Perhaps he’s just a glum ghoul, but I always thought of the creature roughly caricatured here by M. Seltzer as a Frankenstein movie-inspired monster, with that tall billboard forehead and overhanging brow.
Published by Merit/Camerarts out of Chicago in 1965, this paperback original by Brad Steiger is a quick and fairly entertaining read, striding briskly through the history of horror films, cleaving largely to the familiar titles and the name stars like Karloff and Lugosi. Steiger displayed good knowledge and genuine affection for his subject, but there was nothing really new in here for genre fans, all of the material having already been mined by the then popular monster magazine.
In his introduction, Steiger staked the high ground, promising “no cute captions, no poisonous puns, no deprecating delivery of information”. Otherwise Master Movie Monsters actually reads like an issue of an average monster mag, with short-short chapters (one, on vampire films, runs barely two pages), and photo sections — a little murky on the cheap newsprint interiors — making up half of the book’s 122 pages. Arguments made are typical of the writings on horror films in the sixties, promoting monster movies as serious cinema and necessary catharsis, and decrying a “plague” of increasingly cheap sequels, culminating in “the final indignity of mockery and laughter when they (the Master Monsters) were forced to meet Abbott and Costello”. That was the conventional wisdom of the times, and it would be a few more years before the qualities of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein would come to be appreciated by serious critics.
Teen-age monsters are similarly snubbed, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) is singled out as a memorable but “minor” Master Monster, with the fifties belatedly redeemed with the “much-awaited Renaissance” signaled by Hammer Films and AIP’s Poe films.
Master Movie Monsters was author Brad Steiger’s second book, and a second pass at the subject following his Monsters, Maidens & Mayhem – a Pictorial History of Hollywood Film Monsters (also 1965). Steiger went on to an amazingly prolific career as a book writer, with 166 titles — currently — to his name. He specialized in the paranormal, cryptozoology, UFO research, also writing true crime and even biographies. His bio of Rudolph Valentino served as the basis for the 1977 film directed by Ken Russell. Steiger’s most recent titles deal with spirituality.