Monthly Archives: August 2015

WAOH TV-29 & WAX TV-35 – Son Of Ghoul’s Airing Of 1959’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (March 19, 1999)

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From March 19, 1999, here is The Son Of Ghoul Show that introduced me to Ed Wood’s magnum opus (ha!), Plan 9 From Outer Space. Cool winnins! Even better, when it comes to recordings from 29/35 The Cat, this is like the perfect storm of material. A show I love, a terrible movie I love, great local commercials, and a huge dose of nostalgia, which in turn all adds up to an even greater dose of nostalgia, one so great that it continually threatens to make my gol’derned face explode. People, this, this is what a Northeast Ohio horror hosted weekend evening looked like back in the late-1990s.

(I’m going with a Friday, March 19, 1999 date, but back then Son Of Ghoul was on Fridays and Saturdays, 8-10 PM, same episode both nights. It can just as easily have been March 20. I’ve got a pretty good memory, but I no longer recall which night I recorded this. I usually previewed the show Friday and, if need be, taped it Saturday. But this time around, I know for sure there was something exciting I attended that particular Saturday, which you’ll learn about soon enough.)

Settle in gang, this is gonna be a pretty long post…

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(I don’t feel like attempting an ostensibly clever transition, so let me remind y’all that I interviewed the man himself, Keven “Son Of Ghoul” Scarpino. It was and is an earth-shaking, precedent-setting interview that has made many a person cry tears of pure, unadulterated joy. Myself included? Just go read it. After this, I mean.)

Obviously, I taped this one personally myself back in the day. I taped a lot of Son Of Ghoul (still do, in fact), but this particular episode is way, way near the top of my favorites. Not only because it introduced me to this awful, awful movie, but also because it ties directly into an event I took part in and is the basis for some very fond memories of mine.

No kidding, you all know by now that I have a ton of tapes. I keep most of my horror host stuff in the same general spot, but recordings I am particularly fond of are kept in a kind of special “da best” section. This tape is absolutely in that section, and in all honesty, it has less to do with the movie at large and more to do with the circumstances surrounding the episode overall.

That said, Son Of Ghoul hosting Plan 9 From Outer Space is, as far as I’m concerned, a shining example of just why I love this sort of thing so much, and even without that personal connection, this would be a total winner.

We’ll get to all of the particulars in due time, but for now, let us look at the movie…

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Like I said in that first post (forgive if I repeat myself some between that one and this one, which I know I will), Plan 9 From Outer Space is widely heralded as the worst film ever made. It’s really not; there are infinitely worse movies out there, at least as far as I’m concerned. The worst film of the 1950s? A case could be made, I suppose. The worst film ever, though? Please meet my friend, The Creeping Terror. That’s a much worse movie on pretty much any level. I’m really just speaking from technical standpoints here, though; Plan 9 (and The Creeping Terror, too) is cheap and ridiculous beyond any and all standards, but nevertheless immensely entertaining. “So bad it’s good” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, and I don’t always agree with it, but in the case of Plan 9, I certainly do. I’ve seen movies that are far, far inferior while still being technically superior. Am I making any sense at all here?

For a movie released in 1959, the whole “worst thing ever” reputation is actually a bit more recent. It wasn’t really known as such until 1980, when Harry & Michael Medved’s book The Golden Turkey Awards deemed it so. I don’t own nor have I ever read the book, but they apparently came to this conclusion based on votes sent in to them, and it’s a title that has stuck with the film ever since. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though; it brought a level of popularity to the movie that it wouldn’t have enjoyed otherwise, even if people are really only tuning in to see if it lives up (or down) to the reputation. And beyond the movie itself, it helped usher in a newfound wave of interest, albeit posthumous, in the guy responsible for the movie, Ed Wood…

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I actually find myself pretty fascinated by Ed Wood. Not fascinated enough to go see the Tim Burton biopic, but if I came across a good book on him, I’d snap it up right quick. As it stands, Wikipedia is my guide to all things Ed. He had a very weird, up-and-down life and career, which I guess is why so many people have taken such an enormous interest in him.

For a guy that made almost universally terrible movies, I can’t help but respect him. Despite the budgetary limitations and awful writing/producing/directing/etc., you can still see the very real love he had for movie making shine through. I dig that, much more so than the winking, self-awareness of many ostensibly “bad” movies today. I give more credit to an ‘honest’ bad movie than one purposely trying to be awful.

Also, because each and every synopsis regarding Wood has to include this fact, whether it’s pertinent to the actual subject at hand or not, here’s the obligatory “he was a cross dresser” statement. Has nothing to do with Plan 9, really, but I’d like to stave off the inevitable “Hey, you forgot…” comments. Those irritate me.

