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…
(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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
More goofing on fake Bela Lugosi!
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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…
29/35 – The Beverly Hillbillies Promo
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
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
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
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!
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!
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!)