If you’re a mask collector like me then you have probably been burned on at least one occasion. You ordered a mask or bust out of a catalog or off of a website only to find that when it arrived it looked nothing like the picture you based your mask-buying decision on! The paintjob may be horrible, the hairwork can be falling out or in some cases, the piece was folded up so that it could be put in a smaller box to save on shipping (so that it now has permanent creases across the face). There is nothing worse than spending your hard-earned money, especially in this economy, only to open a box of something you ordered and your only reaction is “What the f**k?” Thankfully most companies, like Morris Costumes, will take a return, but oftentimes, when dealing with an artist directly they get all offended at what your complaint is, making for a very uncomfortable and disasterous situation. Thankfully we have companies like BUMP IN THE NIGHT FX (formerly BUMP IN THE NIGHT PRODUCTIONS).
I actually started collecting masks right around the time that Chuck Jarman created his company BUMP IN THE NIGHT PRODUCTIONS, in the early 80’s. At the time, I was collecting masks by Don Post Studios, Be Something Studios and Distortions Unlimited, mostly because they were most readily available at my local costume shop (and I got to see what I was buying in person before shelling out my cash). It actually wasn’t until many years later, when my collecting focus changed, that I started buying from Chuck. By this time I was getting disappointed by the quality of what the big guys were putting out (though Be Something Studios, now known as Zagone Studios, still maintains great quality) so I started doing business with Jeff Keim at DEATH STUDIOS and also Chuck Jarman. Even though you couldn’t buy their masks at the local costume shop at the time, you never had to worry about what was going to appear in the mail. Each time I would open a box by either company I never had the “What the f**k” response, it was always along the lines of “WOW!” There were times when I genuinely thought that I had been shipped the piece used in the picture either in their catalog or on their website! On top of that the latex pours were thick, which is important because latex breaks down over time and I wanted these pieces to be around for a very long time. When a mask or bust is poured so thin that the mask itself will not hold its shape at all unless you stuff it with newspaper or with a styrofoam wig form, then there is a problem, especially since the big guys who are notorious for thin pours still insist on charging an arm and a leg for their masks! This has not been the case with either of these two companies and for that I am thankful.
The problem is this…many mask companies are greedy and want to make the most amount of money in the least amount of time at the least amount of cost to them (but still charge alot). Their solution? Outsource to China and other countries where they can produce the masks alot cheaper, but also at a much decreased quality. I do understand the decision to do this to a degree, especially for a business where all of the money you make is really concentrated during two months of the year, September and October! But the company’s name and reputation is also on the line when you do this! Companies that were once the leaders in the mask collecting market, now sell pieces that are basically worthless, from a collector’s standpoint. Masks you could buy in the 70’s and 80’s were of much better quality and have lasted all these years with proper care…they were fun to wear at Halloween AND they were also highly collectible. What you purchase now will never last like the classic pieces from 30 and 40 years ago. I have masks that I bought in the 80’s that are still in perfect condition and yet masks I bought by the same company 2 years ago, with the same care, are falling apart. The artistry is also gone with many of these companies…sure there are still some great mask designs out there but when they are mass produced by people on an assembly line, who have no artistic ability, the mask loses its charm and collectibility. Where you used to be able to buy masks to last you many years with the proper care, what you get now will barely last until the next season before it starts to deteriorate. Ok…enough whining…let me get back to the subject of this blog, Chuck Jarman and BUMP IN THE NIGHT FX.
I have always been impressed with Chuck’s work. His attention to detail is one of the things that really drew me to his creations initially. Whether it is his puppets or masks, he takes the extra time in his sculptures to add just that much more detail. In fact his sculpting work is so good, other companies have hired him to sculpt some of their masks and props as well. Companies like Don Post Studios, Rubie’s Costumes, Paper Magic and Illusive Concepts have all used Chuck at one time or another for his incredible sculpting abilities. I currently own about 15 of Chuck’s creations, as well as a few sets of hands to go with the masks and they are definitely not only one of the highlights of my collection, but they also get some of the best reactions in my annual Halloween yard haunt.
In 2008, I saw some posts on THE HALLOWEEN MASK ASSOCIATION, criticizing the quality of Chuck’s pieces. I felt this was odd because at the time I was buying stuff from him and I was always happy with the quality. As it turned out Chuck had outsourced 4 of his creations to China and it was with these 4 pieces that there were quality issues (I had not purchased these). As soon as the quality issue was made known, Chuck fixed the problem and there haven’t been any real issues since. This is the kind of mask company you want to buy from…sure he wants to make money (hell, who doesn’t?) but he cares about his customers and he takes pride in his creations and his company! Plus he’s a helluva nice guy and hilarious to talk to!