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The plot of Plan 9 From Outer Space is almost secondary to all of the wacky crap that surrounds it otherwise, which is really saying something. It’s best described as The Day The Earth Stood Still gone nutbar. That’s to say, there’s some aliens warning mankind that we’re the ones that are gonna end up blowing the whole joint to bits, and that’s when the movie goes completely off the rails. The aliens’ plan to make Earth listen to them? Reanimating our dead and letting them cause a ruckus.

I just had a thought: what if this was the reason the dead were returning to life in Night Of The Living Dead, and not the radioactive fallout as speculated? I just blew my own mind.

Plan 9 From Outer Space is characterized by mega-cheap (some would say “nonexistent”) special effects, including the iconic saucer in the screencap above, but geez oh man, everything else about the movie is just insane, too. “Absurd” is really the most apt term for it. The plot is ‘out there’ and the dialogue is, well, throwing a bowl of alphabet soup at the wall and seeing what sticks would probably produce comparable results.

In other words, if you haven’t seen it, you really ought to. It’s apparently public domain, so have at it! It’s a film that really does need to be seen to be believed.

I’d say it’d be hard for something this bad to be released today, but then I remembered all the smack people are talking about The Fantastic Four reboot. I haven’t seen it, but I’d probably still enjoy Plan 9 more.

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When a movie starts off with Criswell, you know you’re in for some kind of ride. Criswell was a self-proclaimed psychic, one that ended up having a, well, wide range of rather kooky predictions. In other words, he wasn’t all that accurate, unless a ray from space really did turn all metal to rubber and I just wasn’t paying attention.

Lucky for us, he hooked up with Ed Wood, and his appearance in Plan 9 is more than enough to label him a hero to all.

Criswell provides the intro and outro to the movie, as well as narration throughout, but it’s his opening scene that is the true stuff of legend. Not only does he start off speaking of future events before inexplicably deciding all of this happened in the past, but he constantly refers to the viewer as “my friends,” and I do mean over and over. I’d guess this wasn’t in the script, but then, it is an Ed Wood movie, so maybe it was.

Apparently these “future events” are all based on secret, sworn testimony. I could point out that the events in this film wouldn’t be “secret” for very long had they actually happened, but what’s the point? Don’t question it, just revel in it.

Criswell’s opening monologue instantly makes sure no viewer is possibly going to be able to take what’s about to follow seriously. It’s so bad that it’s almost brilliant in its stupidity. Almost.

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Swedish wrestler-turned-actor Tor Johnson is also here in all his glory. As per his usual M.O., he plays a big lumbering guy, though for once, one not named “Lobo.”

You gotta hand it to Tor, he managed to star in not one but several candidates for “worst movie ever.” In fact, for anyone claiming Plan 9 is the worst ever, go watch Tor in The Beast Of Yucca Flats; that’s not even a “so bad it’s good” film, it’s just plain BAD. Just like pretty much everything Coleman Francis put his hand to, it’s a vile, depressing mess of a movie. Gimme The Creeping Terror any day.

Apparently in real life, Tor was a ridiculously nice guy, and hey, people are still talking about him today, so I guess he did alright in the long run.

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Bela Lugosi! As far as I’m concerned, pretty much anything with Bela Lugosi in it is worth watching. It helps if the movie is actually good, but even when it’s not, Bela is still Bela. In his later years, Lugosi became friends with Ed Wood, and wound up in 1955’s Bride Of The Monster as well as, obviously, this one. (In my opinion, Bride is certainly bad, but not nearly as fun as Plan 9.)

Actually, Bela died well before Plan 9 was released, and he only filmed a few bits, ostensibly for an entirely a different movie. Needless to say, Wood wanted to capitalize on both the draw of Lugosi’s name as well as give him one last film to his credit, so he shoehorned him in as best he could. It counts as a Bela movie, but just barely; Lugosi himself really isn’t in the movie all that much.

So, what do you do when your star isn’t available for additional scenes because he’s dead? In one of the most famous pieces of Plan 9 folklore, a taller, blonder guy who is obviously NOT Lugosi walks around holding his cape over his face, which fooled approximately no one.

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Vampira!

That’s right, the person widely considered to be the first horror host is in Plan 9 From Outer Space! Now that’s cool! There seems to be some debate as to whether Maila “Vampira” Nurmi was the very first horror host, but there’s no doubt that she was the first to make horror hosting a real and viable thing. To see her in anything, never mind one of the most iconic (for better or worse) movies ever, it’s a real treat, especially since actual footage of the Vampira character is severely lacking. In Plan 9, she not only plays a reanimated corpse, but one that was Lugosi’s wife prior to death!

