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Sci-Fi & Horror Legend “Uncle Forry”, Forrest J. Ackerman Honored by L.A. City Council

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BAY OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 2 copy

Welcome to Bay of the Living Deada twice a month column about the horror genre, past, present and future.

Apologies, ladies and gents. This column is still a wee bit off schedule. I’m still playing catch-up after having been quite ill early this month. But by next month, you should start seeing Bay of the Living Dead on or about the 1st and 15th of each month.

Forrest J. Ackerman, "Uncle Forry", 1965

Forrest J. Ackerman, “Uncle Forry”, 1965

Forrest J. Ackerman (1916-2008) is the spiritual leader of this column. Beloved by millions of us “monster kids” (baby boomers obsessed with classic horror) as Uncle Forry, it was Ackerman who coined the term “sci-fi” way back in 1939. A literary agent by trade, (his clients included legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury), Uncle Forry dedicated his life to what he called “imagi-movies”–horror and science fiction films, along with corresponding works of literature, comic books and art. Never afraid to ask for what he wanted, the young Ackerman contacted movie theaters–and movie studios–and asked if he could keep discarded posters, props and costumes from the films he loved. As early as the 1930s, Universal Studios founder Carl Laemlle instructed his employees to “give that kid whatever he wanted”. Universal was the home of the classic monsters Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman and The Mummy.

By the time he reached middle age, Ackerman’s Los Angeles home was a literal museum dedicated to the movies he loved. He claimed to own more than 100,000 pieces, which seems perfectly plausible to anyone who was fortunate enough to visit his abode, which he dubbed “The Ackermansion”.

For many years Ackerman hosted Saturday morning open houses. Dozens would converge upon the house to gaze at his mouth-watering collection of posters, props and costumes, representing around 75 years of horror and sci-fi film history. When I visited the Ackermansion in 2000 and 2001, I touched the actual cape worn by Bela Lugosi in the original Dracula (1931).

Famous Monsters of Filmland, mid-1960s

Famous Monsters of Filmland, mid-1960s

From 1958-1983, Ackerman served as editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland, a print publication dedicated to classic monsters. To us monster kids, FM was no less than the bible. Ackerman, who had enormous respect for the art of film, made it his personal mission to keep alive the memory of silent film icon Lon Chaney. Chaney, who applied his own make-up, became known as The Man of a Thousand Faces due to his mesmerizing portrayals of The Phantom of the Opera (1925), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and many other one-of-a-kind characters. Ackerman also championed the Fritz Lang masterpiece Metropolis (1926), which he said was his all time favorite film. For monster kids, FM was an important lesson in film history, and Uncle Forry was our teacher. (To see Phantom, Hunchback and Metropolis in their most complete, pristine shape, order the restored versions from Kino Lorber.)

On September 14, the Los Angeles City Council celebrated Uncle Forry’s 100th birthday by renaming the intersection of Franklin and Vermont Streets in L.A.’s Los Feliz neighborhood as Forrest J. Ackerman Square. Los Feliz was Uncle Forry’s home turf.

Without Forrest J. Ackerman, the horror genre might have fizzled out. Thanks to his efforts, films that were made 60-70-80 years ago continue to be shown and appreciated. He brought joy to the lives of many, and we salute this final honor that’s been bestowed upon him.

Thank you to Councilman David Ryu (D-Los Angeles) for introducing the measure and for remembering our Uncle Forry.

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Blu Ray Box cover

Blu Ray Box cover

There’s little suspense in the cliffhanger of an ending in Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice, the first of Warners’ DC Comics Extended Universe franchise. We’ve all seen Superman die before–since when has a little thing such as being deceased kept the Man of Steel down? Besides, Supes (Henry Cavill) is already in the IMDB cast lists for the three (so far) sequels that are being readied for release over the next few years.

And now to pose a question: why does everyone hate this movie so much? Sure, some of the action sequences are a bit hard to follow, shot as they are with too many dizzying quick cuts. And there are a few sequences which make little sense, such as the ghostly appearance by Kevin Costner as Pa Kent–or that bizarre sequence in which 10 year old Bruce Wayne rises in flight as thousands of bats swirl around him.

But overall, B VS S is a vast improvement over the pretentious, overly arty Man of Steel , an infuriating film featuring too many dizzying hand held shots. This time auteur Zack Snyder knows when to slow down to let the actors interact with each other. The film takes it’s time and delves into the lead character’s psyches.

Personally I like the idea of dark, angry superheroes. It gives these characters more depth, more shades of gray, and this humanizes them. I also loved seeing Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) acting, respectively, like an actual journalist and an actual newspaper editor. Having real life journalists like CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien. along with  PBS’ Charlie Rose appear as themselves during interview sequences brought the story into the real world (sort of) and this was a nice touch.

Ben Affleck and Cavill are superb as the two anti-heroes who mean well but who can’t seem to get over their anger issues. Affleck is particularly effective as a haunted Caped Crusader–he’s filled with a chilling rage, unable to heal from the night his parents were murdered. This Batman is a monster right out of a horror movie, and yet his soft side manages to seep through every now and again. This is what a well developed character should be, a little bit of dark and a little bit of light, to give the role some much needed balance.

Jesse Eisenberg is a scene stealer as a madly manic Lex Luthor, determined to bring arch enemy Superman down because he fears the Man of Steel’s God like powers. It’s this off-his-meds Luthor who moves the story forward, kidnapping Ma Kent and resorting to blackmail which gets the two anti-heroes fighting to the death–its a three way battle between Superman, Batman and the terrifying monster Doomsday.

B VS S is beautifully shot. Dark and Gothic looking, its an unsettling film which shows how thin the line between good and evil actually is. It’s a superhero thriller re-imagined as a monster movie.

Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice is now available in digital formats. Be sure to check out the Ultimate Edition on Blu Ray.

 

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David Elijah Nahmod

David Elijah Nahmod

I, David-Elijah Nahmod am a Queer, American/Israeli dual national of Syrian descent who has lived in New York City and Tel Aviv.
Currently in San Francisco, my eclectic writing career includes LGBT publications (news and entertainment) and monster magazines. In 2012 I was voted Film Reviewer of the Year at the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Film Awards.
Look for me in Bay Area Reporter, Hoodline.com, South Florida Gay News, Echo Magazine, Outfront, Scary Monsters Magazine, Videoscope, and, of course, Broke Ass Stuart, (I'm so broke it's SCARY!)
Now, let's watch a horror movie!