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Sunday, 27 October 2013

We Belong Dead, the zine of the classic age of horror

The most excellent cover for Issue 11 of
We belong Dead.
"A long forgotten age when Kong ruled Skull Island and Vincent Price held sway at the Masque of the Red Death. An age when Nosferatu repelled us and the Vampire Lovers attracted us. When the good Dr Jekyll became the evil Mr Hyde; when Karloff became Im-Ho-Tep; when Lee battled the devil as the Duc de Richleau; when Cushing was Dr Terror and Price was abominable as Dr Phibes.

Explore the House that Dripped Blood, the House on Haunted Hill,the House of Dracula and the House of Dark Shadows. Once again marvel as Dracula rises from the grave, Frankenstein creates woman, the devil rides out, the House of Usher falls, the Wolfman meets Frankenstein and the zombies have a plague.......

...Welcome to WE BELONG DEAD!!"

So proclaimed the very first issue of We Belong Dead way back in ye old olden days of 1992...... A group of horror-loving individuals, disillusioned with the then magazine markets obsession mainly with things Gore related while seemingly neglecting the 'classic' horror audience, decided to produce a publication of their own.

Now before I go any further here, I will as usual be completely honest with you( as the judged warned I should always be) - for I would love to say that I've been following the various musings of We Belong Dead ever since it's original incarnation way back then- but I can't. For some reason the first publications back in this pre-internet days seemed to have escaped my attentions at the time - and yes kids, there was a time before the internet and all it's glories was in existence, and somehow we all lived through it. Though I'm not sure how . 

However as I just said, I completely missed WBD in it's original existence, I'm not sure why. For as a fresh face young boy growing up in the 1970's I was already pretty much well on the way to becoming something of a horror and fantasy nerd. Like many boys growing up and heading into early adolescence, many of my friends had their 'thing's ( yes I did have friends, just because one is a nerd one doesn't need to descend into cliched existence). Those 'things' could be varied in their form - football cards, marbles, spiders, collecting the wings of dead Butterflies ...whatever it took to float ones boat. My particular boat from an early age was floated by collecting and reading magazines devoted to science fiction, fantasy or horror (and no, none of it included buying them & hiding them away in plastic cover protection where they would never be read for fear of finger marks etc). 

No, I bought and devoured them all - The House of Horror, the house of Hammer, Monster mag, The World of horror - to name but a few of those magical publications, from the top of my head. In addition to that there were many, many more that were continued to be bought throughout my years, both non-fiction and fictional works regularly floated ones boat - as they still do.

Yet We Belong Dead passed me by.

So when Eric Mcnaughton - El presidente of his team of horror classico writers and artists contacted me suggesting that I might be interested in talking about the return from the dead of his magazine that took place earlier this year, I was naturally interested. Naturally I was completely interested, particularly as he mentioned that I would have free access to the three issues produced this year - not that i'm cheap or anything, but I am rather partial to the term 'free'. Of course, just because something is free doesn't mean to say that my opinion will be positive. I would have to be won over, simple as that.

Now don't get me wrong - I love the modern digital world complete with it's accompaniment of electronic goodies. I am an unashamed Apple fanboy, I make no excuses for that. I love the online world that has been opened up within the past few years and the opportunities for information, entertainment and discourse that it provides (of course I refer only to the legal and clean-living opportunities, not anything else that would mean my over-used legal team being employed..........once again). 

However, I do find it refreshing and gratifying to see that this modern digital world hasn't completely overshadowed the more traditional forms of publications. For against all considered opinion, paper-based genre magazines seem to be enjoying something of a renaissance with sales and interest being nicely complimented and enhanced by the digital medium. Indeed, I was wandering around a certain movie store just a couple of weeks ago with a friend (yes I do still have friends, surprising I know) where I witnessed a veritable plethora of genre magazines which seemingly catered to every taste that we could possible want...... well most, because as in those dim and dark distant days, classic horror still seems to find itself in the lower rankings of publication importance.

It seems that Mr McNaughton and his band of horror classicos have the perfect opportunity, not only to fill that gap, but to take advantage of this healthy market.

So what does this resurrection after 16 long years of We Belong Dead have in store for the discerning lover of classic horror? And perhaps just as importantly (well to me anyway), will there be an inclusion of Madeline Smith?

Issue 9 - The glorious return of WBD
Issue 9 features such tasty morsels as;

* Blood, Boobs & a Good Title
A look at Hammer’s Twins of Evil

* The Ripper on Film
 5 favourite Jack the Ripper movies

* You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down
A controversial look at Hammer’s Dracula series

* Salems Lot
An investigation of the strange goings on in the town of Salems Lot

* Dracula Vs Frankenstein 
A review of a truly appalling film that’s a lot of fun

*First Lady of Terror
An interview with the wonderful Barbara Shelley   * Witchfinder General A delve into the world of Michael Reeves

What immediately appealed to me about this magazine was not the just the scale of the so-called fanzine (because it is more, much more than that) as issue 9 at a whopping 78 pages is appealing in itself for it's ambitious scope. No, it's far more than just the size,  because the writing style is intelligent, witty and full of the charm that I would love to be capable of myself.  

