This essay is Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s contribution to the Classic TV Horror Host Blogathon, being hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association from October 24-31. For a complete list of the participants and their posts, check out the list at the CTBA here.
Back in the good old days when TV sets only had three channels, old movies were a programming staple of local stations. They showed them in the morning, they showed them in the afternoon, they showed them in the evening…and if they didn’t have to sign off too early, they’d also stick a feature or two on The Late, Late Show. It was the best of times…it was the worst of times. “Worst” in that a lot of these classics were often interrupted by a plethora of commercials (there’s a scene in The Apartment  that nicely spoofs this). “Best” in that inane talk shows (I’m talking to you, Katie Couric) or insipid “reality” shows were rarely on the boob tube radar.
Friday and Saturday nights, as a rule, were reserved for movies with a horrific bent. I mean no offense to the horror fans out there…but out of the gazillions of fright flicks churned out by Hollywood and independents since the dawn of cinema, a few of them are quite good…and the rest of them are just plain odious hunks of fromage. And if your local station bought a package to show the good horror movies…chances are they had to screen the terrible ones as well.
When I was an impressionable young lad—and this is a subject I’ve talked about on the blog before—growing up in West Virginia, there was nothing I liked more than staying up late on Saturday nights to watch WOWK-TV’s Chiller Theater…and it was even more enjoyable when the ‘rents were out for the evening, because it was sort of an act of defiance (“Sleep? Sleep is for fops and popinjays!”). Unfortunately, WOWK couldn’t afford a host—the program would simply begin with eerie music and a graphic of a forbidding haunted castle on a seaside cliff and then the eventual announcement of the program.
remembers in this post that he was in WOWK’s viewing area and recalled some segments the station used that were recorded by the late Jonathan Frid, the star of the daytime gothic soap Dark Shadows (WOWK was an ABC affiliate). But for the most part, Chiller Theater—which originally aired on Friday and Saturday nights before the station moved all the movies to Saturdays under the aegis of “Triple Chiller”—was hostless; the
would not get a regular TV horror
host until WVAH started its horror movie program. Friday Night Dead, which
starred longtime radio/TV personality Al Sahley as “Fat Drac”—“The King of
Corpuscular Corpulence!” Mountain
a clip back in April of this year in which he spoke with Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria that I found positively riveting. All this and flying rubber chickens, too.
This Saturday on Me-TV (October 27), Svengoolie is going to show the proto-lycanthropy classic Werewolf of London (1935). If I still had a pair of footy pajamas I’d put them on and complement the viewing with a tumbler of RC Cola and some HoHo’s. If the television gods have smiled upon you and bestowed Me-TV on your cable company (or if you can get it with a digital antenna), why not join me in spirit? (See what I did there?)