Monday, October 23, 2017

The Horror/Monster Movie Host

It is almost time for Halloween and time to see some scary movies.  But what is a scary movie, without a host to introduce them to you; Enter the Horror/Monster Movie Host.

For the most part we will refer to these people as Horror Hosts, even though sometimes you will see them referred to as monster movie host etc.  Basically, they all do the same, they are presenters of horror/sci-fi/monster movies. Sometimes these movies are classics, sometimes cheap B rated ones.

Although there may have been some “local” horror hosts on television, the first recognized host is Vampira. Maila Nurmi wearing a black gown and black wig portrayed Vampira for a short period (1954-55).  Although this was a short period, her influence and reputation is still present today.

Zacherley- Portrayed by John Zacherle, was another founding member of the horror hosts. His show was broadcasted in Philadelphia and New York City markers in the 1950’2 and 60s. He passed away at age 98 in 2016 just days before Halloween.

During the heyday of horror hosts, it was not uncommon for the horror host to be a member of the established local news crew.  Many times, it was a weatherman who would run from the news set, get a costume and makeup change and do his monster movie show.

Moving on to other horror hosts which I had the opportunity to see and be affected by.

Baron Daemon was portrayed by Mike Price the local weatherman in Syracuse, NY. His show was typical in that he portrayed a humorous host overshadowing the menacing movies he showed. I had the honor of serving with Mike Price in the middle 1980s in the Coast Guard Reverse out of Oswego, NY.

Monster Movie Matinee- This was the show I grew up on. Dr. E.Nick Witty (portrayed by Alan Milair) and his henchmen Epal (portrayed by  Bill Lape),  Unlike other shows, which portrayed their hosts in a humorous manner, these two took it seriously.  Dr. Witty was so horrible looking, that if you saw him it would drive you insane.  To spare the audience of this torture, you only heard his voice and saw his hands on screen. Epal had large scars on his face alongside an eye patch. Over the years, he suffered his hand being cut off and being turned into a werewolf.  This was the show I grew up on, and  I ran to my TV every Saturday afternoon to watch.

The modern era brought us one of the most iconic horror hosts of all time; Elvira. Portrayed by Cassandra Peterson, she became a worldwide hit as a funny wise cracking, valley girl persona with a curvaceous body clade in a black vampire like gown and hair.  Elvira has appeared in numerous movies, television shows; her likeness appears on numerous comic books, pinball and video games.

Mystery Science Theater 3000- created and first hosted by Joel Hodgson.  A man is stranded in space, accompanied by wise-cracking robots and is forced to watch cheesy movies.

Joe Bob Briggs- John Irving Bloom portrays a rural, country man watching horror, monster movies; but specializing in movies created to be shown in drive-ins. His show went through several formats not to mention stations. MonsterVision was one of these formats which was shown on the TNT network.

Svengoolie- Perhaps the current king of the horror hosts. Shown on MeTV and currently portrayed by Rich Koz.  The original host was Jerry G. Bishop; this show has been resurrected several times over the years.  The show is a popular member of the MeTV lineup throughout the country, not just the Chicago area where it is filmed.

Each year, there are the Rondo Hatton awards given in horror. Rondo Hatton was an actor who suffered from acromegaly, which disformed his face and body shape. He utilized this in his performances as a villain, or sinister character, in numerous movies mostly in the 1940’s.  The awards are named in his honor. Svengoolie is a consistent winner for “Best Horror Host”.

If you wish to see a website which show openings or parts of the shows I mentioned above, check out this website. 
Each city, or area, probably had a local horror host. They became a fixture of local American television.  This was until the infomercials became available.  Now, instead of paying money for production of a local show, the stations received advertisement money from these infomercial companies.  For the most part, local horror hosts had a fate that the monsters they showed on their programs rarely did, they finally died.

The horror host has brought monster, sci-fi, horror movies to each generation. As for me, it truly opened up my imagination and creativity, and help me become a writer. I am glad to see people like Svengoolie keeping this art alive to a new generation.

Check back LATER THIS WEEK, I will present my list of Halloween Movies for Adults.
W.A.Rusho is an author, historian and professional wrestler. You can contact him at his website or via email.
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  1. In western PA, our go-to guy was Chili Bill Cardille--he was quite the personality and made watching those shows extra fun. Great list.

  2. Mention of Mystery Science Theater brings back some good memories :)

  3. The only one I remember is Elvira and she was awesome. I used to just love those old movies, and have collected many of them, but somewhere around the introduction of movies like Chain Saw I stopped watching because I just couldn't get into shock and gore. Thanks!

  4. Loved those old horror movies when I was a kid.