Wednesday, May 11, 2016

They Came from the Swamp DVD Review





The following review will be featured in Monsters from the Vault #34 when published later this year, however, I wanted to spread the word about this EXCELLENT documentary from director Daniel Griffith as soon as possible. I encourage everyone to pick up a copy before it sells out!

They Came from the Swamp: The Films of William Grefé (2016; Ballyhoo Home Entertainment, Two DVD Collector's Set). Available from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures (www.ballyhoomotionpictures.com), $29.99 SRP.

Reviewed by Bryan Senn

"SNAKES! SHARKS! SHATNER! OH, MY!"

So announces the colorful flyer for this colorful new documentary about the unsung godfather of Florida-based drive-in filmmaking, William Grefé. In the 1960s and '70s, Grefé supplied Southern drive-ins (and, in some cases, cinemas around the country) with crowd-pleasing exploitation fare like the swampland double bill Sting of Death (the first—and only—film about a jellyfish-man!) and Death Curse of Tartu, the Willardesque snake-fright flick Stanley, and the Willard-meets-Jaws variation Mako: The Jaws of Death.

Before watching this documentary, I had seen only a handful of Grefé's films. While I'd enjoyed them to varying degrees (particularly the cheesy entertainment of the jellyfish-man delivering the Sting of Death, and the creepy-crawly ooginess of Stanley), I never thought of Grefé as being a maverick auteur. Hell, I hardly ever thought of Grefé at all. But after getting to know the man and his swampy oeuvre through this thoroughly engaging overview of his career, I was eager to seek out more of his films.

Unpretentious, soft-spoken, self-effacing, patient, and overall a heck of a nice guy (according to those who worked with him), Grefé admittedly is not the most dynamic of speakers. Fortunately, the stories he tells (such as one involving the disastrous meeting of a valuable 1,000-year-old Chinese vase and a clumsy film crew) keeps interest high. And Daniel Griffith, They Came from the Swamp's director/producer/photographer/editor, livens up Grefé's on-camera presence by interspersing pertinent comments and stories from a plethora of interviewees. Thankfully, apart from a few bon mots by film historian Chris Poggiali, and some general comments from later indy filmmakers Frank Henenlotter and Fred Olen Ray, the documentary keeps to actual Grefé personnel—from actors and contemporaries (like fellow exploitation pioneers David Friedman and H.G. Lewis), to cameramen, sound men, and even Grefé's long-time script girl—making this a engrossingly up-close-and-personal bio-doc.

Organized as a career overview, They Came from the Swamp charts Grefé's moviemaking year by year, beginning with 1963's The Checkered Flag, and going through I Eat Your Skin (which Grefé worked on as second unit director), Racing Fever, Sting of Death, Death Curse of Tartu (shot in just seven days in the Everglades), The Devil's Sisters (shot in ten), The Wild Rebels, The Hooked Generation, The Naked Zoo (starring Rita Hayworth), Live and Let Die (more second unit work, complete with gators), Stanley, The Godmothers, Impulse (starring William Shatner), Mako: The Jaws of Death (with Richard Jaeckel), Whiskey Mountain (his final film as director), and 1985's Cease Fire (as producer).

Through interviews and clips, augmented by fascinating behind-the-scenes footage (someone seemingly always brought along an 8mm camera to his shoots), we learn such intriguing tidbits like how Christopher George, not Burt Reynolds, was the first choice to play the lead role in Deliverance; and how just before shooting was scheduled to start, Grefé simply transformed his script about stock-car racers into one about bikers when Corman's The Wild Angels became a huge indy hit. (The result: The Wild Rebels.)

Augmenting the exceptional documentary is a cornucopia of bonus features: The usual still gallery (with an unusually excellent assortment of behind-the-scenes photographs), a trailer collection (covering most of Grefé's oeuvre), a tantalizing docu-short on Crown International (who aspired to be the "new AIP") that just begs to be expanded to feature length, a ten-minute "Mako: Jaws of Death" promo piece, and two Bacardi Rum industrial films directed by Grefé, including a seventeen-minute pirate-themed promo short called "Barcardi: The Mixable One" that stars... William Shatner! But the most gratifying extra of all is the complete, rare, 1977 Grefé feature film Whiskey Mountain, starring Christopher George (the first time it has been issued on DVD). Yes, one of the many extras on this two-disc set is a full feature film! Being a Christopher George fan (who can forget the backwoods exploitation classic Grizzly?) made me appreciate the icing on this Whiskey cake even more, as this heretofore obscure effort (shot in the same area as Deliverance) proved to be an entertaining—and sometimes hard-hitting—hicksploitation winner. Talk about bang for your buck…

