Growing up in the 1970s and ‘80s, author/collector Michael Gingold became obsessed with horror movies and other genre films. This love led him to become a Fangoria writer and then its editor for nearly 30 years, as well as a Rue Morgue contributor. He made that magazine the leading chronicle of all things horror/supernatural and more covering film, television and books for decades.Before all that, he took his scissors to local newspapers, collecting countless ads for these movies. Gingold first began reproducing newspaper ads for ‘80s horror films in the pages of his Xerox fanzine “Scareaphanalia,” which he wrote and self-published for nearly a decade. While still in college, he began contributing capsule reviews to the annual book “Movies on TV” and “Videocassette,” and later did the same for “The Blockbuster Video Guide.” He also wrote full-length reviews for CineBooks’ annual “The Motion Picture Guide,” many of which now appear at the TV Guide on-line movie database.So, when the 50-something hooked out with Matthew Chojnacki from 1984 Publishing, a genre book publisher, they organized a museum-worth of these ads as a visual history and graphic narrative of every kind of horror film, flick and movie.
Besides horror films, Gingold also collected newspaper advertisements for the science fiction and fantasy releases that stoked his passion as a genre fan. So he developed “Ad Astra: 20 Years of Newspaper Ads for Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films,” another year-by-year look at the movies that shaped many childhoods in the ’80s and ’90s.Inside this 270-page book, images for films such as “Star Trek” to “Starship Troopers,” “The Dark Crystal” to “Dark City,” “Blade Runner” to “The Running Man,” “RoboCop” to “Robot Jox,” “The Empire Strikes Back” to “Back to the Future” are all here. There’s alternate artwork for such favorite films, where you can learn the fascinating behind-the-scenes stories of their marketing campaigns, and read the most entertaining and unexpected quotes from reviewers at the time. In addition to 1984 Publishing’s Ad Nauseam and Ad Astra books, Gingold has authored “The FrightFest Guide to Monster Movies” (FAB Press) and “Shark Movie Mania” (Rue Morgue). He’s also contributed to “Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television” (Spectacular Optical). Beside books, his screenplays include “Shadow: Dead Riot for Fever Dreams,” “Leeches!” for Rapid Heart Pictures and the upcoming “Damnation” for director Dante Tomaselli. He has served on juries for festivals including Montreal’s Fantasia, The Boston Underground Film Festival and the Ithaca International Fantastic Film Festival. Gingold recently answered questions by email as to his passion that he now shares with the fan world. Q: How long have you been collecting? MG: I began collecting the ads in 1979, which was a fortunate year to start, since both horror and science fiction were booming in the wake of Halloween and Star Wars. 1979 was the year of “Alien,” “Dawn of the Dead,” “The Amityville Horror,” “Phantasm” and a lot more, and at that point, horror films that might have previously played only in drive-ins and 42nd Street grind houses started getting wider releases in the New York area, making their way into suburban theaters It was an exciting time to be a young horror fan, even if it was a little while before I could actually start seeing the movies in theaters! I kept collecting the ads right up through the mid-2010s, when newspaper advertising for movies pretty much died out. Q: How do you store it? MG: I kept the ads in file folders and large manila envelopes, carefully noting on them what titles were inside. Storing them that way took up a lot less room than keeping them in scrapbooks! Also, putting the ads in scrapbooks would have meant taping or gluing them, which might have led to damage if I took them out later. Maybe I somehow knew I’d be putting them to greater use someday! Q: When did you realize you had a world-class collection? MG: I guess it was around the late 1990s, with the rise of the Internet and people starting to run ads from their collections online. I realized I had compiled the ads for pretty much every horror film that got theatrical release — at least, in the New York area — for the past two decades, and started thinking a book might be a cool idea. And the title of that book was obvious–that came to me right away. I just kept on collecting, hoping I could find a taker for the book someday. Q: How did you organize it? MG: My publisher Matthew Chojnacki and I decided we should organize the book chronologically, year by year, so readers could see the progression of both the genre and the way it was advertised over the years. With the addition of “Ad Nauseam II,” and now with the expanded version of the first book, you can see how horror and its promotion evolved over a 40-year period. Q: What are your favorites? MG: There are so many that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I do especially like a couple of reissue ads from the ’80s that had a humorous spin to them. In 1981, The Blob and Son of Blob were rereleased on a double bill, not long after “Who Shot J.R.?” mania had swept the country. Since Larry Hagman, who played J.R. on “Dallas,” directed “Son of Blob,” it was described in that ad as “The Movie J.R. Shot”! Then there’s a midnight-show ad for “Night of The Living Dead” paired with “A different kind of violence” — Three Stooges shorts! Q: What films were great but had bad ads? MG: “Evil Dead II” is a good example; the image of a skull with eyes is a really generic and half-hearted way to sell one of the great over-the-top horror movies of all time. Q: What films were bad but had great ads? MG: Too many to count! That’s part of the history of horror-film advertising. Movies where the ads promised more and/or better stuff than the films themselves delivered. And then there were some that were outright lies. One notorious example is “Screamers,” where the ad proclaimed, “Be Warned: You will actually see a man turned inside-out.” Well, be warned: You won’t! Q: What ones are you looking for? MG: These days, as part of my work writing and creating video featurettes about classic genre movies, I sometimes seek out horror-movie ads from outside the New York area, using on-line archives. Since I grew up and went to college in and around New York City, that’s where the ads in the books came from, but frequently, especially in the ’70s and ’80s, movies would be released with different titles and campaigns in various cities across the U.S., and some films wouldn’t play in New York at all. One case in point: an interview I did with Gary Sherman about his involvement in John Huston’s “Phobia” recently ran in Delirium magazine, and I was able to find an ad for what I believe was its only U.S. theatrical play, in Kansas City. There’s another movie for which I’m writing liner notes for an upcoming Blu-ray — can’t reveal what it is at the moment—where the ads were different in practically every city where it was released. Q: Where do you hope this collection will go to be archived? MG: At this point, I don’t have plans to exhibit the ads any further; the books are so well-designed and packaged that they’re kind of the ultimate showcase for them. I did make a tentative attempt to get a gallery show tied to the first publication of “Ad Nauseam,” but it never came together. What I have been hoping all along is that other collectors might come up with enough ads to put together books on comedy movies, or action movies. There were a lot of great ads in those genres too. So far it hasn’t happened, but I’m still hoping.