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Famous Monsters of Filmland...A History

April 19, 2009

Famous Monsters of Filmland was a genre-specific film magazine started in 1958 by publisher James Warren (see Warren Publishing) and editor Forrest J Ackerman.

Magazine History (1958–1983) Famous Monsters of Filmland (which quickly became known to fans as simply FM[citation needed]) was originally conceived as a one-shot publication by James Warren, with no discernible future[citation needed], published in the wake of the widespread success of the "Shock" package of old horror movies syndicated to American television in 1957. But the first issue, published in February 1958, was so successful that it required a second printing to fulfill public demand. Its future as part of American culture was immediately obvious to both men. The success prompted spinoff magazines such as Spacemen, Famous Westerns of Filmland, Screen Thrills Illustrated, Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella.

FM offered brief articles, well-illustrated with publicity stills and graphic artwork, on horror movies from the silent era to the current date of publication, their stars and filmmakers. Warren and Ackerman decided to aim the text at late pre-adolescents and young teenagers.

In the pages of FM, Forrest Ackerman promoted the memory of Lon Chaney, Sr., whose silent works were mostly beyond the accessibility of fans for most of the magazine's life, but were a great influence on his own childhood. He also introduced film fans to science fiction fandom through direct references, first-person experiences, and adoption of fandom terms and customs. The magazine regularly published photos from King Kong (1933), including one from the film's infamous "spider pit sequence", feaured in Issue #108 (1974) [1][2] which, until Ackerman discovered a photo of a spider in the cavern setting, had never been proven definitively to have actually been filmed(see "King Kong Urban Legends").

FM's peak years were from its first issues through the late 1960s, when the disappearance of the older films from television and the decline of talent in the imaginative film industry left it with a dearth of subject matter acceptable to both editor and fan. Warren and Ackerman created a jump in issue numbering from issue 69, which was printed in September of 1970, to issue 80 in October of 1970. They did this (according to the editorial in issue 80) because it brought them closer to issue 100, justifying the numerical jump because of the publishing of ten issues of the short-lived companion magazine 'Monster World' as issues that 'would have been' Famous Monsters issues. During the '70s, the magazine came to rely heavily on reprints of articles from the '60s. In the early 1980s, the magazine folded after Warren became ill and unable to carry on as publisher, and Ackerman resigned as editor in the face of the increasing disorganization within the captainless Warren Publishing Company. The magazine stopped publication in 1983 after a run of 191 issues.

The magazine directly inspired the creation of many other similar publications in the ensuing years, including Castle of Frankenstein, Cinefantastique, Fangoria, The Monster Times, and Video Watchdog. In addition, hundreds, if not thousands, of FM-influenced horror, fantasy and science fiction movie related fanzines have been produced, some of which have continued to publish for decades, such as Midnight Marquee and Little Shoppe of Horrors.

Revival (1993–Present)
The magazine was resurrected in 1993 by a New Jersey portrait photographer and monster movie fan named Ray Ferry. Ferry decided that the trademark for the title Famous Monsters of Filmland had not been "maintained" under law, and he eventually filed an "intent-to-use" with the trademark office without notifying Ackerman or the trademark's owner and creator, Jim Warren. Ferry approached Ackerman with a suggestion of his (Ferry's) resuming publishing FM on a quarterly basis with Ackerman as editor-in-chief for a fee of $2,500 per issue. Starting at issue #200, the new Famous Monsters acquired subscribers and over-the-counter buyers who believed they would be reunited with Ackerman in print. In fact, Ferry wrote many of the articles himself in the style of Ackerman, and heavily edited and even rejected contributions from Ackerman.

In an effort to help Ferry finance his full-time efforts on behalf of FM, Ackerman agreed to a reduced editor's fee of $1500 per issue. But Ferry failed to pay Ackerman for his services on four consecutive issues, continued to reject Ackerman's contributions, and Ackerman finally quit his association with Ferry and the magazine. Other than removing Ackerman's name from the masthead, Ferry did nothing to advise readers that they were no longer reading material by Ackerman or written under his aegis, and instead adopted Ackerman's style and trademarked (and well-maintained) pun-names. Ordered to desist by Ackerman, Ferry refused and a bitter feud ensued, leading to legal action by Ackerman.

Libel Lawsuit
In 1997, Ackerman filed a civil lawsuit against Ferry for libel, breach of contract, and misrepresentation; Ferry had publicly claimed that Ackerman’s only connection with the new FM was as a mere hired hand and that Ferry “had to let Forry go” because he didn’t do any writing or editing for the magazine. Ferry also claimed rights to pen names and other personal properties of Ackerman. On May 11, 2000, the Los Angeles Superior Court jury decided in Ackerman's favor and awarded him $382,500 in compensatory damages and $342,000 in punitive damages. [1] [2] This verdict was appealed by Ferry, but the verdict was upheld by the Appellate Court of California, on November 12, 2002. [3] Faced with judgements in Ackerman's favor, Ferry quickly filed for bankruptcy. It has been rumored that massive legal bills contributed to Ackerman gving up most of his famed collection and beloved "Ackermansion". Actually, immediate health issues made it impossible for Ackerman to maintain his 18-room house at the time. At 86 years old, Ackerman moved with a small portion of his collection to the "Acker-mini-mansion" in the Hollywood foothills.

As of 2007, Ferry has been allowed to continue to publish issues of FM due to lack of efforts on the part of bankruptcy trustees and Ackerman's lawyers to force the sale of the trademark or any of his personal assets, or to attach his income. He has also not paid any of the $720,000-plus cash judgment against him, and the court shows no evident interest as of the end of 2007 to force him to do so. Ferry has additionally established a website on which he periodically posts outrageous and incredible attacks on Ackerman and (largely unnamed) supporters. At one time shortly after the final Court ruling against him, he posted that he was being forced into hiding by a dangerous group consisting of Ackerman, Ackerman fans, and al-Qaeda, which remained online unchanged for about six months. More recently, he has posted that he may be unable to continue publishing the magazine, which he now calls "Filmland Classic Monsters", pending outcome of a lawsuit he plans to file on his own, representing himself, against his former lawyer, the judge in the original lawsuit, and the bankruptcy trustee, accusing them of a conspiracy to harm with specific torts accused to each of them on the site. On 03/25/2009 a injunction was issued barring Ferry from using the "Famous Monsters of Filmland" name on publications and merchandise as well the internet in a temporary injunction. As of 03/27/2009 he has taken down the Famous Monsters website out of compliance to the temporary order.

King Kong Urban Legends
Ackerman would frequently publish photographs and art from a famous film made in 1933. One of these depicted a large spider and a lizard from a scene deleted from Kong. Ackerman allegedly claimed at one point that the lost scene was present in the original run in the Phillipines. He also was the source of the urban legend of an alternate ending to Kong's third movie, making some film buffs dispute most stories of his concerning film editing of Kong films in Asia.

Forrest J Ackerman, died prior to midnight on Thursday December 4th 2008. On the night of his death, he was with his personal caregiver and die-hard fans. Ackerman had requested to leave the hospital and return to his Los Angeles bungalow at 4511 Russell Avenue. At the time of his death he still possessed numerous items of rare science-fiction and fantasy film memorabilia, much of which is to be auctioned off in April 2009.

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