June 5, 2008

The Covers of Frankenstein : Master Movie Monsters

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.

Brad Steiger’s official website. Steiger’s biography, with a complete list of published works.


Max the drunken severed head said...

Talk about making a silk purse from a sow's ear! That's what you did with your post based on this book-- a good post, but the paperback profiled is surely a must-NOT-read for horror film fans!

And I'll bet that the cover art is the worst that will ever appear at this blog.

Unless, that is, you cover "The Toenails of Frankenstein."

Pierre Fournier said...

Sure, the cover art looks like a crude prismacolor doodle, but the book isn’t bad. It’s thin, but Steiger did his homework, and he shows a genuine love for the material.

As for ‘The Toenails of Frankenstein’, that sounds like a challenge. I’ll write it if you’ll post it on your blog!

Max the drunken severed head said...

I think you sport with me, Canadian!

But after a trip to the mountains of Transylvania to consult with undead monks, and after ingesting certain sacred Egyptian herbs said to bring wisdom (and freshen the breath), I have come to the inevitable conclusion that any post you offer my blog I must accept, as discipline for my soul.

In other words, self-abuse.

But do YOU, blasphemer, have the daring to write "The Toenails of Frankenstein"? I surely wonder...

Yet you must write it to fulfill your fate! Then you MUST submit it to me, just as Man submits to the Elder Gods, in order to please them!

I await "The Toenails of Frankenstein"...and I can wait centuries...

Shiloh said...
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Shiloh said...
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