Hello fellow Ghouls...
The FM Chronicles story is kinda long, but since there are a couple of
folks out there interested, I'm happy to tell the tale.
Our story begins way back in 1986. I was a radio commercial producer and
DJ at a Long Island rock station called WBAB. Being a lover of all
things monster and sci-fi, I was developing quite an interest in mags
like FANGORIA and the massive fanzine scene.
One day, in FANGORIA I read a review for a self published pamphlet of
current horror movie reviews called THE GORE SCORE by Chas. Balun. I
ordered I loved it! I thought it was hysterical with it's skull rating
and splatter rating system. I had a talk show on Sunday's, so I called
Chas. and interviewed him on the radio.
Through that, we became chums. He was impressed with my movie knowledge
(I studied film in college) and asked me if I wanted to become a writer
for a magazine he was starting called DEEP RED. Of course, I was
thrilled to do so.
It was through Chas. and DEEP RED that I met Tom Skulan, the FANTACO
publisher, who was a partner with Chas. on DEEP RED.
Well, one thing led to another, as it often does, and I ended up
visiting Chas. in LA and we both went to Forry's house. Needless to say,
it was amazing!
I actually held the flying saucers from EARTH VS E FLYING SAUCERS in my
hands! YOWZA! (They have since been stolen, as has so many jewels in
Forry's collection. Why? Because Forry, bless his heart, is way too
trusting. Even at his advanced years, he's still an innocent. A
man-child. A boy. That's what we love about him, no?) He even let me
wear Bela Lugosi's jacket...the same one he wears in PLAN 9. How's that
Anyway...I became kinda chums with Forry too. Tom Skulna called me up
one day and said, "Dennis, how would you like to edit a book that
indexes every issue of FM?" I took it one step further and said, "Let's
make it a tribute to FM and it's influence on pop culture and people
working in the business today." And so, the idea of The FM Chronicles
I had been very lucky to make many connections in the business over the
2 years I had been writing for DEEP RED. I began to write for other mags
like FANGORIA and GORE ZONE. Through them, I was able to hook up with
all kinds of people. It was through this network that I began to contact
just about everyone I thought would have been influenced by FM. Forry
also had a lot of names to call. After a while, the darn thing
snowballed! I'd get called at the radio station all day by all kinds of
famous people! The station receptionist would page me with "Dennis, a
Tom Savini on the phone for you." GAAAAAA!!! "Dennis, John Landis to
speak to you."
Gee! "Dennis, a Vincent Price on the line." AAAGGGHHHH! I was blown
away! Call after call from people saying, "Yes, I want to be part of
this." I even had stationary and business cards made so I could respond
to all the calls. Then, at the Fango convention that year, I was
interviewed on THE TODAY SHOW! My friends...the book wasn't even out
yet! Just the idea of it was enough.
And so, with all kinds of contacts ready to write me a short piece
waxing poetic about their love of FM, with every issue in my grubby
hands ready to index (JEEZUS! What a job that was!) and with a bunch of
writing pals ready to help me get even more connections...I began my 4
year project in praise of FM.
Between all the connections I was beginning to make for contributors to
the book, the tremendous task of indexing all the issues, and a deadline
that seemed almost impossible...I began in earnest. The really cool
thing was...people kept calling ME!
Famous people! Ray Harryhausen! Peter Jackson (yes, LOTR's PJ! He was
just Gory PJ in those days!) Curt Siodmak! Oh my God! CURT SIODMAK! The
freakin' creator of the entire Universal wolf man mythos! "Even a man
who is pure at heart...." THAT DUDE! What was really interesting, if you
ever read the book, is he just talked about THE WOLF MAN! Wacky,
but...okay. I also made an effort to have some pieces in there by just
"fans." People like you and me. I didn't want the whole thing to be a
name-dropping piece. This was a mag that influenced us all, whether we
became filmmakers or not.
INDEXING FM aka HELL ON EARTH:
Folks, I have NEVER done ANYTHING so HARD and LABOROUS than INDEXING FM!
The weird part about is was...being an adult and reading it as an adult,
yet being sucked into this vortex of childhood. Does anybody really READ
FM? Maybe when we were younger, but it doesn't hold up to the adult
brain. It's written for kids.
Now, don't get me wrong, I ADORE FJA and his puns and headlines and
subheads are clever, fun and memorable. But a lot of the copy is MURDER
to read NOW. Truth be told, it was the pictures (at least for me) and,
of course, the COVERS that I was devouring. So...the task of taking all
of this info, all these pun filled titles, laundry lists of movies that
never saw the light of day, and trying to give it all a real
journalistic approach, was quite difficult.
Also, choosing what exactly to index...I mean...you could go NUTS!
There's just so much stuff, and it's all hurly gurly. Even the Mystery
Photo sections...think about it...you have a photo in one issue, with
the answer to the last issues photo and so on. I wanted that indexed,
but it wasn't always chronological to each issue. Sometimes there wasn't
even an ANSWER! HELP!
