Quite a few years back, I picked up a book at a library sale called Monster Kid Memories, by Bob Burns as told to Tom Weaver. After flipping through the pages for a mere five minutes, I was filled with a kind of good-natured jealousy. Not only were there incredible pictures of Bob and his wife Kathy’s insanely cool Halloween displays (on which they were assisted by future FX and makeup pros such as the legendary Rick Baker), but Bob’s museum-quality collection of classic horror film memorabilia was as impressive as any this side of Famous Monsters co-founder “Uncle” Forry Ackerman.
But the REALLY cool thing about that creature-feature stuff is, Burns got a lot of the goodies right from the monster legends themselves. I mean, this good-hearted fella was given the boots and forehead latex of the Frankenstein Monster from Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein by none other than glowerin’ Glenn Strange.
After devouring Monster Kid Memories, I began to search around for more cool Bob Burns stuff and found another great book, It Came From Bob’s Basement. The title alone says everything you need to know – more monster-y goodness from one of the world’s most lovable Monster Kids.
As a fan of Burns, I was excited to hear of a new documentary focusing on his collection, his career playing gorillas in movies and television – he was referred to on more than one occasion as a “gorilla-thespian” – and, maybe most importantly, his marriage to the wonderful Kathy Burns, who is perhaps as big a monster movie fan and collector as Bob himself.
In Beast Wishes, writer/directors Frank Dietz and Trish Geiger tell the feel-good story of Bob and Kathy through a salivating collection of memorabilia-laden video clips and photographs, and a series of interviews with other famous Monster Kids who all sing the praises of this pleasant and very funny couple.
Bob and Kathy’s collection borders on absurd, as we’re shown; highlights include the Time Machine from George Pal’s movie of the same name, the original puppet from 1933’s King Kong, and Lon Chaney Jr.’s cane from The Wolf Man. Beast Wishes points out that Bob is not only a collector, but also a highly regarded makeup, prop and FX guy in his own right. It’s all quite fascinating, and in the amiable context of this entertaining, very well-made documentary, you can’t help but smile.
Some of the biggest grins come from stories told by Bob and Kathy’s friends, people like John Landis, Joe Dante, Greg Nicotero, Tom Woodruff Jr. and the aforementioned monster maker Rick Baker. They all beam and laugh while talking about this gentle couple and the seriously jaw-dropping collection they’ve amassed throughout the years.
It all adds up to a really fun documentary. Whether you’re a hardcore horror fan or even just someone who watched a few Universal Monster movies when you were a kid and remembers them fondly, this DVD should provide a welcome experience, and for some, one heck of a walk down monster memory lane. Plus, those awesome Halloween displays…still feeling a little jealous about those!
The DVD is now available for purchase at www.beastwishes.com, and it is highly recommended for Monster Kids of all ages.
Paul Counelis is the author of Kendall Kingsley and the Secret of the Scarecrow, which is available for purchase here. He writes about horror for a number of publications and websites, including suite101. His latest book, 25 Underrated Horror Films (and The Exorcist), is available here.