Now, this is what hor­ror fans have on their minds when they day­dream about the ear­ly days of Fangoria.  The cov­er alone is a teenage gorehound’s dream come true, anchored by a strik­ing image of pig­head-masked Farmer Vincent from wav­ing his chain­saw at us.  Even bet­ter, that chain­saw appears to be break­ing free of its own sec­tion on the cov­er to loom over the film­strip side­bar in 3-D style.  The oth­er titles that pop off the page — The Howling, Terror Train, He Knows You’re Alone, Conan — provide a heady rush of nos­tal­gia to com­plete the cover’s blitz on the hor­ror fan’s mem­o­ry banks.

Thankfully, the con­tents are as good as the wrap­per in this issue.  The arti­cles on Motel Hell and The Howling open the mag­a­zine with a nice one-two punch.  The for­mer opens with an amus­ing but sad­ly prophet­ic anec­dote about how Motel Hell baf­fled the­ater chain own­ers at a pre-release screen­ing and goes on to allow writers/producers/brothers Steven-Charles Jaffe and Robert Jaffe to lay out all the stum­bles and false-starts this odd­ball favorite expe­ri­ence on its way to the screen (includ­ing Tobe Hooper almost direct­ing it!).  The Howling piece is unex­pect­ed­ly can­did, with Joe Dante and John Sayles freely dis­cussing how they had to rad­i­cal­ly rein­vent Gary Brandner’s source nov­el to come up with a film worth mak­ing.

Just as inter­est­ing as those two pieces is an arti­cle on pseudo-slash­er He Knows You’re Alone.  Director Armand Mastroanni admits he impro­vised a pitch the open­ing scene of the film (a great bit that was lat­er lift­ed for the open­ing of Scream 2) dur­ing a a sur­prise meet­ing with poten­tial back­ers and can­did­ly admits he did some­thing in the horror/thriller vein because it was a com­mer­cial way to get his direct­ing career going.  As the arti­cle clos­es, he express­es the ambi­tion to go beyond gen­re fare and do com­e­dy and dra­ma films — which is iron­ic in ret­ro­spect because he end­ed up almost exclu­sive­ly mak­ing hor­ror and thriller films.

Elsewhere, there is a Terror Train piece by Jim Wynorski — it’s a bit press release-ish but has some inter­est­ing mate­ri­al about the chal­lenges of shoot­ing in and around a real train.  There’s also a sub­stan­tial report on the long ges­ta­tion process of the Conan The Barbarian film, includ­ing details on the many scripts writ­ten, the loca­tion scout­ing chal­lenges and a talk with pro­duc­tion design­er Ron Cobb.  One of the most impres­sive new-film reports is a love­ly piece on The Elephant Man by Bob Martin that offers back­ground on the film, the inci­dents that inspired it and the kin­ship it shares with human­i­ty-mind­ed hor­ror of the 1930’s films its black-and-white style evokes.

The pieces on upcom­ing films are bal­anced nice­ly with a vari­ety of arti­cles ded­i­cat­ed to hor­ror fare of yes­ter­year.  For exam­ple, there is the sec­ond part of an inter­view with 50’s FX man Paul Blaisdell, who bring a like­ably unpre­ten­tious and jokey style to his rec­ol­lec­tions of work­ing on sci-fi and hor­ror quick­ies, and the first part of inter­view with writer/producer Leslie Stevens about his ground­break­ing anthol­o­gy show The Outer Limits.  The lat­ter piece offers much detail on how the show was pro­duced and also includes a repro­duc­tion of a guide­li­nes piece writ­ten for the show’s writ­ers by Joseph Stefano that is inspi­ra­tional in its vision of how sci-fi can be done on t.v.

Another key “oldies” piece is pro­duc­er Alex Gordon’s debut as a colum­nist.  He describes grow­ing up as a ‘mon­ster kid’ in cen­sor­ship-hap­py England, becom­ing a low bud­get pro­duc­er and devel­op­ing a friend­ship with Bela Lugosi.  It’s a charm­ing mini-mem­oir that set the stage nice­ly for Gordon’s lengthy rela­tion­ship with Fangoria.  However, the best of the vin­tage-mind­ed pieces is an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal piece that direc­tor Andre De Toth wrote about mak­ing House Of Wax, per­haps the best 3-D movie ever made.  His mix­ture of elo­quence and sharp wit is cap­ti­vat­ing, as are his sto­ries of work­ing with tem­pes­tu­ous stu­dio boss Jack Warner.

The odd man out here is a piece on Thundarr The Barbarian, a Saturday morn­ing car­toon series whose pres­ence con­jures up mem­o­ries of Fangoria’s mixed-fan­ta­sy-fare past.  However, this piece man­ages to be a win­ner for a few rea­sons.  The first is that the show was one of the dark­est and most off­beat Saturday morn­ing car­toons ever, com­bin­ing sword & sor­cery and post-apoc­a­lyp­tic motifs in a way rarely seen in the kid-vid realm.  It also had added hip­ness thanks to the pres­ence of Howard The Duck/Man-Thing cre­ator Steve Gerber as its sto­ry edi­tor and con­cep­tu­al designs by Jack Kirby and Alex Toth (many of which are repro­duced in the arti­cle).  Gerber is inter­viewed for this arti­cle and does a great job of lay­ing out the show’s many chal­leng­ing ele­ments.

In short, Fangoria #9 is eas­i­ly one of the best ear­ly issues of the mag­a­zine, per­haps the best of its first ten issues.  Sadly, it’s one of the most expen­sive ones to track down as it wasn’t print­ed in high quan­ti­ties and has always com­mand­ed top dol­lar on the collector’s mar­ket (even more so now that all ear­ly Fangoria issues are scarce).  That said, if you’re will­ing to hunt for the ear­ly issues, this one should be on your list as it offers a great ear­ly indi­ca­tion of what this hor­ror mag­a­zine was capa­ble of.