Friday, October 28, 2011

"It's Called the Monster Bash...."

In recognition of Halloween, I felt it might be appropriate to recognize a classic film festival that rocks! Every June, hundreds of movie fans migrate to the city of Butler, Pennsylvania to attend the "Monster Bash International Classic Monster Movie Convention and Film Fest." Monster Bash celebrates the films of the silent era through the 1950s, and is presented by Scary Monsters Magazine and Creepy Classics Video & DVD! It's also a monster memorabilia shopping center with vendors selling tee shirts, monster magazines, movies, lobby cards and posters and toy models. 

Advertisement for the 2002 Monster Bash Convention

Unlike other horror/sci-fi conventions, the Monster Bash Movie Convention is even more. It's a state of mind. A place, like Skull Island, where our imaginations were ignited and still burn behind our everyday jobs and life. The Bash is Forrest Ackerman's classic monster magazine, the local TV Horror Host, the Aurora monster models, the monster toys of all shapes and plastics.... It's a place when Halloween was eagerly awaited. It's the horror and science fiction paperback collections, and most of all it is...the movies!

Lawrence Elig's sculpture of Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Now I'd like to clarify something for the nostalgia fans who have never attended Monster Bash. It's the only convention on the East Coast that recognizes vintage classics. Every horror/sci-fi convention I attend center on the latest pop culture crazies like Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and celebrity guest are known primarily for their appearances in Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees movies. Now, if that's your cup of tea, by all means there are dozens along the East Coast to choose from. But if Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Rondo Hatton are the figures you prefer to watch on the celluloid screen, than Monster Bash is the one for you. And sadly, the only one that is centered primarily on the oldies but goodies.

Ron Adams is the mastermind behind this convention. His family, friends and volunteers (some of whom travel great distances to come attend and help keep the event running smooth) have done wonders. Celebrities in the past have included Bob Burns, Dolores Fuller, Beverly Garland, Ben Chapman, Ray Harryhausen, Carla Laemmle, Forrest J. Ackerman, Bela Lugosi Jr., Sara Karloff, Ron Chaney, David Skal, Elena Verdugo, Julie Adams, Richard Gordon, and Tom Savini to name a few. Ackerman himself once wrote, "Monster Bash gets an eleven out of ten! My favorite convention."

Bert I. Gordon from the 2006 event.

Actor Kevin McCarthy at the 2007 event.

The event began in 1997. Among the highlights was a representative of the U.S. Post Office who was on hand with Sara Karloff (the daughter of Boris Karloff) for the East Coast revealing of the classic monster stamps! Photo enclosed.

In 1998, the event celebrated King Kong's 65th birthday. The 1999 event offered film fans a rare treat. A showing, in 3D, of a rare Frankenstein film short from the 1940s called Third Dimensional Murder, and an uncut showing of the original Frankenstein, produced by Thomas Edison in 1910, which was thought lost for many years. Since then, the Edison film short has been released on DVD (sadly, the company chose to insert watermarks and logos in all the corners so it's not a pure, clean offering).

The kind of merchandise found at most horror conventions.
For comparison, here's merchandise found at Monster Bash.

Among the film screenings, celebrity question and answer sessions, panels and staged presentations, authors are granted time slots to talk about their books, magazines, and the subjects they wrote about. Friday night has become Mexican Movie Night, with free tacos from Taco Bell, while attendees get to watch a 1960s Mexican horror movie. Saturday morning offers a vintage cartoon showing, along with free cereal. Sunday morning offers the Monster Bash Mass with Father Mike (I love him, he's a great guy) leading the proceedings and all denominations are welcome. Father Mike loves the same kind of films I do, and we share a passion for Kate Smith films.

Scarlet magazines are available for sale.

Best of all, Monster Bash is not gory, scary or gothic like other horror conventions. You rarely see teenagers dressed in black with piercings and gothic makeup wandering the hallways. It's a place you can take your children to. A family, friendly atmosphere. And over the years, my wife and I have stopped going to horror conventions because they became less and less friendly. In fact, the only event we attended this calendar year is Monster Bash. How's that for an endorsement?

A spaceship landed in Mars, Pennsylvania!

But if the convention itself is not enough of an excuse for attending, be prepared to act like a local tourist. My wife and I, and our two friends, Mary and Gary Lowe, drive 10 miles south of Butler to Mars, Pennsylvania. Not sure how they came to have a town named after a planet, but they encourage tourists. In the center of the small community is a six-foot UFO. 

Six miles away from Mars is Evans City, also a borough of Butler County. The Evans City Cemetery and the borough became popularly known as the place where the 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead was filmed. The film's director, George Romero, shot most of the movie in and around Evans City. Sadly, many of the landmarks have been torn down. But if you want to scare yourself silly, pay a visit to the cemetery and have your photo taken. Below is a screen capture from the movie and you'll notice my wife posing by the very same tombstone! In a "Where's Waldo" sort of way, you might be able to find the same tombstone, but it's sure fun looking! There is no address to enter into your GPS for the cemetery so you'll have to travel into the city and ask a local. It appears they are used to out-of-towners asking for directions to the cemetery.

Screen capture from the original movie.

My wife posing before the same tombstone!

























This same tombstone is also in the opening of the movie!

I have noticed within the past year that a couple horror/sci-fi events along the East Coast have attempted to compete against Monster Bash by adding a few guest celebrities that would also make appearances at the Bash, but they never even came close. So if you like Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing Hammer films, the classic Frankenstein, Dracula, Invisible Man and Creature from the Black Lagoon classics, Monster Bash comes recommended. If you are tired of attending those horror conventions that have very little to do with the classics, Monster Bash comes recommended. The official web-site is located below.


Lawrence Elig's sculpture of the Creature From The Black Lagoon was impressive. He was kind enough to allow me to take a photo, and you can find out more about his work at www.lawrenceelig.com

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