Saturday, September 14, 2013

Monster Files:Frankenstein

Mary Shelley (born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin) an English novelist planned a summer trip with the poet Lord Byron at Lake Geneva, in May 1816, accompanied by Percy Shelley and their son. She began writing what she assumed would be a short story, but she expanded this tale into her very first novel, “Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus”, published anonymously in 1818. Upon waking from a dream, Mary Godwin conceived the idea for Frankenstein:

I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.”
She later described that summer in Switzerland as the moment "when I first stepped out from childhood into life". The story has been fictionalized several times and formed the basis for a number of films.
The first film adaptation of the tale (a brief 16 min.), Frankenstein, was done by Edison Studios in 1910, written and directed by J. Searle Dawley, with Augustus Phillips as Frankenstein, Mary Fuerte as Elizabeth, and Charles Ogle as the Monster. There was also at least one European film version, the Italian Il Mostro di Frankenstein ("The Monster of Frankenstein") in 1921. The film's producer Luciano Albertini essayed the role of Frankenstein, with the creature being played by Umberto Guarracino, and Eugenio Testa directing from a screenplay by Giovanni Drivetti. The film is also now considered a lost film.
The most famous adaptation of the story, 1931's Frankenstein, was produced by Universal Pictures directed by James Whale, and starred Boris Karloff as the monster. Karloff would reprise the Monster role in two of the sequels; Bride of Frankenstein (1935) & Son of Frankenstein (1939). The James Whale directed film Bride of Frankenstein also featured actress Elsa Lanchester portraying both Mary Shelley and the Bride. Lon Chaney Jr., would fill the Monster’s shoes in the sequel Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), starring along side Bela Lugosi as Ygor. Lugosi who turned down the role of Frankenstein’s Monster would don the neck bolts in the crossover movie Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). In both House of Frankenstein (1944) & House of Dracula (1945), the role of Frankenstein’s Monster was played by stunt man Glenn Strange.
In Great Britain, the Frankenstein story would be adapted by Hammer Films. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) was the first British Gothic horror film made by Hammer, starring Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as the Monster. Hammer would make a series of Frankenstein films many of which were stand alone films with different actors portraying the Monster or “Creature”, and starred Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein. The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) – two creatures Michael Gwynn & Peter Cushing, The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) – Kiwi Kingston, Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) – Susan Denberg, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969) – Freddie Jones, The Horror of Frankenstein (1970) – David Prowse, and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) – David Prowse. In 1959, Hammer shot a half-hour pilot episode for a TV series to be called Tales of Frankenstein, in association with Columbia Pictures. Anton Diffring played the Baron, and Don Megowan his creation. Curt Siodmak directed. The series was scrapped, largely because of the two companies' disagreement over the direction of the show.
In 1957, American International Pictures (AIP) released the low-budget I Was A Teenage Frankenstein. Whit Bissell stars as Prof. Frankenstein, Gary Conway plays the creature. A follow-up, How to Make a Monster, was released in July 1958. This film featured actor Gary Conway as an actor playing the Teenage Frankenstein in a film. In 1958, Boris Karloff would return to the name Frankenstein in a wildly differing adaptation. The film Frankenstein 1970, focused on the themes of nuclear power, impotence, and the film industry. Boris Karloff stars as Dr. Frankenstein, who harvests the bodies of actors to create a clone of himself using his nuclear-powered laboratory. His intention is to have this clone carry on his genes into future generations. This year also brought the bizarre Frankenstein’s Daughter, in which modern descendant of Frankenstein Donald Murphy experiments with a Jekyll/Hyde type of serum before stitching together a grotesque female creature.
In 1966, Toho, known for their Godzilla and man-in-suit monster movies, made the film War of the Gargantuas, a sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World (although this is obscured in the US version), with the Frankenstein Monster's severed cells growing into two giant humanoid brother monsters: Sanda (the Brown Gargantua), the strong and gentle monster raised by scientists in his youth, and Gaira (the Green Gargantua), the violent and savage monster who devours humans. The two monsters eventually battle each other in Tokyo.

