Famous Monster: Forrest J Ackerman
01/04/2009 . Source: Geoff Willmetts
pub: Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment KAL8009/B001NGGBB2. 48 minute film with extras. Price: £12.99 (UK).
I have to confess two things about Forrest Ackerman that I never liked. His coining 'Sci Fi' in 1954 as a pun for 'Science Fiction' which unfortunately the mass media took into its vocabulary and we've been trying to correct ever since for its cheap intonation. Then there was his bad puns in Famous Monsters Of' Punland...excuse me, 'Filmland'.
Then again, when I pulled the odd issue from a poor circulation in the UK in the 70s, I obviously wasn't the sixteen year-old American audience it normally catered for and although I was envious of the ads it and the other Warren Publications carried.
Unless you've been living on the farside of the Moon the past couple centuries then you must have heard of Forrest J Ackerman let alone his Science Fiction collection which those who saw it were extremely envious of what he accumulated over the years. This film shows how he met everyone from HG Wells to becoming literary agent for over three hundred authors. With the latter, you wouldn't have become that unless you were a nice guy so yeah, Forry is one of us. Indeed, probably the original one of us and you have got to have respect for him when he died December 2008 at the grand old age of 92.
This film is really a homage to Forrest Ackerman's life with contributions from the likes of John Landis, Joe Dante, Roger Corman, Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen amongst others. You need to pay attention to the screen and the various backgrounds these people are interviewed on and the various collections and props they contain. The audio commentary explains that not all of these folks were in their own homes so not all their own stuff but its still jaw dropping stuff to see and I'm saying that as someone with my own elaborate collection.
Oddly, there isn't much directly from Ackerman himself in the film but considering his age and fragility when this was filmed, that is understandable. There is a lot of information that you might not know about him. Did you know his dad was the architect who designed the Bradbury Building? Don't look puzzled. You would have seen it in 'Blade Runner' and other films. Forry's middle name is actually Clark and the 'J', no full stop, is from Jehovah. Why? Beats me.
I was intending to watch this DVD over a couple days but when it ended, I went over the extras which after the audio commentary filling in some of the gaps the errors the film crew made, like omitting Forry's wife's name, Wendayne, until much later than they should have then suddenly became even more interesting. As with all such documentary recordings, far more is made than what got into the final version and much of it is in. We have Ackerman's memories of Fritz Lang and Bela Lugosi and his discovery that Sammie Davis Jr was a fan of 'Famous Monsters'.
There are also a couple impromptu interviews with Grace Lee Whitney and Caroline Munro, who clearly isn't ageing at all. There is also a look around Forry's smaller collection and that of Dan Roebuck's which I found jaw dropping but wouldn't want to be in when the lights went down. If ever you want some reassurance that your collecting habit is only just a symptom of your interest in Science Fiction then its nice to know that there are others far worse than yourself.
I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by this DVD and how much we owe Forry Ackerman for setting the pace for SF in the USA.