Friday, October 15, 2010

1989 and 1991 Death Studios Catalogs

Death Studios was without a doubt my favorite mask maker of the late 1980s and well into the 1990s. Although I wasn't aware of it at the time, my first exposure to a Death Studios was in 1989 while working at a local Jaycee's Haunted House.

I had just begun my sophomore year in high school in the fall of '89 and was presented with the opportunity to work in the same Haunted House I had attended as a guest for years. I couldn't have been a happier kid! My first night at the haunt I was to play the part the Swamp Monster in the Swamp Room. I was handed a large and amazingly detailed mask and was told by one of the supervisors that I had to be extra careful with the mask as it cost over $1000! I had never seen a mask of this quality before and I was proud to wear it that night.

Several nights later, I had the opportunity to change rooms. This time I played the part of a zombie! The guests were lead down a dark hallway and were forced to stop. They then found themselves face to face with a barrage of noise in the form of large blow horn and screaming. All off a sudden the headlights of a car would great them and I would pop out the front hood of the car wearing a mask that was above and beyond anything I had ever seen before. The supervisor again warned me to take extra special care of the mask. My supervisor was cool, he was a high school buddy of my Uncle and in between rounds of guests he would sneak me cans of beer that were kept inside the car, and he let me wear these amazing masks! My attempts to find out where these masks came from the supervisor were all in vain, he continuously told that they were from "Hollywood".

Almost two years passed until some light was shed on the mystery masks origins. Late in the summer of 1991 I was at the local comic shop checking out the September issue of Fangoria. I always loved the September and October issues because you could count on there being a few mask ads that wouldn't be present any other time of the year. Man, I had no idea what was in store for me that day. On the back cover of the issue was a full color ad of the most spectacular masks I had ever seen, from a company only one state over... Death Studios.



I bought the issue simply for this ad. What an amazing assortment of creatures and monsters! There were the Killer Clowns, in mask form, which sent my mind racing! They looked so real! There was the sinister Lord of the Pit and Gargoyle masks!! Also the Bat Demon and Twin Parasite Chest in the third row!!! The Alien Warrior, my first exposure to my now favorite creature designer Jordu Schell! And finally, the Reptile mask, the one that stole my heart!! There was never a cooler mask I thought. Ever.

This ad would become the center of my universe over the next several weeks. As I collected a few pay checks from my part-time retail gig, I spent my time struggling with the thought of which would be the first mask I would order from Death Studios. The Reptile was  my clear favorite, but everyday that passed I would fall in love with a new character. The Warlock, the Upside Down Head, The Bat Demon. As the time neared when I was ready to order, my decision became clear. I would order the scariest monster of the all, the one that made my skin crawl the most, the Mr. Hyde mask!

The days past and finally the package arrived. The anticipation had built so much, and the mask didn't disappoint. In fact is was even better than I could possibly imagine! Absolutely the best mask I had ever laid my eyes on! I still have this mask today, it's one of the most sentimental treasures of my collection. I've used in in several of my own home haunts, and two haunted barns! Still to this day, it makes the occasional appearance on October evenings in my attic window!

Now, as if the mask wasn't enough, it shipped along with the Death Studios catalog which was the 1989 bi-fold and the 1991 single page (the same as the one I had from the back of the Fangoria). The 1989 catalog was a mind-blower. It featured two full pages of amazing masks that I had never seen before... except for two. Right there in my hands was the answer to the question that had weighed on my mind for two full years, my mystery masks from the haunted house! The Swamp Monster and the Zombie mask (Death Guy 2) were Death Studios masks!! And better yet, they weren't a thousand dollars, they could be had for a mere $55-65!

Over the course of the next several months these catalogs would accompany me to the breakfast table every morning. I would again dream of the next mask that would be mine. Soooo many to chose from! My favorites included the insane "Wolf!" mask,  "Mangler", "Bite",  "Legion", "Dead Meat", "Death Guy II", "Rip II",  "Jeeves" with the crazy cool elongated head, "Celibate", and the ultra scary alien "Invader"! The next order came a few months later in the form of Legion as well as the "How-To Make Masks the Death Studio Way" VHS tape, which would literally change my path in life a few years later.


Oddly, I only ended up with one from the 1989 catalog,  by the time I had built up enough cash for another order, the 1992 catalogs had arrived in the spring sending my attention in another direction altogether, but that's a discussion for another evening.  I have been fortunate enough to pick up a few of the masks from these catalogs in recent years from other collectors, including "Mangler", "Wolf!", and "Invader". I even managed to score a blank of my beloved "Reptile" from the 1991 catalog, which I'm really hoping to paint it this Fall/ /Winter.

That's all for now creeps. We'll take a look at the infamous1992 Death Studios catalog sometime in the future!


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