Supernal Dreams: Vincent Price Day – October 25, 2010

Vincent Price in Theatre of Blood
Vincent Price in Theatre of Blood

Seventeen years ago on October 25 1993 at the age of 82, Vincent Price met the end of his adventure on Earth. To commemorate his passing, several Facebook groups are having a “Vincent Price Day” including Rick Squire’s The Vincent Price Exhibit. As is well-known, Mr. Price was a life-long devotee of all the arts and often defended the motion-picture as a great art form before it was fashionable to do so in the fifties and early sixties.   In this homage Price wrote in 1986 for Forrest J. Ackerman,  he offers a splendid tribute not only to “4 E” but also to the many fright films that will forever be associated with the name of Vincent Leonard Price.


A tribute by VINCENT PRICE

March 24, 1986

I’ve done my share of horror films. Some were meant to be, some weren’t. Some actors are so connected (to the genre) in the public’s mind, that they mind the association–I do and I don’t. All of us have done other things, many of which we are more proud of than the horrors, but what the public remembers demands a certain amount of gratitude from all of us. The public can so easily forget.

Now there are people whose role in life is to perpetuate the public’s memory in certain ways, in specific areas of every field of endeavor. Some do it with a heavy hand and some with a touch of genius. Some even combine genius with humor and they are the very special few. To name the one special, unique, all by himself, we must come up with the name of Forry Ackerman. He is a gentle wit, full of fun and funniness. He loves a quip and is not above treating us to some striking punning. He wrote me that, “Twenty-seven years ago I brought forth upon this continent a genre magazine conceived in jeopardy and dead-icated to the proposition (13) that all monsters are cremated evil.” Now you see what I mean. And not even the slightest apology to Lincoln.

Quite seriously, Forry has indeed punned, joked and consciously smiled his way into millions of young hearts. To appear on a cover of his magazine is to become immortal. In a rather ghoulish way. The recipient of the cover honor can be sure of thousands of imitators. He or she takes a place in the make up’s of many Halloweens. They become collector’s items and are framed, hung, adored and almost worshipped throughout Monsterland. Landis, Lucas, King and Spielberg all owe him some of their devoted followers. Single handed he has kept alive many a lessening legend putting them under his list of ghost writers on the heading of his always imaginative stationary. Tod Browing, George Zucco, Jack Pierce, as well as the obvious greats, Karloff, Lorre, etc.

On a personal note he is a great and loyal friend and career supporter. When you’re with Forry or 4 E and his enchanting wife Wendayne at a movie opening or film festival as I was two years ago in Madrid, or at some especially enchanted Hollywood affair you know you’ve in the company of royalty. In his kingdom of the bizarre, weird and wonderful he is supreme ruler, keeper of the keys to monster immortality. He pictures himself crowned with Jack Pierce’s famous top part of Frankenstein’s monster’s head.

Forry has made monsters fun, vampires good company. His address in Hollyweird, Karloffornia has become a Mecca for young monster lovers and serious students of one of the oldest cinema genres. He is a collector extraordinaire as he truly collects extraordinary things and has made the grand gesture of giving it to the city of Los Angeles, which with it’s typical lack of concern for an industry that has made it famous, still doesn’t have a place to house it.

Eventually he and his collection will become monuments to a (but for him) much neglected cinema art form. We all owe him a great debt for keeping alive his favorite genre of movies and best preserving its mementos. We should thank him for his fun, devotion, and generous giving of it to his avid public. His fans are legion.


Click to purchase download
Click to purchase download

Celebrate Halloween this year with the magical voice of Vincent Price:

WITCHCRAFT & MAGIC: An Adventure in Demonology. Capitol Records 1969 SWBB-342 Stereo. Two Record Set. Written and Directed by Terry d’ Oberoff. Producer: Roger Karshner. Electronic score by Douglas Leedy.

The secrets of witchcraft and magic revealed by Vincent Price, distinguished actor and demonologist.

A Note from producer Roger Karshner:

“In this album we have attempted to bring to the listener the essential elements of Witchcraft and Magic, authentically and dramatically. Terry d’Oberoff’s script is historically sound and is beautifully written, with satanic, dramatic brilliance. Mr. Price’s interpretation is indeed masterful. His voice surrounds you, lifts your mind and transport it across the landscape of Hell.”

This is easily one of the best of Vincent Price’s many sound recordings. Here Price’s superb dramatic reading is beautifully enhanced by an inventive use of stereo sound effects that most of Price’s other recordings lack. There is also a very subtle music score and atmospheric readings from three un-credited actresses who play the witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Harry Knowles to run Famous

Congrats to Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News! He’s revealed that he’ll be running Famous for new owner Philip Kim.
HARRY_KNOWLES Knowles has been a devotee of the late Forrest J Ackerman, long-time genre fan, literary agent, and Editor of the original Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, the seminal Horror/Science Fiction publication. Aimed at youngsters, that magazine paved the way for all the genre magazines that came in its wake. You either tried to be like FM or proved you were different than Famous Monsters to make your mark.
What does the AICN guru have in mind for FM?

