Category Archives: book

Monster Jokes

Ah, cheesy monster jokes. They are a staple of any young, growing horror fan’s reading diet and they’re impossible to escape during October. As I don’t know whether or not directly posting jokes falls under “fair use” rules, I’ll avoid any potential trouble by linking to several previews of spooky joke books. So if you’re feeling nostalgic or simply need a few jokes to use, check out:

Monster Jokes by Ima Laffin.

More Monster Jokes by Ima Laffin.

Beastly Laughs: A Book of Monster Jokes by Mark Moore.

Monster Laughs: Frightfully Funny Jokes About Monsters by Michael Dahl.

Jokes About Monsters by Judy A. Winter also offers interesting photographs rather than use cartoon drawings of monsters like other joke books often do.

Spooky Sillies: A Book of Ghost Jokes
by Mark Moore.

Screaming With Laughter: Jokes About Ghosts, Ghouls, Zombies, Dinosaurs, Bugs, and Other Scary Creatures
by Michael Dahl is a bit of a cheat, as it’s padded out with several pages worth of animal jokes.

Giggle Fit: Spooky Jokes by Joseph Rosenbloom and Steve Harpster.

For those of you who want a steady supply of new horror jokes, just follow 1monstermatt, author of the upcoming Monstermatt’s Bad Monster Jokes Vol. 1, on Twitter.

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Shag! and The Art Of Tiki

With all of the focus on Tiki music here at the Local, it’s all too easy to forget its artistic side. Thankfully, Google Books makes it just as easy to jog one’s memory on the subject.

Let’s start with Tiki Art Now! by Otto Von Stroheim and Robert Williams. In addition to its great information on all things Tiki, it kicks off the art with Dr. Alderete’s “Acapulco Tiki,” wherein an El Santo-style luchador kicks back with a Munktiki brand “Kreepy” mug. It’s the perfect way to unwind after a hard day of wrestling monsters! The other pieces of art in the preview are a mix of cool and spooky, normal Tiki and horror Tiki.

The book’s striking cover art is by one Josh Agle, better known to his fans as “Shag.” In case you’re wondering about the name, it comes from the combination of the last two letters of his first name with the first two letters of his last name. Supposedly he adopted that alias in order to make it look like his band at the time, The Swamp Zombies, could afford to hire someone else to do their albums’ cover art. In fact, a large part of the band’s creation was due to his desire to make the album art!

His simple-yet-detailed retro style has made him a smash hit, both in the world of Tiki and the art world in general. There’s even an exotica CD devoted to songs inspired by his work! Which is quite appropriate, seeing as how he was a founding member of The Tiki Tones.

But there is more to Shag than Tiki. As noted here, Mr. Agle does not want to be known as “just a Tiki artist” as they are only one of the many aspects of his work. His official website describes artwork as a “blend of hot rods, tiki heads, skeletons, voodoo lounge, and kustom kulture all rolled up in a swanky package.” His long list of influences also includes (but isn’t limited to) 60’s culture (mildly NSFW), spies, thieves (I’d love to see Shag’s take on Lupin III), blaxploitation, horror, and martial arts movies. And, as noted earlier, he often combines these to create unique and interesting (and spooky) works. If anything, Shag is a “rooms you wish you had in your home” artist.

For more on his work, please check out the following links:

Shag: The Art of Josh Agle
by Josh Agle, Colin Berry, and Billy Shire.

Bottomless Cocktail: The Art of Shag
by Shag

Shag, ltd., fine art limited editions: a catalogue raisonné
by Shag, Douglas Nason, Jeremy Cushner, and Greg Escalante

Don’t just look at the art, either. Those books are filled with fascinating interviews and writings on Mr. Agle’s work. I especially liked his observation on Tiki bars in Bottomless Cocktail: The Art of Shag.

Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales

You can find horror anthologies devoted to just about every subject these days. Ghosts, vampires, werewolves, zombies, aliens, Frankenstein’s monster, H.P. Lovecraft, slashers…the list goes on and on. But one subgenre was sadly neglected in the world of horror anthologies: good old fashioned giant monster attacks!

