Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Superman Checks In

Just finishing up the addition of Jan Alan Henderson's chapter on Superman & the Mole Men to the manuscript of Forgotten Horrors 5. Busy week overall so far, what with the return of our blues ensemble, Bruton & Price Swingmasters Revue, from the T-Bone Walker Blues Festival at Linden, Texas, and preparations for Saturday's (June 26, 2010) concert by The Self-Righteous Bros. at Arts Fifth Avenue in Fort Worth.

Aiming to add another coupla thousand woids to Forgotten Horrors 5 by day's end, in addition to a couple of magazine pieces and a page or two of comic-book restorations for the Comics from the Gone World series. Meanwhile, check out the comic-book edition of Forgotten Horrors at

Monday, June 7, 2010

Overdue, Yeah, No Doubt

Delinquent at updating this journal, sure enough. Been shackled to the manuscript for Forgotten Horrors 5, all the same. Here to report in brief that I've wrapped the 1949 section as of this evening with a chapter on I Married a Savage ... a presumably lost film starring career stripper Zorita -- primarily a matter of transferring her burlesque-show snake-dance routine to a (melo)dramatic narrative...

And more as things develop. Substantial progress already in place on the sections for 1950, 1951, 1952... you get the idea...

Friday, April 16, 2010

MHP on CSI at S&H Museum: April 17

If you're in shouting distance of the Museum of Science & History in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday afternoon (2 p.m. April 17), drop by and catch Mike Price's open-to-all program on the "Prehistory of CSI," a tie-in with the CSI: The Experience interactive exhibition at the Museum. Mike will be covering a concise history of forensic detection in popular fiction from E.A. Poe and Conan Doyle in the 19th century through such last-century benchmarks as Chet Gould's Dick Tracy and Seabury Quinn's Jules de Grandin tales. Click for more:

Mike has, meanwhile, just finished final edits on his chapter for The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, Vol. No. 10 -- forthcoming from IDW Publishing of San Diego.

John Wooley Weighs In...

Just now received John Wooley's chapter on The Man from Planet X as a key element of Forgotten Horrors 5. A significant piece, indeed, in view of the book's concentration upon otherworldly science fiction as an emerging, ultimately dominant, element of the indie-horror genre of the postwar 1950s.

Genuine pride-of-place, here, in that the modest but aggressively positioned film beat both The Thing and The Day the Earth Stood Still into play as a cautionary space-intruder yarn. About which, more presently.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Iger Comics Sweatshop Scenes

Back to woik on Forgotten Horrors 5, following this digression (below) into another stage of the pre-Code comic-book parody project. Essentially, a Theatre of the Absurd takeoff on the Farrell companies' Fantastic Fears magazine of the 1950s.

But enough such foolishness. Good productive story conference today with co-author John Wooley on Forgotten Horrors 5, which is falling nicely into shape despite real and imaginary distractions on this end of the assembly line. The book should be completed (manuscript and art selections, that is) by summer's end for shipment to Baltimore's Midnight Marquee Press.

Meanwhile: Fantastic Frogs.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

And So Where Was All This Art when the Books Needed It...?

No telling where, that’s where… When George Turner and I pooled our respective archival resources in 1975 to begin building the first Forgotten Horrors book, we found ourselves in possession of plenty of pertinent movie stills and advertising images — materials we hadn’t considered since we’d first stashed ’em away, years before.

Even so, we also turned up subject matter for which no illustrations existed in either collection. We found a photo dealer in Oklahoma (long since defunct) who could provide much pertinent material at a reasonable rate that nonetheless gobbled up our $250 advance from England’s Tantivy Press. This source had a huge collection of movie-still negatives: Our 5- by 7-inch prints were darkroom-fresh. Elsewhere, the 16mm inventory of Cable Films of Kansas City, Mo., yielded not only many rare prints for the viewing but also a wealth of frame enlargements. (Cable Films’ Herb Miller provided a particular rarity in a screening copy of Dwain Esper’s 1934 Maniac.)