Smoothly edited to keep things lively and interest high, and featuring some wonderful clips and behind-the-scenes footage, this exhaustive (but by no means exhausting—I could easily have continued on for twice its length) capsule of a fringe filmmaker remains both edifying (at least for those interested in vintage exploitation moviemaking) and entertaining. And like the best filmmaker documentaries, They Came from the Swamp makes one want to view more of this intrepid moviemaker's work.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Seasons Greetings from MFTV!


Marian and I Wish
You and Your Families a 
Merry Christmas and 
Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Final Issue Coming July 2016!


In case you haven't already heard elsewhere, the publication of the final issue has once again been pushed back. This is due to several reasons, but the biggest one is my slow recovery from back surgery. I just returned to work last week and I'll once again find free time to work on the issue hard to come by. That along with the fact that I still don't have all of the contributions for the issue, made the delay unavoidable. So please be patient, the issue will eventually be published. My new target date is July 2016. If all goes as planned, the issue will premiere at Ron Adams' Monster Bash Convention being held in Mars, PA, July 8-10, 2016. And while you will be able to pick up the issue from me at the convention, if you are not attending, you'll have to purchase it from Amazon.com. A couple of things about that:

1. The issue (all cover variants) will NOT sellout on Amazon (it's print-on-demand), so don't worry that you might miss out, you won't! Be patient and don't constantly look for it there and contact me when you don't see it available for order. It won't show up on Amazon until the issue is published (around July). It won't be available for preorder. I'll post here when it's available.

2. PLEASE DO NOT SEND ME FUNDS FOR THE FINAL ISSUE!!! Several people have sent me money for it and I now have to return their payment. I thought I made it clear that the issue would only be available from Amazon.com when I posted here back in May, but I guess there was some confusion in regards to that. I really would rather not have the added expense of returning payments, so again, please do NOT send any funds for the final issue directly to me.

While I know this news is not what most of you wanted to hear, but as always, I do the best I can to publish each issue in a timely manner, but unfortunately, it doesn't always happen. But I truly believe the final issue will be worth the wait. So please be patient, July will be here before you know it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

MFTV #34---The Final Issue!

While it's much later than planned, the time has finally come to reveal the contents and covers for the final issue of Monsters from the Vault. The issue was initially set to premiere at Monster Bash in June 2015, but due to a couple of medical setbacks that required both me and my wife to have surgery, the issue will now premiere at Monster Bash on the weekend of July 8-10, 2016 (much later than I had planned). First, the issue is going to be huge (over 200-plus pages). Second, the issue will have 5 cover variants. Because of the size and cover variants, plus my desire to not rack up a HUGE printing bill for my final issue, I've decided to go the print-on-demand route through Amazon's CreateSpace. This will enable readers to choose which cover they want, whether it be one, all, or somewhere in between. However, no matter which cover(s) you choose for the front, the other covers will be shown smaller on the back cover of that issue. I know this is not the preferred way to go for many of you (nor for me), but it’s the best option at this time. I've been monitoring the quality of Amazon's product, and it's GREATLY improved over the past few years. Also, the final price is not yet set in stone (even though the covers show $19.98), but it most likely will be in the $20 range (plus shipping, unless you get free shipping through Amazon Prime or your order exceeds $35, which also gets you free shipping). So how do you get the final issue? For the majority, through Amazon.com. I've decided not to stock a large amount, or to deal with packing up and shipping a ton of copies. This has always been the worst part of the job for me, so I’m going to leave the dirty work to Amazon. However, I will have copies for sale (of all cover variants) at the October Bash, and at future Bashes or any other conventions where I'm a vendor, but you won't be able to order it directly from me. PLEASE DO NOT SEND ANY FUNDS DIRECTLY TO ME AS THEY WILL BE RETURNED! If you have a subscription that's still current, I’ll contact you via mail in January or February 2016 about the final issue and any refund you may be owed. At this time, it's uncertain as to whether copies will be sold to Diamond Comics for comic book shop distribution or to various online sources (Creepy Classics, Scary Monsters, Creature Features, Oldies.com, Hemlock Books in the U.K., etc.). More on this, and when the issue will be available for preorder on Amazon, will be posted here and on my Web site and blog as the publication date gets closer.

