Castle of Frankenstein

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Castle of Frankenstein (issue 10 - front cover).jpg

Castle of Frankenstein was an American horror, science fiction and fantasy film magazine, distributed by Kable News and published in New Jersey from 1962 to 1975 by Calvin Thomas Beck's Gothic Castle Publishing Company. The first three issues were edited by Larry Ivie - who also was cover artist for several early issues - and Ken Beale. From 1963 and into the early 1970s, the magazine was edited by writer-artist Bhob Stewart. Although promoted and sold as a "monster magazine," the readers were aware that Castle of Frankenstein, at the time, was the only nationally distributed magazine devoted to a legitimate and serious coverage of B movies.

Following employment as an editor for publisher Joe Weider, Calvin Beck (1929–1989) entered the monster magazine arena in 1959 with his one-shot Journal of Frankenstein, which had only a small circulation. As an experiment, Beck printed part of the run on slick paper. After a hiatus and a title change, Beck returned with the debut issue of Castle of Frankenstein in 1962.

Beck claimed that since his magazine carried no outside advertising, there was no need for any standardized schedule, so issues were published whenever they were completed, leading to an erratic, irregular schedule. Distribution of issues also varied; while many well-stocked periodical outlets did not carry the magazine, some less-likely outlets (such as grocery stores) had copies available. In addition to its central focus on classic and current horror films, Castle of Frankenstein also devoted pages to amateur filmmakers and a coverage of fanzines. Its advertising pages sold full-length silent feature films such as The Lost World and The Golem.

Contributors[edit]

In addition to book reviews by Charles Collins and Lin Carter, the list of contributors included Barry Brown, Richard A. Lupoff and William K. Everson.

Inspired by the ratings and reviews of films in Cahiers du Cinéma, Stewart introduced a similar rating system with the "Comic Book Council," the first critical coverage of comic books to appear in a national magazine. Commentary and ratings of underground comics were juxtaposed with reviews of mainstream comics. Another key feature was the "Frankenstein Movieguide," an attempt to document all fantastic films seen on television with short "mini-reviews" written by Joe Dante and Stewart. Unlike some genre commentators, these reviewers were not limited only to the monster-style films. Instead, the many brief and tightly-written fantasy film reviews per issue also covered experimental films and foreign art films. The capsule review format enforced a brevity and economy to each review that served as an inspiration to many younger writers.

With new art and reprints of vintage fantasy art, the magazine published such artists as Aubrey Beardsley, Hannes Bok, Harry Clarke, Virgil Finlay, Jim Steranko, Wally Wood and Weird Tales illustrator Matt Fox. To cut costs, color photos rather than paintings were used on the covers of issues six through 14. With issue 11's cover photo of Leonard Nimoy, Castle of Frankenstein was the first magazine to feature Star Trek as a major cover story. Other issues displayed cover paintings by Robert Adragna, Marcus Boas, Bok, Frank Brunner, Maelo Cintron, Larry Ivie, Russ Jones, Ken Kelly, Los Angeles painter Tom Maher and Lee Wanagiel. Interior art included graphic stories by Ivie, Brunner, Bernie Wrightson and the team of Marv Wolfman and Len Wein, plus the first published comics page by Marvel artist-writer-editor Larry Hama.

Castle of Frankenstein also carried an unusual original comic strip, Baron von Bungle, by Richard Bojarski, who gave a humorous twist to the world depicted in Universal horror films. The magazine had a run of 25 issues, plus one annual (the 1967 "Fearbook"), and the final issue was published in 1975. The title was revived in 1999 by publisher Dennis Druktenis. Beck cancelled his magazine not because of poor sales but because he wanted to devote his energy to writing books. During its primary run of publication, Castle of Frankenstein outlasted the vast majority of monster magazines that filled the market for two decades, with the notable exception of Famous Monsters of Filmland.

Books[edit]

Calvin Beck edited this anthology for Ballantine Books in 1962.

Beck's paperback anthology, The Frankenstein Reader (Ballantine Books, 1962), was assembled with an editorial assist by fantasy fiction scholar Haywood P. Norton. The two brought together a roster of vintage horror-fantasy tales by E.F. Benson, Ambrose Bierce, Robert W. Chambers, Ralph Adams Cram, Charles Dickens, Amelia B. Edwards, Katharine Fullerton Gerould, Richard Middleton, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Robert Louis Stevenson and H.G. Wells.

In 1975, Beck wrote Heroes of the Horrors (Macmillan), illustrated biographies of the six leading horror film stars (Lon Chaney, Sr., Lon Chaney, Jr., Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price) and writers such as Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson. The book reworked much information previously unearthed for Castle of Frankenstein articles. Bhob Stewart and Beck then collaborated on a companion volume, Scream Queens: Heroines of the Horrors (Macmillan, 1978), illustrated biographical profiles of 29 fantasy film actresses and directors. The book included one article by the actor Barry Brown, plus research by Drew Simels, author of the TV movie entries in early editions of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide series. With articles on Alice Guy-Blaché, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Veronica Lake, Elsa Lanchester, Agnes Moorehead, Mary Philbin, Barbara Steele, Vampira, Fay Wray and others, Scream Queens: Heroines of the Horrors also incorporated much material from the Castle of Frankenstein files of manuscripts and still photographs. Beck's fourth book, Sense of Wonder, about fantasy films of the 1940s, was never published.

See also[edit]

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