So, we’re watching the woman responsible for popularizing horror hosting, in a movie that made up many a night on horror hosted programs, whilst on a horror hosted program that she was indirectly responsible for? How cool is that?! I think I just made my head swim, by the way.

And on that front, it’s time to look at some of our horror host segments…

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Prior to the opening theme, the show opens with this: Son Of Ghoul’s take on Mystery Science Theater 3000! Echoing the sentiments of many, SOG can’t stand them talking over the movie while he’s trying to watch, and after repeated warnings to quiet down, he finally gets them to stop the only way he can: with a baseball bat! Look, I’m a huge, huge MST3K fan, and while this bit is technically anti-MST, I did get a laugh out of it. This sorta-meeting of two of my favorite shows is a trip!

‘Course, I’m a bit biased, because I’m reasonably sure that I’m originally responsible for this skit being filmed. Lemme explain: I began watching SOG in 1997, and met him in person at JC Comics & Cards (FORESHADOWING) not long after. Not long after that, I wrote the show for the very first time. Being 11 years old and fairly ignorant of what was national and what as local, I asked him if there was any competition between his show and MST3K. After questioning my sanity, SOG answered with the above bit, which was, needless to say, repeated for this 1999 episode.

As far as I am aware, the skit was initially filmed in response to my stupid letter. Unless it wasn’t and it just made for an appropriate answer that time. I don’t know. Still neat either way.

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Son Of Ghoul’s intro to the movie is loaded with info on the film, much more so than usual. Even SOG states he’s a “cavalcade of information!” He makes specific mention of the guy impersonating Bela Lugosi, his imitation of which is the image above.

SOG also talks extensively about an event that was happening right at that very moment, not only during this intro but all throughout the show, during the respective mail segments and whatnot. I’ll get to that in full momentarily, though.

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Lotsa clowning during the movie too, thanks to those visual drop-ins that Ghoulardi made popular so many years before. On the left: SOG sweeps Bela’s walk, which he describes as “filthy.” On the right, SOG imbibes in a beverage of some sort, apropos of nothing in particular but funny nevertheless.

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More goofing on fake Bela Lugosi!

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I’m not sure my brain can process the coolness of Son Of Ghoul and Vampira in the same scene. I don’t care if SOG is just superimposed over the scene, it’s awesome.

In this short bit, SOG pops in to ask Vampira for a date. A rather, erm, “gaseous” sound effect provides her answer!

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The Barfaby Show, SOG’s long-running parody of Northeast Ohio’s iconic children show host Barnaby. These are always crowd-pleasers, in which Barfaby torments, either accidentally or, more usually, purposely, his pet invisible vulture “Longdog.” SOG still plays these skits quite often, but the one featured in this episode I actually can’t recall seeing in a long, long time. By the looks of it, it’s one of the earlier installments.

In this one, Longdog asks Barfaby why his mouth always moves when Longdog speaks (SOG provided the voice for the bird too, y’see). Barfaby tells him he doesn’t know why, but he’ll rectify the situation, by means of which you’re seeing in the right screencap above. It’s a skit that’s pretty emblematic of the often twisted humor of the show, and make no mistake, I was cracking up during it.

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Fatman & Rotten are some of my favorite skits on the show. Obviously, it’s a parody of, well, you know what it’s a parody of. Just like Barfaby, older installments are played quite frequently nowadays, though also just like the Barfaby, the skit in this episode is one I can’t recall seeing in a looong time.

Which is too bad, because this is a very funny entry. Rotten has gotten him and Fatman captured because, as he explains, he thought the bad guys would just turn themselves in when he rationally explained to them that they were “being bad.” Fatman is not amused. He’s even less amused when Rotten thinks this is good for them to spend time together; Rotten’s suggestion of having a sing-a-long goes unanswered. Fatman is then even less amused when evidence of Rotten’s previously-eaten Mexican meal is made apparent. Annnnd that’s how it ends, Fatman in agony as Rotten cuts loose. Funny stuff!


 

Okay, so, we’ve seen the movie, and we’ve seen some of the SOG host segments. But what about that whole “extra nostalgia” thing I was babbling about at the start of the post?

Behold!

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Oh yes, this episode aired the weekend of Frightvision! This was the first of several Frightvision shows, and it was hyped endlessly. Indeed, these Frightvision clips are actually from a commercial for the event, one that aired incessantly during this broadcast. So much so, in fact, that it practically is a part of the episode, which I’m sure it was meant to be.

