WURTSBORO, NY — Back in 2021, Wurtsboro writer and retired Liberty High School English teacher Bill Fleck launched his blog, “Bill Fleck’s Classic Horror Behind the Scenes,” …
WURTSBORO, NY — Back in 2021, Wurtsboro writer and retired Liberty High School English teacher Bill Fleck launched his blog, “Bill Fleck’s Classic Horror Behind the Scenes,” with a description of how his dad woke him and his brother in the middle of the night—so they could watch “Bride of Frankenstein.”
Fleck loves old horror movies. Think “The Wolf Man,” “The Mummy” or “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
That was the golden age of Hollywood horror, the 1920s through the 1940s, though Fleck, 60, says he’s open to discussing most horror eras.
But the classic period was special. It was the time just after World War I, with its madness and the Spanish flu and rapid technological change; the Depression, when everything crashed down; and the real-life horrors of World War II.
“Bill Fleck’s Classic Horror” offers a look at the actors’ lives, the stories behind the plots, and the struggles with movie censors.
That love for movies led to his book “Chaney’s Baby,” published last year.
“I think my favorite thing about classic horror films is the imagination they inspire,” he said. “The best of them deal with issues we grapple with today. For example: does science go too far? Or: how can I save myself from this stalker? Or even: how can I free myself from this cursed situation I didn’t ask for and don’t want?
“When you couple these themes with stylized set design, makeup effects, direction, and clever dialogue delivered with flair,” he continued, “magic happens.”
So far, the articles have included stories about Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi.
Fleck also covers Vincent Price, whom he had the privilege of meeting in 1979.
“He was touring the country, doing a lecture called, ‘The Villains Still Pursue Me,’” Fleck recalled. “He did one at Middletown [NY] High School, and signed autographs afterward. He chatted and joked… one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. I still have those signed photos.”
All fodder for the blog.
Recently, Fleck was scrolling through the latest Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award nominations.
He spotted his blog’s name with the note, “Author’s blog delves deep.”
Fleck was surprised, to say the least.
“I was nominated last year in the Best Book, Nonfiction slot for ‘Chaney’s Baby’,” he said. “It’s about Lon Chaney Jr.—The Wolf Man—and his suicide attempt in 1948. It got slaughtered by Elvira’s autobiography, but I can easily live with that.”
This year, of course, the blog got the nod.
Fleck, who is married to cake artist and River Reporter columnist Kim M. Simons, said he started the free blog during the summer of 2022, “to keep my writing skills sharp between books.”
“I never thought it would get nominated,” Fleck said with a laugh, “but I do research my articles thoroughly, and I try to write them in a style that’s lively and accessible. I know the Rondo folks appreciate that.”
The Rondos were started in 2002. Journalist David Colton, who moderated a classic horror film board, came up with the idea, which Entertainment Weekly described in 2016 as a “horror Oscar.”
The awards are named after actor Rondo Hatton, a former journalist who began acting in earnest in 1936. Hatton—who suffered from acromegaly (a disease wherein certain body parts never stop growing)—is a cult figure in classic horror films, known today for playing The Creeper in “The Pearl of Death” (1944) and “The Brute Man” (1946).
The awards cover more than 20 categories—books, films, websites, magazine articles and DVD/Blu-Ray film restorations.
Winners are selected by email votes only. Nominees and voting instructions can be found at the official website: rondoaward.com/rondoaward.com/blog/.
Voters should include their names, so they are not mistaken for bots.
As for Fleck, he feels better about his chances this year.
“The nomination should help more like-minded folks find the blog,” he said. “And hey, at least I’m not up against Elvira again!”
Contributed information. Annemarie Schuetz contributed reporting to this story.
Find the blog at billfleck.substack.com.
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