Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Bride and Me!

Up until I was 14 I lived in Deerfield, Wisconsin. We got mediocre TV reception from Madison 25 miles to the west and rather poor shows from Milwaukee 70 miles east, despite having a tall antenna on the roof that was motorized so it could rotate for best tuning. I always suspected it froze up during the dead of winter but never ventured onto the roof to unjam it.

By the age of 13 (1959) I got my first issue of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" and dove into the eerie world of classic sci-fi & horror films that I had never seen before. This magazine altered my life by opening worlds of excitement. Horror films were fun, mysterious, scary and forbidden by parents. Forry Ackerman's love of Lon Chaney Sr. also led me into the world of silent films. A good history of the birth of FM is on the official website.

The Universal horror package was released to most local TV stations in the mid to late 1950s, often with local horror hosts. They were either slow reaching Madison or I was forbidden to watch them. I know I was forbidden to watch horror films so I suspect they simply were not playing on local TV because I would surely remember missing them. I don't know what my parents had against the classic gothic horror films. Most parents of the 1950s seemed to oppose them on moral grounds or afraid their kids would be scared too much! That's not how it worked.

About the same time in my life I took on a newspaper delivery route that covered about half of the small town. I delivered papers for about two years and quit when we moved to Madison when I was 14. (I went to three years of high school and four years of college in Madison.) Am I boring, or are you wondering how a paper route connects with Boris Karloff?

I used earnings from paper delivering to order back issues of Famous Monsters from their sales branch, Captain Company. Often Captain Company took my quarters and dimes sent in the mail and returned nothing back! Eventually and after repeated orderings I obtained all the back issues, including #1 that sells for big bucks today, except for the elusive issue #4. I wrote to the editor, Forry Ackerman, about my problems and he mailed me an autographed copy, that I totally did not expect and which earned a lifetime of gratitude. I eventually stopped collecting FM with issue #100, but I have kept them all to this very day and they are not for sale.

A year before we moved to Madison a TV station finally began running the Universal horror films Saturday late night at 1:00 am. I delivered the Sunday newspaper starting at 6:00 am. In order to "not wake people up" I conceived and executed a master plan. I slept Saturday night on the couch in the living room... where the TV was. I set an alarm clock under my pillow to wake me at 1:00, I watched the horror films with barely audible sound, went back to sleep and got up two hours later for the paper route. Some nights reception was not that hot. I still recall trying to watch the mediocre, non-horror film Black Friday with both Karloff and Lugosi, and I mainly remember because I have never seen it since. They were slow to broadcast the real classics but eventually got around to House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, Dracula's Daughter and most of the rest.

The family had made plans to move to Madison and a moving date was set, but I cared more about seeing the ultimate MONSTER film. I had read all about it, but had never seen The Bride of Frankenstein in its totally. I did own the 3 minute Castle Films 8mm silent version, which is entirely footage of the lab sequence, Boris meeting Bride and the end explosion. If you ran the projector at silent speed it may have played for five minutes. Or backwards....

I kept my paper route up until the last week in Deerfield, and the unbelievable did happen. The station showed The Bride just one week before we moved! It lived up to all expectations and is my favorite of all the Universal horrors. That's not too original as The Bride is many fans' favorite. I later owned a 16mm print of the film (I believe the first 16mm I ever bought) and showed it often to friends and my early-1970s film society.

I am partial to The Mummy as my second favorite Universal horror because of the terrific mummy-comes-to-life sequence and the superb make-up and acting of Karloff throughout.

I started this column intending to write about the rarest movie poster in the world that is being auctioned next month for a lot of money, one assumes. Yes, it's a Bride of Frankenstein one-sheet poster, but it is NOT the one shown here. This poster sold for a mere $334,600.00 in 2007.

Next time I will discuss the more valuable Bride poster.

PS. I won't be bidding.

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