Sunday, October 12, 2008

Local TV Horror Movie Hosts

One regular facet of local TV back in the day was the horror movie host. He or she usually dressed as a classic ghoul and introduced bad horror movies that aired late at night, cracking corny jokes all the while. They're very hard to find these days, but years ago they were everywhere. Here is a quick survey of same.

The first horror movie host as Los Angeles' Vampira. She set the standard for the phenomenon. The actress who portrayed her, Maila Nurmi, passed away earlier this year. See her here.

In my beloved hometown of Philadelphia, the earliest horror host was Roland, aka John Zacherle, who wore an undertaker's coat and gray ghoulish makeup. He would go on to greater fame in New York City under his own name of Zacherley (with a Y added), but Philly had him first.

Here Zacherle makes a 1970s appearance with another Philly broadcasting star, Mike Douglas.

Zacherle would host Chiller Theater in New York on WPIX Channel 11 for a brief time before bouncing around other NYC stations. Chiller Theater continued on after his departure from Channel 11 with this early opening montage.

This in turn was replaced years later with a very creepy color opening that I won't try to describe. I'm surprised this aired on broadcast TV back then. Chiller indeed!


Back in Philadelphia, a new host inspired by Zacherle was born, Dr. Shock. His particular spin on the format was his magic tricks that he would perform between film segments. Sadly, he passed away at the young age of 42.

In the Sacramento area in the late 60s and early 70s, Creature Features was hosted by Bob Wilkins, who didn't wear the garish costumes of other horror hosts, but still retained the wry wit often employed by same.

Back in Philly (I can't help it, I'm a homer), KYW Channel 3 featured Saturday Night Dead (right after Saturday Night Live, get it?), hosted by Stella, the vampy "Maneater from Manayunk," a posh section of the city.

Finally, the most famous of these hosts is Elvira, "Mistress of the Dark." Here, Elvira's real life counterpart, Cassandra Peterson, discusses how her macabre career got started.

There are so many more of these hosts that I simply can't list here. If you care to mention a favorite of yours, please leave a comment. Thanks!


The In Crowd said...

Hi - - Another great post!

I would have loved to have seen Zacherle or Vampira on local TV back in the day, but I remain ever thankful for having grown up watching Bob Wilkins in the SF bay area.

His 'Creature Features' was a weekly ritual.

This past May I attended a screening of a recent documentary about Wilkins and the other hosts of the show - - 'Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong: A Journey Into Creature Features'. A fun doc and a great event, a benefit for Wilkins, who is now battling with Alzheimer's.

I wrote about all of this on my blog, and provided some links to the Wilkins website. I see there that as of this writing the film is still touring different theaters in California, and they provide dates...

The Wilkins site:

My blog post regarding the documentary and memories of Bob Wilkins:

(scroll down to the first numbered item)

Thanks! Keep the faith!

Phillyradiogeek said...

In Crowd! Thanks for posting. Glad to know you're out there perusing my blog.

Thanks also for the link to your Wilkins post. Great stuff!

Todd Mason said...

Everyone tends to note DC's Count Gore de Vol, the host of a long-running '70s-'80s show on WDCA Channel 20, later one of the linch-pins of UPN, but almost everyone tends to forget the fellow whose nom de fromage I've managed to forget, too, on the state-owned public station in Northern Virginia, WNVC 56 (now the origination station of the small but nationwide MHz Network). The latter guy could only get public domain prints, but that didn't stop his films, which he invariably referred to as The Horrible Movie, from being better than the no-budget packages de Vol usually had to offer...I'll take even a dupey print of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or NIGHTMARE CASTLE over a direct to video clunker most nights of the week.

De Vol's patter and set were more elaborate, but I enjoyed the patent Count Floydness of the public broadcast guy, too. Both long since gone, pushed aside for the new networks no less.

We are poorer for their absence.