There were/are episodes of The Son Of Ghoul Show that could be rerun anytime, albeit sometimes with some slight editing. But, there were also episodes that were very time frame specific, and this is one of those. SOG talks extensively about Frightvision in every host segment. Friday, March 19 was kind of a pre-convention deal; it was part of the whole weekend, but then again, not quite. Apparently, a banquet with all of the guests of Frightvision was held at Quaker Square before everything kicked off in full the next day. SOG talks a lot about that, too. March 20 & 21 were the real days of the convention, and I absolutely attended on the 20th.

Indeed, this was my very first horror/sci-fi/TV convention! I wound up going to the next two Frightvision shows before I fell away from it (Frightvision would end altogether a few years later). This first was always the most memorable to me, though. At least until I became addicted to Ghoulardifest some years in the future, anyway.

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Having never been to one of these before, I wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer amount of memorabilia that was present. The place was loaded! Being a video collector even then, the VHS tapes were what attracted me more than anything. And geez of man, there were VHS tapes for (figurative) miles! This being a convention, and me not having any real of money of my own, the number I could bring home was limited, but I did come away with the original 1925 The Lost World and a copy of the original 1954 Japanese version of Godzilla (which was unavailable officially in the U.S. at the time).

Also, I’m pretty it was at this show that Son Of Ghoul had a table set up with old WOAC TV-67-era promotional photos, for, if I recall correctly, $3 apiece. A sign on the table stated “When they’re gone, they’re gone!” which only further fired me up for one. I bought what appeared to be the oldest-style photo (it was also the last of that kind there), though a stack of newer 67 pictures remained; I kinda wish I would’ve gotten one of those as well.

Nevertheless, while I didn’t have a big haul, it was, as far as I was (and am) concerned, a great one.

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And the celebrities! Even at that young age (I wasn’t even 13 years old yet!), I knew of a lot of these people. Having grown up with Swamp Thing in movie and TV form, Dick Durock seemed like he would’ve been a sure bet to meet. I didn’t, which I now regret (especially since he passed away several years ago).

I did however meet Mark Goddard from Lost In Space, who was ridiculously nice. Tom Savini was also there, though I wound up meeting him the next year (unlike most of the celebrities that charged for their autographs, I don’t recall Savini charging to sign my VHS of Dawn Of The Dead, though I could be wrong).

I believe ’99 was also the year I met longtime Son Of Ghoul sidekick Ron “Fidge” Huffman and got his autograph. Very nice guy that truly loved his fans! RIP, Fidge.

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Maybe the most memorable (for me) of the celebrities I met at Frightvision ’99 was Ben Chapman, who played The Gill Man in all of the out-of-water scenes in the original Creature From The Black Lagoon. And no kidding, this guy lived for his fans. He loved to tell behind-the-scenes stories about Creature, and couldn’t have been friendlier while doing so. Ben Chapman was just great, and I am proud to have met him. I was sincerely sorry to hear of his passing in 2008. Such a cool guy.

Looking back, Frightvision was one of my more memorable convention experiences, probably because it was all so ‘new’ to me. I’m sort of used to the whole deal now, but back then, it was like an entirely different world opened up to me. Suddenly, I could meet many of these Hollywood celebrities in person, I could find a lot of movies that just weren’t going to pop up on Best Buy’s shelves, and I could have a blast doing all of it. The following two Frightvision shows were also fun, but in retrospect, they couldn’t live up to that first one. In fact, the only one that has lived up is the aforementioned Ghoulardifest, though without that same initial sense of “whoa!”


 

After my last look at local horror host material and the severe lack of any commercials interesting enough to spotlight, I initially intended on skipping that feature for this post, as well; after Son Of Ghoul, Plan 9, and Frightvision, is anything else even really necessary? This was my plan of action, until I actually dug the tape out and watched/converted it, that is. I should’ve known better; WAOH/WAX always ran quirky, inventive and very, very local commercials. That’s to say, right up my alley. Luckily, this recording was particularly strong in that area. No kidding, I wound up with so many to spotlight here that I had to cut some out, since this article is already pushing the boundaries of even the most patient of readers as it is.

Son Of Ghoul “Japanese Movie Dub” Promo

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One of the more-famous SOG promos of the time was found right at the start of the tape, almost two minutes before the episode itself started. 29/35 played this one a lot. It’s a short scene from Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster, partially dubbed with the characters on-screen talking about Son Of Ghoul’s time slot and that “he’s too cheap to film a commercial!” I’ve collected a lot of SOG promos over the years, mostly ones from my own tapes, and this one ranks near the top, if only because of its ubiquity on the channel.

