Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Collectible Time #49: Chaney Phantom of the Opera Film Cell Plaque and Art of Horror Hardback

My dear friend of three-plus decades, Brett Turner, surprised me with two, artistic Christmas gifts: the first of which is an exquisite, framed Lon Chaney Sr. "Phantom of the Opera" Film Cell Plaque. 

The piece measures 11" x 13" and contains three film cells, of which no trio is alike (and are accompanied by two common-denominator, bottom inclusions), snipped from the 1925 Universal Studios adaptation of Gaston Leroux's dark romance. The three, clipped images are stationed in such a way so that a spray of light gives them extra-dimensional depth. (I lucked out to receive an absorbing "Masque of the Red Death" insertion among my group.) To the left of the cells is an imposing 4" x 5" still of Chaney as Erik, which projects the tormented pathos that only the legendary silent-screen star could invoke.

Without question, this official, Chaney Entertainment Certificate-of-Authenticity collectible is one to treasure: a stylish commemoration of one of the greatest tales--and performances--ever to kiss celluloid.

Brett's second gift is also macabre based: a copy of Stephen Jones' "An Illustrated History: The Art of Horror".

It's amazing how many striking depictions this hardback volume holds, and editor Jones has filled it with nothing but the finest in offbeat imagery. 

The included poster artwork alone is astonishing, commencing with the silent era and reaching into the  '30s and '40s when some of our greatest monster movies were made, and stars like the Chaneys; Henry Hull; Boris Karloff; and Bela Lugosi became a marketed focuses. However, the Gothic revival that covered the '50s through the early '70s is also represented, wherein headliners like Vincent Price; Christopher Lee; Peter Cushing; and Oliver Reed received equal attention. Even eerie imagi-movies of the '70s and '80s, like "Alien"; "Predator"; "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"; and "They Live", are honored by several unconventional designs.

As you can surmise, Jones divides the volume into various categories for convenience. Behemoth-movie artwork, catering to the likes of Kong, Godzilla and Gorgo, occupies one part, as does alien-invasion fiction like John W. Campbell's "Who Goes There?" Jack Finney's "Body Snatchers" and H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds".  Undead classics, including Lugosi's "White Zombie" and Karloff's "Walking Dead", cover another area, and yet another chapter focuses on such blood-sucking favorites as "Brides of Dracula" and "Nosferatu '22". There are even sections on Halloween promotions; ghosts; witches; psycho killers; Lovecraft lore; plus magazine, kiddie, comic-book covers and more.

What I appreciate most about this 10" x 11" coffee table edition is the numerous, global samplings it contains, referencing alternate titles and visual offshoots for many of them. The embellishing text, in this regard, is most insightful and supplied by such writer/historians as David Skal; Jamie Russell; Gregory Mank; Kim Newman; Richard Dalby; Barry Forshaw; Lisa Morton; S.T. Joshi; Robert Weinberg; and monster-artist Bob Eggleton (whose Godzilla/Ghidrah "Clash of the Kings" is guaranteed to knock your socks off). There's also a foreword by Neil Gaiman and intro by Jones. The overall, comprehensive effect should cause even the most well rounded fans to pause in awe.

As a visual and edifying feast, "Art of Horror" has no equal: a veritable museum in printed form and a dizzying tour de force for those who crave decades crammed of creature-inspired creativity.

I thank Brett from the bottom of my heart for knowing me all too well. These masterful additions are most appreciated and will invigorate me for years to come.

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