Monster Mag Meltdown: FILMFAX #141 Reviewed

Filmfax #141

In this new column, SHOCK reviews newly published monster movie magazines currently haunting newsstands.

In this space, SHOCK will aim to comb the newsstands and specialty shops for the finest in print periodicals, limited run fanzines and mass-produced magazines that aim to celebrate monster culture in all its guises. As many readers know, your newly minted editor has just stepped away from a six-year gig serving as the editor of the elder statesman of horror and cult film periodicals, FANGORIA. During that period, I produced and wrote much of 70 some-odd mags and not only curated their content but played an active part in the mechanisms to make sure each issue made it on to stands. In other words, myself and my staff worked like dogs with limited resources to keep the flag flying and deliver what we aimed to be an exciting read and an essential collectible.

So, when I speak of the challenges of the niche print media industry today, I’m not talking in abstracts from the point of view of someone only vaguely aware of the process. I know of which I speak. In fact I still curate and publish a magazine (DELIRIUM) so I’m still in the game. It is this front line, from the mud and blood spattered trench perspective that has made me appreciate each and every magazine I see on the stands even more. I’m a horror fan first; a pop culture junkie second and a fervent admirer of the brave, somewhat mad men and women who bust their souls to make these products and keep the magic alive…

With that out of the way, let’s dive in.

I recently picked up a copy of a mag I’ve long grooved on, FILMFAX and truth be told, I’m a little bit late out of the gate with this particular issue. FILMFAX is a quarterly printed zine (based out of Illinois and edited and published by memorabilia collector Michael Stein) charting classic horror, sci-fi an fantasy film culture and this edition, issue #141, is the July-September round. They have, in fact JUST released their big Halloween issue (#142, October – December with Christopher Lee on the cover) but I’ll be damned if I could find it anywhere, so we’ll settle for this one. Although “settle” isn’t the right word as FILMFAX #141 (105 pages, $9.95) an absolutely spectacular read.


The issue starts off , like every FILMFAX issue, with an extensive letters section that reveals just how much affection readers have towards the magazine. A letters section is important. It creates a sense of community. Now, when I took over FANGORIA, the letters section had been shelved as the (now defunct) FANGO forum and social networks took over the job of connecting readers, but having a letter in print is a different beast. It feels real. It certainly feels extra real and is of vital import to the reader whose impassioned words and thoughts get locked for life in the pages. I saw this trend, this sense of pride, when I brought the section back into FANGO. Published readers would chase letters thanking us for printing their letters in the hopes of seeing their name in print one more time. And of course, they’re the ideal way to put the previous issue to bed before moving on to the next.


FILMFAX #141 also contains their usual array of in-depth interviews and thought pieces and there are some genuinely stunning pieces here. Journo Jan Alan Henderson contributes a wonderful feature chat with former actor Donnie Dunagan, the curly-haired cherubic actor whose role in horror history was cemented after Boris Karloff steadied him with his block-boot in 1939’s SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. And though the now 81 year old Dunagan’s role in that dreamy, Gothic masterpiece will forever be his calling card, Henderson takes the ample space Stein allots him to go deep into his life, his family and his smattering of other roles. It’s a fine, edifying interview, beautifully illustrated in monochrome.


Other highlights of this issue include Stein’s joyous look at robots in 1960’s sci-fi film and television, the 5th part in an ongoing series; he careens wildly through everything from the goofy 1960 nudie flick BEAUTY AND THE ROBOT to the Andy Warhol fave CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS to key episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and beyond. The feature is illustrated with a wealth of rare stills and lobby cards, no doubt taken from Stein’s personal collection. Then Stein and writer Brett Weiss (whom I published at least once, I believe) chase this great piece with an even more esoteric bit of awesomeness in “Robots in Popular Music”, blasting through the history of robo-centric pop music (and yes, of course Kraftwerk’s signature tune “The Robots” is in here). It’s a left-field treat that you won’t read anywhere else.


Equally awesome is Brian Albright’s comprehensive interview with director/producer Stephen Traxler about his cult 1978 eco-monster mash SLITHIS that charts the ups and downs of making a man-in-a-suit creature feature on a chocolate bar budget.


Things get even weirder when Paul Amundsen steps up with an impossibly detailed account of the making of the truly ludicrous (and totally lame) 1960 feature SNOW WHITE AND THE THREE STOOGES, including a fun sidebar interview with champion skater and SNOW WHITE star Carol Heiss. Padding out the peripherals of the periodical are a wealth of ads both from the house (plugging postcards, posters and back issues from the FILMFAX collection) and via other clients, many that most of the current monster mags sell space to as well. But here, even those ads are rendered in black and white, making them seem even more inclusive to the fabric of the magazine.

FILMFAX remains a beautiful print magazine and an essential piece of the ongoing worship of horror history and issue #141 is another fine work that balances the commercial realities of staying in business, with the sheer joy of being a fan.


Marvel and DC