 

DMG Cell Phones & Pagers Ad

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It may be hard for some to remember, but cell phones, while definitely existing in the late-1990s, weren’t quite what we know as cell phones today. Back then, they didn’t text, they didn’t get on the internet, and they were the size of bricks. Would you believe it, people had to be satisfied with simply being able to send and receive calls?! Whoda thunk it?! Also, there was a thing called “pagers,” which cell phones later made obsolete. Look ’em up, kids.

Back in ’99 though, this was all still state-of-the-art stuff, and DMG had it all. The commercial uses a technique of rapid-fire zooming in/zooming out, so it’s hard to get a satisfactory screencap of their wares. Anyway, there were two shops, one in Kent, one on State Road in Cuyahoga Falls. As near as I can tell, they aren’t open anywhere anymore (if you are, someone speak up in the comments! I’d never begrudge y’all a free plug!).

 

Whole Shop Inc. Ad

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Whole Shop Inc. has gotten mentions on this blog before, namely in this old Christmas-post. I had to include this commercial here for a few reasons: first of all, I’ve been there before, and I find the subject of cutting metal and whatnot with super high-pressured water endlessly cool. This ad is straight-to-the-point, mentioning all of the things Whole Shop does.

Whole Shop Inc. is still around, so go patronize them.

 

The Pizza Factory In Kent, OH Ad

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Employing a filming technique similar to the DMG ad, it was tough for your pal me to get representative screencaps for this one. Anyway, The Pizza Factory was a then-new pizza establishment in Kent, Ohio. There’s really not a whole lot I can say about it beyond that, except I have a soft-spot for local pizza commercials.

Google searches turn up a lot of similarly-named places, so, also just like DMG, I’m not sure if this Pizza Factory is still open or not. Again, if you guys are out there, speak up in the comments!

 

WNIR “Morning Stooges” Ad

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WAOH 29/WAX 35 was and is heavily affiliated with WNIR 100 FM, so advertising for the radio station was very plentiful for years. In this one, the morning show guys (one of whom is Steve French, and I’m sorry fellas, I don’t know the other two, simply because I’ve never much listened to talk radio) expound on the revitalization of Akron, with the exception of one eye-sore…

(Check out WNIR here!)

 

29/35 – The Beverly Hillbillies Promo

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29/35 ran a lot of original programming, but like any good indie station, there was also the classic sitcom reruns. The public domain episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies are standard issue for this sort of thing, so it’d be more surprising if 29/35 didn’t run the show.

The promo consists of clips of Granny talking about the various hillbilly-approved foods she prepares, which are, needless to say, not very appetizing to most. The idea behind the ad is that viewers could join The Beverly Hillbillies for lunch at noon and then again for dinner at 7:30 PM!

 

Cool Gear Ad

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The concept of “man caves” existed back in the 1990s (and well before, of course), though I don’t think they were known as such yet. Or maybe they were, I’m no expert on man caves. Anyway, Cool Gear was a store catering to that sort of thing. That is, sports memorabilia, beer paraphernalia, and things of that nature, it was all there for the purchasing at Cool Gear.

(It appears Cool Gear is no longer around.)

 

29/35 – Dobie Gillis Promo

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Dobie Gillis, believe it or not, was pretty heavily promoted on 29/35 for years. I’m not sure if there was a dedicated segment of Dobie fans among the viewing audience, or 29/35 was trying to create one. Either way, it worked on me, because I wound up loving the show, usually catching the 4:00 PM airing every day after school, following the 2:00 PM movie.

There were a number of Dobie promos on the station, though this may have been the most common one: a compilation of clips of Dobie’s father Herbert complaining about Dobie. Really, that’s all it really is, though it makes sense, since that was a large part of the show, at least in the early seasons.

 

JC Comics & Cards “Anime” Ad

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JC Comics & Cards! I love JC Comics & Cards! I’ve been going there since about 1996, and as previously mentioned, met SOG there in ’97. 29/35 didn’t introduce me to the establishment, but I still got a kick out of seeing commercials for the store on the channel!

There were a number of JC commercials on the channel, and in this one, it’s a dubbed scene from some anime, in which two guys in  truck discuss all of the great things to be had at JCs before narrowly avoiding a crash. They ain’t lying, either; to this day there’s a ton of cool stuff at JCs!

(Check out JCs here!)

 


 

What a recording! The Frightvision material, in conjunction with SOG’s constantly talking about the convention during the episode itself, lends this episode of The Son Of Ghoul Show an air of nostalgia for me that few others can. Not only does it bring up memories of my first convention, but the recording as a whole is from what I consider the peak of The Cat’s powers as a crackerjack local independent station (for me, roughly 1997 to mid-1999). Good shows, good commercials, good memories, there’s a reason this is one of favorites.

