This Halloween is going to be a little rough. Due to Covid restrictions, most of our favorite Halloween activities like Universal’s “Halloween Horror Nights” and trick or treating itself have been cancelled due to safety concerns (rightfully) while other experiences are shifting to drive in formats like LA’s “Haunted Hayride”. While the decision is fair and accepted (by most), it underlines the very real change in how we, as a society, will connect outside the seclusion of our screens. While drive-ins are a great and quaint solution, it’s not a solution every performance space and yearly event can take advantage of. 

The question not just for the season but for the coming future is how will public gathering spaces, such as theaters, adjust? While some theaters have taken on this challenge by offering limited seating and renting out their spaces to individual groups (or closing), the Ricardo Montalbán Theater, known for their roof top movie screenings, tried a different direction.

Rich Correll Presents: Icons of Darkness is a walking tour through the interior of the Montalbán Theater, the seats now fully removed from the space, of the truly massive horror collection of Rich Correll.

“This whole story, as to why I started collecting, even as a 10 year old I was shocked by what they threw in the trash.” – Rich Correll; TV actor, writer, producer, and director.

In a city that exists as memorabilia itself, curating a show featuring costumes, props and creatures from well-known films to stand out among the wax museums and tourist mainstays of Hollywood Boulevard… you need to have something special. Icons of Darkness is no mere exhibit. Featuring only 60% of Rich Correll’s restored collection, the space is a treasure trove of stunning pieces for any fan. From the full body suit of Harry from Harry and the Hendersons to costume pieces from the numerous films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to an original “Spider Head” from The Thing to (the piece that made me scream) the actual T-Rex head that burst into the Park Jeep Wrangler holding Tim and Lex in Jurassic Park, in every inch is a surprise. But Rich Correll’s collection means more than possession. It’s a giant hope chest of love letters to film history.

“When I was a kid, among other things I was a regular on “Leave it Beaver” for four years. We were kids working at Universal, we read Famous Monsters of Filmland, we watched Shock Theater stuff. And we were at Universal so we kept saying to our make-up man, ‘Hey ya got tickets to the make-up lab?!’. So he finally says, ‘ok’. So he took us up there and we couldn’t believe what they were throwing away. They threw the “land suit” from The Creature from the Black Lagoon in the trash. Now at auction… 1.1 million.”

While current films make a greater effort to preserve pieces, even putting them up for display on occasion, sci-fi, horror and other “genre” films are still often overlooked for preservation. Truly, the greatest collections of memorabilia are with a private party, passionate and usually footing the entire bill of restoration themselves.

“So I saw this head in the trash from Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, that’s a 1953 movie starring Boris Karloff. I knew what it was and I said, ‘Hey can I take that?!’ before someone threw coffee on it or something. So what started is I brought that out, I was all excited about it, I liked to show it to friends and it got to be more stuff and more stuff and more stuff. And then I started to realize… it was not just about the fun of having it but more over it was better to preserve the stuff. Cause it was getting destroyed.”

Rich Correll has an incredible energy. A true love and respect for the niche detail that goes into building the world within a film. While this could have been a regular exhibit (ala a LACMA limited show or Madame Tussauds) with bright lighting and every item in a case or lifted beyond reach, Icons of Darkness utilizes dark and moody lighting with a pervasive and tense soundtrack. Walking up on Bela Lugosi, sporting the actual cape from the 1931 Dracula, with a crack of light across his hypnotic stare sticks out. Famous characters and creatures stand one on top of the other, like a magic eye of memorabilia. It’s behind a rope but not out of reach and with a close eye, you can see the real wear of use. The actual finger prints on a molded puppet or a pocket frayed on the edge. And there’s a few unexpected startling surprises on the journey as well.

Rich Correll Present: Icons of Darkness brings back a piece of connection currently sacrificed for human safety. While a visitor can’t physically touch, it’s all still within reach. And what’s in reach is the history and physical proof of the worlds that usually only exist… on the screen.

“A lot of this stuff was made for movies and the public never sees them again. Now we’re going to give the public the chance to see this stuff again.”

Rich Correll Present: Icons of Darkness runs until November 1st. Hour-long tours can be booked online from 12 pm to 10 pm, $20 for children, and $29 for adults. Visit https://www.themontalban.com/icons-of-darkness for more information on the event as well as their COVID guidelines.

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CK Kimball
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CK Kimball is a Los Angeles-based comedian, writer, performer and sometimes burlesque dancer. She's been referred to as "stunningly awkward", "intense" and "an acquired taste." Her favorite horror movies are Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original), The Craft and Pottersville.
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