My buddy Kelly Greene and I were talking the other day about how we first discovered FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine. For monster kids of the 1960s, FM was our bible. Edited by Forrest J. Ackerman and published by James Warren, each issue of FM was chock full of b&w photos of monster movies past, present and future as well as articles covering the history and current state of the genre. It was a glimpse into untold worlds of wonder and imagination, a place were we could learn about old favorites or discover a film that we just absolutely, positively, had to see. The magazine was an enormous influence on an entire generation of monster lovers, many of whom went on to have careers as writers, special effects and make up artists and film directors. I loved FM and still do. I had the honor of meeting Forry twice and I'll write about those encounters in more detail in a future blog post. For now, I want to focus on that first voyage of discovery.
The issues pictured above, FAMOUS MONSTERS #21 (Bride of Frankenstein), #24 (Werewolf of London) and #25 (King Kong), were the first issues of FM I ever saw. They were on the magazine rack at a variety store (remember them?) located in the shopping center at the intersection of Burnet Road and Koenig Lane in Austin. For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the store or why my family was shopping in that center that day. It wasn't one of our usual haunts. But I do remember seeing those three issues on the stands and being overcome with an intense, burning desire to own all three of them. But I didn't have the money and I couldn't convince by mother to spring fifty cents for a trashy magazine about monsters. I walked away empty handed and always wondered what lucky kid eventually bought those magazines.
Not long after, I did purchase this item:
The Customizing Monster Kit by Aurora contained various add-ons for their line of classic monster models. I had all of the models issued thus far but I really needed some extra skulls, bats, rats, lizards and bones to make the monsters look even more monsterific. Included within this small, narrow, cardboard box, hidden beneath that wonderful painted cover, was a golden ticket of sorts. It was a coupon for an issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS. All I had to do was fill out the coupon with the necessary information, include fifty cents and mail it off. I was promised an issue of FM in return. My father, who knew full well how eaten up I was with all things monsters, popped for the fifty cents. We mailed everything off and I began the long, long waiting game. Which issue would I receive? It would be one of the three I had seen at that store or something new entirely? I had no way of knowing precisely what to expect, save that my very first issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS was coming my way.
The day finally arrived. I received a large, magazine size manila envelope in the mail. I couldn't wait to open it and see my very own issue of FM for the first time. It was this issue:
FAMOUS MONSTERS #26, with a cover feature of the new ABC-TV science fiction television series THE OUTER LIMITS. Just look at that giant orange skinned alien. It was love at first sight! I read the entire issue from cover to cover several times. I committed every b&w still to memory, likewise the content of every article. I had no way of knowing if I would ever have another issue of FM or if I would ever have the opportunity to see the films and TV shows featured in the magazine. It was my first and, for a time, only issue of FM and in the days before cable television and video recorders, it was the only way I had to experience those monster movies.
At the time, Austin only had one (yes, ONE!) local television station and it did not broadcast THE OUTER LIMITS. I never got to see any episodes of this groundbreaking television series until the summer of 1964 when my family took a trip to the tiny town of Rainelle, West Virginia, where my father's sister and her family lived. It was there, in the basement of Aunt Lou and Uncle Dan's house that I finally saw an episode of THE OUTER LIMITS. Alas, it wasn't THE ARCHITECTS OF FEAR (the episode pictured on the cover of FM). Instead, it was a summer rerun of ZZZZZ (first broadcast on January 27th, 1964). A human queen bee wasn't nearly as cool as a giant orange alien but hey, there were no other options, so I took what I could get and was happy with it.
I don't know what ever happened to that copy of FM #26. I either traded it, sold it or saw it fall apart from constant reading. The bottom line is that I don't have a copy of it in my collection at this time. Nor do I have copies of issues #21, 24 & 25. The oldest, earliest issue of FM I own is #23. I'll track 'em down eventually and fill in the gaps in my collection. It will be a bit of a rush to finally have them all after all of these years but it won't equal the charge these magical magazines gave me oh so long ago.