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POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, October 28, 2012 Share
How did I become a lifetime fan of the Frankenstein monster? Well, to begin with I grew up in the 70ís, a time when a lot of children got exposure to the Universal Classic Monsters by watching horror movie hosts on TV. I remember first seeing Universalís Frankenstein (1931) and becoming an instant fan. This was easy to do back then. There was The Munsters on syndicated TV, which starred that laughable goof, Herman Munster, who took the monster and made him into a kid friendly jokester.
That led to Frankenberry cereal and I made sure to start each day with a big bowl. Then something happened to me that changed my life forever.
I remember it all too well. There I was a kid, happy at home, always in front of the TV, trying to take in as much pop culture as I could and soon I was forced to go to kindergarten. That meant I had to get out of the house, an old house in Port Tampa built in 1892, with a rich history. I had a terrible time in kindergarten. I tried hard to socialize with the other kids and all I wanted to do was to talk about monsters and horror movies. The other kids just didnít care and were not into it. So I had to learn how to spell my name, played stupid games like musical chairs, and got yelled out by strict teachers. Not of this was fun at all. The older kids were mean and would play cruel jokes on the younger kids. I remember being at Westshore Elementary and two older kids told me rudely to shut up. They told me that the kindergarten teachers how the power and meanness to cut off your tongue if you talked too much. This really scared me. I imagined adults walking around speechless as their child tongues were persevered in jar with Aqueous solution in the basements of wicked teachers who hated their students.
However, one teacher took pity on me and gave me a present that I still have to this day. It was a book for children of Frankenstein with illustrations by Tom Barling. I would look at the pictures for hours wondering how Dr. Frankenstein was going to create life from dead tissue. This was my ticket to literacy. Before, I was a misbehaving brat who didnít care what my teachers said and now, in order to understand my new book, I had to first learn to read. Since that day books became my number one source of entertainment. I used to read for hours and hours and when watching any movie based on a novel, I could point out what was wrong and why some movies were inferior because the text was altered by some brainless director. I was on my quest to understand Frankenstein at 4.
The next big influence was the wonderful old Hammer Horror movies. As much as I loved Universal, there was something about Peter Cushingís portrayal of Frankenstein that was closer to the illustrations of Dr. Frankenstein in the book I had.
Curse of Frankenstein was a new take on those old movies from the 30ís and I loved it from the moment I saw it. After Curse there was Revenge of Frankenstein, The Evil of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Created Woman, Frankenstein must be Destroyed, and the wonderful humorous take on the series with a different Dr. Frankenstein in Horror of Frankenstein, with the creature played by David Prowse, who would go on to play Darth Vader, another personal favorite. I saw that one staying at the Sheraton at Clearwater Beach, I refused to go out to the swimming pool, despite my motherís annoyance, and stayed in the hotel room, just to watch it.
Most of the movies were great like Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Curse of Frankenstein, and Horror of Frankenstein being my favorites. However, even at a young age, I knew there was something wrong because the movies ignored Mary Shelleyís novel and therefore blasphemous. So just in case there was something the writers and directors were putting into those movies that I might be missing, I asked my mother to buy me another copy of Frankenstein that was part of a juvenile series of Classic novels that was at the grocery store on Manhattan and Gandy. The grocery store wasnít Sweetbay or Kash-n-Karry back then. It went by another name that is lost in time to me. So I would read that version of Frankenstein, spending Saturday mornings and afternoons absorbed in the text until 2pm when Creature Feature would come on and then the reading had to stop, only to resume after the double feature ended. Still, the movies didnít add up.
Finally kindergarten was over and I really hated Westshore Elementary so it was time for a change and I started Bayshore Christian School for First Grade. It was then that I got my favorite lunchbox, a Universal Monsters tin lunchbox with a Creature from the Black Lagoon thermos. Again I scared off a lot of other kids. I was always an artistic type so I would draw pictures while the other kids paid attention in class. Art was my way to interact and explore the big scary world around me. Of course most of my drawings were monsters and strange creatures. I would always share my artwork with my fellow students and that is when I got avoided. The usual comment would be that the drawing and technique was good but the subject matter was appalling. Eventually I would make friends with other kids who were into Sci Fi, but this took such a long time to accomplish. I vividly remember sometime back in elementary school attending Vacation Bible School in the summer. The teacher asked everyone to draw a self-portrait. So quite naturally I drew my hero, the Frankenstein monster. The teacher really went after me for that. I was badly scolded and the teacher talked to my mother indicating something was wrong with me. All I was trying to do was to draw what I was passionate about, because I had all this creativity bubbling inside. If I was just like the other kids my art would have been just as bland and uninspired and suffered. So I was ask to leave VBS. Then it was back at home with my crayons, colored markers, and my vivid imagination. If only I could have found other creative people who shared my love of Horror, all would have been better. I was really scaring people.