Other illustrations came to hand as if by chance: A complete set of lobby cards from Sherman Krellberg’s The Lost City (1935) turned up, for example, at a movie-buff convention in midsummer 1977 at Dallas — a chump-change transaction, and all the better for it. This was our last major art acquisition for the book before we shipped the manuscript to the publisher in October of 1977. A few stragglers fell into place at random.

And of course Tantivy Press and A.S. Barnes & Co. dawdled about at bringing Forgotten Horrors into print. The Tantivy edition surfaced in England before the Barnes edition appeared in America. George Turner and I learned of its arrival not from the publisher — which was struggling with internal conflicts, we learned eventually — but from a hometown librarian who called our newspaper office in Amarillo, Texas, to inquire whether we were the authors of this new book that had just come in: “It’s got your bylines on it, anyhow,” said Librarian Olive Melin. Whereupon George and I telephoned Barnes & Co. to inquire, in turn, whether we might have something due besides a blank stare.

But I digress. So what else is new? Anyhow, the starting point here was a discussion of the wealth of Forgotten Horrors art that has turned up in very recent years. Here are a few such pieces from the earlier years of the survey, each keyed to the title of its pertinent chapter in Forgotten Horrors: The Definitive Edition (Midnight Marquee Press; 1999). The present selections serve to expand upon coverage of Mascot Pictures’ King of the Wild (1931).

More will follow. In due course, of course.

Monday, March 29, 2010

‘Ghost Brain,’ Rampant

...and herewith...

Introduction to “Ghost Brain”

Ever played What’s Up, Tiger Lily? with somebody else’s artistry? The exercise takes its name from a motion picture of 1966, in which Woody Allen substantially rewrote a self-serious Japanese espionage picture as a spoof — closer to Theatre of the Absurd than to outright comedy. The practice is much older than that, of course: Contrived captions for ordinary photographs can only date from the beginnings of photography. And in just the few years preceding Tiger Lily, Harvey Kurtzman had built much of HELP! magazine around newsphotos and movie stills embellished with crazed word-balloons. To say nothing of Jay Ward’s Fractured Flickers teleseries, whose shtik was to dub silent motion pictures with incongruous dialogue.

The comic-book sector of Forgotten Horrors — especially the censor-bait comics that proliferated during the immediate post-WWII years — runs thick with such temptations to commit vandalism. Yes, and why restore or even just rediscover an ineptly written story when one can replace its banal and overobvious dialogue with non-sequiturs and outright groaners?

Such a piece is the anonymously rendered “Ghost Brain,” which comes from a magazine called Weird Horrors (Issue No. 2; St. John Publ.; 1952). Actually, a cloaked-phantom image foreshadowing this yarn dominates the cover of Weird Horrors’ Issue No. 1, while a mere cover-cameo graces the issue in which the story appears. Go figure.

Anyhow, a Tiger Lily’d version of “Ghost Brain” follows — a preview of a book in preparation for Baltimore’s Midnight Marquee Press. (The early volumes in this Marquee series include Scream Chills Illustrated, Carnival of Souls & Other Futile Inquiries, and Michael H. Price’s Great Big Crock of Christmas! — all in the catalogue at

Sunday, March 28, 2010

‘Carnival of Souls’ on Exhibit

Comic-book spinoffs of Forgotten Horrors became a commonplace, more-or-less, after our 4Winds Studio team adapted some of the first book’s movie selections to fit the Prowler series at Eclipse Comics in 1987. (And more about that later.) My first comics project following the Prowler books was a 50-page adaptation of yet another motion picture — and a low-budget indie, at that: Herk Harvey’s dreamlike Carnival of Souls, from 1962.

Carnival of Souls might as well have become a new film by 1990, given its rediscovery in like-new form as a film-festival and art-theatre attraction; the restoration of some misplaced footage; and the participation of director Harvey and leading players Candace Hilligoss and Sidney Berger in the resurrection.