In 1970, Dracula vs. Frankenstein by Al Adamson, an extremely low-budget horror thriller, stars aged film stars J. Carroll Naish and Lon Chaney Jr. In the film, Count Dracula (Zandor Vorkov) has the last living descendant of Frankenstein (Naish) revive his famous ancestor's creation (played by John Bloom).

Frankenstein (the Monster) and Mary Shelley’s story would continue to be adapted in many medians and influence generations to come. Next year, Frankenstein’s monster will return to the big screen in “I, Frankenstein” starring Aaron Eckhart as the Monster. The film is an adaptation of the graphic novel that is influenced by Mary Shelley’s novel.

            You’ll find many versions of Frankenstein’s Monster at Horrorbles and in many shapes and sizes…Lee, Karloff, and everything in between! Toys, shirts, collectibles, and movies…Frankenstein is alive, ALIVE!, and continues live on through the imaginations of readers and moviegoers.

~Maniac Matt

Friday, June 28, 2013


It all began in the year 1897. The year Abraham “Bram” Stoker introduced the Gothic novel “Dracula”. With his skills as a newspaper writer, Stoker was able to convey a sense of realism, making Dracula an epistolary novel. He drew much inspiration from the novella Camilla, European folklore and mythological stories of vampires, and some influence from Vlad the Impaler.
In 1927, Bram Stoker’s Dracula would be adapted on Broadway starring non-other than Bela Lugosi as the Count. There Lugosi was talent-spotted to become a character actor for the new Hollywood talkies, including the very first “talkie” film adaptation of Dracula. The pre-production of Universal Studio’s Dracula was shrouded with coincidental deaths; the first being the original director Paul Leni, who’d be replaced by Todd Browning, and the second death, Lon Chaney Sr. , Universal’s first choice to play the titular role. Despite Lugosi’s critically acclaimed and successful performance in Broadway’s Dracula, he was second in line to play the role he made famous. He would return to the role for a second and last time in Universal’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Dracula was also adapted as Nosferatu (1922), a film directed by the German director F. W. Murnau, without permission from Stoker's widow; the filmmakers attempted to avoid copyright problems by altering many of the details, including changing the name of the villain to “Count Orlok”.
In 1958, Christopher lee would star in his first Dracula film Horror of Dracula (three years after Bela Lugosi’s final movie role). The commercial success of Hammer’s Dracula would warrant many sequels, all of which Lee was hesitant to star in because of what he deemed to be poor screenwriting. Lee has gone on record to state that he was virtually "blackmailed" by Hammer into starring in the subsequent films; unable or unwilling to pay him his going rate, they would resort to reminding him of how many people he would put out of work if he did not take part.
The process went like this: The telephone would ring and my agent would say, “Jimmy Carreras [President of Hammer Films] has been on the phone, they've got another Dracula for you." And I would say, "Forget it! I don't want to do another one." I'd get a call from Jimmy Carreras, in a state of hysteria. "What's all this about?!" "Jim, I don't want to do it, and I don't have to do it." "No, you have to do it!" And I said, "Why?" He replied, "Because I've already sold it to the American distributor with you playing the part. Think of all the people you know so well, that you will put out of work!" Emotional blackmail. That's the only reason I did them.” ~Christopher Lee
Despite Lee’s troubles with the role and Hammer, he would star in Jess Franco’s 1970 film Count Dracula, again playing the role of the vampire count.
In 1992, Bram Stoker’s novel would be adapted for the big screen again, this time starring Gary Oldman as Count Dracula and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The film won three Academy Awards, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Makeup and was nominated for Best Art Direction/Set Direction. It also won four Saturn Awards, with Best Director and Best Actor for Coppola and Oldman, respectively.