Seriously, few of my other recordings from the station can so concisely sum up the time period such as this one. And you’ve got Plan 9 From Outer Space! For those watching on Friday night and planning to attend Frightvision Saturday or Sunday, there was no better way to kick off the weekend!

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And remember, as per Criswell’s final line, “God help us, in the future!” Words to live by, man.

(By the way – want your own Son Of Ghoul-hosted Plan 9 From Outer Space? The movie is public domain, and thus, SOG sells a copy of the episode on his website! I can’t promise it’ll be exactly the same as this recording, but I’ve long held that a movie is always better when it’s horror hosted. Check out The Official Son Of Ghoul Website to get yours!)

WBNX TV-55 – The Ghoul’s Airing Of 1982’s Poltergeist (2001)

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You can thank my brother for this post.

Y’see, I’ve got a lot of The Ghoul’s later episodes on WBNX TV-55, which I recorded myself back in the day. Recently, my brother and I were discussing movies, and he started talking about how much he enjoyed the 1982 Steven Spielberg horror opus Poltergeist. Using my incredible powers of memory, I recalled that the only version of the film I’ve ever had was the one aired on The Ghoul so many years prior. Much to my surprise, he was quite stoked by this piece of information, and immediately requested that I dig the tape out and convert the episode to DVD for our viewing enjoyment.

Poltergeist, despite the accolades it has garnered over the years, really isn’t my kind of horror film. Not that I have anything against it, it’s just that when it comes to the genre, I really like horror movies of a more vintage variety, particularly the whackadoodle older stuff. Nevertheless, anytime I have an excuse to dig out an old Ghoul episode (beyond the occasional personal whim, I mean) is just fine by me, so if I had to watch Poltergeist, it might as well be along with Ron Sweed’s legendary late night horror host.

Unfortunately, this proved to be a bit easier said than done. Once the process of actually locating the tape (not always an easy task, though relatively pain-free in this instance) was completed, I discovered that, much to my chagrin, I had recorded the episode on a pretty cheap brand of tape, one that my normative playing/converting/whatever VCR wasn’t exactly fond of. When the tracking issues weren’t punching me in the face, the VCR enjoyed a steady diet freezing up and un-spooling the tape inside the deck on me. This isn’t normative behavior for the machine, though I have, rarely, encountered this malady before with other tapes; usually, switching the reels into a new tape shell cures the problem. Not in this case, because I had the same result. Whatever the problem is/was, it was with the actual tape.

Anyway, when all was said and done, an older Sony VCR played the thing back decently enough for me to get a conversion out of it. But by the time this was all over, I was irritated enough to decide that I was getting a post out of the whole thing no matter how much or how little I had to work with. I have a very unnatural sense of personal ethics, so if this article dissolves into incoherent babbling, that’s why. My pride.

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30 years! Yep, The Ghoul began on Cleveland’s WKBF TV-61 waaaaaay back in 1971. He wasn’t on a continuous 30 years all in a row, nor were the years he was on the air always spent in Cleveland, but nevertheless, 2001 was the big 3-0, so it’s cool to see an episode partaking in that. The screencap above may give the impression that this was specifically a special 30th anniversary episode. It wasn’t. Rather, it was just a quick blurb from the then-current opening credits. I’m not sure if there even was a specific 30th anniversary episode.

I tend to think of this as the “In Mono Where Available” era of The Ghoul, thanks to what you saw as the header of this post; that was the first image of the opening theme, accompanied by the sound effect of sirens blaring. It’s a pretty memorable start, though it belies the sad state of the actual show at the time: this wasn’t just the “In Mono Where Available” era of The Ghoul, this was the Sunday night-era of The Ghoul.

I went into further detail about this here, but a streamlined account of what happened is this: The Ghoul started on WBNX TV-55 in the summer of 1998 in a Friday 11:30 PM time slot, running numerous cheesy (i.e., bad in a good way) horror and sci-fi flicks with the expected humorous audio and video drop-ins, all interspersed with the prerequisite skits and host segments. It was a lot of fun, and I never missed it.

The Ghoul stayed that way until the fall of 2000, when the station moved him to Sunday nights, first at 12 AM and then later at 1 AM (yes, yes, technically that’s Monday morning, I know). For obvious reasons, this was a less desirable time slot, and even worse, The Ghoul’s segments were cut back AND the film selections were changed to a more general range of movies, which meant the audio/video drop-ins were more-or-less eliminated completely, except for select ‘old style’ flicks that were pretty few and far between. It basically destroyed everything that had been building since 1998 in one fell swoop, and naturally The Ghoul was vocal about his displeasure on the air.

