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.