Gordon K. Smith, the enthusiast who had ramrodded the revival, approached me on Harvey’s behalf about tackling a comics adaptation. I began the process and enlisted cartoonist Todd Camp as co-illustrator. The finished graphic-novel takeoff saw print in 1991 as Carnival of Souls, from Malibu Graphics.

Almost a generation later, a digital-art revamp resulted in a new version called Carnival of Souls & Other Futile Inquiries (2009), from Midnight Marquee Press. By spring of 2010, the new edition had landed a Rondo Awards nomination in the Best Horror Comics category. (

Following suit with all this retro-ruckus, a selection of some 40 pieces of the original pen-and-ink art will go on display April 6, 2010, at the Doss Heritage & Culture Center, 1400 Texas Drive, in Weatherford, Texas. ( The exhibition, originally mounted by the Fort Worth Public Library System in connection with the new book, will remain on view at the Doss Center through May 2010.

…and a Few New-Cover Prototypes

These new-cover designs (below) are prototypes in preparation for a proposed boxed-set collection of the Forgotten Horrors books. No telling when that development might take shape — better to get the fifth volume on track, first, and the sooner the better — but such distractions are probably essential to the overall progress. Meanwhile, a quick-sketch rundown of the periods covered in the first four Forgotten Horrors books:

Forgotten Horrors: The Definitive Edition (Midnight Marquee Press; 1999) — Low-budget independent chillers, 1929–1937. From 1929’s Black Waters (English, but filmed in America) up to the edge of a British–European censors’ ban that effectively bottlenecked horror-film production in the United States. Foreword by Mel Brooks. This edition expands upon the 1979 and 1986 editions of Forgotten Horrors: Early Talkie Chillers from Poverty Row.

Forgotten Horrors 2: Beyond the Horror Ban (Midnight Marquee; 2001) — Overlaps with FH: Definitive to commence at 1936–1937, continuing through 1942. Such essential titles as Monogram’s Mr. Wong pictures (Boris Karloff’s refuge from the horror-ban zealots) and Karloff’s resurgence in the genre with The Ape; Bela Lugosi’s stretch of low-budget top billing with The Devil Bat and a string of Monogram Pictures fever-dreams beginning with Invisible Ghost; and Mantan Moreland’s memorable stardom-by-default picture, King of the Zombies. Foreword by Josh Alan Friedman.

Forgotten Horrors 3: Dr. Turner’s House of Horrors (Midnight Marquee; 2003) — Picks up with 1943, continuing into 1946. John Wooley weighs in as co-author; George Turner’s posthumous contributions include extracts from a movie-buff journal kept during his WWII service. Lugosi’s additional Monogram starrers receive due attention, along with such unclassifiable oddities as the surreal comedy How Doooo You Do!!!! and the sporadically weird Lum & Abner series of rustic-hokum pictures. Extensive film noir coverage, as well. Foreword by Terry Pace.

Forgotten Horrors 4: Dreams That Money Can Buy (Midnight Marquee; 2007). A heavy concentration of horror pictures and conspicuously strange movies from 1946–1948, from such obvious choices as Scared to Death and the patchwork exploitationer Outrages of the Orient; to such hard-boiled noirs as I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes and The Gangster; to the birdbrain fantasy Bill and Coo and the black-ensemble hoodoo musical Killer Diller. A concentration of postwar-paranoia pictures (such as The Beginning or the End, a big-studio effort with unusual relevance to the Poverty Row studios, and the atom-scare comedy Who Killed Doc Robbin) sets matters in motion for Forgotten Horrors 5 and its chronicle of a rising infusion of science fiction into cheapskate horror pictures.

Some Random-Choice Cover Images

Some representative book-cover images, here, from the series' 11-year run at Midnight Marquee Press of Baltimore. The publisher has varied the cover-design elements to some extent, however, the better to keep the catalogue refreshed and allow for random inspirations. The Web address is ... as good a place as any to catch up with the series.

