Guest writer STEWART KING told us he had Shock Theatre bubblegum cards from the 1970s. We said give us a look and tell us more.
It’s difficult to talk about anything that happened more than a decade ago without sounding like a dewy-eyed old fart but WTF. Notice how I use a contemporary abbreviation there to take the curse off this bit of nostalgia. I am going to talk about the 1970s though.
To be fair, I was only in a pair of shorts for most of the ’70s although, if I had the choice of being an adult in any decade, it would definitely be the one I’d choose. So many movies with ‘they all die’ endings and all that alcoholic excess really appeals to me.
If you were growing up in the seventies, horror meant Satanic Dennis Wheatley novels, the Pan Book Of Horror Stories edited by Herbert van Thal, BBC colour adaptations of M R James (‘A Warning To The Curious’ my particular eerie fave) and Doctor Who at its horror-influenced best. ‘The Daemons’ for example, ‘Horror Of Fang Rock’ and the ultimate melding of horror themes (Phantom Of The Opera, Fu Manchu and Jack The Ripper) in ‘The Talons Of Weng Chiang.’ God bless the then script editor and writer Robert Holmes. How I wanted to be Tom Baker but then, all of a sudden, I wanted to be Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee. They seemed to be constantly surrounded by scantily clad women. I wasn’t quite sure why that was a good thing but a latent instinct told me it most certainly was.
More than anything else, the seventies meant Hammer. I particularly enjoyed David Saunderson’s piece on the Alan Frank books that documented Lee and Cushing’s contribution to horror cinema with photographic almost pornographic gusto. Along with Dennis Gifford’s Pictorial History Of Horror Movies/Monsters Of The Movies and The Hamlyn Book Of Horror these books were schoolbag currency. Producing such glossy, gory tomes in the playground could immediately attain you kudos and infamy. The other book I managed to get under my parents’ radar was Vampire Cinema by David Pirie. Unusually this also documented Euro horror movies so there were plenty of nude pictures to display during playtime. At eight years old I was the classroom horror smut peddler and it’s an achievement and feeling of power I’ve never quite attained in my adult life. Even being the first to offer up the sex scene in James Herbert’s ‘The Rats’ didn’t quite cut the mustard.
A year prior to that though was a very defining moment in terms of kick starting the sick puppy sense of humour that informs my horror writing. It
was 1976 and Topps bubblegum released their Shock Theatre series of Hammer horror collecting cards. I think they were five pence for a pack of five (although I’m quite happy to be corrected) and once you’d eaten or disposed of the vile pink stick of cardboard gum you could pore over red-framed gory colour stills of Dracula and his voluptuous victims with corny captions underneath. On the back was a little info about the movie the image was taken from and a ‘Shocking Laffs’ joke. I never looked back.
In 1976 Hammer was winding down its output with ‘To The Devil A Daughter’ but we still had the classic first TV series of ‘Hammer House Of Horror’ to look forward to in 1980. But even with the advent of more hardcore fare on VHS, Hammer remained part of my staple diet.
Before the fun of video nasties let alone multi layer blu-ray DVD I had to content myself with a super 8 projector and buy ten-minute reels such as ‘Castle Of Death.’ This was actually the opening sequence to ‘Vampire Circus’ and featured the death of Count Mitterhouse (Robert Tayman). Moreover, it featured the sex scene between him and Domini Blythe (RIP). When I saw the whole movie I was disappointed at how little the couple featured in the remainder of story. For my money, although it may have something to do with my Super 8 upbringing, the opening is still the best segment.
I’ve still got an almost full set of these Shock Theatre cards and The Spooky Isles has asked me to scan and share. So, without further ado, here is a selection.
They’re well-loved but redolent of a time when simple horrific childish pleasures were a little more innocent.
STEWART KING is an editor and horror journalist who has written for The Spectator and HuffingtonPost. He is also the author of blackly funny gore novellas – X FACTOR ZOMBIE MASSACRE, BLOODBATH ON THE TITANIC and STRICTLY CHAINSAW PSYCHOS from Endeavour Press. An omnibus of these first three stories – TRIPLE FLESHBURGER WITH FRIES – is now available. Just out to celebrate Her Majesty’s sixtieth year is the rabid gore fest DIAMOND JUBILEE APOCALYPSE. Get his books from Amazon HERE. You can stalk him on Facebook and Twitter: @XFactorZombies