Thankfully, the fine folks at Agog! Press took notice and corrected this terrible oversight with a trilogy of books. Originally intended as a one-off release, the amount of submissions for Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales was so great that the extra material was split off into two other books: Daikaiju!2 Revenge of the Giant Monsters and Daikaiju!3 Giant Monsters Vs. the World. Although the cover art and contributing authors change from book to book, the fact that they’re edited by Robert Hood and Robin Pen remains the same throughout them all.

Thanks to Google Books, you can read lengthy previews of all three tomes. What awaits you? Complete stories and snippets, both serious and comical featuring original creations and, for all intents and purposes, famous daikaiju with their serial numbers scratched off (if you catch my drift). Some give their monstrous creations names and others opt to leave the creatures unnamed. I prefer stories that opt for the second method, as I feel it reflects the mysterious nature of the gigantic beasts that suddenly spring forth from the dark places of the Earth to trample cities while terrified citizens flee rather than concern themselves with naming something.

So please, give these books a try. I’ll think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the sheer number of ways there are to tell a story about giant monsters (not unlike my surprise when I found that the first book had a story featuring Frank Wu’s “Guidolon the Giant Space Chicken”). There’s radiation, magic and even a zombified Paul Bunyan!

Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales

Daikaiju!2 Revenge of the Giant Monsters

Daikaiju!3 Giant Monsters Vs. the World

If that isn’t enough, there’s Robert Hood’s companion website and another story collection which I suspect was inspired by this series.

Edison’s Frankenstein

Originally debuting as a self-published work in 1996, Edison’s Frankenstein is back in an expanded and updated edition that’s more than double the original’s page count (along with a tie-in DVD-R release of the film). And the timing couldn’t be better, because 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the original silent Frankenstein film’s release!

Author Frederick C. Wiebel, Jr. presents a wealth amount of information in a way that never seems boring or “dense” to the reader. Not only does he chronicle the complete genesis of the silent film’s creation (including reproductions of short film’s “script” and intertitles), but the book also covers the history of early American cinema and the Edison company (along with biographies of the film’s stars and details on company founder Thomas Edison). Some horror fans might be tempted to skip the non-Frankenstein portions of the book, but that would be a very foolish mistake. I found the biographies of Charles Ogle (who played the monster) and Mary Fuller (who played Dr. Frankenstein’s fiancée) to be particularly interesting, due to how Mr. Ogle’s career changed and how Ms. Fuller was involved in the creation of movie serials. I was also surprised to learn that Warner Brothers and Universal both owe their existences to Edison Studios.

Other chapters cover the creation of Mary Shelley’s original tale, stage adaptations (and how they may have influenced the monster makeup used in the 1910 film), other Frankenstein films (and the 1910 version’s possible influence upon some), and the saga of formerly “lost” film finally getting released on home video. There are plenty of pictures from a variety of sources, with the ones from the titular film and other silents being of understandably lesser quality due to the well-worn nature of their source prints. A few other pictures are somewhat pixelated, possibly due to the conversion for the .PDF file for the e-book version (more on that later). According to an e-mail conversation I had with the author, there were no such problems with the original scans. On the plus side, most of the pictures look great and many of the Universal Frankenstein’s monster pictures should be familiar (and please) monster kids old and new.

Like many, I had assumed the scant few film clips available from the film in the 90’s were the only usable scraps from otherwise completely deteriorated film reels. The truth was that there was an honest-to-goodness conspiracy to keep the film from being released in full!

You see, the only surviving copy of the film was purchased by a film collector named Alois Dettlaff sometime in the 50’s. Although he did work on preserving the film (including making copies), he did not realize the value of this particular acquisition until many years later. After inquiring among other collectors to see if they had copies as well, Mr. Dettlaff soon realized that he was the only game in town. But although the film’s public domain status allowed him to release it himself without paying any royalties, it also meant that anyone would be free to make and sell copies themselves the split second the film was made publicly available. So, aside from a few one showing only theatrical screenings, Dettlaff limited the film’s release to clips he licensed out. It’s almost unfathomable to think that a film described as being lost in countless books on horror movies (including ones written for children) could be shown without anyone catching on and calling a local news service. But it happened. It wasn’t until Fred Wiebel saw a clip on a television documentary and became inspired to see where it came from that the truth became known.

