Friday, April 3, 2020

I Watched Them Eat Me Alive

I was born in 1976 and grew up in the 80s watching horror movies from the 60s and 70s on Cable networks like TBS, WGN and USA. One of my favorite sub-genres was the killer creature features that were incredibly popular in the mid to late-1970s. Films like Grizzly (1976), Empire of the Ants (1977), Willard (1971) and Day of the Animals (1977) were popular selections for weekend television and brick and mortar video rental stores.

Perhaps the most successful of the genre was 1975's blockbuster shark flick Jaws, leading to three sequels and a slew of similar aquatic horror movies like Piranha (1978) and Orca (1977). There were even a number of paperback titles like Croc (David Hagberg; 1976) and The Long Dark Night (David Fisher; 1976) that ran the gamut from deadly subway crocodiles to packs of rabid dogs. When it came to deadly animal attacks, nothing was off the table.

Until most recently, I had assumed that the killer animal/creature sensation was simply a product of the 1970s. However, Men's Adventure Library's 2017 book I Watched Them Eat Me Alive (New Texture), edited by adventure magazine scholars Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle, showcases a myriad of horrific stories and grizzly paintings that dominated “most of the 160 different pulp magazines between the 1940s-1970s”. While skirting the line between horror and adventure (and even science-fiction), there are no boundaries in terms of savage, bloody action.

In 120+ pages, Robert and Wyatt present hundreds of magazine covers and panels, complete with issue dates and artist and author credits. The two historians also present separate essays compiled as “Funny as Hell: Killer Creatures in Men's Adventure Mags”. These essays not only explain the origins of the literary phenomenon, but also who the publisher's target audiences were. In thought provoking analysis, Wyatt metaphorically links the violent animals attacks to blue collar men's struggles with “life's hassles, adjustments, responsibilities and the uncertainties of life”. By connecting the two, it's easy to envision the tired, blue-collar working man finding enjoyment and similarities with each claw mark and animal bite.

The book begins with stories by Stan Smith and Robert Silverberg and focus on the killer or monster crab sensation. I found both of these enjoyable and was fond of Silverberg's inclusion as I enjoyed his crime-noir novel Blood On the Mink. After the brief “Flying Rodents Ripped My Flesh” story by Lloyd Parker (the only Sugar Glider horror story I know of), the sensational deadly gorilla short “Terror Safari” by Lester Hutton was presented from the January 1961 issue of Rage. The book finished with terror in two American locales - “Strange Revenge of Wyoming's Most Hunted Giant Puma”, by Robert F. Dorr and “Trapped in the Bayou's Pit of a Million Snakes” by Walter Kaylin, the best stories in the compilation.

From vivid, horrifying paintings and illustrations to genre analysis, I Watched Them Eat Me Alive was an eye-opening (and sometimes eye-closing) reading experience. Like the duo's other historic chronicles of pulp adventure magazines, this is a mandatory inclusion for any vintage action-adventure or pulp collector. As I've mentioned in an earlier review of their “Barbarians on Bikes”, the idea of actually owning these antiquarian, vintage magazines is a fool's errand. It's an expensive hobby considering the secondhand market pricing combined with product shortage. Robert and Wyatt have ultimately paid the price for all of us by compiling hundreds and hundreds of high quality scans for future generations to enjoy. It's a labor of love that's appreciated by all. Godspeed ahead!

Buy a copy of this book HERE

1 comment:

  1. "By connecting the two, it's easy to envision the tired, blue-collar working man finding enjoyment and similarities with each claw mark and animal bite."

    Be that as it may, I wonder what genres our current experience of helplessness is going to create? Whatever it is, it will have to appear in written form rather than in filmed format, because film sets are closed for quite a while.