Author Topic: DPS Showcase ~ The 800 line  (Read 730 times)

The Maskahuna

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1800
DPS Showcase ~ The 800 line
« on: January 08, 2018, 12:54:41 AM »

Although the "Calendar" masks and their version "B" successors are regarded
as the "crown jewels" of Post Studios' output, their economical 800 line counterparts
were far and away the better sellers. Pat Newman had sculpted a number of them
for the budget-priced series but it was movie effects veteran Ellis Burman Sr who was
chosen specifically to recreate Universal's monsters. This was probably due in part to
his prior experience producing his own versions of the characters, albeit on a smaller
regional scale.

Ellis Burman Sr and Don Post Sr plied their trades independent of each other for many
years, according to Verne Langdon; so I asked Verne how fate eventually brought them
all together:

"He and Don started around the same time, Don in Chicago and Ellis in California,
but Ellis had more of a movie background. He made the Frankenstein headpiece
for Jack Pierce, the cane head for The Wolfman Ö he knew props really well, as well as masks.

By the time he came to us heíd pretty much run his gamut. His best work was behind him
and he was struggling with his little business in Laguna Beach. Ellis was making custom
masks (of Universal characters) for Hollywood Magic (Bert Wheeler), Bruceís Haunted House,
and Taylor Made Magic. I first saw them in the late 1950s when I was still a teenager.
He was loading his latex (with clay to stiffen the castings). We loaded ours too but not
as hard as Ellis loaded his. His masks were like cardboard. If they even fit, they hurt when
you put them on."

"I look for different things in different masks. Thatís why I loved the way
Ellis Burman made masks. He made his own until the early 1960s when I got
the license from Universal. We stopped him from making his Universal monsters
because we had the license and he didnít. Why were we paying royalties to Universal
when he was making them for free? I wanted to know how he made his masks but I
also wanted him working for us because I didnít like driving competitors out of business."

Me: Did you sit with Ellis Burman and supervise his sculptures like you did with Pat Newman?

VL: "I understood Pat Newman. We bonded immediately. Thatís why I could sit and
work with her. With Ellis, Iíd say something and heíd stop sculpting, turn around,
and just stare at me. Heíd roll his tongue in his mustachioed upper lip and Iíd back off,
saying 'just a suggestion'. Then heíd start again and do what Iíd asked him to do."

"The masks Ellis did for us were just dandy. I loved his Mummy."

"Black and orange were the colors on the Wolfman. Those were swell."

"I loved his Frankenstein too. It didnít look like anybody but I loved it anyway.
I really liked the forehead. Thereís something really attractive about this part of
that makeup. It really sends me, very massive and ape-like. Iím attracted to
people that have a very prominent brow. Maybe I was a gorilla in a former life."

"I loved Ellis and his wife Dorothy.  Both his kids worked for us, then we got them
into makeup; introduced them to John Chambers. Tommy was Johnnieís right hand man Ö
Ellis Burman, God bless him. He was a sweetheart."

It may disappoint you to know that I only ever owned one Universal character from this line.
It was also the first ever DPS mask in my collection ~

I'd also scored a couple of early TOR masks, mutilating one of them
so I could see out more clearly while wearing it ~


After a couple of SKULLs, I was ready to devote my full energies to
scoring the high end custom masks ~


A couple of years after that, Rob Tharp hired on at Don Post Studios:

"When I started to work in the Paint Department, all the old 800 line masks
were still in production.  The line was about half flexible vinyl plastic masks
and half latex masks.  The vinyl masks, like the Skulls, the Clowns, Carlisle
and the Ghoul, were cast in metal molds at another facility away from
Don Post Studios.  We would get big boxes of the vinyl masks delivered to
the shop once or twice a week.  The latex masks, the Universal monsters,
Tor Johnson, were cast in what we called "hard rubber".  This was latex with
powdered clay added to it.  The masks could be cast thin but they kept more of
a rigid shape.  They weren't as stretchy as the regular latex masks in the other lines."

"We used vinyl paints on the plastic masks, and Sherwin William's automobile lacquer paints
on the latex masks.  The lacquer paints were easy to work with and dried quickly but you had
to be careful not to put the paint on too heavily.  The lacquer paint wouldn't stretch or flex with
the mask so if it were painted on thick, the paint would crack and flake off.  This is why the paint
jobs on the latex masks look so washed out and faded.  A darker paint job would flake onto the floor!
Of all the 800 Line masks, I think we did more Tor Johnson and white Skulls than any others.  Of the
Universal masks, we did the most Wolf Man and Frankensteins, both thin and wide versions. 
Fewest numbers were Emmett Kelly and Felix Adler Clowns and the Universal Mummy.
The line started changing and evolving a couple of years after I started there.  Bob Short and Bill Malone
re-sculpted old characters and added lots of new ones."

Many more years later I began developing a genuine appreciation for some of
the characters I'd passed up as a youngster ~


I predict it won't be long before pop culture fans and chroniclers are gazing at
these nostalgic Halloween icons in a museum setting.

This probably must be my final installment of "DPS Showcase" here at The HMA.
They've been fun to compose as well as providing a great excuse to go through
and organize my files on a regular basis. Sincere thanks to the great DPS talent
who've contributed comments and to all of you for the views and replies.
It's been greatly appreciated.


  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 224
Re: DPS Showcase ~ The 800 line
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2018, 01:03:42 AM »
I absolutely love all of your super informative posts and will sure miss them and this site.   I truly look forward to your posts and the will sure miss them and this forum sooooooooooooo much.   Thanks so much for all of your time and efforts in composing all of these posts for everyone !


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1125
Re: DPS Showcase ~ The 800 line
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2018, 02:51:00 AM »
Great post, 'huna! Thanks so much for sharing both now, and countless times in the past. Always looked forward to your new entries!!
"You're dead, son.  Get yourself buried."
--J.J. Hunsecker


  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 465
Re: DPS Showcase ~ The 800 line
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2018, 08:22:35 AM »
Sad to see your posts and the HMA fade away Huna.Thanks so much for giving us mask lovers background info on some of the greatest masks ever produced and sending us back in time to relive the heyday of monster fun.

Gory Glenn

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 730
Re: DPS Showcase ~ The 800 line
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2018, 12:02:00 PM »
Such a fun read 'huna! The Ellis Burman Mummy was the first and only 800 line DP mask I ever owned. After years of staring at them in the Disneyland magic shops I finally was able to purchase one. At that time masks weren't collectable holy grails to me, they were meant to be worn and enjoyed. With that outlook in mind I lent my masks including the Mummy to some friends to use at a Halloween party they were going to. That was the last I saw of my Burman Mummy. I wasn't too upset about the others as they were nothing special but I was not happy about losing my Mummy.

I notice that when I see an 800 line mask for sale on eBay they tend to have a lot of splits in them, more so than other latex masks from the same time period. I wonder if that clay/latex blend they used could be the reason. Anyway, I'll miss these great posts of yours. Thank you for all the great info over the years. We'll all miss them.


  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1125
Re: DPS Showcase ~ The 800 line
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2018, 10:25:08 PM »
Glenn, the last time I lent a mask out was in 1978: my DP Darth Vader. I got it back in fine shape, but would never do it again!
"You're dead, son.  Get yourself buried."
--J.J. Hunsecker

Gory Glenn

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 730
Re: DPS Showcase ~ The 800 line
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2018, 12:03:16 PM »
Glenn, the last time I lent a mask out was in 1978: my DP Darth Vader. I got it back in fine shape, but would never do it again!

You're a lucky man Doh! Wish my Mummy had come back home too. I have since adopted the no loaner policy as well.