Issue #4 of Fangoria was the magazine’s first issue of the 1980’s and the edi­to­ri­al that kicks it off is appro­pri­ate­ly for­ward-look­ing.  In this edi­to­ri­al, Bob Woods tells the read­er “hor­ror is in again” and promis­es the mag­a­zine will be there to chron­i­cle the good, the bad and the ugly as hor­ror makes its way into the new decade.

Unfortunately, there is a seri­ous dis­con­nect between the editorial’s brave tone and the magazine’s con­tents.  The cov­er offers a bet­ter indi­ca­tion of what this issue is real­ly about: it trum­pets a “Spock And The New Aliens Of Star Trek” fea­ture and also men­tions a fea­ture on the robots of The Black Hole and the pres­ence of a “Giant Robot Poster.”  Somewhere along the line in the assem­bly of this issue, Fangoria con­tract­ed a seri­ous case of Starlog envy.

The afore­men­tioned Star Trek fea­ture doesn’t start things on a good note:  like the cov­er fea­tures in issues 2 and 3, it’s a tossed-off arti­cle that reads like a rewrit­ten press release and is dom­i­nat­ed by copi­ous stills instead of text.  Thankfully, the read­ing rapid­ly improves after that.  The next arti­cle is an inter­view with female fan­ta­sy icon Caroline Munro, who describes her­self as “an old-fash­ioned coun­try girl” and describes her jour­ney from con­vent school (!) to modeling/genre film star­dom in an appeal­ing­ly hum­ble and self-dep­re­cat­ing man­ner (no men­tion of Maniac, though, as this inter­view was done before that film).

The remainder of the issue is dom­i­nat­ed by sci­ence fic­tion and the read­ing is pret­ty decent if you enjoy that gen­re.  Don Siegel chron­i­cles his many bat­tles with the stu­dio in a ret­ro­spec­tive inter­view about the orig­i­nal Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, the Black Hole arti­cle offers inter­est­ing info from the team who designed and built the film’s robots and the first install­ment in a series of arti­cles on “ani­mat­ed apes” in cin­e­ma offers a solid his­tor­i­cal piece about the mak­ing of the orig­i­nal King Kong.  Even the arti­cle on Japanese giant robot shows is good, offer­ing a well-informed look at this sub­gen­re and its cul­ture-speci­fic quirks.

However, all the­se arti­cles raise two issues: (a) none of them deal with hor­ror or fan­ta­sy con­tent and (b) they all real­ly belong in Starlog, which is actu­al­ly designed to be a sci-fi mag­a­zine.  Fangoria’s cov­er head­ing from this era might say “Monsters, Aliens, Bizarre Creatures” but the pre­pon­der­ance of dis­tinct­ly sci-fi con­tent sug­gests that there was con­fu­sion over the magazine’s edi­to­ri­al direc­tion or a lack of proper con­tent to ful­fill the magazine’s real intent.  Either way, some­one in a deci­sion-mak­ing capac­i­ty was hedg­ing their bets.

Thankfully, Issue #4 does throw out a few crumbs to its hor­ror-crav­ing con­stituents.  The first is a four-page inter­view with Herschell Gordon Lewis about his career as a pio­neer of gore-dri­ven cin­e­ma.  Lewis spins a bunch of sto­ries that have become famil­iar since this issue first saw the news­stands but it’s always fun to observe a mae­stro of exploita­tion-film huck­ster­ism at play.  This arti­cle appeared before Lewis’s gore-a-thons made their way to VHS so Fangoria was ahead of the curve in offer­ing this trib­ute.

Continuing on the hor­ror tip, there is also an inter­view with Dana Andrews reflect­ing on his work in the Jacques Tourneur clas­sic Night Of The Demon and a vis­it to the set of the orig­i­nal Salem’s Lot minis­eries.  Oddly, Tobe Hooper is not inter­viewed in the lat­ter piece: instead, the focus is pro­duc­er Richard Kobritz, along with oth­er key pro­duc­tion per­son­nel.  Elsewhere, the future of what the mag­a­zine will cov­er announces itself in the “Monster Invasion” news sec­tion: amongst the blurbs of forth­com­ing films and shows are men­tions of Friday The 13th and Scanners.

It’s also worth not­ing that the read­er mail sec­tion fea­tures a star-laden line­up:  Angus Scrimm, Don Coscarelli and Dick Gordon all offer up let­ters of praise while future b-movie auteur Jim Wynorski chews the edi­tor out for the stu­dio-pub­lic­i­ty angle of some arti­cles (a few issues lat­er, he would become a Fangoria scribe).  Another bud­ding gen­re film­mak­er, Fred Olen Ray, chimes in with a let­ter that offers fac­tu­al cor­rec­tions for a past arti­cle that men­tioned Shock Waves.  Ray also announces that he is about to start shoot­ing a film called The Orion Project, which was sup­posed to fea­ture David “Darth Vader” Prowse, Buster Crabbe and Gunnar Hansen all in its cast.  He nev­er released a film with this title or cast but it sounds like The Alien Dead, which did fea­ture Crabbe.

The end result is an issue of Fangoria that is of his­tor­i­cal inter­est yet has lit­tle to offer hor­ror fans.  The magazine’s focus would solid­i­fy a few issues down the line but Issue #4 def­i­nite­ly lan­guish­es in the shad­ow of big broth­er Starlog.