1997 32¢ Classic Movie Monsters
Issue Date: September 30, 1997
City: Universal City, CA
Printed By: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
Perforations: 10.2 X 10.1
Please note: Due to the layout of the pane, the se-tenant may or may not be provided in Scott Catalogue order.
Phantom of the Opera
In 1925, American movie-going audiences experienced one of the most horrifying silent films ever created, The Phantom of the Opera. This story of a demented, disfigured organist, who lives in the maze-like tunnels and cellars under the Paris Opera House, was based on a novel by Gaston Leroux.
Wearing a mask, the Phantom wreaks havoc on the opera, strangling a stagehand who has seen him, and sending the theater’s giant chandelier crashing into the audience during a performance. Later he kidnaps a young singer, Christine, with whom he is enamored, and takes her into his subterranean “home.” Before she is rescued, Christine pulls off the Phantom’s mask to reveal a hideous, skull-like face. The Phantom meets his end at the hands of an angry mob, which beats him to death and throws his body in the river Seine.
The man responsible for bringing the Phantom to life was silent actor Lon Chaney. Born to deaf-mute parents, Chaney was a master of pantomime. As the Phantom he gave his greatest performance, eliciting feelings of both terror and pity. Chaney also starred in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), London After Midnight (1927), Tell It to the Marines (1927), While the City Sleeps (1928), and Thunder (1929).
In 1931 the movie Dracula, based on the novel of the same name by Bram Stoker, shocked audiences with its tale of Transylvania’s Count Dracula. An undead corpse known as a vampire, Dracula has an insatiable thirst for human blood. To feed his craving, Dracula seeks innocent victims at night, and then drinks their blood. Since sunlight is deadly for vampires, during the day he must take shelter in a coffin.
The man responsible for bringing the ghoulish, yet elegant Count Dracula to life was Bela Lugosi. Well-suited for the part, the Hungarian-born Lugosi was a classically trained actor with a heavy accent. He had also starred in the 1927 Broadway production of Dracula.
Dracula brought Lugosi international fame, and he was subsequently typecast in the genre. He also starred in The Black Cat (1934), Mark of the Vampire (1935), The Wolf Man (1941), and The Ape Man (1943).
In 1931 the movie Frankenstein made its shocking debut as the first major horror movie with sound. Based on Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, published in 1818, it is the story of Dr. Frankenstein, a scientist who creates a living being from the bodies of the dead. Despite his noble intentions, Frankenstein creates a monster.
Assembled from body parts stolen from graveyards, the monster is brought to life when Frankenstein raises him through a hole in the roof of his laboratory and he is struck by lightning. When the creature is lowered to the floor and begins to move, Dr. Frankenstein cries, “It’s alive!”
Despite his hulking size and revolting appearance, the monster is actually a gentle creature. Although he is responsible for drowning a little girl, the tragedy is due only to his childlike ignorance of the world.
Boris Karloff was the talented actor who brought the monster to life. With a delicacy of expression unexpected from a character so grotesque, his performance inspires feelings of pity and compassion. When the monster meets his end in a burning windmill, the mood is tragic. The role brought Karloff worldwide fame, and launched his 20-year career as the king of horror films.
Released in 1932, The Mummy is the story of a mummified ancient Egyptian high priest – Im-Ho-Tep. Im-Ho-Tep is awakened from centuries of sleep when, despite urgent warnings, the inscription on a scroll found with his body is intoned.
In what has been described as “one of the screen’s most chilling scenes,” Im-Ho-Tep takes the form of a sinister Egyptian, Ardath Bey, and battles British forces for possession of his princess, Anck-es-en-Amon, who has been reincarnated as a beautiful modern-day woman. Once reunited with the princess, Im-Ho-Tep shows her their past lives in the reflection of a pool of water. After wreaking considerable havoc, Im-Ho-Tep is eventually returned to his mummified state.
The Mummy’s eerie presence was brought to life by the unique talents of Boris Karloff. He began his career on the stage, starred on Broadway in Arsenic and Old Lace (1941), and as Captain Hook in Peter Pan (1950). This versatile actor also made frequent radio and television appearances.
The Wolf Man
In 1941 The Wolf Man frightened audiences with its tale of Larry Talbot, a man who returns to his homeland in Wales and is attacked by a wolf-like creature (played by Bela Lugosi). Talbot survives the attack only to discover that the creature’s bite has turned him into a “lycanthrope” – a man who is involuntarily transformed into a werewolf when the moon is full.
The werewolf is a violent creature who roams the countryside at night attacking human prey. Doomed to a life of misery and mayhem, Talbot is tortured by his dual existence. The werewolf’s rampage is finally put to an end when Talbot’s father slays the creature with his silver-tipped cane. Talbot then peacefully assumes human form.
Lon Chaney, Jr. is the talented actor who so convincingly became the Wolf Man. In fact, the highlight of this film was his on-screen transformation into the werewolf. Requiring many hours of make-up work, this chilling metamorphosis thrilled audiences.
First U.S. Stamp With Scrambled Indicia
On September 18, 1997, the USPS issued the U.S. Air Force stamp, the first U.S. stamp to have a hidden image using Scrambled Indicia.
Over the years, the USPS had always sought ways to combat counterfeiting, with grills being one of the earliest examples. As technologies changed, they found new, more advanced ways to do this, including microprinting and tagging. Then in 1997, they introduced Scrambled Indicia.
Scrambled Indicia is a pre-press process invented by Graphic Security Systems Corporation. According to the company, it “scrambles, distorts, intertwines, overlaps, or otherwise manipulates images making encoded information on them unreadable by the naked eye, and non-copyable by current color copiers and digital scanners.” These images could then be viewed using a special decoder. In addition to thwarting counterfeiting, the USPS also hoped this interesting new technology could help arouse interest among collectors and inspire new ones.
Between 1997 and 2004 the USPS produced more than 40 stamps with Scrambled Indicia:
Click here to view the “decoded” stamps.
Click here to get your own decoder to see these neat hidden images in person.