Category Archives: Halloween 2011

Halloween Mask Madness, Day 4: A Don Post Extravaganza!

Welcome back to day four of Branded’s Countdown to Halloween!  Today’s ad is really cool because it features a ton of masks, and for the first time in the countdown they’re in glorious full color!  This two-page spread of Don Post masks comes from a 1979 issue of Starlog…

If you look closely at the thumbnailed pictures in the ad you’ll probably recognize a good chunk of these from previous Famous Monsters of Filmland and Creepy ads that I posted last week (the Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi Dracula masks, the multi-colored werewolves, and Uncle Creepy to name a few.)  But there are a lot of new additions to this advertisement, in particular a series of non-monster entries like the Sheik, Mr. Kool, the Pirate, Fatherhead, and the Mad Scientist (which looks more like a pissed off Moses mask if you ask me.)  There’s also a smattering of branded offerings like a few from Star Wars, the Wizard of Oz and the 70s Hertzog remake of Nosferatu

On a side note, that Nosferatu mask and gloves show up in some scenes in the 80s vampire flick Fright Night.  You can see them incased in glass (just like in this ad) in the background of Peter Vincent’s (Roddy McDowell) apartment.  This ad is also pretty fun as it illustrates a story from an old episode of the Art & Story podcast, where Mark Rudolph and Jerzy Drozd were reminiscing over some Halloween memories that involved seeing that Alien Facehugger prop in a local store when they were kids.  I saw a lot of cool masks in Spencer Gifts as a kid, but never any props as cool as that facehugger!

Anyway, come back tomorrow for more mask tomfoolery, and if you’re looking for a ton of Halloween content all through the month of October, make sure to stop on by the official Countdown to Halloween site and check out the list of participating blogs for 2011.  You’ll be glad you did!

Halloween Mask Madness, Day 3: Let Dick Smith take you to Space!

For day three let me present an ad for Dick Smith’s iconic Space Creatures make-up/mask kits from the very first issue of Fangoria published in 1979!

Granted, these kits required a little more effort than just pulling an all-in-one mask over your head, but for what they lack in ease of use, they make up for in spades with awesome moveable jaw pieces and originality.  Well, sort of original.  That Vorkan kit is an obvious rip-off of the Darth Vader mask design, but it’s still pretty darn cool!

I also wanted to share this ad, even though it’s not strictly for masks, because it comes from the pages of Fangoria.  That magazine was a big horror touchstone for me growing up in the 80s, in particular for the many mask ads that littered the pages of each issue.  So I thought it would be cool to share something from the very first issue to help set the tone for the rest of the month.  I’d say that about 80% of the ads I’ll be sharing this month come from the pages of Fangoria or its sister publication Starlog.

Anyway, come back tomorrow for more mask tomfoolery, and if you’re looking for a ton of Halloween content all through the month of October, make sure to stop on by the official Countdown to Halloween site and check out the list of participating blogs for 2011.  You’ll be glad you did!

Halloween Mask Madness, Day 2: Fit for a Famous Monster…

Welcome back to the Month of Monster Mask Madness!  For today’s feature I thought I’d share the remaining ads from my Famous Monsters of Filmland collection (which I started this past Thursday.)  I don’t have a lot of issues of FMoF, but I really dig the ones I’ve managed to get my grubby little hands on.

This first ad comes from the July 1975 issue of FMoF, and features a lot of the same masks from the 1968 Creepy ad I shared last week…

The main difference is that this ad has omitted the Dracula mask in favor of the unfortunately Out-of-Stock Zombie mask.  What I liked though was that they added a section of monster glove accessories that you could pair up with the masks to better complete a spooky ensemble…

Next is an ad from August of 1976…

This ad was neat because it features some non-Universal horror icons, namely some of the characters from the Planet of the Apes flicks, Dr. Zaius, Cornelius, and a warrior ape!  These are paired with some of the classic cheap-o monsters masks, like the Frankenstein’s monster mask that FMoF was peddling since 1959.  At least readers finally got a chance to see what was in store before they purchased them this time around…

Last up today we have an ad from November of 1979…

I really dug this ad because it was one of the first to really stray away from only offering Universal monsters.  Don’t get me wrong, I love their stable of monsters as much as any monster kid, but there is a whole wide world of other creatures to celebrate.  In particular I was happy to see the Sargoth the Cobra and the very realistic visage of a Mummy.  I also really dig that screen-accurate Christopher Lee Hammer Dracula mask.  I did think it was a little odd to be offering two variations on the Werewolf mask, especially since they were so close in description (one being grey while the other was snowy white)…

Anyway, come back tomorrow for more mask tomfoolery, and if you’re looking for a ton of Halloween content all through the month of October, make sure to stop on by the official Countdown to Halloween site and check out the list of participating blogs for 2011.  You’ll be glad you did!