That's enough rambling from me—let's move on to what you really care about, Monsters from the Vault #34!

The Contents
(Subject to Transformation)

  • ONE HELL OF A RIDE!: The Monsters from the Vault Story by Jim Clatterbaugh & Marian Owens
  • THE MAGAZINE THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING by David Colton
  • THE CENSORSHIP SAGA AND STUDIO POLITICS OF BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN by Greg Mank
  • THE 10 MOST IMPORTANT THINGS I LEARNED FROM CLASSIC HORROR FILMS by Steve Kronenberg
  • THE LITTLE FELLOW WHO CRIED WOLFMAN…AND DRACULA…AND THE MONSTER by John Stell
  • A TALE OF THREE YGORS by Frank J. Dello Stritto
  • MONSTER FIGHTERS' OFFSPRING: Her Father Fought the Creature and Her Mom Met the Wolf Man, The Daughter of Richard Denning and Evelyn Ankers Tells All! Interview by Tom Weaver
  • OF LOBOS AND HOMBRES: Mexican Werewolf Cinema, 1958-1976 by Bryan Senn
  • ATOMIC GOTHIC: Horror Movies Didn't Die in the 1950s, They Went Into Disguise by Mark Clark
  • THE CAT CREEPS (1930) WHILE THE CANARY SLEEPS by Gary Rhodes
  • THE HUMAN MONSTERS OF PARAMOUNT by Steven Thornton
  • OUR READERS AND CONTRIBUTORS SPEAK!: Recollections and Remembrances of Monsters from the Vault
  • FILMS FROM THE VAULT
  • BOOKS FROM THE VAULT
    The Covers
    (Slight Tweaking May Occur)

Michael Kronenberg Variant
Joe "Sorko" Schovitz Variant
Daniel R. Horne Variant
Kerry Gammill Variant
Manuel Sanjulian Variant
Sample Back Cover


I look forward to bringing you “The Best in Classic Horror” one more time, and I appreciate everyone’s contributions and support over the past 20 years. Monsters from the Vault, All Classic, All the Time!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

MFTV OUT OF COMMISSION UNTIL JUNE!


Be advised that starting April 30, 2015, I’ll be out of commission until mid-June due to back surgery. During this time no orders will be filled. If you place an order during this period, I won't be able to respond. Also, if you e-mail to ask a question it may be a while before I respond. So please be patient if you don’t get an e-mail response or receive your quickly. Once I’m able to get around and do a little more, I’ll start catching up on all things Monsters from the Vault-related.

My recovery period is between 4 - 6 months and my physical activity during this time will be very limited. Therefore, the final issue of Monsters from the Vault will not premiere at the June Monster Bash as planned. The issue will now premiere at the October Monster Bash instead. Believe me, it will be worth the wait!

I hope to be able to post the final issue contents and covers here before my surgery; however, I’m still waiting on a few things before doing so. If it doesn’t happen, it’ll be posted in late May.

Once again, thanks for your patience and understanding during this period.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

All Copies of MFTV #33 Shipped!

All subscriber copies and single issue orders have now shipped. Any orders received in past week or so will ship this coming week. One thing I noticed while going through the boxes of magazines is that every copy has s small crease on the spine. It's located in the same spot on every copy and most likely occurred when the issue was binded. Everyone here knows what a perfectionist I am so this is disheartening, but that's how it goes. This is the first issue in nearly 20 years that there are NO mint copies. Finally, I'm sorry for the long delay in getting everything shipped out, hopefully everyone is enjoying our next to last issue. Look for info on our final issue to be posted here in early 2015.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MFTV #33 Shipping Update

Due to the passing of my father-in-law my shipping schedule for the new issue has change somewhat. I'll do my best to get everything in the mail by the end of the week, but it may be early Monday before the final issues make it in the mail. Hopefully everyone will have their copy in time for Halloween. Thanks for your understanding and patience.

