Essential geek library: ‘The Best from Famous Monsters of Filmland’

best from famous monsters

I’ve noted it here before – as have many elsewhere – but it’s hard to overstate the importance of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine to a generation of movie fans and, in particular, horror movie fans.

When FM appeared on newsstands in 1958 – before I was born, no less reading it – the Shock Theater package of old Universal horror films was playing on TV stations around the country, often hosted by an over-the-top character like Sammy Terry here in Indiana.

FM, published by Warren Publishing and edited by Forrest J Ackerman, greatly appealed to the audience of horror movie fans – including me, when I discovered it a few years later.

My relationship with my collection of FMs was a complicated one. I never had a complete run of the magazine, although I had most of them, between buying them new each month on the newsstand and buying back issues.

Then, possessed of the insane writer/designer spirit that led to my actual career, I cut up many of my issues, rearranging photos and articles in scrapbooks in my own fashion.

I bought many of the old issues again, years later, before selling off most of my collection a couple of decades ago.

I kept my copy of “The Best from Famous Monsters of Filmland,” however, and wanted to mention it here in this edition of the Essential Geek Library.

Published in June 1964 by Paperback Library with a cover price of 50 cents, the book was a paperback-sized, 162 page reprint, basically, of some Famous Monsters articles from 1958 through 1960.

Individual articles bore such titles as “Monsters are Good for You,” “Alice in Monsterland,” “The Frankenstein Story” and “Girls Will Be Ghouls.”

Littered with Ackerman’s trademark puns – “Kong-fidentially Yours” – the book offered not only an enthusiastic defense of monster movies but inside information, including the number of models and armatures that were used in making “King Kong,” (27, Ackerman says. In a visit to his house in the Los Angeles area in the 1980s, I got to see one of those armatures, which was nothing but a metal skeleton with bits of material clinging to it by that point.)

I’m not sure when I picked up my copy of “The Best of …” but I’m guessing it was years after publication. It’s in pretty good shape but battered by years of reading, over and over again, by me and the previous owners.

Online sources indicate Warren and Forry published at least three paperback reprint collections of FM articles, following “The Best From …” with “Son of …” and “Famous Monsters of Filmland Strike Back.”

They were just what all of us monster kids wanted and we loved ’em.

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