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“Many of the amateur horror movies I made as a kid in Chicago in the 1950s were patterned after the horror pictures made during the 1930s and ‘40s by Universal Pictures and during the late 1950s by Hammer Films . I had seen some of the Universal movies in neighborhood theaters (as Realart reissues) or on local TV’s Shock Theater (as part of Screen Gems’ ‘Shock’ package of films), introduced by horror host Marvin ( Terry Bennett ).
"The Hammer movies, of course, were then something ‘different,’ even though they featured some of the same famous monsters. What especially intrigued me was Universal’s teaming up of their monster characters (as in House of Frankenstein). Consequently, most of these amateur productions featured the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man. Like the Universals, my movies had continuity, one picking up from where the previous entry had left off. Often certain scenes in my films betrayed what movie I had seen the previous Saturday night on Shock Theater. All of these films included my amateur attempts at duplicating what I’d seen in those ‘real’ movies, including mad laboratories and transformations (man into werewolf, bat, etc.).
“The first of this series of movies, shot in color in 1957, had the obvious title Frankenstein Meets Dracula. I played the Monster wearing a standard over-the-head Don Post ‘custom’ Frankenstein Monster mask (which sold back then for a whopping $3.50) and my friend Victor Fabian was Dracula. My family’s basement, decked out with various ‘scientific’ props, became the laboratory. As I then wore braces on my teeth, I tried steering away from playing characters whose open mouths would be seen on camera. In early 1958, I experimented with an improved werewolf make-up, shooting a 16mm test scene of myself as the lycanthrope (braces included) from WereWolf of London, which I'd recently seen on Shock Theater. That same year, braces and all, I -- inspired by Christopher Lee's recent debut performance as the Count in The Horror of Dracula -- played the title role in The Revenge of Dracula. Following Return of the Monster Maker (largely inspired by the recent Frankenstein 1970), in The Teenage Frankenstein (also inspired by the recent Hammer Film The Revenge of Frankenstein, and shot in black and white, like some of the movies I’d seen in theaters and on TV), I played the Monster again, but this time attempting a fairly successful make-up instead of again donning that hot rubber mask.
Don (left) with hero Terry "Marvin" Bennett and friends Dan McCarthy and Joe Kampf in 1958, about the time he made "The Revenge of Dracula," in which Joe played a victim. Dan later appeared in "I Was a Teenage Vampire," "Return of the Teenage Werewolf," "The Teenage Frankenstein Meets the Teenage Werewolf" and "Revenge of the Teenage Werewolf."
Don (center, top row) in "Marvin" mode at his 14th birthday "Shocktail Party" (Feb., 1958) in his Chicago basement.
Guests (clockwise from left) Joe Kampf, Bert Ott, Jim Neveau, Victor Fabian (cut off), Wayne Moretti (cut off),
Gene Gronemeyer, Ray Genovaldi, Paul Klug and Bob Genovaldi all acted in Don's amateur movies.
"Sometimes I had basement screenings of my movies, accompanied by a live 'horror' or 'spook' show (with yours truly impersonating Marvin), patterned after those I'd seen during the late 1950s in Chicago movie houses, like Dr. Silkini's Asylum of Horrors, complete with magic tricks and a blackout, during which the classic monsters stalked into the audience...
“There were two intended Frankenstein movies I never made – Frankenstein vs. the Wolf Man and To Be Frank, the latter planned as a University of Southern California film-school project.
"Below are the plots of all these amateur horror films (for more information, see my books:
The Frankenstein Catalog and The Frankenstein Archive, both published by "McFarland & Company, in 1984 and 2002, respectively).”
“FRANKENSTEIN MEETS DRACULA” (color, 1957):
“RETURN OF THE WOLF MAN” (1957, color):
“THE REVENGE OF DRACULA” (1958, black & white):
“THE FRANKENSTEIN STORY” (1958, black & white):
“RETURN OF THE MONSTER MAKER” (1958, black & white):
“THE TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN” (1959, black & white):
“SLAVE OF THE VAMPIRE” (1959, black & white):
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