JAMES A. OWENS, RIP


JAMES ALBERT OWENS
MAY 17, 1923 - OCTOBER 20, 2014

On Monday, October 20, 2014, my father-in-law passed away. Things had been touch and go since last Thursday when he returned to the hospital for the second time in two weeks. He was 91 and lived a good life and had a very loving family. His wife of 65 years was there when he passed, and the whole family got to spend time with him this weekend. The love and devotion he and and my mother-in-law had for each other was truly special and it was something I unfortunately never witnessed with my own parents. Even though his condition was up and down since Thursday, he perked up when his granddaughter returned from college to see him on Sunday. It was like he was holding on to see her one last time. Then later, when his grandson said goodbye and was getting ready to leave his room, he let go of his wife's hand and reached his hand out to shake my nephew's hand one last time. This was the way he always said hello and goodbye, and he was the one who taught my nephew to shake hands many years ago. He was a WWII veteran, and fondly remembered seeing many of the classic horror films on the big screen. He loved reading every issue of Monsters from the Vault and showed them off to friends. He was also one hell of a photographer (a talent my lovely wife Marian inherited) and took photos up until a couple of years ago. He was loved by many and will be missed by us all. Rest in peace, Mr. O.



MARIAN WITH HER MOM AND DAD
CHRISTMAS 2001

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Monsters from the Vault #33 Now Shipping!

The new issue premiered at Monster Bash (October 10-12, 2014). This weekend I've been going through copies and prepping everything for shipping. Unfortunately, I found out tonight that the Dymo LabelWriter 450 that I had been using with Stamps.com (monthly fee) is not compatible with Dymo Stamps Powered by Endicia (which is free). I need to upgrade my thermal printer to print my postage. I just ordered the new printer through Amazon.com and it'll be here on Tuesday (10/21/14). I did print out the remaining stamps (58 of them) that I had onhand for Stamps.com, so 58 copies will go out in Monday's mail (10/20/14) along with some wholesale orders. The remaining copies will ship on Wednesday (10/22/14). Copies were shipped to Diamond Comic Distributors on 10/9/14 and should start to hit stores on either 10/22/14 or 10/29/14. So everyone should have their copy in time for Halloween!



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

MFTV #33 Article Sneak Peeks!


Below is the Table of Contents and sneak peeks of the three articles appearing in Monsters from the Vault #33. Click on the link below the images to open a two-page PDF. The issue premiere at last week's Monster Bash Convention. Subscriber copies, single issue orders, and contributor copies will start to the ship the week of October 20th and all copies will be in the mail by Friday, October 24th. The issue should arrive in comic book stores either October 22nd or 29th.








Thursday, June 5, 2014

MFTV #33 Delayed Until October 2014!



Unfortunately, due to the issue being so late, my purchase order with Diamond Comics (my biggest customer) was cancelled. I now must resolicit the issue with them and anyone who knows how the Diamond process works knows that it's a 4 month process. So even though the issue is a few weeks from being ready to go to press, I need to hold off on printing it until I get my new purchase order from Diamond. The reason for this is that their PO determines my print run, plus I rely on their dollars (which I receive 30 days after they receive their copies) to help pay my printing bill. MFTV #33 will be listed again in the August issue of Diamond's Previews catalog and I'll receive my new PO in September. Once that is received I'll go to press. So if you get your copy from a comic shop make sure they're aware that #33 is being resolicited and that they reorder it for you. Bottom-line, Monsters from the Vault #33 will premiere at the October Monster Bash Convention (October 10-12, 2014) in Mars, PA. For everyone who had already preordered the issue, thanks, and sorry for the long, long, delay.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

2013 Rondo Award Winners Announced!



On Monday, May 12, 2014, the winners of the 12th annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards (for work done in 2013) were announced. I was truly excited to find out that Monsters from the Vault had won the award for Best Classic Horror Magazine for the third time in four years! A HUGE thanks to everyone who voted for Monsters from the Vault this year (and in the previous years)! Marian and I are deeply honored to receive the 2013 Rondo for Best Magazine, and I can't wait to put it on my award shelf next to our Rondo Hall of Fame Award, and our two previous Best Magazine Rondos (2010 and 2011), and my Monster Bash Award ("The Forry") from 2008! Also, congratulations to Greg Mank for his Honorable Mention in the Best Article category for "70th Anniversary: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" and his induction to the Monster Kid Hall of Fame. Finally, congrats to Daniel Horne who was an Honorable Mention for his cover for Monsters from the Vault #32. A big shout out to all of this year's winners (and nominees) and for the fans who took the time to vote! To check the complete list of winners at the Official Rondo Award Web site.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

12th Annual Rondo Awards


It's that time of the year again when the best of all things horror and sci-fi is celebrated by the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. Go to www.rondoaward.com to see this year's official ballot. The twelveth annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards will be recognizing the best in monster research, creativity, and film preservation in 2013.

