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In 1966, two people took major steps toward living their dreams. One was James Bama, a New York City commercial illustrator, about 40 years old, whose portfolio included dozens of cover paintings for Doc Savage paperbacks and the box art for many of Aurora’s monster model kits. The other was Cortlandt Hull of Bristol, Conn., great-nephew of “Werewolf of London” star Henry Hull, a 13-year-old lover of classic horror movies and builder of Aurora models.
Looking over my notes for this month’s “Resin the Barbarian” interview, recognizing the time frame of the turning points in these two men’s lives, I was fascinated to realize that Mr. Bama began to move away from the genre work that has remained popular about the same time Cortlandt embraced a life ever influenced by monsters. Cortlandt’s decision was made in part because he — like millions of others — so loved Mr. Bama’s box art. Decades later, Mr. Bama was impressed with the work Cortlandt and director Dennis Vincent did profiling artist Basil Gogos on “The Witch’s Dungeon: 40 Years of Chills”, so he invited them to visit his home in Wapiti, Wyo., for a rare interview that will be featured in the documentary “Legends of Film & Fantasy”, to be available on DVD in early 2010.
Wapiti is where Mr. Bama finally settled a few years after he and his wife, Lynne, departed Manhattan, according to the introduction to the book “The Western Art of James Bama”. They’d visited a friend in Wyoming in 1966 and began to realize how different their lives could be. After return visits in 1967, the Bamas settled in Wyoming for good in 1968. Bama continued doing commercial work for a few years to make ends meet, but his focus quickly turned to his own works. His realist approach to Western people and places has gained Mr. Bama widespread respect as a fine artist.
Around the time Mr. and Mrs. Bama were discovering Wyoming, Cortlandt was working with his father, Robert, to turn a Swiss chalet-style building into the Witch’s Dungeon, a place to house the life-sized monsters the boy had started fabricating when he decided the Aurora models just weren’t big enough. The Dungeon, open every year around Halloween, continued to grow over the years, as did Cortlandt’s artistic abilities. In October 2009, Zenobia the Gypsy Witch (Cortlandt’s original creation) welcomes visitors to a visit with many of Cortlandt’s monsters, including the Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein’s Monster, Count Dracula, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and, of course, the Werewolf of London.
Cortlandt and Dennis were very busy on a mid-September Saturday. For Dennis, the major task was editing footage for “Legends of Film & Fantasy”.… Read the rest