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Ormsby’s Movie Monsters: A Ghoulery of Monster Greats

Classic Monster Books

Movie Monsters by Alan Ormsby

Movie Monsters ; Alan Ormsby (Scholastic Books, 1975)

As a 1970s Monster Kid, I was fortunate enough to have access to a wide variety of monster magazines and books.  Movie Monsters by Alan Ormsby was one of my favorites.

Pictured above is my original copy, well-loved and well-used.  In other words, it is far from collectible condition.  I remember getting my Scholastic book order at the end of the school day late during the Fall of 1975 with this book in it.  As soon as I got home from school that day, I recall  heading straight to my room to read this cover-to-cover.  I loved the illustrations and the easy step-by-step guide to monster make-up.

I loved this book so much, I even gathered the neighborhood kids and staged a production of The Monster of Frankenstein – which is the play included in this book (see story below).

Today, I thought we could stroll down memory lane together and review this book.

From the author:

Movie Monsters has three parts: The Greatest Movie Monsters – for your delight, information, and reference, page 3; How to make a Monster, including make-up and recipes for monsters, page 29; and How to Put On Monster Shows, page 63. Happy Ghouling!

Today’s focus is on part one, the Ghoulery of Monster Greats:

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Ormsby begins, fittingly, with a tribute to the Man of a Thousand Faces, Lon Chaney.

He invented monster make-up!

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Ormsby continues his focus on Chaney, with The Phantom of the Opera (note my little sister’s custom art work on the page):

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From Sr. to Jr., Ormsby leaps right to my favorite Universal Monster, Lon Chaney Jr as the Wolfman:

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Appropriately, Ormsby spends four pages on the Frankenstein Monster – discussing all the Universal movies up through Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein but, unlike his action on Dracula below, he focuses exclusively on Boris Karloff‘s portrayal of the Monster.

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He continues with Karloff, in this feature on The Mummy:

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The Frankenstein Monster may be the most popular monster. But King Kong is probably the greatest monster movie ever made.

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Unlike the feature on Frankenstein’s Monster, Ormsby focuses on both Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee as Dracula, even titling the section “Two Draculas.’

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Ormsby’s focus throughout the book is on monster make-up and this iconic transformation of Dr Jekyll into Mr. Hyde was a favorite page of mine:

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The first important female monster, the Bride of Frankenstein:

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I’ve always loved this iconic image of the Gillman, and the superimposing of behind-the-scenes costuming enthralled this young monster kid– “so that’s how they did it!”

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It was the 1970s after all, and Ormsby’s efforts at inclusiveness led to this focus on….Blacula!

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Again, a tribute to the period in which this book was published, what reader of this book hadn’t seen Young Frankenstein?

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Read more about Ormsby’s Movie Monsters:

Scholastic’s Movie Monsters Changed My Life

Next week, I’ll cover part two of Movie Monsters, the fun and informative section titled How to Make a Monster – till then, hope you’ve enjoyed this stroll down ‘Monster Kid Memory lane’ as much as I have.

Read more Monster Kid memories:

The Library and the Giant Gorilla

Lesson #2: Monster Movies Are Scary!


Scholastic Books ‘Movie Monsters’ Changed My Life

Monster Kid Memories: Hosting Our Own Monster Show

1975 Monster Play on my Garage

There are seminal events in the life of all Monster Kids.  Seeing King Kong for the first time was one such event for me.  Another was receiving Scholastic Books Movie Monsters in my school book order.

Like many monster kids of the 60s and 70s, I was enamored by the magic of movie monsters.  And thanks largely to Famous Monsters of Filmland, I learned about the magicians behind-the-scenes that made the movie magic happen– the special effect and make-up artists.  I enjoyed the actors who played the monsters, but I loved the artists who created them.

Fortunately for me, the mid-70s was a great time to be into monster makeup with kits and how-to books increasingly available.  My first official guidebook on making monsters came to me through the Scholastic book club in the fall of 1975 when I was 9 years old.

Movie Monsters by Alan Ormsby

Movie Monsters ; Alan Ormsby (Scholastic Books, 1975)

Pictured above is my original copy of Scholastic Books Movie Monsters; well-used and well-loved.  I remember getting my book order at the end of the school day and, as soon as I got home from school, heading straight to my room to read this cover-to-cover.  I loved the illustrations and the easy step-by-step guide to monster make-up.

With my parents’ blessing, I began to assemble a make-shift make-up kit using an old fishing tackle box and some of my mom’s old make-up.  We lived in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and would often head to the nearby big city of Tulsa, where they had a store featuring costumes and professional make-up for the stage.  I continued to build my make-up kit and to practice on my younger siblings and myself.

Included in this book was a section called “How to Put On Monster Shows” complete with script called “The Monster of Frankenstein!” and I quickly assembled a cast of neighborhood kids to stage our very own production in my garage that October.

Movie Monsters pg 64 "The Monster of Frankenstein!" Play Movie Monsters Ormsby page 65 Movie Monsters Ormsby page 66 Movie Monsters Ormsby page 67 Movie Monsters Ormsby page 68 Movie Monsters Ormsby page 69 Movie Monsters Ormsby page 70 Movie Monsters Ormsby page 71

As the Executive Producer, Director, Make-up Artist and Chief Monster Kid, I played Dr. Frankenstein and my classmates and neighbors played one or more characters in the play.  We hung bed sheets in my garage and decorated with Halloween decorations.  I was such a nerd that I had my own science lab complete with chemistry test tubes, beakers and microscope, so making the laboratory was a snap.  I made a cassette recording of my Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House Disney record for our soundtrack and then we invited every neighborhood kid who wasn’t in the play to come and watch.

The only pictures I have of that eventful day:

1975 Monster Play on my Garage

That’s me in the white lab coat — as you can see the makeup was on the light side — more of a Werewolf of London style than the Wolf Man.  Can’t say I remember why, exactly, because minimalism was hardly my style when I was 9.  Perhaps we simply ran out of time.  The Show Must Go On, as they say!

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My younger brother was Mr. Skull, wearing a skull mask and almost in the picture to the left (these were polaroids, of course.  It was 1975 after all)

I’ll share more pages from Scholastic Books Movie Monsters in future posts — hope you enjoyed this walk down Monster Kid Memory lane as much as I did.

I know I’m not the only Monster Kid that put this show on — please share your Monster Kid memories in the comments section below.