Dracula would appear in many more films such as; Dracula 2000 (Gerard Butler), Dracula: Dead and Loving It (Leslie Nielsen), Blade: Trinity (Dominic Purcell), Van Helsing (Richard Roxburgh), Dracula (Frank Langella), Blood for Dracula (Udo Kier), Love at First Bite (George Hamilton), Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (Klaus Kinski), The Monster Squad (Duncan Regehr), Dracula 3D (Thomas Kretschmann).
Dracula’s popularity continues to grow to this day through toys, comics, television and cinema. You can find many cool Dracula items at Horrorbles, including screen-used shadow puppets from Bram Stoker’s Dracula & Basil Gogos Dracula signed prints (pictured below).

Friday, May 3, 2013

"Hammer Time!"

Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, and the Wolf Man, were all defined cinematically by the actors of the 1930s; Karloff, Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. But that was all to change when a new legion of filmmakers and actors from across the pond put a new perspective on the “gothic horror”.
In 1934 a successful businessman and failed comedian, Anthony Hinds aka “Will Hammer” formed Hammer Productions Limited and began production of the first Hammer film, The Public Life of Henry the Ninth, a modest 61 minute comedy. In the summer of 1935, Hammer’s first full-length film featured Bela Lugosi, the star of Universal’s Dracula, in The Mystery of the Mary Celeste. The first ‘official’ picture from Hammer Film Productions was Doctor Morelle, released by Exclusive on June 27, 1949. By the mid-fifties, most Hammer films were produced by either Anthony Hinds or Michael Carreras, son of Hammer films producer & film renter Sir James Carreras.
The next major progression for the company was a color horror film titled The Curse of Frankenstein starring Peter Cushing as Victor Frankenstein and Christopher Lee in the role of the Monster. The British press found the film to be distasteful, responding with such quotes as “for Sadists Only” and “among the half-dozen most repulsive films I encountered”. The picture was a financial success worldwide and redefined the horror genre and breathed life into the phenomena of “Hammer horror.” Hammer would continue to produce six sequels to The Curse of Frankenstein between 1959 and 1974.
            Having brokered a deal between Hyman’s Seven Arts production company and Universal-International, Hammer would make their own version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Hammer would grant distribution rights to Universal in exchange for permission to make the film. Christopher Lee took the lead role, no one else was auditioned. Upon release in the US, to differentiate Hammer’s version form the original, Universal chose the new title Horror of Dracula. The critics were once again repulsed by Hammer’s latest production: “I came away revolted and outraged” wrote the Daily Worker. Time has been kind to Hammer’s Dracula. When the film was briefly re-released in 1996, the Evening Standard’s Neil Norman described it as “romantic cinema that transcends genre. Unimpeachable and unsurpassed.” Hammer also produced eight other Dracula films between 1960 and 1974. The first five were direct sequels to the original and starred Peter Cushing as the Count’s nemesis Doctor Van Helsing.
In 1974 Christopher Lee had decided to don the cape for the last time. Despite Lee’s efforts to preserve Dracula’s integrity by paraphrasing from Stoker’s novel in each film, he could no longer work with the poorly written scripts. That year Lee firmly stated: “I will not play that character anymore. I no longer wish to do it, I no longer have to do it and no longer intend to do it. It is now part of my professional past, just one of the roles I have played in a total of 124 films.”
 Hammer continued its largely successful horror pictures with a remake of The Mummy’s Hand. Ounce again it starred Peter Cushing (as John Banning) and Christopher Lee (as the Mummy, Kharis). Hammer’s The Mummy broke box-office records set by Hammer’s Dracula the previous year. By the mid-1960s, a total of four “Mummy” films were released, unrelated to the remake. The last of the Mummy movies titled The Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) was a modern day version of Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars.
Hammer also produced a series of “cave girl” films, most notably One Billion Years B.C. starring Raquel Welch. While the Gothic horror films were scaring up big money at the box-office, Hammer also produced a series of low-budget psychological thrillers such as; Paranoiac, Nightmare, and Fear in the Night. Hammer even dabbled into the ‘film noir’ genre, featuring American actors. Other notable films by Hammer include; The Curse of Werewolf (1961) Oliver Reed’s first starring role, The Gorgon (1964), The Phantom of the Opera (1962) starring Herbert Lom, Quatermass and the Pit (1967); US title “Five Million Miles to Earth”, and The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) a version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”.
By the early 1970s, Hammer had to change with the times. Audiences were able to see more explicit gore, in relatively mainstream American films. Hammer had to compete and thus the “Karnstein trilogy” was created; The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust of a Vampire (1971), and Twins of Evil (1971). These films had the traditional Hammer production design and direction, but also an increase in scenes of nudity that were not of the norm for English films at the time. The Karnstein Trilogy were written by Tudor Gates, who also wrote two Hammer films that were unsuccessful but over time would become cult favorites; Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter(1974).
In the late 1970s, Hammer made fewer films and became a victim of its own notoriety. The Gothic horror films that put Hammer Films on the map were growing less popular and thus Hammer attempted to change by combining gothic horror with the martial arts genre creating The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974), unfortunately with little success. Hammer’s last production, in 1979, was a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. The film was a failure at the box-office and nearly bankrupt the studio.
The 2000s marked Hammer’s revival with films; Beyond the Grave (2008), Let Me In (2010) the remake of the Swedish film “Let the Right One In”, The Resident (2011) marking Christopher Lee’s return to a Hammer production, Wake Wood (2011), and The Woman in Black (2012) starring Daniel Radcliffe. Hammer’s return to cinemas also included the return of all things Hammer to store shelves! You can find many Hammer collectibles at our shop Horrorbles, both vintage and new! From hand-crafted figurines, to drive-in posters, you’ll find that special gift for the Hammer aficionado in your family.
“Maniac” Matt