The types of articles will be different from what you see at AICN… And tonally different from most of what you see in the Horror Blog world. For one, FAMOUS MONSTERS wasn’t just about Horror. I’ve also been talking with a great deal of filmmakers and effects professionals about bringing you some very special content like only FAMOUS MONSTERS should bring us.
What you’ll see is a lot of PASSION for the classics, the faces and names behind the scenes that too often are ignored by a media that is fixated upon Big Stars & Big Directors and don’t celebrate the myriad of artists that contribute to the kind of work that made us geek out to that magazine. FAMOUS MONSTERS taught us to know the names of folks like Lon Chaney Sr, Jack Pierce, Paul Blaisdell, Bob Burns, Rick Baker, Stan Winston, Rob Bottin & on and on. We’ll look back at those and many more even as we focus to find the new creators of Famous Monsters – be they practical, digital or some unique form that I can barely understand.

And that sounds to me like he’s got a good grasp on the Famous Monsters tradition. Best of Luck!

Supernal Dreams: Prince Sirki calls Forry to the grave

Since Steve has already given us the germane facts about Forrest J. Ackerman in his wonderful obituary on Forry, I just want to write a few personal observations about the FJA I knew as my editor.
But first, I’d like to quote something Ray Bradbury told me shortly after Vincent Price passed away. When I mentioned Mr. Price’s passing to Bradbury, about 15 years ago in San Francisco, I remember Mr. Bradbury seemed to sense my rather melancholy tone, and immediately tried to cheer me up by saying, “Vincent had a wonderful life, though, didn’t he?” Well, of course he did! Certainly the same can be said for Forry, and although I didn’t think of it at the time, something Vincent Price says as Prince Prospero in The Masque of the Red Death seems rather appropriate to quote now, especially since Forry was a confirmed Atheist. Prospero, seeing that his lover, Juliana has been killed by a falcon says, “I beg you do not mourn for Juliana… we should celebrate. She has just married a friend of mine.”
Likewise Forry is now meeting many of his friends… namely Charon, Prince Sirki, or the Death personified so beautifully in Poe’s story. But Forry had a long and a wonderful life, which he should be celebrated for, and not mourned – since one thing both Forry and horror films teach us is that death must come to all men, and is simply a natural part of life.
In fact, Forry was always giving tributes in the pages of Famous Monsters to the dear departed of filmland, but it wasn’t until Boris Karloff passed away — on February 2, 1969 — that I felt the sorrow of somebody dying, that registered as a real loss. Of course I didn’t know Mr. Karloff, except from his movies, but at that young age, I still somehow felt he was a close friend of mine.
Likewise, I suspect most readers of Famous Monsters felt that Forry was a distant Uncle or a dear friend of theirs. I certainly didn’t know Forry when I bought my first issue of Famous Monsters, in 1967, but his thoughts came though to me in each new issue of FM. It would be many years before I would actually meet and work with Forry, as an editor. The first time was when I contributed articles to his short-lived Monsterland magazine, and later when I sent Forry most of the star tributes he used, along with my long interview with Vincent Price that formed the centerpiece to his Famous Monsters tribute issue to Price that appeared shortly after Price passed away.
I last saw Forry about ten years ago, when I visited him at his modest apartment, after he had given up his “Ackermansion” on Glendower Ave. high in the haunted hills of Hollywood. Ironically, on that visit to Los Angeles, I went on a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s fabulous Ennis-Brown House, used so memorably as the exterior location in William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill and in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Driving up Glendower drive, I passed Forry’s old house at 2495 Glendower and was saddened to see it being totally disemboweled by a construction crew! But sad as that sight was, at the time Forry was still with us. Now that Prince Sirki has finally called him to his domain, “let us not mourn him, but raise our glasses in a toast to Forrest J. Ackerman and his glorious legacy.”
As Forry simply put on his calling cards, he was the authority par excellence on: “Science Fiction – Filmonsters & Esperanto”  I’ll miss calling him at (213)  Moon Fan.

