‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’: series of feature articles in a magazine

Hi and welcome to The Green Castle 🙂

My interest in the topic of “classic monster characters” in the spec-fic range has been increasing in the last year or two and there are certain particular monsters that have a way of catching the attention, no matter how brief a glance I take at ‘monster magazines’ in a  newsagency.  This turned out to be true for me, once again, a little less than a week ago, when I saw  the March/April 2013 issue (#266) of Famous Monsters of FilmLand magazine in a city newsagency. I decided to buy a copy as an addition to holiday reading over Easter Long Weekend. By the time I’d finished  the second article on Good Friday morning, I realised that making a few comments about the articles  could make a good topic for a blog post. 🙂 I’ll get to the matter of the magazine itself in a later post.

The articles:

Issue #266 of the Famous Monsters of FilmLand magazine dedicates the great majority of feature space to two series of articles: one each about ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ and the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’ as played by Margaret Hamilton in the original ‘The Wizard of Oz’ movie. I’ll comment on the Witch articles in a different post.

The lavishly illustrated articles (pp.12-36) on The Creature cover a fair variety of aspects of its life as a very unusual  original film-industry creation that actually became iconic well beyond the silver screen.  During the Cold War,  the trilogy  of Creature films  – ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’, ‘Revenge of the Creature’ and ‘The Creature Walks Among Us’ – contributed to the 1950s craze for 3D movies. There was the original compelling artwork and costume design, dedicated work by various  stuntmen whose own very high level of fitness and stature when doing the land and water scenes made the Creature seem fittingly powerful and menacing, the sheer profit-making power of the trilogy that then influenced many other monster films for decades afterwards, plus directing and producing matters.  Throw in some unpleasant credit-stealing and other studio politics, but that was largely lost on the audiences and only ‘came to light’ in later decades.  There was also the strangely powerful grip the Creature had and has on the Public Imagination  (which in itself can be pretty monstrous).

From what I could gather in the articles, some of the reasons for the Creature (also known as ‘Gill-Man’) being unusual for the movies of 1950s America, included:  an exceptional level of skill and resources applied to the artwork, sets  and costume production in an era when Monster Films were already ‘on the way out’ in Hollywood;  the fact the title-role character wasn’t created as a post-war nuclear mutant or Mad Scientist’s experiment but as an actual made-for-Hollywood (using, apparently, some ideas from actual Amazon River legends that had been mentioned at an A-list party in 1940s) character within Hollywood and that the first two films became significant in the fuelling of the 3D movie craze.  The final film, in the early ’60s, was screened after the 3D craze had faded.  Add some powerfully lurid graphic art for the movie posters, some inspired (or sometimes just plain lucky) casting decisions for key characters that helped “bring the story alive” on screen, the great stunt work mentioned above and one  stand-out factor in that by the third movie  the audiences were actually more often on the Creature’s side than not!   All the three films were meant to be horror flicks in which human characters were meant to be consistently and ultimately preferred by the paying audiences and this was in an era of regular atomic testing, electric shock therapy in asylums and liberal use of lab rats, etc.  By the last parts of the third Creature movie  it has been prodded, shot at innumerable times, repeatedly operated on in some very ruthless and sickening experimental surgical processes and imprisoned in various ways.  It also kidnapped various sultry swimsuit-clad heroines who had, of course,  also been the “object of affection” for the films’ various leading and supporting male characters. 🙂  The Creature’s kidnappings were vividly featured in a fair range of the movie posters as well as in scenes in the movies.   However, according to the magazine’s contributing writers, cinema audiences eventually saw that for all the Creature had wreaked a lot of havoc, it had a basic common trait with the already-heroic Hunch-back of Notre Dame: the Creature had  a poignant and powerful hope, however doomed, that was to be able to simply live on its own terms and even “find love” instead of being reviled and hunted.  Now, this is too late for the Creature itself to feel any better, but I think some justice of a sort has been awarded to The Creature by it achieving story-telling immortality and icon status beyond the likely intent of its various creators. 🙂

In addition to the commentaries on the movies and the Creature character itself, plus the influences on Horror films and Hollywood productions, later articles in this same series go into the  matters of movie-related pop culture, both at the time of original studio releases and in later decades. I was very interested to find that Creature-related collectibles not only still exert a hold on many collectors and fans of the movies, but also consistently command a higher price than for items relating to other monsters and ‘monster movies’ of the same era.  The magazine’s editor admits to doing some ‘field research’ of his own…and loving it. 🙂

A first look at ‘Famous Monsters in Film Land’ magazine

Welcome again to The Green Castle!

