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Bruce Markusen Discovers More Bizarre Ads Inside the Pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazines

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Bruce Markusen Discovers More Bizarre Ads Inside the Pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazines

With Halloween having come and gone, Christmas Day is approaching at light speed. And with Christmas comes all sorts of ideas for gift-giving. Oh, what to get for the horror-loving brother or sister, wife or husband?

Those decisions can become difficult. What do you get the horror fan who has everything? Let’s try a creative approach that mixes in a strong hint of nostalgia: an examination of some of the many old advertisements from Famous Monsters of Filmland, the horror industry’s favorite defunct magazine. Those ads, most of which can be found online, include some pretty cool (and bizarre) stuff.

A couple of months ago, I presented a collage of intriguing ads from Famous Monsters, showcasing items such as the Chamber of Horrors Guillotine, horrific shrunken heads, and the Spooky Bank, also known as the “Greedy Fingers Bank.” Well, let’s take another dip into that pool of nostalgic weirdness and find a few other items of intrigue.

Some of these products can be very difficult to find. But most of the items are still obtainable, in one form or another, and some even at reasonable costs.


Verne Langdon’s Zombie Mask:

Ad2 Verne Langdon Mask

One of the most iconic advertisements to appear within the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland, this one was unusual in that it ran in color. In contrast, the vast majority of the magazine’s ads were presented in black-and-white, matching the format of the magazine.

Verne Langdon was initially an artist for Don Post Studios who set out on his own. In 1972, he began to hand craft these zombie masks, but only about 30 were ever made. I never purchased one of the Langdon zombie masks, largely because I rarely had $39 to spare; that was a large amount of money for a child to have in his or her wallet back in the 1970s. But I was always impressed by the mask, so lifelike and realistic. The dry, scaly appearance of the face, etched in remarkable detail, made this a desirable commodity for Halloween—or just for hanging around the house. The straight, drooping, straw-like hair looked pretty cool, too.

“Wear it at your own risk,” the advertisement warned the prospective buyer. Somehow, I don’t think I would have been at much risk wearing one of these beauties, but I certainly would have put my family at risk the moment they saw me. I might have had to call them an ambulance.

Given the limited production of the zombie masks in the 1970s, they are extremely difficult to find these days. But there was at one point a reissue of the zombie mask, and if you don’t mind settling for a knockoff, that quest is more achievable.


Wolf Man’s Wolfwagon:

Ad2 Wolfwagon

Here’s an item that was much less expensive than the Langdon mask – all of 98 cents back in the day – but one that was much, much stranger. Appearing in an issue from 1965, this advertisement still strikes me as one of the weirdest from Famous Monsters. Why exactly would a wolf man, who can run very fast according to monster lore, need a “wagon?” And this wolf man also looks very uncomfortable, as if he’s way too big to fit into the wagon as he drives around the neighborhood.

In actuality, this miniature wagon inspired one of the popular plastic models made by Aurora in the mid-1960s. All these years later, it’s still available as part of a re-issue put out by the Polar Lights Company. In this form, the wolfwagon is easy to find and won’t break the bank.

It remains very odd, but I must admit I wouldn’t mind having one. It would make for a good Christmas present, though you will have to shell our more than 98 cents plus shipping and handling.


Mad Doctor Hypodermic Needle:

Ad2 Needle

Many of the old ads in Famous Monsters would not pass muster today; I suspect this is one of them. This one encouraged young fans to “take blood tests” and “give shots.” Gee, that’s just what America needed back in the 1960s: young boys running around injecting fake needles into their own arms and the body parts of their friends. In actuality, the ad’s description makes it clear that the so-called needle was “blunt” and “harmless.” The attached tube only seemed to fill with blood; instead it was a mysterious and safe red liquid already built into the product.

RELATED:

Bruce Markusen Revisits 7 of the Most Wacky and Wild Ads Inside the Pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland

Good lord, I hope that the Captain Company was honest in making that proclamation. Even if it was, these original hypodermic “needles” are almost impossible to find these days, partly because they were fragile and tended to break. But there are some modern day companies that make similar “needles” these days. They can be viewed at Amazon.com.


How To Become A Vampire:

Ad2 How To Become A Vampire

Famous Monsters of Filmland really topped itself with this one. It’s a real doozy—a “How to Become A Vampire” kit. The package included a “curse of the undead,” which contained secret instructions and incantations for changing a living person into a vampire. The kit also included a short history of vampires, a set of fangs, and your own personal pet vampire bat (made of rubber, of course).

And back in the day, you could have it all for the grand sum of $1.

Today there is an Italian company called Deathless Legacy that makes a more sophisticated vampire kit. I don’t think it will actually make you a vampire, but then again, I’ve never actually tried it.


Big Frankie:

Ad2 Big Frankie

Also known by its more formal name of Gigantic Frankenstein, “Big Frankie” was advertised in full color. It’s an oversized plastic model that has become the Holy Grail for many collectors. Like the more conventional model, it was made of plastic, but was much, much larger at two feet tall. It was so big that you could actually clutch it by one of its hands.

Back in the 1960s, the two-foot model cost only $4.98. Today you will have to pay much more. Some of the original Frankensteins, depending on condition, can fetch several hundred dollars. However, there are some limited edition re-issue Big Frankie kits that were produced by Moebius a few years back. They run for under $200 and are easily obtainable.


Soil From Dracula’s Castle:

Ad2 Dracula's Dirt

Here’s another great gift idea for Christmas: Genuine Soil from Dracula’s Castle! First offered back in 1979, these were limited edition samples of soil from the ground near the castle that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler, the supposed influence for the Dracula novel. Originally, Famous Monsters publisher James Warren offered 5,000 samples, each at a cost of $9.95.

Well, the samples might have been legitimately taken from Vlad the Impaler, but people didn’t exactly knock down the doors of Dracula’s Castle. After all, $9.95 was a decent sum of money to pay for small samples of dirt in 1979. Two years later, Warren was still trying to sell the samples and complete the run of 5,000.

The best part of the deal might have been the coffin-shaped pendant, or “amulet,” as it was called, that contained the soil. If the company had done a better job of advertising the amulet, Famous Monsters might have sold out those 5,000 samples in fast fashion.

Today, the soil samples and the pendants are easily obtainable through bidding on E-bay, though some of the bids can get a bit on the exorbitant side. Buyer beware.

So there you have it, a Christmas list for 2021. I would love to have all of these (except maybe for the hypodermic needle). For the horror fan who grew up in the 1960s and seventies, this list would bring a merrier Christmas—and some good memories from days when Famous Monsters of Filmland would advertise just about anything.


Consider picking up Bruce’s new book Hosted Horror on Television, which is currently available through the McfarlandBooks website.

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