Edison’s Frankenstein chronicles the numerous difficulties Mr. Wiebel had in his dealings with the late Mr. Dettlaff, such as numerous cancellations for events and struggles over getting the film to be shown without a watermark. And then there’s the Dettlaff limited edition DVD (not to be confused with the DVD-R associated with this book) and the experiences that others had with him. The Oscar story is definitely not to be missed. Considering all that, it’s amazing the author didn’t just give up out of sheer frustration. Well, that, and discuss the trials and tribulations in a way that doesn’t demonize the deceased film collector. In fact, his final notes on the matter come in the form of a memorial of sorts for Dettlaff.

But what of the film itself? Buying the book directly from the author or buying the CD-R/DVD-R e-book combo will get you the restored DVD-R immediately, and those who get the paperback edition from other sources can still order it separately using the instructions found at the back of the book. The disc art is based on the labels used for Edison Records’ “Diamond Discs,” which gives it a neat “What if Edison made DVDs” feel. Said artwork is printed directly on the disc, so fans need not worry about any of the issues associated with homemade labels. It comes in a paper CD sleeve (unless you get the e-book package), but that should not be an issue for resourceful GdL16 readers.

The DVD’s start menu uses the image most commonly associated with the film as a background and has the film’s title act as the “Play” option. The 12 minute film itself is fairly straightforward: Dr. Frankenstein is a university student who has discovered the secret of life and plans to create a perfect human being. In a very Georges Méliès-style scene, Frankenstein prepares a bubbling cauldron in order to bring his creation to life. As you’ve probably guessed, this film is an early example of a book’s plot getting heavily altered for the movie adaptation. But his giddiness over the experiment soon turns to fear and revulsion once he sees what his finished creation actually looks like. Although he initially dismisses the matter as a bad dream, aided in part by the monster’s disappearance, the reality of the matter comes back to haunt him upon his return home…

The monster, with its wild hair and pointy elf shoes, is more likely to induce laughter rather than chills in today’s viewers. However, its claw-like hands are a nice, creepy touch and the monster looks very unnerving when it’s looming over its terrified, hiding under the covers creator(aided in part by the color tinting used in the scene). The orange tinting used for the sequence when the monster is forming in the cauldron is also well-picked, with that particular tint making the formation of the body resemble burning embers in a fireplace. Although it is rather easy to figure out how the effect of a moving humanoid figure being formed from smoke and ashes, it’s still a pretty neat looking sequence. It, along with the mirror sequence, must have knocked the socks off the movie-goers of the day. The only tinting that could come off as odd to modern viewers is the use of blue tinting toward the end of the film. However, anyone reading the book will realize this was shorthand for scenes taking place at night.

Although it’s not Criterion Collection quality, this restored version of the film easily blows away other versions currently online. The transfer is artifact-free and while there may be some signs of print damage, but that is to be expected given the worn nature of the original print and how Mr. Weibel was only able to work with a watermarked and altered (new title and intertitle cards) copy. Thankfully, he was able to blur the watermark and it’s not very noticeable for most of film, unless you go looking for it. I actually mistook it for a sprocket hole the first time I spotted it. There is only one scene where characters move in the “fast motion” manner often associated with silent films, but it’s very brief. “Blink and you’ll miss it” brief.

Just as how he poured through old Edison company documents for information about the film itself, the author also used those documents to determine what musical cues would have accompanied the film and was able to obtain them from vintage phonograph cylinders! According to a very informative newsgroup posting Mr. Wiebel made about his one-man restoration effort (all painstakingly done on his personal computer), he purposefully didn’t clean up the scratchy thumps so as to better match the visual quality of the film. I have to agree, it’s a nice touch that compliments the film well. The “white text on plain black backgrounds” intertitles might seem overly simple and quickly made to those familiar with the more elaborate ones present in other silents. However, those who’ve read the book will know that’s how they actually looked in the original. It’s important to also remember that since Mr. Wiebel had to recreate certain elements of the film from scratch such as the intertitles and title card, this particular version of Frankenstein is copyrighted. Check out these sections of the US Copyright Office if you don’t believe me. In other words, don’t rip the DVD transfer and sell/distribute/etc. copies. Mr. Wiebel worked very hard on this restoration and deserves to reap the benefits.

I understand that the arrangement of the text in the e-book version (available in both Word and .PDF formats) is different and several of the pictures are in color. No matter what version you choose, the book is still a must-have for both fans of classic films and horror films alike. For information on how to order your own copy, please click here.

Special thanks to Fred Wiebel and BearManor Media for the review copy!