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Monster Mash

21 Jul, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

SAN DIEGO — Comic-Con DVD lovers celebrated the granddaddies of horror July 20 with a panel devoted to the 75th Anniversary of Universal Studios monsters Frankenstein and Dracula.

The packed house also got a glimpse at the two-disc Frankenstein special-edition DVD, which streets Sept. 26 alongside one for Dracula from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Both films have been digitally restored and are packed with extra features. The Comic-Con audience was treated to 10 minutes from some of the Frankenstein DVD extras, interviews with horror directors, film historians, producers and the like — all talking about the incomparable Boris Karloff and what he brought not only to Frankenstein's monster as a character, but to the horror genre as a whole.

The pushing-90 but still-spry Forrest J. Ackerman — founder of Famous of Monsters of Filmland and who the panel moderator, CFQ Magazine's Jeff Bond, called “a human time machine” — was on hand to talk about his long relationship with Frankenstein's monster.

“I think I am probably one of three rare individuals still alive who were at the premiere of Frankenstein in 1939,” he said, garnering a cheer from the room.

Ackerman said he learned about the magic of movie marketing from Frankenstein, too. At that 1939 San Francisco screening, he was able to stay for a second showing immediately following the first. During that second screening, a woman in one of the front rows screamed and ran out of the theater. Ackerman said he realized it was the same woman, same scream, and the same point of the movie that happened exactly the same in the first screening.

Basil Gogos, lauded horror-movie poster and Famous Monsters of Filmland artist, recalled his freedom taking black and white photos and movie images and turning them into colored works of art, back in the days before Technicolor.

Actor and horror enthusiast/collector Dan Roebuck told the crowd not to shy away from older black-and-white movies like Frankenstein and Dracula and urged parents to introduce their kids to older films like these, to show off classic artistry, lighting and cinematography.“If you're a parent and you're not showing your kids black-and-white movies — well leave right now,” he joked.

It's Universal Studios' long commitment to its creatures like Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, and the Creature from The Black Lagoon that's helped keep the horror genre so fresh and so increasingly popular all these decades, said John Flynn, author of the book 75 Years of Universal Monsters.

There was, and remains, a cohesive quality to the studio's horror films, which really resonated with fans, Roebuck agreed.

“These movies, they all kind of lived in the same place, with the exception of The Mummy, and that was the genius of Universal,” he said. “They all took place in this vague European city that oddly looked a little like the Universal back lot. Everyone spoke in these kind of dramatic accents, and it was really easy to move the characters between the films.”

In an impromptu contest, Bond asked fans in the audience to cheer for their favorite Universal monster — Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy and The Wolf Man. Frankenstein's monster won the day.

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