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Aug 21, 2015

1957. That must have been a helluva year to be alive. I wouldn’t know – my birth was still a few years off. But coming on the heels of the comic book industry nearly being wiped out by Frederic Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent and the subsequent Kefauver hearings in the U.S. Senate, a few in the media still dared to challenge the country to consume something more than pablum: Monsters!

MARK VOGER podcast excerpt: "I was a Catholic schoolboy and monsters confused me. The nuns and the priests were always beating it into us -- literally, with rulers -- saying, 'We're the one true church! Everybody else is wrong; we're right!' Then I would see a Dracula movie and Peter Cushing would whip out a crucifix. They'd play church music; Dracula would recoil in horror and I thought, as a 6-year-old, 'I guess the nuns are right! We are the one true church because you can't stop Dracula with a gun, but if you whip out a crucifix, he's toast!'"

After lying low for several Communist witch hunt years, movie monsters made a big comeback in 1957: I Was a Teenage Werewolf with Michael Landon was first, followed by Curse of Frankenstein the very next week.

Not even TV was safe, as Screen Gems rolled out its “Shock!” package of 52 Universal horror films to independent and hard to find UHF stations.

MARK VOGER podcast excerpt: "Bill Cosby is in the book because I have a section on Boris Karloff, probably the greatest monster star of all time. He was on 'I Spy,' so I have a quote from Bill Cosby remembering working with Karloff."

As Mark Voger writes in his new book, Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America 1957-1972, “1957 was the nail in the coffin for genre naysayers... Taboos were being broken. The stake had been removed.”

This is a sensational book for its illustrated trip down memory lane aimed at the generations of us who grew up watching late night movie hosts such as Zacherle, listening to Bobby Pickett sing “Monster Mash,” building – and painting! -- Frankenstein Monster scale models, convincing Mom to let us watch “The Munsters,” collecting and trading Topps’ “Ugly Stickers,” and reading Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine or my personal favorite, The Monster Times. This summer has even echoed those long gone days: Have you heard Fall Out Boy’s hit single “Uma Thurman”? Over and over, it repeats the instantly recognizable riff from “The Munsters” theme song!

MARK VOGER podcast excerpt: "A lot of us, as adults, look back on monster memorabilia and we refer to it as the porn of our childhood. When we got a new issue of 'Famous Monsters of Filmland, the first thing we did was go through it page-by-page and we were like, 'Ooh, look at that! Look at that!'"

Key interview moments:

• 8:45 Squaring a fascination with monsters such as Dracula against the teachings of the Catholic church;

• 16:44 Monster memorabilia was the porn of many a childhood;

• 25:50 Bill Cosby was genuinely scared to death of Boris Karloff when the star of many Universal monster flicks guest starred on an episode of "I Spy" in the 1960s.

Mark Voger Website