Halloween Mask Madness, Day 1: Marvel at those Monster Masks!

Welcome to the first day of Branded in the 80s 2011 Countdown to Halloween!  This year is all about monster masks (with a little bit of Vincent Price to liven things up.)  Check back here ever day through the month of October for some fun vintage monster mask ads and more!

This first advertisement comes from the pages of Marvel comics back in 1977.  I though that this would be a fitting place to start as it’s the year that I was ushered into the world and represents my first Halloween ever.  It’s also the only mask ad of this type that I was able to find in my collection of older superhero comics…

For a measly $3.19 ($3.94 with shipping and handling) you could own one of seven different monster masks, or even a complete Ben Cooper Spiderman or Hulk costume!  For big spenders, there was also a Wolfman mask complete with sewn in hair for a whopping $10.53!  I loved the Ben Cooper costumes growing up, though I didn’t get a chance to wear many of them.  My mom tended to make my costumes, which were always cool, but there was still a tangible allure to those bright and vivid vinyl costumes that was hard to ignore.  Sure, it never made sense why the Hulk costume has a picture of the Hulk on it, but it was still pretty darn cool.

For more creeptacular fun, check out the official Countdown to Halloween page for a list of other site participating in a month-long celebration of all things Halloween!  You’ll be glad you did…

Continuing the Vincentennial…

Alright, the insanity officially starts tomorrow.  You can head on over to the Countdown To Halloween at midnight tonight to get the full list of the 2011 blog-a-thon participants, and stay tuned all month long for daily Halloween-y articles.  As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve run out of spooky monster animation cels to share, but I have plenty of fun in store.  Along with my daily selection of vintage monster mask posts, I’ve also decided to pepper the month with some observations about Horror’s renaissance man, Vincent Price (considering 2011 would have been his 100th year on the planet.)  Granted, the Vincentennial was technically this past May, but I think the world can do with a bit more Price-y reverie.  As a sort of sneak peek I thought I’d share this reminiscence that I wrote earlier in the year for the Strange Kids Club

Growing up in the 80s, my first introduction to Vincent Price was most likely while watching re-runs of the 60s era Batman TV show where he guest-starred as the dastardly Egghead, but he was always around haunting the odd corners of the pop culture zeitgeist.  Whether it was his turn as Vincent Van Ghoul in the 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, as a pitchman for everything from monster vitamins to Tilex, or as the lonely aging Geppetto/Dr. Frankenstein-esque character The Inventor in Edward Scissorhands, Price has always been lurking in every dark shadow waiting to delight the world with his macabre presence.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I really started taking an interest in his work (on and off the screen.)  In fact I’d never actually watched one of his films until I turned 30 and decided to dig into one of those mega-50-horror-movie-DVD-sets that you find floating around the discount bins during the Halloween season.

I’d settled on The Last Man on Earth as it sounded like a fun flick to watch on a Saturday morning, something that Elvira or Grandpa Munster would have shown on one of the UHF stations when I was a kid.  I figured this would justify the $10 bucks I spent on the set, and I’d finally get to see what all this Vincent Price hoopla was all about.  86 minutes later I sat in front of the TV in stunned silence.  I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but I was taken aback at how good this flick was.  The story shinned through the horribly scratchy and faded public domain quality print of the film, and though you could tell that this was a very low budget production, Vincent Price elevated the film with his masterful presence (even through the dubbing and voice-over.)  Originally released in 1964, the film bridges the gap between the Technicolor schlock and gore of Hammer and Herschell Gordon Lewis and the solemn gritty reality of Night of the Living Dead, helping to usher in a quarter century of amazingly influential modern horror.