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Movin 'dem Monsters!

It's no easy task to move 8 years of treasures & dreams in a week....but when you have good peeps believing in you anything is possible. Al, Raf & Raf, Lisa Jeff Steve and Matt...thanks gang, from the bottom of Horrorbles bloody heart.

Why did Horrorbles Move? It was right.

There are a lot of fond memories with the old locales..tin ceilings...theatres...but Horrorbles at its core is a magical monster shop where those hard-to-finds are found. We survived harsh economic times,&  a few floods but found a new home in the Depot District in Berwyn.

Where you ask? Right next to Reel Art, sandwiched a few doors down from George's Tavern (Thanks for the cookies), Exquisite Revisit (thanks for the announcements of our opening) & Serendipty Antiques (thanks for the boxes). Horrorbles has been so warmly received...a lovely retail district housing the same numbers, 6729, but a a different street, Stanley Ave.

The store is still tight with goulish goodies, and familiar faces.....and we thank everyone of you that has kept us going all these years. We promise to please, and are super-energized to do so. A special thanks to Svengoolie also, whom gave his blessing on the new it can't be all that bad.

"Monster Man" John

Evil Dead Reboot

 I recently watched the remake of "Evil Dead" at my local cinema and I am not ashamed to admit that I was thoroughly entertained by this remake (reboot, re-vison, or whichever).

 For those who aren't familiar with the franchise that made Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi household names, the plot is quite simple (and doesn't deviate too much in the remake) five friends travel to a remote cabin in the woods, where they discover a "Book of the Dead" and unwittingly summon demons living in the nearby woods. The original Evil Dead grew to cult status and spawned two, more comedic-than-scary sequels; Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn and Army of Darkness.

 The remakes in the horror genre have had an arguably poor track record, many are quite hard to watch and some are down right insulting to their target demographic. So it was no surprise to see how hard the filmmakers were trying to "legitimize" the movie, i.e.; the backing and support of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. There was much hype prior to the release of the new Evil Dead to entice the horror community to embrace the fact that the beloved cult classic was getting a face-lift, such as; having a majority of the effects made practical, receiving a NC-17 rating for the first cut of the film, and releasing a "red band" trailer showing a glimpse of the carnage to behold in the final product. I ate it all up and was highly anticipating seeing it on the big screen.

 The film was strong in some areas, and weaker in others. Its weakest was the script and some of the acting. The cinematography was beautiful to watch and Jane Levy's performance was delightfully creepy. If you are easily offended by gore and violence, then this movie is not for you. The blood in this movie is spilled, squirted, and regurgitated by the gallons, and is sure to quench the thirst of most gore-hounds. The scenes involving the demon-possessed are awesome and well directed. My favorite scene involved a deadite wielding a nail-gun.

