Gail and Raymond Orwig on “Where Monsters Walked”

"...It was exciting to be able to stand in a spot that you saw in a favorite film..."

Gail and Ray Orwig are lifelong lovers of movies who started visiting where some of their favorite films were made. As they amassed a collection of photos depicting how these locations had changed over time, they knew they had the making of a fascinating book. Well, this manuscript was published by McFarland & Company, Inc., and is called, Where Monsters Walked: California Locations of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, 1925 – 1965. Wanting to learn more about this text, I am grateful that the Orwigs allowed me to interview them for ScifiPulse.

Nicholas Yanes: What were your favorite monsters when you were kids?

Ray Orwig: I always loved the Morlocks in Time Machine (1960). Scared me when I was a kid!

Gail Orwig: Dracula (Lugosi version).

Yanes: Gail, since you are a former librarian, what is your favorite section in a library?

Gail: I have two—the Children’s area (since I was a Children’s Librarian for many years), and (in the adult section) the 791.43s—the film book section! Back in junior high and high school, a like-minded friend (who also became a librarian!) and I used to devour these books—we went from our local library to the main library to read more!

Yanes: Raymond, as an elementary school teacher, which book do you think has had the most impact on your students?

Ray: In our school library we have a copy of the old Dennis Saleh book Science Fiction Gold, about sci-fi movies of the 1950’s. They had to replace the book because it became so worn out. The students also loved Brian Selznick book Boy of a Thousand Faces, about a boy who is a huge Lon Chaney Sr. fan.

Yanes: You two recently published Where Monsters Walked: California Locations of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, 1925 – 1965. What was the inspiration for this project?

Orwigs: It started innocently enough—as movie fans, we had taken some pictures at a few of our favorite locations during a trip to Southern California in the mid-80s—the Bronson caves, “Pod Square” in the town of Sierra Madre, for Invasion of the Body Snatchers. After that, we took pics in other locations, eventually having some of them be in magazine articles (Filmfax, Outre, etc.) about locations. At the urging of friends such as Bob Stephens (our forewordist and himself a writer), we started amassing these “now” photos which eventually became part of the book, visiting different locales during our vacations. Finally we had so many matchups, it just had to be a book!

“Them!” (1954)

Yanes: Of the movies featured, what are some of your favorites?

Orwigs: It was exciting to be able to stand in a spot that you saw in a favorite film or “where monsters walked”—Dracula, Werewolf of London, Rocketship X-M, Robinson Crusoe on Mars being some family favorites.

Yanes: You two were able cover a wide variety of films. Were there any films that had settings difficult to find?

Orwigs: It took us 3 trips to find the desert site for Them!—we had imprecise information as far as the directions were concerned. The breakthrough came when Randall Blayney (co-owner of Blayney Ranch in Palmdale) pointed us down the road!

Yanes: Where Monsters Walked contains several then and now pictures. Which filming location do you two think has changed the most over the decades?

Orwigs: We are finding that locations are changing even since the book came out—it is becoming a historical reference guide already! One film that comes to mind readily is The Werewolf—a couple of those locations have changed.

Yanes: While putting this project together, what were some surprising facts you two learned?

Orwigs: We were very excited to be able to make some rare finds, such as Doctor X, Corpse Vanishes, Hypnotic Eye, I Was a Teenage Werewolf–films that have locations that have not been written about, anywhere! We were very surprised how much the film camera changes the way a location looks. We had to be very aware of that when making matchups. It was also amazing how few of the people we met did not know their home (or other buildings) were used in a film.

Yanes: When people finish reading Where Monsters Walked, what do you hope they take away from it?

Orwigs: Whether people buy it because they are interested in knowing where the films were shot, or decide to make a vacation out of finding the spots and going to them in person, we hope we have included something for everyone in the book (and hope they have fun reading it)!  We have included little extras like notes, film stills and lobby cards showing locations, a few of the actors from the films because that’s the kind of thing we like reading about ourselves! (It is probably due to our professions, too—librarian and teacher—that we enjoy these sorts of factoids and sharing them with others).

Yanes: Finally, what are some projects you two are working on that people can look forward to?

Orwigs: We are doing some preliminary work on a couple of other location finding projects, but that is all we want to say about them right now. We hope readers will like them as well.

If you are interested in Where Monsters Walked: California Locations of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, 1925 – 1965, you can learn more about it here.

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