I always enjoy finding out about new sources of information and stories relating to Speculative Fiction, and I don’t want to always be asking the Scriptorium staff to get things for me. They’re very helpful staff, but all those manuscripts they copy in painstaking detail, plus special commissioned works, and maintenance work on existing collection materials…well, they do turn out to be very time-consuming jobs and I freely confess I don’t always have the scribes’ legendary patience. 🙂 I also don’t want to just sit in a state-room all day or make do with a stroll along the castle’s battlements for a bit of exercise. Every so often I love to get out of the castle, way past the gates and moat, and look for new things myself. 🙂

Oh yes, and another thing – I’m still looking for a new Chief Entertainer for the castle, or even a visiting town crier. So the “hear ye, hear ye!” part will be done by yours truly.

Today I’m going to say a little bit about a new source I’ve found, called Famous Monsters in Film Land. One of the guild masters in the nearest big town knows someone who knows someone in a different era a long time in the future, and has a way (which, in all fairness, he can never describe for fear of suspicion of illegal sorcery; in fact, I can’t even give the guild master’s name) of getting hold of curious printed objects called… ‘magazines’, which are full of news, stories, pictures, personal ‘tricks of the trade’ descriptions of how things are done to tell stories, etc. To an amateur collector of some independent means, like myself, these, er, magazines are absolute gems!

In Issue #254/March-April 2011 of this ‘Famous Monsters…’ magazine, major features that include:

  • A tribute to an extremely significant actor in horror films/writer/story-teller/society figure/mentor/art dealer&collector, who had a 55-year career in films: Vincent Price
  • Interviews with two different artist specialising in computer-based digital effects -why, it seems almost like sorcery!
  • Feature article on a television (another curiosity for me to explore!) series called ‘Being Human’ – involving a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire sharing an apartment  -an unlikely premise for a comedy, perhaps, but it seems to have worked very well
  • An original short story called ‘Wormhole’, by a Max Claymore
  • Interview-based feature about horror/science fiction graphic artist and film-maker Larry Blamire
  • A droll column-style piece about the columnist intense dislike of ‘re-envisioned’ versions of classic films and in this column he focuses his dislike on the 1998 version of ‘Psycho’.
  • Other assorted content/topics include: zombies, a privately-run wax museum that has been going for past 45 years, fan mail and editorial column.

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Well, dear visitors and castle staff, I think I’ll stop the description there and not give away any more of the magazine staff’s efforts to offer fresh content and surprises. I can recommend the publication, and future and past issues of it, for just about anyone who is either already interested in the matter of monsters in film, horror films in general and/or would like to find out more. The guild master told me it cost AUD$27.95 – I don’t remember what that was in silver coins of my realm, but I count it money fairly spent, for the entertainment and interest value and possible pathways to a whole new interest within speculative fiction, that this issue has given me.

And yes, my own castle’s dungeons have been thoroughly cleaned out and offer no tempting hiding places for ghouls, witches etc. 🙂

Maybe I’ll go and ask the Scriptorium Assistant about our subscriptions budget for next year… 🙂

Best regards and a ghoul-free night to all, from yours truly at The Green Castle,

‘timatgreencastle’/Resident Nobleman

Features in Issue No. 48 of ‘SciFiNow'(UK) magazine

Welcome to The Green Castle!

Today I’d like to let you know of some features in the current issue (Issue No. 48) of SciFiNow (UK) magazine, as they cover a very wide range of specfic interests, from tv series to classic movie and a visit to George Lucas’ ‘Skywalker Ranch’. There are a few copies now  available in the Scriptorium/Library, which you’re welcome to browse through during your visit/s.