That didnít stop me then and it doesnít stop me today at 40. Who cares what others think? If you love it, no matter how horrifying, what you are creating is and you are passionate about it, just do it and let it all out.
The next pivotal point was being at the Kash-n-Karry on Gandy and Manhattan back when Zayreís was around and seeing the cover of Famous Monsters of Filmland. I begged my mother, who was already concerned over my intense interest in monsters to get it. Finally she caved in and got it for me. That started me on the path of the wit and wisdom of Forrest J. Ackerman. His columns with the funny puns were my favorites. I liked his writing so much that the next logical step was to get a subscription. That was the first magazine I subscribed to.
This led to another great thing, the wonderful Captain Company ads. From the pages of FM I saw an ad for a book called The Illustrated Frankenstein by John Stoker. I saved every single penny until I had enough for the $20 book plus the postage and handling. Then I had my mother write a check and it went right into the mailbox. Afterwards, I struggled to focus on everything. I calculated and recalculated the 4 to 6 weeks delivery time. For the longest time nothing. Everyday after school, running to the mailbox with intense determination only to find junk mail and all hope was gone.
Then one day, when I was in such agony that my book got shipped to my neighborís address, there was a box with my name on it. The first time I had every had a box with my name printed on it. I couldnít believe it. It all seemed like a dream. Then I ran inside, torn the box open, not waiting for my mother to get the scissors and there was The Illustrated Frankenstein, which based on the description was a complete guide of all things Frankenstein including all the movies, Mary Shelley, The Munsters, and even funny toys like the wind up monster that loses his pants and makes him blush.
I hated that toy because to me the monster was tough and killed annoying villagers at will, to reduce him to a cheap toy was to deny his power. I couldnít allow my biggest influence to such a fate so I scorned that ad, each time I saw it, and quickly turned the page.
When I had the Illustrated Frankenstein in my hot hands, I found a quiet room, far away from all family members, turned on my fan and pointed it so cool air would hit me in the face and then I read for hours. Not caring when it was time for lunch and even willing to miss this Saturdayís Creature Feature because it was a repeat.
Throughout childhood I collected everything I could find on Frankenstein and his monster. I had comic books, monsters cookies in the creatureís shape, and I vividly remember seeing the Frankenstein Sandwich Shop somewhere out on highway 301 on a family road trip. I also managed to see some unique variations on the myths such as I Was a Teenaged Frankenstein and the interesting Japanese import, Frankenstein Conquerors the World and I even struggled through really bad movies like Frankenstein meets the Space Monster that caused me to cringe at each horrendous viewing. To make it even worse, parts of Space Monster were filmed in Florida. How could they do this to me? Havenít I been through enough abuse in the school system, and bought enough print media, and dedicated myself to all the movies to have this happen? It was then that I learned anyone was willing to use the creature to make a quick buck and it made me mad.
I got over it when I turned 8 and my mother baked me a beautiful Frankensteinís monster cake with green frosting for the skin and brown for the clothes. There was even red frosting for the scars and silver bolts on both sides on his neck, I didnít want to eat it, I just wanted to have it around forever.
Well I couldnít do that so in order to have my best friend around I needed my parents to buy me Gabrielís Monster Machine. Now that I was older I could finally live out the fantasy of becoming Dr. Frankenstein by creating my own monster bust. I remember turning the hand crank gleefully until it was ready. Then I spent hours painting it, using several different horror movie reference books and old Famous Monsters issues to achieve the perfect Boris Karloff look. Then it went on my bookshelf next to all my Frankenstein books.
Through the years, the kid in me, always gets excited at the prospect of a new Frankenstein movie coming out. There was a miniseries that aired on the Hallmark Channel that is faithful to the novel and I was so glad to finally get a chance to see it on DVD, it was directed by Kevin Connor and Luke Goss played the monster. Goss wasnít as memorable as Karloff but his spirit was closer to the novel. There was also the entertaining but flawed Kenneth Branagh version. Branagh was good as Victor Frankenstein but the plot was unfaithful and the whole movie fell apart for me towards the end.
Recently, I got a chance to see Universalís Frankenstein on the big screen for the very first time. I went with some friends and it was very dear to my heart to see my childhood hero, Boris Karloff, in his greatest role, the Frankenstein Monster in full digital glory. I donít think James Whales movie even looked that good back in the 30ís. That was a night to remember always and in some ways I have come full circle, just like the structure of the novel. I started out seeing that movie on a small black and white TV and ended up years later seeing it big and massive filling an giant movie screen. It was beautiful.
I would like to end this by thanking my mother who has always believed in me even when others have misunderstood and criticized me for my artistic vision.
"The Castle of Dr. Fetterstein" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.
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