This wasn’t the first time Vincent Price helped to change the tide for horror.  Films like House of Wax and The Fly were pivotal in endearing a new generation to monster movies in the 50s, years after the luster of the Universal heyday had almost faded away.  When you also consider his short stint as the Invisible Man (in the first sequel to the 1933 film, as well as a cameo in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein), his work with gimmick maestro William Castle, and his time with Roger Corman and American International Pictures (bringing the work of Edgar Allen Poe to the screen), you can see what his reputation is cemented as the master of horror.

Though I love all of his contributions to the genre (having devoured his catalog in the last three years), I’ve found a much more personal connection to the man outside of horror.  Through a myriad of surviving audio interviews and his long out-of-print autobiography I’ve come to know Vincent Price as a true renaissance man.  His love of art knew no bounds and he spent a lifetime collecting and making it possible, though his partnership with Sears back in the 50s and 60s, for everyone to be able to own affordable works by centuries of masters.  Take a second and listen to his records narrating a trip through the Louvre, and you’ll be infected by his passion.

Strangely enough it was though his love of cooking and the culinary world that I connected with him the most deeply.  Vincent Price and his second wife Mary authored two cookbooks, A Treasury of Great Recipes and Come into the Kitchen, both featuring a wide variety of food spanning both the history of American as well as adapted recipes from restaurants all over the world.  Price also narrated a series of international culinary records that takes the listener all over the world as well as into his home with all sorts of tips, anecdotes and advice.  Though the style of cooking is firmly set in the 60s with absolutely no concern for “healthy” eating, there’s no more visceral way to connect with someone like one can over the sharing of food.  I’ve taken a cue from a couple I know and reserved special occasions as an excuse to pull the Price Treasury down from the shelf to concoct some gut-busting gastronomical wonders.  His reworking of the classic Sardi’s Meat Sauce recipe has completely changed the way I think about pasta with red sauce, and it’s a dish that I’ve cooked numerous times for friends and family.

Through a vast body of work I’ve gotten to know Vincent Price over the last few years, and it’s been a journey that’s changed the way I look at life.  I know that may sound weird and cheesy, but it’s not that often that a life examined yields so much insight into what it means to truly live.  He’s also reminded me of one of the key things that helps to keep me pointed forward and exploring.  To paraphrase the great Price, one has to be interested in everything in order for oneself to be interesting…

Halloween Mask M-ad-ness!

Well, there are just two short days before the official beginning of the 2011 Countdown to Halloween and I couldn’t be more excited.  Though I’ve run out of cool Real Ghostbusters monster animation cels to share (like I did in 2009 and 2010), I do have a bunch of fun stuff in store.  The main countdown theme at Branded this year is going to be Halloween Mask m-AD-ness, where I’m going to share a bunch of vintage monster mask ads throughout the month.  Now, I don’t consider myself any sort of authority on the subject (for more in depth mask blogging see the Blood Curdling Blog of Monster Masks), quite the contrary in fact.  My interest in monster masks stems from the amazement I felt as a kid when walking into a Spencer’s in our local mall during the Halloween season.  There’d be a wall of masks and props that would keep me enraptured for hours while my mom did her shopping.  We could never really afford any of those masks back then, but I could afford the odd copy of Fangoria or Starlog which tended to have mask advertisements in every issue (except 1985, but I’ll get to that later) that I’d sit and study for what seemed like days at a time.  So I thought it would be fun to go through my collection of mask ads and share my thoughts.

Though this will be the main daily theme, I’m also going to try my best to cover another topic as well, but look for that sneak peek tomorrow.  Also, I’d like to mention that the great Plaid Stallions site was gracious enough to let me use some of the imagery from their Ben Cooper catalog scans in order to make the mask banner above.  You should check them out for all your fun 70s fashion faux pas and nostalgia memories, in particular this coming month when they’ll take part in the 2011 Countdown to Halloween!  Alright, lets take a look at some really vintage mask ads to get the tone set for October!

