Friday, February 16, 2018

Filmfax Magazine Celebrates A Milestone

In 1986, editor Michael Stein introduced us to a new magazine that would preoccupy hundreds -- if not thousands -- of hours of pleasurable reading, saturating my love of nostalgic pop culture. As Stein remarked in his editorial in the premiere issue, "Filmfax is not a 'nostalgia' magazine. Filmfax is a graphic time machine powered by your interest, and the memories and opinions o those who have contributed to our editorial body." If you love those old Universal Studios monster movies, 1950s film noir, The Three Stooges, Space Patrol, interviews with actors and directors like Roger Corman and Julie Adams, this is a great magazine.

I first discovered Filmfax in 1992 when I bought the most recent issue from a vendor at a convention in Baltimore. There was the creature from This Island Earth plastered on the cover, larger than life. There was an article about comic book heroes adapted for the cliffhanger serials, an interview with character actor Turban Bey, an interview with Russell Johnson (Gilligan's Island), an interview with Mark Goddard from Lost in Space and Johnny Gringo, and other engrossing articles. Over time I enjoyed reading an interview with Fess Parker, the making of Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a biography of Hans Corned, a history of radio and television's Dragnet, an interview with Bill Scott (co-creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle), a making-of documentary of Beverly Garland's Decoy, and a rare interview with Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of OZ). 

As a fan boy, the magazine was fantastic. For a generation that grew up with Famous Monsters of Filmland, I could understand how a bi-monthly magazine would become part of my childhood. I remember when one of my high school teachers took the magazine away from me because I was more fascinated in reading an article than classwork in front of me. (He would return the magazine to me a fe ways later but not before confessing that he himself read the magazine and loved those old black and white monster movies.) Over the years I sought out back issues when the pricing was affordable and I am proud to say I now have almost every issue in my collection. For collectors today: The first two issues sell for ransom prices and fluctuate based on market trends -- from $125 to $280. Issues #3 to 14 sell anywhere from $10 to $30. Issues #15 and up can sell anywhere from $3 (sale price) to $5.  

By issue #61 (June/July 1997), I started noticing an editorial change with two issues consisting of VHS/video reviews (possibly because the magazine was swamped with too many complementaries that was necessary to review else the complementaries stopped coming in) and too many articles about Bela Lugosi and Bettie Page to make me question renewing my subscription. Also, there were too many advertisements of products sold by the magazine (not a third-party paid advertiser) that I felt like I was paying for a mail order catalog. Factoid of the day: Most people do not decide overnight to stop subscribing to a magazine -- they simply let the subscription lapse and have no incentive to renew when the time comes around. That is exactly what I did. And for five years I stopped receiving the issues. 

One afternoon at the Monster Bash convention I noticed a vendor liquidating overstock of Filmfax at a rock bottom price of $2 per issue. And there were issues I never received because I let my subscription lapse. After careful review I discovered there were multiple editors over the years and as anyone with an I.Q. above room temperature knows, a magazine is only as good as the editor. So, without skipping a heartbeat, I renewed my subscription.

In full disclosure: Today, with limited time on my hands, I only read one or two articles in each issue. But I find the magazine worthy of subscribing. What arrived in my hands this week was issue #150, a milestone to be publicly acknowledged. Articles in the latest issue include "Space Kidets from the 1950s," an interview with Dick Tracy newspaper strip writer Mike Curtis, an article and interview with Clint Walker, and a biography of Marie Coolidge-Rask, who wrote the photoplay based on the famous London After Midnight motion-picture. There are a few other articles but I had to skip past seven pages of advertisements to get to the table of contents...

The magazine is no longer published six times a year. Now available as a quarterly magazine, you can subscribe at the price of $30 per calendar year or $55 for two years. There is an official website that you can make payment and sign up for a subscription,, which has not been updated since issue #127, but do not let that throw you off. The company is reliable and your subscription is ensured. Collectors also have the option of purchasing back issues for $3 or $4 a piece using an order form in their latest issue. (And a sale where you can buy ten issues for $50 postpaid, 20 issues for $90, etc.) Do not ask me why it is cheaper to buy back issues than to subscribe to today's issues but it is what it is. Many of those back issues are gems. The sale price starts with issue #15 (which features an interview with Mel Blanc) and I would recommend you start there and work your way up. A bargain of a price for hundreds of hours of satisfying reading.