Some Words to the Fore — as in Fore–gotten…

...not necessarily to say misbegotten…

And welcome aboard: As George Turner’s and my collaborative Forgotten Horrors project hovers about a 35-year milestone — we started researching the series’ original book of Old Hollywood genre-fied history in 1975 — I find myself carrying on in the familiar directions (onward? upward?) while branching into areas that seem plausible. Comic-book stories, for example. Television and music, to whatever extents make sense. And so forth.

In any event, with a book called Forgotten Horrors 5 in preparation (2010) for Baltimore’s Midnight Marquee Press, the series progresses decisively into a watershed period — the 1950s, I mean — both for the horror-movie racket and for the very concept of horror as a mass-market entertainment commodity. That long coda to World War II served primarily to enshrine Fear as a National Pastime, spreading paranoia as a precondition to prosperity and imposing severe limitations upon Constitutional Freedoms.

A popular tendency to embrace horror (the imaginary kind) as a safety-valve release was countered at every turn by the Dominant Culture’s reassertion of censorship as a Patriotic Ideal. The result was a vicious conflict in Peacetime Homefront America, torn between Free Speech and a book-burning contingent that would have been comfortably at home within the Third Reich. (Yes, and if we whipped the Nazis, then what were we doing appropriating their tactics? Go figure.)

But more about that as we proceed. Some background:

Forgotten Horrors: Early Talkie Chillers from Poverty Row is the title of a book that Hollywood-based historian George E. Turner (1925–1999) and I compiled during 1975–1979, originally for the Tantivy Press of London and A.S. Barnes & Co. of Cranbury, N.J.

Issued in 1979 in England and the following year in the U.S. of A., the book was intended as a self-contained history of North America’s independent, low-budget horror- film scene from 1929 (an earnest start of the talking-picture age) through the genre’s gradual dissipation during 1936–1937. (The decline had more to do with a British–European censorship ban on such American-made films, than with any loss of interest on the part of the American studios or their customers.) Barnes & Co. commissioned a sequel, to be called Human Monsters in the Movies, which was left hanging after Barnes collapsed in 1980.

A new edition of Forgotten Horrors (substantially identical, but with a new cover design and some internal tweaking) arrived in 1986 from California-based Eclipse Books (a.k.a. Eclipse Comics). At Eclipse and affiliated 4Winds Studio, I also helped to develop a series of comic-book stories (including Prowler and Revenge of the Prowler) including adaptations from some of the films covered in Forgotten Horrors. Much of the Prowler back-story, for example, derives from the Halperin Bros.’ 1932 production of White Zombie.

At length, Midnight Marquee Press commissioned a 20th-anniversary version called Forgotten Horrors: The Definitive Edition. This one wrapped shortly before George Turner’s death in 1999. FH: Definitive is a significantly revised volume — topics that had escaped us the first time around, corrections and re-evaluated opinions, and quite a bit of additional photographs and movie-poster art.

While completing that Marquee edition, George and I had begun compiling research and essays for a Forgotten Horrors 2, which fell together during the next few years. Longtime associates John Wooley and Jan Alan Henderson have lent significant assistance since the development of Forgotten Horrors 3 and Forgotten Horrors 4. Which brings us to the gradual progress of Forgotten Horrors 5 as a volume for the bookshelf itself.

The Forgotten Horrors blog will serve, in one respect, to chronicle the progress of Forgotten Horrors 5 — call it a coming-attractions trailer — while providing a practical forum to serve up fresh insights, newfound art, and what-have-you in connection with the earlier books. Some Q&A exchanges may develop, and more power to them. (Of course, the Classic Horror Film Board at has that process plenty well in hand.) Maybe a contest now and again, a la that essential horror-comics blog, The approach here is open-minded: Clean-Slate City.

And yes, the occasional comic-book selection is likely and possibly inevitable, whether from my cartoon studio’s inventory of original material or from a catalogue of restorations and vandalisms that I have committed upon various comics yarns of bygone times. (See for a few appetizers.)

The process begins momentarily. As soon as I can settle on which path to take, for openers… Anyhow — stay tuned, and stay attuned.

— Michael H. Price