It is October, and now the time of year for Halloween and all things that go bump into the night.
When I look back at my life, I realize I was always fascinated with monster movies. I can recall sitting in front of our old TV set and watch anything that came on that was macabre or had a monster in it.
This post will talk about those people who present those movies, the monster movie/horror host. I know there were, and are; many hosts of this genre around the country, but these are the ones I am familiar with.
The first horror host was Vampira, a black dressed and haired female vampire who introduced the movie and commented about it during commercials. Although she lasted only for a couple of years, she still has an impact on the genre of monster movies.
For me my introduction to monster/horror movies was Monster Movie Matinee. Each week this show brought a different monster or horror movie to me. The show was broadcasted from Syracuse on WSYR-TV from 1964- 1980.
The opening of this show was a scene of a model of a cemetery, which was flooded with fog via dry ice. The camera would then pan up a small hill to what was obviously an old doll house. This intro was set to the ominous music from the classic sci-fi movie This Island Earth.
Once inside the spooky house, you met your host Dr. E Nickolas Witty, played by Alan Milair. In the show’s history I never saw this character’s face. He was so horrible that if you saw him, it would cause you to instantly become insane, or at least go into a coma like trance. Viewing the show, you could only see his ringed fingers moving around as he spoke, many times his hand was coming from the inside of a coffin. If you want to see the opening a found a link to the opening of the show on YouTube.
Every good coffin ridden monster TV host, needs an assistant and Dr. Witty’s was Epal. Epal was a scarred, one eyed lab assistant who would do the bidding of his master. He was played by Bill Everett Lape (The name Epal is his last name spelled backwards).
Not only did the pair introduce movies, each week they would have an adventure. For a short period Epal lost his hand, only later to have Dr. Witty create a synthetic one for him. Another time Epal was cursed as a werewolf.
This show had an impact on me, and I guess started my love of horror and monster movies. I watched great movies on this show; movies like Horror of Dracula, The Wolfman, and of course Godzilla movies.
I also have to say that these movies instilled into me a sense of right and wrong into me, beyond that of my personal morality. Good guys like Van Helsing destroyed the evil represented by Dracula and I maintain this concept of good vs. evil in my current writings.
The evolution of horror hosts moved on over time. Elvira’sMovie Macabre (Cassandra Peterson) was the next important host of this type. Her large hair and other massive attributes were popular on TV during the 80’s and 90’s. Elvira’s show kept the horror host alive during this period. She brought a unique style as being a host, commenting on the movies with a quick wit and almost a valley girl type speech and attitude.
Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was another unique show, featuring a stranded astronaut and his robot companions who were being tortured by an evil scientist who would force him to watch cheesy movies, many of them B grade horror movies. This show has seen many variations and was also bounced around from different cable networks until its cancelation in 1999.
Today, there is Svengoolie, he is a host on a show on Saturday nights on Me-TV. Like many of his predecessors, this show features horror and science-fiction movies, including some of the classic Universal Monsters of the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Originally the show first debuted in 1970. The host at that time was Jerry G. Bishop. The show was cancelled in 1973. In 1979 the “Son of Svengoolie” premiered and starred Rich Koz, who, as a fan had sent in sketch ideas and later became a writer on the previous show. The show ran until 1986.
The show was brought back in 1994, again with Rich Koz, this time simply as Svengoolie. His show features skits and sometimes bad jokes, with each episode having a parody song dealing with the topic of the movie being shown.
I like this show, not only because of the movies, and the skit comedy, but also because of Koz’s knowledge and respect for these movies. Each week he gives details about the making of the movie and about the cast involved.
Like Monster Movie Matinee, there are other recurring “characters” on the show. His musical numbers are accompanied by Doug Graves (Doug Scharf). There is “Zallman T. Tombstone, a skull that participates in the funny skits. The other main character is Kerwyn, a rubber chicken with teeth that likes to tell corny jokes sent in by viewers.
The show is broadcasted from Chicago, IL. BERWYN; that is a reference to those of you who watch the show.
On a side note, Rich Koz is a wrestling fan. Many times he has had wrestlers featured on the show, or he has interviewed them at other events. These included great wrestlers such as Roddy Piper, and Mick Foley. Foley is a great supporter of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame as was Piper was before his death.
Rich Koz has assumed the mantle of hosting horror movies. I am also glad to see his treatment and respect of this genre. For like I was years ago, there is a child out there, who has or will become, a fan of these movies, and I hope that they will have a positive impact on him, as they did with me.
I am worried that with our technology, our ability to get the movies we want to see at a moment’s instance, that the horror host will no longer be with us. If it wasn’t for Monster Movie Matinee, and the others, I may have never had the imagination I have and be able to write “Legend of the Mystic Knights”. These hosts exposed me to good movies, and to bad ones; to movies I wanted to see, and those I had never had an interest to view before. These shows broaden my horizons and helped me view the world a little differently.
Next Week: I am giving you a short story for Halloween.