Alan Ormsby’s “Movie Monsters” was a 1970’s children’s book that wound up in my young hands by the start of the 1980’s. I suspect that my older brother must have ordered it at school from Scholastic Books (remember them and their in-school sales bulletins?) So by the time it filtered down to me, it already had the “big kid” book mystique in addition to featuring monsters — I was pretty enamored with it even before I sat down and read it through.
And it was a gem. God, I loved this book. (And I wish I’d happened across this on the Internet before Halloween, which was less than a month ago.)
There was a nice rundown of each the major Universal Studios monsters, in language that was easily comprehensible to a young kid. And that was the first time I’d gotten a complete and detailed picture of the movies. (They were well before my parents’ time. And even today, I’m surprised to realize I can’t remember seeing any of Universal’s Gothic monster classics on television. I’m really only getting started on them now, in my 40’s.)
There was a section of the book devoted to how a kid could create monster makeup out of common household substances, like … vegetable oil? Baking soda? Flour? I forget. [Update: it was corn starch! No wonder my costumer friend laughed at me when I told her about this book and told her it suggested corn syrup.] There might have been food coloring involved too; I really can’t remember.
And there was another section devoted to monster-themed magic tricks, as well as the script for a play that you could put on in the backyard. Damn, this book stimulated my imagination. I remember reading about Lon Chaney and Lon Chaney, Jr. and wanting to be them.
Other 70’s and 80’s kids remember this book too. “Mr. Karswell” at the “and everything else too” blog has uploaded a bunch of pages from it; you can find them right here. And there’s another neat rundown by George McGowan over here at “Collecting Classic Monsters.”
There’s actually another book like this that I’d love to run down and post about — “Movie Monsters From Outer Space.” That one, I think, was published in the early 80’s, but that generic title makes it a bit hard to hunt down via Google. If anybody out there has any links or more info about it, I’d be grateful if you sent it my way.