 If you are a fan of the original Evil Dead and love films with relentless gore, then I recommend you give it a chance. Just sit right back and enjoy it for what it is, a beautifully crafted gore-fest!

"Maniac" Matt Wilberg

Monster Decals!

America during the 1920s-'30s was a turbulent time. In the midst of the Great Depression, Americans sought refuge in new forms of entertainment as an escape from reality. Model A's rolled off the The Ford Motor company assembly line like there was no tomorrow. The picture shows were hopping as Universal Studios doled out creepy new horrors like Dracula & Frankenstein, each film more shocking & terrifying than its predecessor. 

Flash forward about 30 years. 

Just like the creation of Frankenstein's monster, a new generation of kids cooped themselves up in the garage, toying in their concrete-floored laboratories for countless hours bringing to life their own visions of "Frankenrods".

They took those old Model A Fords, chopped the tops, threw in a souped-up engine, and decorated the body full of flames & pinstripes. Their idols included Ed "Big Daddy" Roth & Von Dutch; eccentric car customizers who taught America's kids that it's okay to be a weird-oh -- in fact, it's cool! Wolfman charms and Dracula flicker rings flowed freely from gumball machines. Frankenstein could be seen everywhere from your Old Maid playing cards to the green-headed speaker at the drive-in. 
This was a whole new era for classic monsters & the products to market them by; their resurgence was followed by a craze and demand for all things monster.

I'd like to think that cars & monsters make a great marriage (take George Barris' Dragula or Munster Koach, for example), and the kids of the '60s must have thought so too. No exception is hot rod decor & accessories.  I could cover a lot of things like bobbleheads or rearview mirror danglers (shrunken head, anyone?), but for now I will zoom in on... DECALS!

Water slide decals. 
A pain in the butt to get on your window sometimes, but boy do they look cool! Hot rodders did not want to miss out a single detail in making their ride truly unique, even if you couldn't afford to do a lot in order to stand out. So what better way to finish off your car and showcase your finkster taste than with a cool monster decal?

Probably most famous of kustom kulture decal artists is Ed Roth. His designs of monsters like "Drag Nut", "Mother's Worry", and of course, "Rat Fink" graced everything from t-shirts to model kits in the 1960s. Other companies like Impko caught on to the monster craze and decided to make their own line of off-beat auto decal characters. Though more obscure & simplistic, they were drawn in the same vein and often paired with sarcastic phrases to express the owner's loyalty to juvenile delinquency.
Having a sense of humor helps when viewing these decals, especially ones depicting witchy women and the word, "Pin-Up".

Here is just a small selection of cool decals. You can still find these or similar ones often on ebay, though some for a price. Impkos range anywhere from $10-25, while original Ed Roth vintage decals can ring in 60 bucks a pop or more!
But don't fret; you can buy repops for much cheaper (they're probably easier to stick on too... maybe).

So feast your eyes on some vintage monster madness and stay tuned as I highlight more '60s monster toys & accessories in the future, including original memorabilia that we carry in store!

Stay cool, Wheel Cats.

From the Land of All Things Horrorbles,
Lisa Louise

Hot pin up! Vintage Impko decal from the '60s

Thursday, June 17, 2010

White Whale....or Female Creature?

Many have heard the Ahab's of the collecting world talk about the elusive "Female" Creature From The Black Lagoon by AHI. Horrorbles had the pleasure of holding one of these treasures in the store, and then watch it swim happily away with an equally enthusiastic collector!

What makes this figure unique? Well, when they were first released they had a "Female" look to them...larger hips, & a more pronounced, rubber painted chest...this was not to satisfaction of all the monster kids out there and there was a recall! The replacement was a darker green version, an all plastic body more reminiscent now of "Humanoids From The Deep!" Thanks to our friends at for their great pictures of the two side-by side! Ahoy, there she blows! If ye see one be sure to give us a holler!