I’m not sure when the first modern Halloween masks (rubber, latex, vinyl, or even pressed and molded plastic) crept into pop culture, but I’m pretty sure that the fad was going pretty strong during the initial publication of Famous Monsters of Filmland in the late 50s.  The first few ads I have here are from that wonder of a monster magazine, like this one from issue #4, first published in 1959…

I love these old ads because of the artwork used to illustrate the products.  These illustrations in particular strike a chord with me because my own artwork has naturally tended in this direction…

I also love these illustrations because I know that they were so much cooler than the actual masks were!  You can see the difference more clearly with this next ad that was also featured in issue #4 of FMoF

    

My all time favorite mask rendering in an ad has to be the illustration for the Shock Monster.  That drawing took on a life of it’s own and eventually became a mascot of sorts for Famous Monsters.  Mirek over at Shock! has a great write-up about that mask and the illustration (which was done by Keith Ward.)  Similarly striking is the androgynous visage of the Girl Vampire which also pervaded these magazines and the ad pages of comics for what seems like decades.

Rounding out the Famous Monsters mask ads is the one on the above, right from issue #41 originally published in 1964.  This one mixes the tried and true illustrations of the classic offerings with a selection of masks inspired by the Universal stable of monsters (as well as a side section with some Munsters masks, even though it’s illustrated with production stills instead of actual masks.)  This one cracks me up because it touts that the UM masks are the same ones used by Universal Pictures.  I seriously doubt these masks, or anything like them were ever used in any film productions.  Maybe on the back-lot during tours, but the implication is otherwise.  This ad also featured the weirdo Mystery Man mask (top of the ad), which looks a whole heck of a lot like a cross between a gimp mask and the faceplate Hannibal Lector wore in Silence of the Lambs!

Last up today are a couple of ads from the Famous Monsters sister comic antholy published by Warren called Creepy.  These are from issue #18, originally published in 1968…

    

The ad on the left featured a bevy of Universal Monsters masks that much have been super expensive back in ’68.  Heck, just 4 years prior you could order similar masks from FMoF for a fraction of the price.  Granted the level of detail on these is better, but I wonder of there was an extreme case of sticker shock when kids saw the $34 price tag.  Dang, it would have taken me months to save that much money even back in the 80s.  I’m guessing maybe these might have been aimed at a more adult crowd then?

The ad on the right is fun as it features the Warren comic anthology mascots Uncle Creepy and Cousin Eerie in 3-D mask form.  Now that’s a level of branding and merchandise that really warms my heart.  This one also features some different pictures of the Mystery Man mask I mentioned earlier, complete with gimp-like removable mouth covering.  So freaking weird.

Well, hopefully that’ll begin to give you an idea of what the next month will be like.  I hope you come back and take a gander at some of the awesome ads that I have in store.  Also, come back tomorrow to get a sneak peak at the other Halloween topic I’m hoping to cover throughout October.  You can also wander over to the Countdown to Halloween for a list of over 150 sites participating in Halloween-y blogging all month long!

Halloween smells awesome!

I spend a lot of time writing about branding and marketing, and I suppose in a way I’m sort of an amateur semiotician trying to understand pop culture.  A large chunk of my interests, the toys, television shows & cartoons, books, and various related merchandise and pop culture that I grew up with has sort of hard to deconstruct in the past few years because of the resurgence in popularity of a lot of that stuff.  The re-launches of franchises, big budget movie reimagingings, new cartoons like the ThunderCats, G.I. Joe, and Transformers, the unlimited stream of new merchandise (T-Shirts, retro packaging, masterpiece and “classics” toylines), all of this stuff makes the landscape murky and hard to keep in focus.  I mean, when I have to qualify my thoughts on the Smurfs to friends when talking about the cool new book I read, illustrating how interesting I thought two-thirds of the covered history was while trying to ignore the long chapter on the recent film, I start to feel a little weird.  On the whole I really don’t care much for the regurgitation of 80s era franchises we keep seeing these days, yet I also feel a little uncomfortable with the curmudgeonly, old-fart role that sort of casts me in.  “This junk doesn’t hold a candle to the stuff from back in my day…”  I’m not that guy, or at least I don’t want to be.

