THE FANGO FILES: Issue #04 – An Unexpected Case Of Starlog Envy

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.

11 Replies to “THE FANGO FILES: Issue #04 – An Unexpected Case Of Starlog Envy”

  1. Great site. I’m glad to see someone’s doing this for Fangoria — I’ve been doing a similar thing over at my Starlog Project ( http://www.weimar.ws/wmrstarlog1.html ) for Fango’s sister magazine. I’m going to be looking forward to future Fango Files.
    And for everyone worrying about The Black Hole and Spock in Fango, don’t worry: It gets better around issue #6!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, John. I recently acquired a cache of Starlog magazines so your site will come in very handy for me. I just started reading your Starlog subsite and it’s a winner.

      To anyone else reading this – check out the link John listed above. If you have any interest in learning about Starlog, it’s a great place to start (for future reference, it has also been added to the links page here).

  2. This is a great idea! Both FANGO and STARLOG were important magazines that I loved to read during my childhood and it’s nice to see lots of love for both of them. It brings back good memories. Looking forward to future installments!

    1. Glad you are enjoying it, John. There are plenty more installments in the works.

      BTW, took a look at Radiator Heaven and enjoyed it – it has been added to the site’s links page.

  3. Did the article about Japanese giant robot shows have any information on SPACE GIANTS (AMBASSADOR MAGMA)? Loved that show as a kid. Used to race home from school and flip to TBS to catch it…

  4. Aside from a raggedy copy of issue #1, I have none of these old issues. Seeing them through your eyes thirty years after the fact is like seeing them for the first time.
    You are right, there were way too many cooks watching over my shoulder as the first issues rolled off the press. You read the O’Quinn editorial in #1 — Kerry really did not want to go back on his word.

    Issue #1 was mostly written and designed before I was even hired — Ed Naha and I whipped up a bit of new content at the last minute when the Fantastica court case ended.

    I always hated the repurposed press kit approach, and that’s why I racked my brain to give the Nightwing/Prophecy piece an original spin since I was conjuring it out of thin air, and eliminated such pieces as soon as I possibly could. Even one such piece in a book makes the whole enterprise look shoddy.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Uncle Bob. I’m glad you are enjoying my scribblings about Fango past and I can’t thank your enough for sharing these great behind-the-scenes details.

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