After reviewing the latest issue of the truly excellent Space Monsters Magazine in my previous blog entry of wonder, I subsequently received a message from Mr Eric McNaughton, the grand-master and all round dictator of the equally fabulous classic horror zine of We Belong Dead.
Now my long suffering reader will know that not so long ago I penned a rather excellent, and some (well me) might say profound piece on We Belong Dead’s rise from the ashes of publication history to be reborn after a period of sixteen long years – and a triumphant return it was. In fact the return from the dead in the shape of Issue 9 was such such a success that it was decided to produce a collection of all the best bits and put them together into some form of, er, collection. It was to be called the The Official We Belong Dead Fearbook (see what they did there? - genius).
Although he didn’t say so in as many words, it is quite clear from our discussion that Eric was rather impressed with the blog article on Space Monsters magazine and so suggested that I might like to review Fearbook. Well, at least I think he 'suggested', there was quite possibly in retrospect some dark sub-text to his request that I just cannot seem to put my finger on.
So I recommend that you see for yourselves as the conversation ran something like this.....
Mr Eric McNaughton: Now then laddie!
Me: Er, yes my lord?
Mr Eric McNaughton: About that article that you tried to write on the wonderful Space Monsters Magazine?
Me: Erm, tried?
Mr Eric McNaughton: Yes, tried. It's a brilliant magazine that deserved much more than the frankly embarrassing attempt that you put together. I know that you tried your best so I suppose that counts for something. Well allright, I may be possibly being a little harsh, some parts of it were almost acceptable.
Me: Thank you, I think.......
Mr Eric McNaughton: So I'm giving you one more chance to redeem yourself and try to put together at least a few words with more than two syllables on my magnificent We Belong Dead Fearbook.
Me: Thank you Mr Sir - you know I won't let you down!
Mr Eric McNaughton: Well actually we all know that you probably will. However the Fearbook is my collection of my favourite selection of articles from the long out of print editions from 1993-1997 - so making sure people know about this chance to own some classic horror history is falling for the time being (so help me god) on your shoulders.
Me: Ok Mon Capitan, anything else that I should know?
Mr Eric McNaughton: In it’s 5 year incarnation WBD went from an amateur, shoddily printed zine to a slick, professional looking mag. It was indeed a learning curve, but along the way we assembled a most talented group of writers and artists, many of whom still contribute to the 21st century WBD. If you look at issue 1 almost the entire issue was written by myself, but that soon changed from WBD 2 onwards as our popularity grew. The production of the zine was very old school, remember these were the days before internet and email! I would have to type up ALL the articles which were mailed to me, do all the page layout by hand literally using scissors and glue! I remember my delight when I finally managed to get an electronic typewriter to put together issue 7! How the world has changed!
Me: Blimey, somebody has some passion!
Mr Eric McNaughton: Thats right my good man! Now get cracking on with it and don't cock it up for once - remember, I know people!
So on that not so veiled threat on my personage I began to read the whopping 120 page Fearbook and immediately began immersing myself In its nostalgic loveliness. As I initially 'flicked through the pages' my eye caught one particular feature hiding away on page 43 - simply called, TV Horror. The introduction for which from Neil Ogley goes as follows;
"During the first incarnation of We Belong Dead, I had the idea of pulling together a listing of all the BBC2 Horror Double Bill seasons to form an article for the fledgling fanzine. (I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who had that idea.) As a youngster, like many others I was often allowed to stay up to watch horror movies and I loved the weekly offerings that ran regularly throughout the summer. "
"Back then most people thought the horror double bill seasons ran from 1975 until 1981 however it seems that even though the BBC skipped a season in 1982, a final series of double bills was broadcast during the summer of 1983 although this season was entirely made up of the classic Universal horrors from the 30’s and 40’s all of which had been shown before, predominantly in the 1977 season Dracula Frankenstein & Friends."
And what do you know? That particular paragraph could have actually written by me (though possibly not nearly as well), because the scenario that Neil described was something that completely parallelled my own introduction to the wonderful world of horror. I've mentioned in previous articles in this blog of wonder that I've often traced back my initial introduction to horror by being allowed to stay up late during one childhood Saturday evening to watch Son of Frankenstein from Universal Pictures. It's a long cherished memory of mine, however, the problem has always been that I've never been able to remember exactly when this took place. That is until now, as this little snippet from the Fearbook shows.
DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN AND FRIENDS 1977
Saturday 2 July 1977
23.05-00.25 Dracula (Universal1931)
00.25-01.35 Frankenstein (Universal 1931)
Saturday 9 July 1977
22.50-00.00 Bride of Frankenstein (Universal 1935)
00.00-01.25 Brides of Dracula (Hammer 1960)
Saturday 16 July 1977
22.45-00.15 The Mummy (Universal 1932)
00.15-01.05 The Wolfman (Universal 1940)
Saturday 23 July 1977
22.10-23.45 Son of Frankenstein (Universal 1938)
23.45-01.10 Kiss of the Vampire (Hammer 1964)
There you have it, the official birthday of the Fifth Dimension blog could very well be said to be ten minutes past ten on the 23rd July 1977 - how brilliant a discovery is that?!
I can hear what you are saying - "OK, big deal but is a relatively small piece of nostalgic memories really important enough to write about?" Well yes it blooming well is because nostalgia is exactly what this joy of a magazine is all about. It perfectly recaptures the plethora memories that we all of a certain age have when we discovered and experienced the wealth of horror from what many remember as the classic age of the genre.
Don't misunderstand me, my love of classic horror doesn't mean that I regard the more contemporary fair as necessarily being sub-standard and not worthy of consideration, On the contrary, each decade since the 1970's to date has seen some magnificent examples of movie making. Moreover, the current independent horror scene is as rich and exciting a period in terms of creative ambition as any time I can remember. No, what I love about this zine and others such as Space Monsters Magazine is that here we have a group of like-minded individuals who are reliving their personal recollections of creepy discovery, and with it, taking us along with them for the ride of a horror lifetime. Something which I and many others have no trouble in relating to and identifying with.
Classic horror needs to be kept in the wider public consciousness - this is magazine is the perfect way to do that.
The 120 page of classic horror loveliness is far too detailed for me to be able to review each and every marvellous article - but I will for now briefly mention three pieces of personal note.
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA by Eric McNaughton
This article from Eric originally appeared in the very first edition of We Belong Dead and has been revised and updated for the reproduction in the the Fearbook. It's a lovingly detailed appreciation of what I would regard as the best movie version of the Gaston Leroux's classic 1910 novel, and the one that features one of the giants of the classic age of horror, Lon Chaney.
Phantom of the Opera (1925) may put off some people by the fact is is silent and made in black & white, but that would be a mistake. It is a powerful creepy and highly atmospheric production that I and many others are still affected by when viewing in this, the most modern of ages.
The piece is a delightful loving account, not just only of the movie itself, but also of the behind the scenes work ranging from Chaney's legendary attention to detail in preparation in make-up to his influence on the direction of the film. Eric clearly loves the movie, its theme and location and the article is simply a genuine joy to read.
INGRID PITT - THE QUEEN OF HAMMER
I've never disguised my almost-clean and respectful love of Miss Pitt and her contribution and legacy to British horror. Gary W Sherratt, who wrote this marvellous piece in the 1990's, when Ingrid was still with us, obviously shared that love too.
The article isn't just lovingly written it is also accompanied (as in the rest of the publication) by a delightful collection of Photos, film posters and lobby cards of the genuinely delicious and talented woman who's horror legacy was thankfully is as strong now as it was when she was still alive.
The effect of any article can often be measure in how much it makes one think - and after reading this lovely account I think I'll now go my Ingrid Pitt collection and watch the whole damn lot this weekend!
Dan Gale compares Romero’s original classic 1968 Night of the Living Dead with Tom Savini’s 1990 remake in the eighth edition of the magazine.
I along with every horror fan has their personal views on the qualities (or need) for remakes of classic movies. Indeed, a previous piece or two in this very blog of wonder has compared the merits of the odd remake with its predecessor. Dan Gale provides a well balanced and at times blackly humorous of the two movies and even (perish the thought) manages to say a few kind things about the remake - I know!!What stands out about the article is that it takes place in the pre-Walking Dead and general Zombiethon climate that seems to exemplify a large chunk of contemporary horror. Reading this particular article in an age when Zombies hadn't been done to death (see what I did there?) is a peculiarly refreshing experience and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.