The show was later moved to a late, late Friday night/early Saturday time slot sometime in 2002, but the other problems weren’t really fixed, and the show kind of just faded off-the-air that way around 2003/2004.

This 2001 airing of Poltergeist was right smack dab in that “new era” of The Ghoul. In other words, a relatively uncut movie, no drop-ins, etc. It’s a good flick but, for reasons I’ll get to in a bit, a rather disappointing show overall. And the unfortunate fact of the matter is that while the broadcast may not be representative of every episode at the time, it is emblematic of the problems that, as far as I’m concerned, helped eventually destroy the program.

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(You’ve probably noticed by this point the antenna reception issues in these screencaps. That’s because we were using gol’ derned rabbit ears at the time. And the sad fact of the matter is there are infinitely worse examples of this occurrence found on several of my other recordings!)

Because of my inherent problems with the Sunday night time slot (namely, I had school the next day and couldn’t stay up to watch without some serious draggin’ come Monday morning), I naturally wound up taping these episodes. And taping, and taping, and taping. The problem was, it became increasingly hard to find the time to sit down and actually watch them. Eventually, it got to the point where I had boxes of tapes with The Ghoul on them, most of them either unmarked or with a vague “Ghoul” scrawled on the sleeve. It’s kind of the same sort of thing with the DVR nowadays; I’ll have stuff I fully intend to get on tape sit there for months at a time, simply because I can’t find a moment to sit down and watch them. And when I do have time, I’m usually going through thousand-year-old videotapes or writing for my stupid dumb blog.

Around 2011, I made a concerted effort to dig out all of these Ghoul tapes and duly notate them. As far as I can remember, that’s when I first actually discovered he ran Poltergeist, though my mind is playing games with me; maybe this was one of the few I labeled correctly back then. Not that this matters to anyone but me, of course.

Anyway, Poltergeist is one of the better features run during those later years on 55. Not only because it’s such an acclaimed horror film, but also because it actually fits within the genre so widely (and understandably) associated with The Ghoul. Horror and sci-fi, it’s what horror hosts are made of, man! Action movies, comedies, dramas, even animated films were ran during the Sunday-era, and given the loose horror motif of the rest of the show and the general absence of the audio/video drop-ins, well, it made for the occasional awkward broadcast. Trading Places and Cocktail hosted by The Ghoul, they happened and they were strange (and not in a good way).

Luckily, Poltergeist is so good that the lack of drop-ins doesn’t really hurt the movie; people probably would have been angry had they been used, I imagine.

That’s the title screen up above, by the way.

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I think most everyone has seen Poltergeist by this point. It’s one of those horror movies that have wound up pretty much beyond reproach. The whole “They’re heeeere!” quote is even known by people that haven’t seen the film (all 8 of ’em). Generally considered a legitimate classic, it really is one of the more famous films run during that later era of The Ghoul on WBNX. Deliverance is another, though I’d easily take Poltergeist over that one.

I’m tempted to describe Poltergeist as “Coach fights ghosts!” even though that really, really does the movie a disservice (and isn’t all that accurate, either). Starring Craig T. “Hayden Fox” Nelson and JoBeth “Frasier’s girlfriend that one time” Williams (I, of course, am being a cad; both Nelson and Williams are accomplished actors with a ton of great stuff to their credit), Poltergeist, for those that don’t know (again, all 8 of ’em), details a California family beset by problems of a supernatural nature. The end!

Actually, that description also does the movie a disservice. Since the danger of spoilers is even more of an issue here than it usually is with these posts (since, unlike what I usually talk about, people will actually want to watch this one!), let me see how much I can and can’t get away with. Yes, it’s a household under attack by the titular character(s), but it’s quite a bit more than that. In this unfortunate house, weird spooky occurrences start out small, but soon turn deadly dangerous, including a killer tree and the youngest daughter being straight-up kidnapped by the ghostly forces. Building a house over a cemetery usually yields these results, and that’s exactly the reason this all happens here. This is a poor synopsis of the movie, isn’t it? Stop relying on me and just go watch it, already!

Being a PG-rated film, no one should go in expecting a gore-fest, which is fine by me since I don’t go for those kinda flicks anyway. And with this being a big budget Steven Spielberg film (directed by Tobe Hooper, no less), it stands to reason that this is going to be a cut-above the rest, and well, it is. And even with the editing for television (as was especially par for the course with films shown by The Ghoul), it’s an entertaining watch. I dig it!