Not only that but the feel of the magazine in the style that it is put together is simply lovely -  a huge collection full of black and and white photographs (some rarely seen before) which accompany the written pieces. For example, the picture on of Barbara Shelley is simply stunning  - easy Tiger....

Not only that but the writing never falls into preaching or talking down to the reader. Yes the articles are written by a group of people who have an obvious love and knowledge of the classic genre, but they never fall into the all too common trap of some magazines of sounding elitist or condescending. Indeed, articles featuring the writer's own guilty horror pleasures speaks for the tone and approach of the magazine completely.

Issue 10 - It's a bit good

Issue 10 features such tasty morsels as;

* Boris Karloff Actor by Stephen Jacobs
* The Soft Side of Boris by Rhonda Steerer 
Two excellent pieces on the gentleman of horror himself.

* Thank you Dennis 
A fine tribute to Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies book

* The Frankenstein Saga – Hammer Style

* House of Frankenstein
An exploration of a fine body of work.

*  Mexican Horror Movie Lobby Cards
A fascinating look at this weird and wonderful world of the lobby card * 7 Golden Vampires Featuring an interview with Roy Ward Baker  

* Creature Features The wonderful world of nature gone violent and wild.

* Would Have Been Horror Kings  After Karloff et al, came Bates et al as the new kings of horror

The intention of Eric McNaughton and his team from the very beginning was to produce a magazine made by fans FOR fans - this can often be something of a tricky venture that in truth for some works ( be they paper-based, websites or indie-films) I must admit in my experience don't always come off. For it can be hard to resist the tendency to venture off into self-indulgence and produce something containing more than it's fair share of in-jokes and references that may well amuse the makers but can result in marginalising the general audience. It would be unfair to name said publications or productions, but since starting this blog I've been lucky enough to be in contact with a huge amount of of talented and ambitious people whose work can occasionally be let down by self-indulgence.  

We Belong Dead does not do this. It is an intelligent and well thought out magazine that is clearly made by people who are clearly passionate and knowledgeable about their particular loves within the genre. This passion doesn't ever become over self-obsessed or preaching. 

The currently available issue 11 perfectly exemplifies this. This is the publication that is freshest in my mind after reading it this morning with my requisite 3 cups of Sunday morning coffee. The issue includes a detailed write-up of the Universal classic The Black Cat , a look back at Roman Polanski’s simply incredible and criminally underrated production of Macbeth, a We Belong Dead tribute to the late Richard Matheson and his genre films, a female perspective on Hammer’s Karnstein trilogy. If that wasn't enough there are lovely overviews of Hammer’s Mummy films, interviews with the late Ray Harryhausen, Caroline Munro and Madeleine (delicious) Smith, and nostalgia pieces on House of Hammer magazine and collecting horror film books.

The interview with Maddie (delicious) Smith will come as no surprise to those who know me well was something that particularly piked my interest, with not a small amount of jealousy that Mr Richard Gladman (and a so-called Facebook friend of mine) got to interview her deliciousness himself without even the hint of mention to me. It's even more annoying that its a bloody good interview with intelligent questions equally intelligently answered by her deliciousness.  
I mean this completely sincerely - I cannot recommend the the three editions that I have enough. We Belong Dead passed my by on its original incarnation - I won't be making that same mistake again.

Fearbook - The best of the first 8 editions of WBD
A 120 page Fearbook, featuring the best from the first 8 long out of print issues will be launched November 9th at the Westminster Hammer and Horror Day in London. This particular gathering is threatening to be THE event of the year for we lovers of classic horror. It’s the Hammer & Horror Film Day at Central Hall Westminster, London on Saturday 9th November. The event includes guest line up of actors and directors that will look like a who’s who in the world of classic horror, including such luminaries as David Warner, Kate O'Mara and her deliciousness herself - Madeline Smith. If that wasn't enough there will be a veritable plethora of Q &A sessions and special film screenings. It will be a veritable  treasure trove of rare and original film memorabilia with a vast array of dealers from all over the UK, Europe and the US. Oh, and the team of We Belong Dead will have a presence there too - which is not as threatening or foreboding as it sounds. It will be a chance to meet some of the team and buy some rather excellent stuff.

Sadly, I cannot make the event myself as my 'day job' in the North of Scotland means travel is impossible. However, I will me throwing myself at the feet of Mr McNaughton et al ( & other acquaintances) to provide me with a wealth of material from the event. The rumour that I will do most about anything for a signed personal photo from Maddie Smith are most likely perfectly true......

For anybody wanting to order issues of We Belong Dead can be ordered AT THIS ADDRESS. Believe me, you will not regret it.

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