AWESOME-tober-fest 2008!!! A Look Back at the Crestwood Monster books
Welcome to AWESOME-tober-fest Week 5!!! I revealed yesterday that there will be an article a day starting yesterday, so here’s today’s installment. FYI…I got sick yesterday afternoon. So I want you to know the Herculean effort it took to get this article out. That’s the kind of sacrifice I do for you, my readers.
Today, I want to talk about the the keystone topic I’ve wanted to talk about all month. It’s a series of books I remember vividly from elementary school. I finally acquired copies of the first six books in the series late last year. It was late enough that I didn’t really get a chance to talk about them last Halloween. However, now I’ve had a year to look at them so let’s take a stroll down memory lane at the Crestwood House Monster Series.
I have a very vivid memory of checking these books out from the HW Gwin Elementary school library. The vibrant orange color of the cover and the cool monster subjects made them a popular choice amongst my friends. Each book focused on a monster or creature from a movie or series of movies. The first six books included Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf Man, King Kong, Godzilla and Mad Scientists. Most were published in the late ’70s and early ’80s. As you can see, they are also the inspiration for my blog header this Halloween.
What was in the books? Well, other than a treasure trove of pictures, the books took 3-5 movies based on the movie monster and pretty much described to you the story of the movies. Let’s start with two of my favorite books.
The Wolf Man and Dracula books were my favorites as these were also my favorite movie monsters. I must have checked out these books a hundred times. Dracula uses the familiar visage of Bela Lugosi as its cover, but for some reason, The Wolf Man eschews a picture of the more famous Lon Chaney Jr version of the monster for that of Henry Hull in the lesser known Werewolf of London. Anyway, the Wolf Man covers the titular Wolf Man movie with Lon Chaney, the Hull starring Werewolf of London as well as quick looks at I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Frankenstein vs Wolf Man, Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein and House of Frankenstein. Lon Chaney starred as the Wolf Man in both those last two pictures.
The Dracula book obviously starts with Lugosi’s original movie then covers a variety of other films like Son of Dracula, Mark of the Vampire and Nosferatu. It even goes into the Hammer films with Christopher Lee as Dracula as well as the vampire-like creatures from The Omega Man with Charlton Heston. There are tons of good pictures and it’s great to see all the different movies staring the famous Dracula.
The Frankenstein book talks about the Universal pictures the most, but there is a very interesting section about Thomas Edison’s silent 1910 version of Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein. Edison’s version is considered the first Horror movie and was actually found by a film collector many years ago. The story of the film itself is pretty interesting, too. You can read about it here. There are also pictures of a few made for TV movies as well as the Munsters.
King Kong follows the original but also covers King Kong vs Godzilla as well as the Jeff Bridges/Jessica Lange 1977 remake.
These last two of the first six are the least interesting to me. Godzilla covers the original movie, Gojira, as well as many of the sequels starring such famous foes as Mothra, Mecha-Godzilla and Rodan.
The cover of Mad Scientists features Boris Karloff in the film The Mask of Fu Manchu. The rest of the book covers many different versions of Jeckyll & Hyde. It finishes up by discussing several old zombie movies as well as a few Frankenstein movies.
These first six installments must have done well because there were several more series after this. I don’t have any of the other books, but I found a few on other sites.
This is a later printing of the Frankenstein book from the site Branded in the 80s. It lists many more subjects that were released after the initial six. I would love to see the Frankenstein vs Wolf Man book.
Here’s the book on the mummy from Neato Coolville’s Flickr site.
As you can see, The Mummy is actually a hardback book (so is the one from Branded in the 80s). All the ones I remember from elementary school were hardbacks, but I was unable to find any of them. All the ones I acquired are the paperback versions (which, if I’m not mistaken, were first).
Many years later, Crestwood would release colorized versions of the hardback books where they would eliminate the characteristic orange and black colors for a color scheme that can only be described as insanity incarnate. Check them out here (from Plaid Stallions):
It looks like some sort of man-child with only 6 fingers and ADD colored those books. Yikes, they are HORRID!
Later incarnations of the series would also change color schemes, to a purple/red and be re-christened Crestwood Movie Monsters. Here’s a pic of the Creature from the Black Lagoon book from the Movie Monsters series.
I’ve also seen the Dracula’s Daughters book.
Well, that about covers it for the Crestwood Monsters series of books. It took me forever to actually find out what these were called. I was Googling different variations of “orange monster books” for like three months before I finally found out they were called Crestwood Monsters. Like I said, I love these books, it’s fascinating to read what is essentially the history of these monsters on film. Next time I go back to Birmingham I may make a trip to Gwin to see if I can find these at that library. It would be so awesome if they still had them.
So, despite being sick, I was able to finish this article. Hope you enjoyed it.