Sunday, April 29, 2012

Monsters Galore at Monsterpalooza

Karen: I've been to a number of comic book and science fiction conventions over the course of my life, starting at age ten with the San Diego Comic Con and going through numerous Star Trek conventions, Comic Cons, Wonder Cons, etc. But never had I been to a convention dedicated to monsters -that is, until a few weeks ago, when I journeyed to Burbank, California. Monsterpalooza: the Art of Monsters was a brand new experience for me, and one I thoroughly enjoyed!

Karen: It was like a typical comic con in the way it worked; there were panels, signings, and a dealer's room. However, everything was focused on monster movies, from the silents to modern day. I enjoyed many panels, but two stand out. One was the Jack Pierce panel. Pierce is the man responsible for the make-ups of all the classic Universal monsters, including the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolfman. The panel gave an overview of Pierce's
life, including the fact that he managed the Universal Studios basketball team, and many of the team members went on in 1936 to play in the Olympics. The second panel was one on the 25th anniversary of Predator. Six of the original effects crew were reunited and shared stories and pictures. It's amazing to discover that the men who made that outstanding creature were all between about 19-24 years old at the time!

Karen: The dealers' room, besides offering the usual T-shirts, books, posters, and other paraphernalia, also had a great deal of art work on display: primarily sculptures, and in some cases life size statues. Artist Mike Hill had tributes to both Jack Pierce and modern monster maker Rick Baker, with full size sculptures of Pierce making Boris Karloff up as the Mummy, and Baker making David Naughton up as the werewolf from American Werewolf in London. These were incredibly life-like. See for yourself.

Karen: In one section of the dealers' room was the Monsterpalooza museum. This was an unbelievable display of paintings, sculpture, movie props, etc., from all sorts of movies and TV shows. Daniel Horne's paintings of classic monsters were phenomenal. Some of the full-size creatures were also sensational, including a Predator vs. Alien stan
d-off, and a towering Sasquatch with an incredibly expressive face.

Karen: I have to give a shout out to my pals at the Universal Monster Army who won the best display award with their depiction of a 60's monster kid's dream hobby shop. This looked wonderfully authentic,right down to the window that looked out on a small town street. Great work guys.

Karen: Monster kid supreme Bob Bur
ns and his wife Kathy were in attendance and they are always a pleasure to see. A documentary about the Burns' enormous collection of movie memorabilia (and their lives too) called Beast Wishes will be out next month. I saw a few minutes of the documentary and immediately got on the pre-order list. It looks fabulous.

Karen: As with most conventions, something unexpected happened. We were informed that the Fry's Electronics store just a block away had a sci-fi
theme. We went over and discovered there was a flying saucer crashed into the front of the building! Inside, hordes of little green men glared from the beams above, a giant octopus burst through a wall, giant ants attacked, and Gort's cousin held a woman in his arms in front of his colossal spaceship. I can't say enough about this store. If you are in the Burbank area, it's right by the Bob Hope Airport. Definitely worth a look-see!

Karen: I really enjoyed this weekend and highly
recommend Monsterpalooza to anyone who enjoys a good monster! A second show this year, Son of Monsterpalooza, will take place at the same venue (Marriott Burbank Hotel and Convention Center) on October 26-28.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Karen.

The makeup of the early monster pics is a fascinating topic. You know that when they made Karloff up as Frankie, it took so many hours to put on all the makeup that he couldn’t take it off and had to sleep with his head between 2 books to stop him spoiling it. I think that was Jack Pierce.

On the other hand, you had Lon Chaney doing all his own make up. And some of it was just incredible – the things he inserted into himself and was strapped into.

Can I recommend a series to you? Mark Gatiss’ History of Horror. He is part of a macabre British comedy troupe called the League of Gentlemen, but he’s also written for & starred in Doctor Who, amongst many other things. If they show this series on BBC America, catch it, it’s absolutely wonderful.


Karen said...

Richard, thank you for commenting on this post. I was beginning to feel like an outcast!

Chaney Sr. in particular endured some tortuous make-ups, including inserting wires in his nose for the Phantom of the Opera. Can you imagine trying to get an actor to do something like that now?

I have seen the History of Horror series and agree, it's excellent. I actually saw it on YouTube -spent a good chunk of a Sunday doing it! But it was well worth it.

If you liked that , let me make a recommendation to you: David Skal's book The Monster Show. Skal looks over the history of horror films and how real world events influenced them. A good read.


Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,
You can’t be an outcast, hunnybunny, you own the place!

I’m delighted you’ve seen that series . It’s so personal to him, yet so good. You’re right about Chaney & his make up. There was something about the contacts he had in his eyes as well, wasn’t there ? he basically just had pennies slotted into his eyeballs. Yikes.

If you’re a horror buff, maybe you can put me out of my misery with something...when I was about 10 years old (so 1976), there was a trailer on TV for a zombie movie (this is old school zombies, groaning and walking towards you slowly being the height of the horror, as opposed to performing an autopsy with their teeth as seems the way today). The trailer was exactly that...a pale faced zombie groaning and walking, arms outstretched, towards terrified man....but they were soldiers in the trenches in WW1. I remember thinking how horrific that would be with so many dead bodies everywhere and the image chilled me to the bone. I never saw the film (me too young, it too late). Do you have any idea what that might have been? It was colour, but this was long before Romero movies were on TV.

Thanks. And thanks for the recommendation. I just ordered Skal on Amazon.


Karen said...

I really think you'll enjoy the Skal book, Richard.At first I thought I would be bored reading about the silent era and early talkies but it was really fascinating. Also the connections Skal makes to the popularity of horror in the early days of film and WWI and the Depression -well, I found it worth thinking about.

The movie you describe is a mystery to me. Sounds intriguing though.Have you ever seen Shock Waves? Nothing like amphibious Nazi zombies!

Anonymous said...

Nope, never seen Shock waves, but I’ll add it to the list. Nazi zombies is one thing (Suckerpunch?) but amphibious Nazi zombies is really pushing the boat out (!).

It is fascinating to see things in context, isn’t it? I always love a good Victorian ghost story (modern entries like WIB very much in that tradition), but in my mind, I always assumed that they watched it the same way we do. The truth is that Victorians didn’t really believe in it, because, for the most part, they saw people die. Even for children, it was common to see aged, injured or ill family members die and to see their bodies waxy and life clearly extinct. It was not until WW1, when suddenly millions of people died with no opportunity for their loved ones to say goodbye or see the body, or really experience their death, that there was a huge growth in spiritualism, which emanated from nothing more than millions of people being literally unable to believe (unable to process the fact) that their loved ones were gone.

I think the parallels between sci-fi and it’s concurrent milieu are always apparent....the imagined future always says more about the current imaginors and their ‘now’ than it does about the actual future....but I’ve never really thought about that and horror. Is Depression –era horror actually about the Depression? Aside from Romero lampooning consumerism (where do zombies congregate? The mall, of course) I rarely see social comment in horror.


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