Rants, raves, grunts, groans, and growls from the mind that brings you the world's most unique and collectible Halloween masks and props! The Caretaker is about to unleash his spooky and often unspeakably fun-filled thoughts onto these very pages! Be sure to check back often for helpful tips, info, display ideas and maybe even a sneak peak at the newest monstrosity cooking in the DDI lab. You just never know what insanity will come spilling out of... The Caretaker's Brain!
Few things symbolize the incredibly cool monster craze that rocked the sixties and seventies like a rubber monster mask. Sold from the pulpy pages of our favorite horror magazines and comics, these intensley stylized, well designed characters seemed to jump right off the page at you. With colorful and enticing captions like, "Eerie green skin, black twisted hair, yellow teeth and a staring eye" and "Drives girls crazy, be a big hit, make everyone shudder in fright", what kid could resist? An entire generation of monster lovers were permanently frozen in their adolescent tracks. Most of which have yet to free themselves... or care to!
A few years back, Don Post Studios re-issued their classic Universal Monsters "Calendar Masks" proving that old habits die hard. The pioneering company known for the coolest Halloween masks around, decided to un-earth this incredible collection of horror icons from the 60's and re-release them in a high quality collector series. Word of the re-issue spread so quickly and was so highly anticipated that pre-sales ear-marked a substantial portion of the limited run.
Don Post Studios entrusted yours truly with the extremely gratifying task of re-tooling each classic mask as needed. A fair amount of them considering their age and rarity. Almost all of the original molds were long gone, as were the original tooling masters. As far as original pulls... good luck! We're talking close to 40 years! 40 years of drying, cracking, hard to find classic monster rubber! Most of the original sculptures in this series were courtesy of Patricia Newman. The Don Post legend who also sculpted Creepy, Eerie and others! Her unique style and talent brought a realistically cool dimension to that golden age of Post Halloween masks... so many Moons ago.
There I was, strolling into Don Post Studios one day, where I'd meet with Don Jr. and discuss my next project. Suddenly something catches my eye from the corner of the shop. Sitting there on a rickety sculpture stand is this clay head form that resembles something I haven't seen in some serious years. As I inspect the shape I begin to realize what it is, or once was. "Hunchback?" I ask, hoping that I'm right and this thing is what I think it is. "We're re-releasing the Universal Monster masks from the 60's and need to re-tool a bunch of them." "Really, who's doing it?" "Don't know yet." "Ya you do...me!" I met with Don and let him know that I would gladly lend my services and thought it best that I start right away!
Since the original molds and tooling masters didn't exist for the majority of the line, it was decided that clay positives would be produced from smaller deteriorated latex and polyfoam original versions. These pieces were extremely rare and quite small. The masks were designed to fit snug like a prosthetic when first sculpted, so enlargements were factored in for the re-issue. Each mask would eventually be priced around a hundred bucks retail, so they had to be well worth every penny of it!
The enlarged clay versions had a basic form and shape but were void of any detail. It was like looking at a smooth, flat, mono-tone Halloween Mask that lacked any kind of finishing work. It all had to be added back in. Every wrinkle, pock-mark, pore and fold had to be in the exact same location and depth as was once in the original sculpture. The challenging part was matching each tiny portion to its corresponding area. Don and I would meet with Evil Wilhelm and Dante' Renta at different times during each masks sculptural phase. "Evil" was the main collector who initiated the entire project and oversaw every step of it. He supplied most of the original reference masks and photos. He was crucial during the re-tooling. Dante's involvement included the prototype hair work used for reference during mass production plus original masks, photos and unique insite.
All of the re-sculpts needed a fair amount of work. I was amazed at how much detail had actually been lost. Among the most intense were the Creature "A", Glenn Strange Frankenstein, Wolf Man "A" and the Mummy version "B". At times the Mummy was a serious test in patience and on more than one occasion his curse was felt! The reference masks and material were extremely important and aided tremendously when doing the Mummy. We had excellent reference for all the masks. Without it, it would have been almost impossible to get the level of accuracy we were going for. Once molded, a sculpture is "softened" slightly and a generation is lost when the mask is pulled. The detail needed to be over-sculpted back in so the production re-issues would have the same depth and consistentcy as in the originals.
The Creature was the only Calendar Mask that had damage and missing parts from the beginning. The original fin was non existent and needed to be re-created from scratch. It was also necessary to basically re-invent his entire gill structure from the photos and original masks, which in some cases were literally crumbling and falling apart! The Creature never had a full undamaged fin from the very first day of production in the 60's (so they tell me) or the extent of gill detail that Chris Mueller originally sculpted in. According to Don Post lore, the original Creature masks were a royal pain to de-mold and sections of the fin would get hung-up and continually pull out little chunks of plaster. This would cause the molds to break down at an accelerated rate and presto... no dorsal action! Guess what? I was there when they pulled out the first Creature re-issue and even with the slightly added drafting I threw in for good measure, it still put up a fight! After all these years lying dormant waiting in the shadows, watching... REVENGE OF THE CREATURES MOLD!!
Once the Calendar Mask line was produced the masks were boxed and sold with little or no ceremony. An unveiling party at Don Post Studios was discussed but it never happened. The response was bigger than anticipated and we were a little surprised at the reaction after all these years. Many consider the Universal Calendar Mask re-issue a last hurah in the legacy of Don Post Studios. Shortly after their release the legendary Halloween Mask Company was sold.
I think the re-release was a great idea and an even greater experience. It took me way back and I loved every minute of it. Imagine, a line of monster masks that have remained popular for close to 40 years... pretty kewl!
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