Here are 6 features I can recommend for starters:

  • The ‘Skywalker Ranch’  tour article, titled “Welcome to Lucas County” – starts p.34.  Some fine photos and a very strong sense of  wonder for the writer -this place is, after all, a kind of Special Creative Zone as well as a kind of principality for George L.;
  • ‘Young Guns’- re: an industry analysis kind of feature about the recent problem of various sf tv series being cancelled early in their runs, and examples of a few that have succeeded despite the odds and predictions by gloom merchants.  Starts on p.30;
  • ‘The Nitpicker’s Guide to Planet of the Apes’ – looks at key plot points, classic scenes, crucial characters… pp.110-111;
  • The ‘Library’ section starts on p.77. The author interview features Larry Ringworld Niven. News and short comments cover new and classic books, including a new omnibus edition of H G Wells’ works, Kazuo The Remains of the Day Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go and the new film of the novel, plus comics, audiobooks and anthologies.
  • Article surveying various Dr Who fan films  -checks out a few in detail e.g ‘Gene Genius'(2003/04) and ‘Time Rift’ (1995) and then has a ‘best of the rest’ list;
  • For fans of classic ’80s fantasy on screen, ‘The Princess Bride’ movie gets a special 4-page retro feature starting on p.106

SciFiNow‘s home page: www.scifinow.co.uk

Note: Please remember to keep the magazines in the lounge area and resist any temptation to mark pages by folding corners. There is a supply of bookmarks near the magazines.  Thankyou for your assistance and I hope you enjoy your reading.

The castle staff will be happy to provide you with food and drinks in the dining areas and information about travel in the local area.

Thank you for visiting. 🙂

‘timatgreencastle’ –

Special feature in 600th issue of ‘Locus’ magazine

Hello and welcome to all visitors at The Green Castle! 🙂

The friendly castle staff will be happy to take care of your travelling cloaks, stable your horses (or any other animal you use for transport assistance), park the carts and waggons, find a place for bags and boxes etc during your visit. If you are travelling here by flying carpet/broomstick/magic cloud or other non-animal type of flying transport, please ensure it is properly de-activated in appropriate way/s before the castle staff store it for you.

This evening, good visitors, the castle’s current (and, for that matter, the inaugural) Troubador-In-Residence, no less than Elrichus of the Margonian Highlands, has some news about the new issue of the widely popular Locus magazine:

“Hear ye! Hear ye! The January 2011 issue of Locus is the 600th issue!! To celebrate this milestone in Speculative Fiction publishing   activity, there is a special feature titled ‘SF in the Digital Age’ – mainly comprising personal commentaries by specfic luminaries – both  established and on the rise – such as the very versatile author Neil Gaiman, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, current SFWA President – John Scalzi, podcaster Mur Lafferty, illustrator John Picacio, Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden, blogger and novelist Elizabeth Bear and many more.

The main part of this special feature starts with the editorial on p.5, then assumes pride of place on pp.6-7 with Neil Gaiman’s experiences of online social media  – your humble host recommends this as an excellent story in its own right and a fantastic start to the feature. Head to p.32/along that long corridor ahead of you, go up the stairs and open the first big door on the right, to get the rest of the contributors’ words.

There is much more to this issue, though:  e.g Canadian star science fiction author Robert J Sawyer gives a fine interview on the last few pages of the issue, columnist Cory Doctorow writes about the idea/possibility/oxymoron? of Net Neutrality, you can read international conference reports from Germany and Israel, catch up on the usual review and news columns, browse the photo galleries…

For later reference, the Locus home page is at: www.locusmag.com [as noted in the current issue].

May all visitors be well and at peace in The Green Castle. Here endeth the proclamation.”

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Many thanks, Elrichus! It looks like the 600th issue will prove to be a very worthy early acquisition for the castle’s library.

The castle’s kitchen and table -service staff can offer a variety of sustaining food and some drinks, and can offer some foods like fresh bread, small flasks of cider and wheels of cheese for when you resume your travels. Please forgive the lack of banqueting options just now, as the main kitchens and banquet hall are still under construction.

Thank you for visiting The Green Castle so early in its history. 🙂

Tim/’timatgreencastle’