Cinema Epoch/Frontline Entertainment

Donald F. Glut is no doubt one of the most significant names in monster movie and fantasy fandom. As a writer, he’s done everything from movie and TV scripts (including two of my favorites, “Shazam!” and “Land of the Lost”), comic book scripts, novels and non-fiction books, short stories, as well as the novelization for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. As a filmmaker, he has recently delved into erotic horror features such as THE MUMMY’S KISS and COUNT DRACULA’S ORGY OF BLOOD. But Don’s movie-making bug originated from a series of amateur films which started in 1953 (at the mere age of nine!) and ended in 1969, all having to do with monsters, dinosaurs and super heroes. The films had been acknowledged in the pages of Famous Monsters and Castle of Frankenstein magazines, as well as in several monster movie books, but rarely seen by the general public. This DVD not only gives us a very cool documentary on Glut and his early monster movie-making days, but also compiles all 41 efforts, with a monstrous (pun intended) amount of other extras.

“I Was a Teenage Movie Maker” is more a less a portrait of a young boy growing up in 1950s Chicago, fascinated by the old Universal horror movies he watched on “Shock Theater,” as well as the then-current fantasy flicks he caught in the theater. Wanting to be able to view these types of films in his own home (this is before they were available for the home market via Castle Films), he set out to make his own flicks on the family’s 16mm camera (and all of Don’s subsequent short films where shot in this format), not only directing them, coming up with the plots (no scripts, as most were improvised), creating the make-ups and camera effects, he was most often the star, getting his neighborhood pals act to in them as well. In such pre-historic tales as “The Earth Before Man” (1956) and “Dinosaur Destroyer” (1959), Don was experimenting with stop motion effects before he knew who Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen where, or how they conceived their creations!

A series of "classic monster" films commenced with “Frankenstein Meets Dracula” (1957) and “Return of the Wolfman” (1957), and when AIP’s youth-aimed drive-in horrors were in vogue, Don did a series of “teenage monster” films, such as “The Teenage Werewolf “ (1959), “I Was a Teenage Apeman” (1959) and “ I Was a Teenage Vampire" (1959). Super heroes and heroes based on 1940s serial cliffhangers were the subjects of most of his more-polished 1960s works. On a visit to California (where he would eventually relocate for good), Don met up with Bob Burns, who would show up in his films with his famous ape and mummy costumes, and donned Superman tights in a recreation of Kirk Alyn’s persona. The friendship with Burns also would lead to getting such serial heavies as Roy Barcroft and Kenne Duncan for one of his films, and most impressively, the legendary Glenn Strange doing a final turn as the Frankenstein monster (wearing a rubber mask) in “The Adventures of the Spirit.”

Glut makes for a lively and very likable interview subject here, talking about these films with the passion and glee he must have had when he originally crafted them as a boy. Often showing off some of the original props and equipment, he recalls all aspects of making these movies, from his influences, to the ambitious camera effects (can you believe he even attempted an “invisible teenager”?), the various filming locations, his move to California and USC film school, and much more. Among the other individuals interviewed for the documentary are Forrest J. Ackerman, Randal Kleiser, Bob Burns, Jim Harmon, Scott Shaw, Paul Davids, Bill Warren, Don’s mom (who made some of the super hero costumes and lensed some of the earlier films!) and a number of friends who acted in them.

All 41 of Glut’s amateur films are included here, separated by category and spread across the two discs. Shot in both color and black & white, the quality on them is pretty good, sometimes hampered by crude lighting or other limitations originating from the original shooting. Since all of the films were shot silent (some of the later films have added narration, dialog and sound effects), newly-scored music can be heard on most of them, but you also have the option of hearing Glut’s insightful and anecdote-filled commentaries on each and every one.

Disc 1 contains the “Dinosaur” films: Diplodocus at Large (1953), The Earth Before Man (1956), Dinosaur Destroyer (1959), The Time Monsters (1959), The Fire Monsters (1959), The Age of Reptiles (1960), Time Is Just a Place (1961), Tor, King of Beasts (1962) and Son of Tor (1964) (the latter two boast a King Kong-like giant ape). Also on the first disc are the “Classic Horror Monsters” films: Frankenstein Meets Dracula (1957), Return of the Wolfman (1957), The Revenge of Dracula (1958), The Frankenstein Story (1958), Return of the Monster Maker (1958), The Teenage Frankenstein (1959) and The Slave of the Vampire (1959).

Moving on to Disc 2 are the films concerning “Teenage Monsters”: The Teenage Werewolf (1959), I Was a Teenage Apeman (1959), The Day I Vanished (1959), I Was a Teenage Vampire (1959), Return of the Teenage Werewolf (1959), The Teenage Frankenstein Meets the Teenage Werewolf (1959), Revenge of the Teenage Werewolf (1960), Monster Rumble (1961), The Invisible Teenager (1962) and Dragstrip Dracula (1962). Also on the second disc are the “Super-Hero” films: Captain Marvel (1962), Superduperman (1962), The Human Torch (1963), The Adventures of the Spirit (1963), Spy Smasher vs. the Purple Monster (1964, a four-chapter serial which was released to theaters and actually played on television), Batman and Robin (1964), Captain America Battles the Red Skull (1964), Captain America vs. the Mutant (1964), Superman vs. the Gorilla Gang (1965), Rocketman Flies Again (1966), Atom Man vs. Martian Invaders (1967) and Spider-Man (1969).

Other extras on Disc 2 include a “Miscellaneous” section with three other of Glut’s short films: Jeepers Creepers Car Chase (1965, which stars TV horror host Fred “Jeepers’ Keeper” Stuthman), Wrath of the Sun Demon (1965, a USC student film which features Bob Burns in the original “Hideous Sun Demon” mask, as well as an appearance by an authentic mutant headpiece from THIS ISLAND EARTH) and For What Purpose? (a 1966 USC student film which actually features no monsters or fantasy characters). Another section of extras includes a trailer for Spy Smasher vs. the Purple Monster, 1962 home movies taken in California which include Forrest J. Ackerman and director Bert I. Gordon, home movies of Ackerman visiting Chicago (watch Forry tear up an issue of rival mag Horror Monsters in a humorously improvised bit), test footage from some of the monster and super-hero films, home movies of the 1964 New York’s World’s Fair, a recent appearance by Glut on Count Gore DeVol’s show, unedited behind-the-scenes footage from six of the short films, deleted scenes and interview footage that didn’t make it into the final cut of the documentary, an image gallery, a filmography of Glut’s amateur films, and a brief “shameless plugs” section.

Anyone remotely interested in the history of monster movies or greatly admires their collection of vintage Famous Monsters issues will want to give this exhausting, all-inclusive compilation of Donald F. Glut’s early fantasy films a look, and I absolutely recommend it to anyone who fancies themselves a true “monster kid!”

For more information on Donald F. Glut, click HERE. (George R. Reis)