Since 2002, the Rondos have been fandom's only true classic horror award. They are decided by fans, for fans. For every Rondo nominee, just being recognized for a significant achievement in the genre during the year of 2013 is a great accomplishment.


So head on over to the official Rondo Web site and cast your vote today. Over the past eleven years, Monsters from the Vault has been extremely fortunate to win several awards, including:

-Best Article (2003): The Horror Film Crisis of 1932 Parts I & II by Gary D. Rhodes

-Best Cover (2006): MFTV #21 by Joe "Sorko" Schovitz

-Monster Kid Hall of Fame (2008): Jim & Marian Clatterbaugh

-Best Cover (2009): MFTV #26 by Daniel R. Horne

-Best Magazine Fan-Market (2010)

-Best Classic Horror Magazine (2011)

-Best Theme Issue (2012): Monsters from the Vault #30

We also were runner-up to Video Watchdog in the "Best Magazine" category in 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2006. Plus, tons of our articles and covers have been nominated over the years, and two of our regular contributors, Greg Mank and Tom Weaver, have won "Writer of the Year." Finally, in 2010 and 2012, Daniel R. Horne was selected as the "Artist of the Year."

This year, Monsters from the Vault is nominated for 7 Rondo Awards (Best Magazine, Best Cover, Best Theme Issue, and Best Article (4 articles), and I urge you to consider us when you cast you ballot. With Monsters from the Vault winding down (only two more issues to go), I'd love to go out on top with another Rondo or two for Best Magazine. So if you feel we deserve it, please cast your vote for us. Same as the other categories we're nominated in. However, there are NO losers when it comes to the Rondo Awards, as just being nominated is quite an honor. So again, head over to www.rondoaward.com and cast your vote for your favorites of 2013 today!


HOW TO VOTE:

--All voting is by e-mail only. Simply copy the ballot (cut-and-pasting is easy), and send an e-mail with your picks to David Colton, at taraco@aol.com by Sunday night at midnight, May 5, 2014.

--One vote per person, please.

--Every e-mail must include your name to be counted. All votes are kept strictly confidential. No e-mail addresses or any personal information will ever be shared with anyone.

--ImportantFeel free to spread the word about Rondo. But please remember that organized voting campaigns (duplicated ballots, mass e-mailing efforts, getting strangers to vote) are prohibited and can result in a warning and even disqualification. Let's keep this a fun vote of monster fans.

--And no, you do not have to vote in every category. Again, to vote simply copy the ballot and make your picks by highlighting your selection and putting an X by your selections or by typing out your picks separately---whatever is easiest. Then e-mail your selections to taraco@aol.com.  

You'll receive an e-mail acknowledging your vote, and the nominees who work so hard to enrich the classic horror genre will appreciate your taking the time to say thanks for their efforts.

OUR 2013 RONDO NOMINATIONS!

Did you miss out on one of our nominated articles? Here's your chance to read it online before submitting your ballot for the 2013 Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. Below is our nominated cover (this issue is also nominated for Best Theme Issue) and the nominated articles published by Monsters from the Vault in 2013. To read the articles, click on the article's title and you can download a high-res PDF of the article for your reading pleasure. Enjoy the articles, and don't forget to cast your vote before midnight on May 5, 2014. Congratulations and best of luck to all of the nominees!

BEST COVER
Monsters from the Vault #32
Painting by Daniel R. Horne

BEST MAGAZINE ARTICLE NOMINEE
By John McElwee

BEST MAGAZINE ARTICLE NOMINEE
By Greg Mank

BEST MAGAZINE ARTICLE NOMINEE
By Tom Weaver

BEST MAGAZINE ARTICLE NOMINEE
By Scott Essman