Even though, as previously stated, this isn’t the kind of horror movie I usually watch, I actually wound up liking what I saw. I can’t promise that I’d ever watch Poltergeist again or in any other format, but at least I now ‘get’ why so many people are so wild about it.

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Unfortunately, for as good as the movie is, The Ghoul segments are the area that turns the overall episode into a disappointment. Simply put, they’re almost non-existent. Granted, the switch from Fridays to Sundays brought a lessening of Ghoul bits, but rarely were they this sparse. Maybe it was done to keep as much of Poltergeist intact as possible, but the bottom line is this barely qualifies as an episode of The Ghoul. Honestly, if it weren’t for the intro, no one would really know what was going on. Usually, for a ‘normal’ episode, I’d pick-and-choose which segments I wanted to spotlight, but in this case, there are so few and the ones that are here are pretty short, I might as well take a quick look at each of them.

There is no introductory segment or skit following the opening theme; the show goes directly into the movie. Indeed, at no point does The Ghoul ever mention the movie, have a mail-reading segment, or even talk to the viewer one-on one as he usually did. Rather, the first we actually see of him in action is during the first commercial break: As per the screencaps above, he’s visiting Fresh Hair at Great Lakes Mall. It’s a short bit, in which he enters the establishment, and smells everyone’s hair to make sure it is indeed “fresh.” Simple, but kinda funny.

Looks like Fresh Hair is still up and running at Great Lakes Mall, too! Thanks, Ghoul…?

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You best believe there was at least one Ghoul-style blow-up in the episode; there almost has to be! It’s practically a prerequisite of the show! In this “installment” (ha!), a little car of some sort is blowed up. The firecracker used is kinda wimpy, and thus the explosion is relatively subdued (though any destruction is always fun, of course). Also, The Ghoul seems to have a hard time finding a working lighter prior to said explosion, which points to the general off-the-cuff, improvised nature of the show (which was always a lot of fun).

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A return to Fresh Hair. In this one, The Ghoul sits down for a trim, which is amusing because, obviously, hey, fright wig, fake beard and mustache. Still, there’s not a whole lot to the bit beyond that, which makes it the weakest of the four (!!!) Ghoul segments in this episode.

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The last bit of the night. The Ghoul is at a carnival/fair/something somewhere, and instead of throwing darts at the normal targets that would usually garner a cheap prize, he is instead wingin’ ’em at Froggy! After a miss or two, he finally hits a bullseye…in Froggy’s “lower extremities!” Funniest moment in the episode!

And…that’s it. Those are the only Ghoul bits of the night.

Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if all of these bits were taken from older shows, and made up to look like a “new” episode, as that had been done in the past (The Curse, during the Friday night run, is the one I remember most; I was taping that night, but was so disappointed with the result that I wound up taping over it). Even so, the segments presented here are short, random, and not at all representative of the show as it could be (to be fair, even during the Sunday years there were episodes that were more ‘complete’ with mail segments and whatnot, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s all Poltergeist‘s fault).

Nevertheless, it’s not an ideal way to celebrate a 30th anniversary year, is it?

It’s at this point that I usually look at the old commercials aired during a respective broadcast. While the original ads were included on this recording (I never cut them during The Ghoul, or for that matter, 99.9% of my other recordings either), truth be told, there just weren’t any good ones. There’s some okay ads that are a neat blast from the past during the actual viewing, but nothing interesting enough for the purposes of this post. So, the heck with it, I’m skippin’ that feature this time around. It would have just been filler in this case, anyway. Even more so than usual, I mean.

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This is the final image of the episode, show immediately after Poltergeist‘s end credits. No Ghoul outro, nothing. It’s just over. The ending “Runaway Production” card was always a melancholy moment anyway, since you knew The Ghoul was all done for the week, but in this case, it leaves an especially bitter taste in your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter’s mouth. Figuratively, I mean; it’d be kinda weird if it were in a literal sense.

And yet, a part of me is still glad I have this recording. It’s not representative of The Ghoul at his best on WBNX, but still, if I have to watch a movie, I’d rather it be with one of our local late night legends than not. Even in this diminished a form, I still get the old thrill of staying up late and watching a horror/sci-fi flick. The Ghoul may have been buried on Sunday nights and cut waaaay back in every way possible, but yet, some of that old magic still remained. That’s what’s so amazing about our Northeast Ohio horror hosts; you just can’t keep ’em down! It’s a thing of beauty!

Oh, and thanks, Northeast Ohio Video Hunter Brother, for making me convert this to DVD! You gave me the post for this week, and that’s also a thing of beauty!