Thursday, January 5, 2012

Movie Monsters by Alan Ormsby

by Alan Ormsby
1975, 1st edition
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
ISBN: Softcover 0590021753

Alan Ormsby's Movie Monsters: Monster Make-Up & Monster Shows to Put On was a treasure trove of nightmare goodies that transformed monster-loving kids of the 1970s into horror film experts overnight with its fun-filled facts on some of the most popular monsters of all time and the actors who played them. Ormsby not only shared Hollywood make-up secrets, he also encouraged youngsters to create their own special effects, put on horror shows, and make their own creature features! All this was packed into a slim, 80-page softcover book that also featured wonderful illustrations done by the author himself.

'A Ghoulery of Monster Greats' This is Part One of the book and displays an impressive collection of horror film stills featuring such greats as Phantom of the Opera, Jekyll & Hyde, King Kong, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Brief bios of these and other horror icons serve as enticing appetizers to young readers for what is soon to follow in Parts 2 & 3 of the book. However, the focal point throughout the pages of Movie Monsters is consistently about make-up and special effects and, early on, we quickly learn trade secrets of the movies these horror hall-of-famers appeared in.

'How to Make a Monster' Part 2 in the book has the author reminiscing about special times during his childhood when he'd allow his imagination to run wild and create his own monsters -- eventually, he would find others to join in on his escapades. Next, Ormsby encourages his readers to explore and experiment with transforming themselves into monsters! Tips on acting, costumes, and the use of light and shadow to pull off an effective horror persona are motivational preps before Ormsby gets to the good stuff, which are painting scars, creating monster hands, a recipe for blood, and make-up techniques for characters like Dracula, Blacula, Bride of Frankenstein, Wolf Man, and others. Perhaps the greatest and the most fun of Ormsby's make-up tips is the "Brown Bag Frankenstein!" -- Sicko-Psychotic remembers making many of these when he was a little ghoul with much time on his severed hands!!! The end of this section promises more fun yet to come by incorporating all you've learned so far into either a live horror show or by filming a monster flick of your own!

'The Monster of Frankenstein!' The 3rd and final part of Movie Monsters features an entire horror-comedy script. The author continues to entice youngens into using their imagination  by altering the script and not limiting themselves to traditional gender roles or ethnic typecasting. Further special-effect stunts are also explained, such as "How to Turn Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde Before Their Very Eyes!", "The Disappearing Ghost", "The Floating Head", and a there's even a special section on "Props". Kids needn't wonder where to locate some of the supplies called for in the book because Ormsby offers many helpful suggestions.

Alan Ormsby's talent in illustration, make-up, and special effects know-how is evident throughout the book, but many horror fans out there might be especially familiar with his work as a screenwriter for both film and television -- Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1973), Cat People (1982), Popcorn (1991), etc. Ormsby has also produced, directed, and worked as an actor and make-up artist in the Industry. Another contribution to fond childhood memories was Ormsby's invention of the 'Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces' doll. If you never got one of these, you were able to see it on TV's The Uncle Floyd Show (1974) and The Pee-Wee Herman Show (1981). Good stuff.


  1. Sorry, off topic, but I read recently that Juan of the Dead (which you wrote about some time ago) finally picked up a US distributor. Shouldn't be long now before I can get my grubby paws on it.

  2. A Cuban zombie movie by Alejandro Brugués himself! Can't wait to see it. Thanks, Keith, for the update!!!


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