Obituary: Famous Monsters Founder Forest J. Ackerman

92-year-old science-fiction fan Forest J. Ackerman – founder of Famous Monsters of Filmland– died last night, just before midnight. Ackerman became famous as the world’s number one fan of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films; at a time when the genre was considered beneath contempt by the mainstream media, he started the very first magazine devoted to the genre, Famous Monsters, which became famous for offering a cornucopia of rare and amazing still photographs, usually captioned with Ackerman’s infamous bad puns (e.g., a shot of a robot being repaired in FUTURE WORLD was accompanied by this bon mot: “First a Clockwork Orange. Now a Clockwork Lemon,” a joke so weak that Ackerman felt the need to explain that the robot kept malfunctioning). Fortunately, the silliness became part of the magazine’s charm, and eager monsters kids were thrilled to have a publication that filled with interviews and articles about everything from Dracula to Godzilla.
I was not an avid reader of the magazine, but it was good to know it was out there, doing its job, and the issues I did own made for engrossing reading during the long car trips my family took for summer vacations. In those pages, thanks to some photographs of Carlos Villarrias as the Count, I first learned of the existence of the Spanish-language version of DRACULA that was shot simultaneously with the famous Bela Lugosi classic in 1931. I was amazed by behind-the-scenes shots from the filming of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962). I learned behind-the-scenes details about many of the movies I loved while growing up: Poe films starring Vincent Price, Hammer horrors with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
Ackerman also kept an eye on new movies, but his love for the classics could not be diminished. At one point he even opined that THE EXORCIST had earned a place among the greats, but it was no replacement for old black-and-white films like THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and FRANKENSTEIN.
Not content to sit behind the editor’s desk, Ackerman used his magazine to achieve his own small slice of fame. Low-budget filmmakers eager for any kind of recognizable name or face would put him in low-budget exploitation films like DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN. Later, young filmmakers who had grown up reading Famous Monsters would give him cameos in their films (as when Joe Dante had Ackerman walk through THE HOWLING, carrying some old issues behind his back).
Ackerman eventually convinced foreign filmmaker Michael Bergman to make a film more or less about him. Bergman had contacted Ackerman, a former literary agent, about finding the rights to an old science fiction story, but Ackerman pitched himself as the subject for a movie. Bergmann agreed and concocted a tale about an obscure old silent movie monster who escapes from the screen into real life; desperate to find his way back into the movie where he belongs, he seeks out the world’s foremost authority on old horror films, Ackerman. The result was MY LOVELY MONSTER (1990). Ackerman helped add some “name” value to the low-budget production by having some friends from the industry show up to play bit parts in a party scene: actor Ferdinand Mayne (DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES, actress Bobbie Breesee, sci-fi writer Ib Melchoir, journalist Bill Warren, filmmaker and special effects artist Mike Jittlov, and horror icon Boris Karloff’s daughter, Sarah. Somehow, I myself managed to become one of the party guests, but you would need sharp eyes to spot me devouring kiwi fruits in the background. (Hey, they lured me down with the promise of a free lunch, but the only food was the stuff visible on screen.)
Ackerman’s fame was of a cult sort, but he did become the poster boy for Sci-Fi Fandom. Twenty years ago, in the wake of the post-STAR WARS blockbuster success of the genre, when a local television news station wanted to do a feature about the fact that science fiction was now mainstream, no longer the sole province of nerds and geeks, whom did they show as an example? Ackerman himself, draped in an old Dracula cape, creeping around dark corridors, doing a corny Lugosi imitation as he looked into the camera and urged, “Don’t be afraid…”
Since Famous Monsters ceased publication, Ackerman’s influence on the genre waned somewhat, but he was still the ultimate fan, beloved by other fans who remembered him from the childhood days. And Ackerman remained well known as a collector who frequently allowed guests to tour his “Acker-Mansion,” where they could see his extensive collection of books, posters, props, and costumes from classic movie monsters. In later years, Ackerman wanted to donate the collection to the City of Los Angeles for a museum, but that never came to pass.
I perhaps was born just a bit too late to be as fully enamored of the Ackerman Mythos as many fans are. I preferred a more serious approach to science-fiction, which is why I gravitated toward Cinefantastique. Yet even so, I have to acknowledge Ackerman’s work as a trail-blazer. There is something to be said for being first. And throughout his life, he retained his devotion to the genre that he loved, making personal appearances at local revival houses screening films like THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS and SHE. Anyone who who makes an effort to get people to see old movies on the big screen – not at home on television – deserves my eternal gratitude.
I only ever met Ackerman once or twice, and he seemed just as affable in person as he did in any of his public appearances or television interviews. The wide-eyed, almost naive enthusiasm was, I think, not a pose but a genuine expression of his character. In the pages of Famous Monsters, this may sometimes have expressed itself in gag-worthy puns, but there is no doubt that Ackerman possessed, as few people truly do, a genuine Sense of Wonder.
You can read more details about Ackerman’s life in the AP obituary. Also, check out this tribute by David Del Valle (written shortly before Ackerman’s not unexpected death).