My favorite thing to index was the covers. Oh me oh my...how I love
those covers! Why didn't they do all painted covers all the time? (You
know why...$$$$$$$$$! Cheaper to put a photo)
The earlier issues are just magnificent...say #1 - #50. I always
thought it sucked beyond sucked when it was just a photo. Or, when they
started to cow-tow to the studios...I mean, this is Famous
MONSTERS...when did Superman become a MONSTER? Raiders of the Lost Ark?
You see, once you start really examining each issue...I mean REALLY
getting in depth...you actually start to get sad as the issues go on.
You see the quality going south. You see how they just started
re-running articles (Christ, I hated that!) You see the same old shit
over and over. What troubled me was, I was going from being a wide-eyed
fan to being a disgruntled old foggie. I started to see the "business"
aspect. You know, things we never thought about as kids. To us, the
things were magic. After about the 100th issue, I was really burnt. I
asked two pals of mine, Jim Knusch and Steve Morrison, to help me finish
the indexing because I was going nuts! When it was finally done, I was
Have you ever found yourself doing something that started off being a
lot of fun and eventually turned into something NOT a lot of fun?
Now, don't get me wrong gang...I am so proud of the book and I'm so glad
it has brought so many people joy. But what had started out to be a
labor of love turned into a labor of hell. Kinda appropriate for a book
about Famous Monsters of Filmland huh?
It's a weird thing when you peer through the looking glass. Famous
people...people you admire and who's work you enjoy...are still...just
people. And people can be petty!
I spoke of the indexing scenario. After about issue 50, it was all
starting to mesh together in my brain. It was then that I sought the
help of some of my monster loving pals...specifically Steve Morrison and
Jim Knusch, who took on many indexing duties. In the end, I'd say I did
a total of 100 issues and they did the rest.
This gave me time to work on contributors. The contributors covered the
gamit...from Ray Harryhausen, Vincent Price and Sam Raimi...to writers
like Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury and David J. Schow. I can't begin to
tell you what a thrill it was to speak to these people. While many of
them just contributed a line or two, some wrote very nice pieces about
what the mag meant to them. I told each of them that I couldn't pay
them, but every contributor would get 2 copies of the book when it came
out. Let me repeat that...EVERY CONTRIBUTOR WOULD GET TWO TWO TWO
COPIES! At the time, this seemedpretty clear and all who gave me their
thoughts seemed pleased.
Fast forward to when the book came out. Suddenly, I was getting angry
calls from these people saying..."where are my 10 copies...20
copies"...WHAT? Who said 10? Who said 20? I just couldn't believe my
ears! And they were RUDE! I gotta tell you, it just blew my mind. If it
had just been one person, okay. One nut job I guess is expected. But I'm
talking like 12 people. I was beginning to think I had lost my mind and
DID promise that many copies. But no, I had backed it all up in writing
so it was just them. When I told them to look at their agreement
letters, they just said..."No, you said blah blah blah." Needless to
say, they still only got two copies. HA!
One of the most amazing parts of doing this project was working with
Greg Theakston. This is the talented gentleman who painted the cover.
Some of you may know him from his periodical about Bettie Page called
"The Bettie Pages." He contributed this wonderful article about the
history of FM and Warren publishing. This gave the book historical
accuracy and showed how it evolved from an article Forry wrote for a
men's publication Jim Warren published, into FM. I was thrilled to have
this included because I myself wondered where the magazine's origins
were. When you speak to Forry, it's hard to get all the facts because
he's kinda in his own Forry world. (He really is a big kid.)
So, to have a journalistic piece was indispensable. And the COVER! It's
just so beautiful. It captures for all time the beauty, wonder and magic
of what it's like to be a boy reading an issue of FM under the blankets
in his room. Just beautiful. This was a most welcome addition and gave
the book such a fabulous nostalgic feel. I wish I had that painting! God
knows where it is now. I think Greg still has it. I hope so.
Another part of the book I enjoyed writing was my introduction, where I
spoke of my early days with the mag and what it meant to me.I also wrote
about putting the book together...but not with the kind of hindsight
that 13 years later provides. Still, I felt honored to be able to
express my love for the mag and what it meant to me in such
Jeezus...I'll never forget talking with Ray Harryhausen. I mean, this is
a GOD, okay? A one man FX studio. If anyone out there ever has the
chance to see him speak at a convention...GO! He is just the sweetest,
most generous and kind man you could ever imagine! He gave me his TIME.
A precious commodity indeed.
So, with a fine article about the history of Warren publishing, an index
of all the issues, and nice quotes and small articles from people who
had been influenced by the mag...what else did I need?
Thank you so much, Dennis, for not only giving us
the end all, be all for the FM faithfull when you gave us FMC, but for
taking the time to lay out this extraordinary and exciting story.
I highly encourage everyone reading this to pick up a copy. HHF