This is really just my long-winded attempt to rationalize why I find it so refreshing and comforting when the calendar gets closer and closer to Halloween.  Because I really wanted a strong concept when creating this site I’ve found that I’ve painted myself into a corner a bit when it comes to content.  Halloween is the one main exception, the time of year when I tend to stray away a little from nostalgia and I open the door to more contemporary pop culture commentary.  This past year has been a bit rough, and right now all I really want to do is jump feet first into a pool of Halloween-y goodness.  Thankfully I’ve been running into more and more, early, seasonal fun.  For a lot of you it might be too early for the orange and black, but I think I’m going to indulge a bit and share what I’ve found so far…

Traditionally the early adopter market consists mainly of the hardcore target audience for products and services.  If this holds true for holidays as well, then the target audience for Halloween is apparently women ages 15 to 60, who spend a lot of time trying to make stuff smell nice.  Well, that’s my guess after watching two mall chain stores, Bath & Body works and Yankee Candle, wheeling out their Halloween displays at the beginning of August, three full months before All Hallows Eve.  I’m finding it both hilarious and comforting in a very weird way.

I’ve never really been a “candle guy”, though I did spend an inordinate amount of time buying and burning incense in my later teen years (a time I’d like to thankfully forget.)  So needless to say I don’t find myself browsing though the insane collection of scents at my local Yankee Candle very often.  At the end of July though, while walking through the mall with the wife, we saw a sign for what appeared to be a big Halloween-themed release party for their new wave of Boney Bunch candle holders.  We joked that we’d be the first couple in line that next weekend and I promptly forgot about it.  The next week we just happened to be in the mall again when I remembered and we figured it couldn’t hurt to check it out.

To our surprise there were quite a few people lurking around the store that afternoon, and we’d even missed out on the official Boney Bunch party hours, so I’m guessing that these holders are pretty popular.  I have to admit that there’s a certain Tim Burton-esque charm to the character designs though I found intriguing, and before I knew what was really happening I was in line with a box of tea lights and a corresponding holder.  Though we really get into the holiday, we haven’t really build up a sizeable collection of holiday knickknacks, so I guess we’re starting.

The collection basically consists of a series of skeleton people in a few different themes.  There’s a harvest farm set (featuring a pitchfork wielding undead farmer), a romance set (with a some husband and wife skeletons, as well as some dating skeletons rowing boats and the like), and Santa Skeleton set.  The figural candle holders are cute, but there’s a macabre humor running through the series that involves a lot of beheading and chainsaws that I find fun.  I couldn’t imagine picking up too many of the pieces though as collecting these feels a little too close to starting a collection of Hummel or ceramic clowns.

Our other adventure featured a trip to our local Bath & Body Works since the wife was getting low on hand lotion and shower gel.  If there’s one time when I act like a typical man it’s when we set foot in this place, and I basically turn into a voodoo style zombie man servant that just hold her purchases and pays for them at the end.  I was already to zone out when I spotted a table full of Halloween soap and suddenly I was more excited to be in this place than my wife.  It was kind of sickening actually…

We got a small taste of the B&BW Halloween offerings this past year while stocking up on small bottles of hand sanitizer we planned to give out at the Up! Fair.  They still had a bunch of discount bottles left over from the season at the time so we bought a ton of Vampire Blood (plum) and Candy Corn scented hand sanitizers.  Since we caught the display early this year I was curious to see what other sorts of spooky soaps they carried…

Unfortunately, B&BW isn’t known for their cheap prices, so I’d suggest waiting for a sale to pick up some of this stuff, but there was a lot of cool stuff worth waiting for.  In particular we liked the scents and label designs on their foaming soap dispensers, but there was a ton of different stuff that was pretty cool.  The little bottles of hand sanitizer were pretty cool too, featuring varieties like Zombie Tonic, Scary Cats, Bones, Skulls, and a trio of scents with neat glow-in-the-dark labels.  Unfortunately the scenes on these little guys are pretty hit and miss.  Not sure if it’s just me, but I prefer hand sanitizer to be unscented, or in some form of citrus that just smells clean.  I tried the Zombie tonic, which is marshmallow scented, and my hands smelled like I molested a bag of cookies for the rest of the day.

So far these instances have been enough to tide me over, but I can feel the itch for Halloween browsing growing and I hope Target doesn’t decide to roll out another year of “discount” Halloween.  I’m really in the mood to be blown away this season…