In 2010 Chuck’s website, BUMP IN THE NIGHT PRODUCTIONS, shut down and rumors were everywhere that he had gone out of business. In a way he did, he closed one chapter of his life to open another, now known as BUMP IN THE NIGHT FX. He took some much needed time to restructure his company and that is where he is today. In addition to his great masks, Chuck also offers limited edition busts, full size figures, puppets, costumes and even hats! He still maintains his attention to detail and in many cases his prices are way below what you would expect to pay for what he is offering. If you haven’t bought something from Chuck, give him a try. You will not be disappointed!
Recently Chuck did a one-on-one interview with me and I would like to share that now.
ME: Were you a monster fan growing up?
CHUCK: I was (and still am) a HUGE horror movie fan. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area we had a horror host show called CREATURE FEATURES (hosted by Bob Wilkins) and that’s where i got my first fix… pure cheese horror every Friday and Saturday night!
When I was around 9 years old, my parents would drop me off at this old school movie theater in Pacifica. They played a shit load of old horror! I saw “Lets Scare Jessica to Death” on a double feature with “Phantasm”. So cool!! Imagine, if you will, a 9 year old kid watching “Fear no Evil” by himself in a movie theater! That’s what I was raised on…kinda explains a lot, don’t it!?! LOL!
ME: What are some of your favorite movies?
CHUCK: Ok….here we go… Dawn of the Dead, Zombie, Santa Sangre, El Topo, Planet of the Apes, The Night God Screamed, Horror High, Corvette Summer, I was a Teenage Frankenstein, Wizard of Gore, Blood Sucking Freaks, Art School Confidential, Ghost World, Crumb, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Thing, American Werewolf in London, Drive-in Massacre and Texas Chainsaw. I also LOVE horror films from the 70’s and early 80’s…back in the day when the MPAA didn’t screw stuff up! Haha!
ME: Were any movies a true inspiration for you to get into mask making?
CHUCK: Like most people, Planet of the Apes and American Werewolf in London. When I was a really young kid, I LOVED the Sid and Marty Krofft stuff. That really got me into costumes!!! I also dug Ultraman!
ME: Before starting BUMP IN THE NIGHT PRODUCTIONS, did you work with any of the other mask companies?
CHUCK: Ya! I started Bump In The Night back in the 80’s. I was making zombie marionettes and clown puppets as well as all kinds of masks and dolls but originally the plan was to move to LA and maybe get a job with KNB. I had just visited their shop and they said “well…if you lived down here you could probably get a job”. My mind was set. At the same time I got a call from a company called Illusive Concepts. I had been bugging them for months about joining the company! I went in for an interview and ended up being there for 10 years. Later the company changed it’s name to Chiodo Entertainment. I got really lucky. I stayed in the Bay Area and also got to travel around. With Chiodo I also got to work with some really cool companies and people like Lucas Films, KISS, Karloff, Lugosi, Elvira and I got to work on some cool licenses like Empire Strikes Back, E.T., Alien, Nightmare on Elm St, Friday the 13th…just to name a few :)
While with Chiodo, I also did a Don Post line and a whole line for Rubie’s which, thankfully, did really well! Man, I sound like a cheap whore!! Pimpin’ myself all over HalloweenTown!! LOL
ME: What were some of your personal favorite creations you have made over the years?
CHUCK: Yikes! Thats a hard one. I always liked Peter Rotten Tail! That costume is a lot of fun and it scares the crap out of kids looking for Easter Eggs!!
CHUCK: OH YA!! I will always do masks. The last company (Bump In the Night Productions) was a little cluttered with other things. It was not as focused as I wanted it to be so I have stripped all the excess away and am ready for a fresh start. You won’t see a huge change with BUMP IN THE NIGHT FX but there will be more of what my imagination comes up with, like more gore! Ya, I said it! Blood and guts rule!
CHUCK: EVEN BETTER! I love it when the characters have a real life quality to them. When you look at one of my masks, it should look like it can breath! I will always make sure quality is a top priority…well, that and the ability to scare the pants off someone!
ME: Any new projects you can reveal here?
CHUCK: Well, lots of projects but if I tell you about them then I’d spoil the fun!
ME: Will you be re-releasing any of your retired pieces?
CHUCK: Ah, good question! Lots of people have been asking me about this. Currently, what I’m doing is making new silicone molds of some of my retired pieces and selling them in limited edition fiberglass. I use glass eyes, synthetic hair and they are all hand painted by me. The whole enchilada kids!! Because I do everything myself, I am able to offer them at reasonable prices. Now don’t get me wrong, I love latex but it will eventually rot (decompose, if you will!! Haha!) and for the serious collector we want to provide something that will last and increase in value.
Lastly, I just want to say thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about the new company. Lots of folks have been wondering if I’m out of the mask making scene and not only am I still in it but as excited as ever! When it comes down to it, I am just a big kid who’s trying to share his toys with all of the other demented and creepy kids out there in the world! In the words of Bob Wilkins… “Watch Horror Films. Keep America Strong.” Oh yeah, and buy my stuff!!
I would like to thank Chuck, not only for providing my personal collection with many great pieces, but for taking the time to participate in this blog!