. The same must be said for their latest volume for those fans of the Child’s Play movies. The real beauty of these books is that no matter what you think of the series, it has been very hard to read through the book and not want to check out the films again. The main reason for that, I feel, is the details the authors give you about the production and behind-the-scenes information on them. You can’t help seeing the final product a little differently.

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Book Review: Nightmare Fuel

Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, 2022. 294 pages
By Nina Nesseth

As in the very subtitle of this book states, the Science of Horror, has always been a fascinating subject for me to tackle because usually it consists of a lot of academics using very big words trying to explain to me why horror films scare me, or why I like them. Even better is when they give plenty of examples from movies, usually getting even the most basic plot point incorrect which then makes you wonder if they had even watched the film they’re referring to.

I’ve also found some of these types that try to explain why you are scared that seem to get lost in the woods somewhere to really have it connect with the reader. Not saying they don’t have good ideas or theories, but they just don’t connect with me personally.

What I found with Nesseth’s book, on the other hand, is just the opposite. There is a lot of science in here, discussing the different parts of the brain, what each one does and how it affects what we feel. There’s a lot of technical terms for these for these locations of the brain, most of which I’ve already forgotten, though I now know where to them up when needed. Honestly though, I was really captivated on learning how the brain works with these different types of responses as we’re experiencing different kinds of fear from watching horror films. Such as the explanation of what fear does to a person, such as the fight-or-flight idea or where you just become frozen on the spot because of the fear, and what your brain is doing to cause these reactions or effects, giving us sort of a “behind-the-scenes”.

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Book Review: The Nosferatu Story

The Nosferatu Story: The Seminal Horror Film, Its Predecessors and Its Enduring Legacy
Published by McFarland, 2019. 225 pages
By Rolf Giesen

As a horror fan, I am forever grateful to all the authors out there that decided that they were going to do all this research and study on a particular film, or a sub-genre as a whole, and then put all of that work into a book so that other film fans can learn so much more about them. Whether it is on a specific sub-genre or a certain film in particular, I know that after reading it, I will have a little bit better understanding of the subject matter upon visiting it once again. Giesen’s book on Nosferatu, as well as early German horror cinema, is just that book. You’ll read about a lot of important names that would have a huge impact on the horror genre.

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Book Review: Yours Cruelly, Elvira

Yours Cruelly, Elvira
Published by Hachette Books, 2021.284 pages.
By Cassandra Peterson

You couldn’t be a horror fan from the ‘80s until now and not know who Elvira is. Sure, while she was always great to look at, as you get past those teenage boy thoughts, you start to realize just how smart and talented the woman behind the makeup and wig is. I was a fan of her since those Thriller Video days, back when trips to the video stores were a weekly thing. I was excited when her first movie came out and laughed quite a bit at the not-so-subtle jokes in there. I’ve met her a few times at different conventions over the years, both as Elvira and as Cassandra, and was always amazed at how funny she was and connected to her fans.

So yeah, a big fan.

When her biography was announced, I quickly pre-ordered it because this was the first time we were really going to hear about the woman behind Elvira. Once I finally got it, it was one of those instances where I just picked it up browse through the photos knowing I would get to it at some point. Next thing I know, I’m 90 pages in! I finished the entire book in about 3 sittings because it was a very easy read but more importantly, we got to hear Cassandra’s story. We learn how she got her start, go-go dancing while she was still underage, going from being a rock band groupie to becoming a Vegas showgirl, to becoming the famous Mistress of the Dark, not to mention the ton of famous people she met along the way.

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Book Review: Confessions of a Puppetmaster

Confessions of a Puppet Master: A Hollywood Memoir of Ghouls, Guts, and Gonzo Filmmaking
Published by William Morrow, 2021. 288 pages
By Charles Band & Adam Felber

Whether you like Charles Band, or any of his production companies such as Full Moon or Empire, you cannot argue the fact that this man has made his career out of doing the kind of films he wants, usually picking something to exploit and make money from, which then lets him continue what he’s doing. I know that’s a broad statement, especially coming from a guy that doesn’t like a lot of stuff that Band has his fingers in. But there are more than a few of those that I have really enjoyed over the years. Not to mention the fact that Band still believes and practices the good old-fashioned ballyhoo. That alone, I have to give him credit for.

If I was going to have one complaint about this book it would be that it is only 288 pages. I would have expected from someone of his long running career, that this would have been well over 500+ pages. There are plenty of great stories in here, but figured there would be many more. Maybe that’s for volume 2? Band not one to speak truthfully about his past, the mistakes that he’s made and how he’s lost his fortune more than once, so I give him a lot of respect for that. This isn’t a bit of puff journalism on “gee look at all the great stuff I’ve done” but a really inside look of someone that wanted to work in the film business but by his terms. He may not be conventional, but his methods work.

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Book Review: When Dracula Met Frankenstein

When Dracula Met Frankenstein: My Years Making Drive-In Movies with Al Adamson
Published by Murania Press, 2021. 377 pages
By Sam Sherman

You can’t be a fan of exploitation cinema of the ‘60s and ‘70s and not know of Sam Sherman, either by name or the multitude of film titles that he had his fingers in. Sherman only has 28 credits as a producer, many of them for films directed by his good friend Al Adamson, but his mark on the film world is so much greater. He was an ad man who could come up with some of the best titles, promotional ideas, gimmicks, and all the other ballyhoo so memorable, sometimes more than the films themselves!

He is also the man that was responsible for introducing Paul Naschy to the states, when his company, Independent International, picked up Naschy’s Mark of the Wolfman when they were looking for a Frankenstein picture that they had already promised distributors. It featured two wolfmen and two vampires, but definitely no Frankenstein or his creature. But somehow, due to the creative genius of Sherman, Mark of the Wolfman now became Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror. If you don’t know the whole story already, then you’ll have to buy the book to find out!

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Book Review: We Are the Martians

We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale
Published by Electric Dreamhouse, 2017. 479 pages.
Edited by Neil Snowdon

I am a huge fan of the Quatermass films that Hammer Films gave us back in the late ‘50s, and the 3rd film, Quatermass and the Pit in the ‘60s. Eventually I was able to track down the original serial versions (or what was left of the first story) on an import DVD. The more I found out about its original creator, Nigel Kneale, the more I discover his other cinematic worlds that he had written, such as The Stone Tapes (1972), The Woman in Black (1989) and the Beasts series (1976). And the more I was impressed.

To say that Kneale was ahead of his time seems to be one of those comments thrown about certain Sci-Fi authors, writing about our future technology. But the difference with Kneale is that while he did do that to a degree, he also seemed to write about our future as human beings. Within those stories, he also could create some unbelievable terrors, without really showing much to the audiences. It made us think.

This book is a collection of essays that covers a wide range of subjects dealing with Kneale and his work. There is chapter by Tim Lucas that cover his lesser-known literary short stories, other ones on specific episodes of his TV shows or films that he created. Mark Chardbourn’s essay, The King of Hauntology sort of gives us a biography of Kneale, except that instead of a straight biography, it goes over different events going on around him at the time, giving possible influences that could have had on him, and his writings.

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