Tag Archives: host

Episode Recap: The Son of Ghoul Show “Mr. Wise Guy” (March 6, 1999)

With Son of Ghoul’s big 31st anniversary show this weekend, and indeed, his actual 31st anniversary today right now yo, what say we take a look back at a vintage episode? I always like doing these. (My wi-fi currently hates me and wants me dead, so if I blaze through this, particularly in the second-half, that’s why.)

31 years is unbelievable for any television personality, but especially so when it’s the endangered-species known as “horror host.” Ironically, 31 almost seems a little, I don’t know, anti-climatic, I guess, after the massive hype that surrounded his big 30th last year. I certainly covered it, and was even present when SOG was fittingly honored at Monsterfestmania.

I thought of a couple different topics to post in honor of his 31st continuous year on Northeast Ohio television. I could’ve covered the earliest episode I taped (The Vampire Bat, in 1997), or his 12th anniversary show, or even the episode featuring the first piece of mail I ever sent in to him. I even briefly considered an article detailing a lot of the SOG memorabilia I’ve amassed over the years. I decided against each one of those, however, for a variety of reasons: I’ll save my earliest taped episode for the 20th anniversary of the broadcast this fall, I didn’t feel like covering Frankenstein’s Daughter during his 12th anniversary, and I’m not ready to detail my cringe worthy (yet nostalgic) first letter to him. As for an article focused on SOG memorabilia, I just couldn’t muster up the moxy to drag all that stuff out for a picture-taking session.

Nope, I decided on our subject today for one very simple reason: I just plain like the movie, 1942’s Mr. Wise Guy. Heck, I just plain like the episode in general, and to me that speaks more about my Son of Ghoul fandom than any ‘special’ occurrence I could dig up. After all, this was how the show usually was (is) to me each weekend: A fun, kick-back-and-chill movie showcase.

So, join me now as I detail The Son of Ghoul Show, as aired on WAOH TV-29 in Akron and WAX TV-35 in Cleveland (“The Cat”) and taped by yours truly waaaay back on March 6, 1999…

(Also, I’ve been on a real kick for The Cat lately, even more so than usual. This comes from that late-90s sweet-spot of the channel, so I’m happy with the choice. And, if that kick keeps up, I may dig something else out from the station to cover. You keep pushing me and I just might, pal.)

I vividly recall this being a surprise episode. Y’see, SOG was on twice-a-week at that point: 8-10 PM, Fridays and Saturdays, same episode. This was handy, because you could sample on Friday, and tape-as-needed on Saturday. But, for whatever reason, he was only on Saturday that week, a fact he briefly mentions in his intro (above).

I think (think) he was preempted totally the night before due to some women’s college basketball tournament The Cat was broadcasting/simulcasting/whatevercasting. So because he was only on Saturday that week, I couldn’t risk missing a must-have episode, especially with no knowledge of what the movie would be. Because said basketball tournament was concluding that Saturday, there was no telling when SOG’s show would actually begin; I had to start the VCR recording waaaaay ahead of time, which was why I wound up with like an hour of that stupid basketball game on the tape before the episode started.

This obsessiveness proved fortuitous. That night, we were at my aunt’s house for some party I was quite probably miserable at, and I flipped to The Cat to see what episode I was capturing. When it finally started and Mr. Wise Guy was revealed, I was pleased as punch. SOG had ran this film, I don’t know, a year or so prior, and I had regretted not capturing it then. I actually liked the movie!

And I wasn’t the only one; SOG himself mentions that he likes it as well during his intro. How often did (does) that happen?!

The reason I initially liked this film so much largely had to do with what it represented: A trip back to a more innocent time in cinema. This is pure, early-1940s matinee entertainment. It’s an East Side Kids (you know, the Bowery Boys, except not) film, so there’s some light hooliganism about, but even with that, an escaped convict, a murder, a death-row sentence, and a real-life war going on, it’s all so light and breezy that it never seems too heavy. I’m hesitant to ascribe the term “innocence” to a film that contains all that, but like I said, this is matinee entertainment; it’s not exactly a weighty, socially-conscious drama.

The idea of an East Side Kids film showing up on a horror hosted program may seem odd, but as SOG states during his intro, Ghoulardi himself used to run these (and fittingly, on Saturdays!). If these were good enough for Ghoulardi, they should be good enough for any other host, too. And somehow, to me they seem to ‘fit’ just fine. Maybe that’s because I grew up with SOG showing them occasionally (still does, in fact), but looked at objectively, they still work. It’s not like a b-western, which unless it shared some horror influence or other odd quirk (Terror of Tiny Town, anyone?), just wouldn’t seem to fit. Look, I can’t really adequately explain why it works so well, it just does.

And, in a trend that continues to this day, SOG doesn’t tamper with these kinds of films; no drop-ins, no sound effects. Just the movie straight. Evidently he has some real appreciation for these flicks, and we’re all the better for it. Even when missing those elements so well-known to SOG fans, it flows perfectly.

The title of the film comes from a moniker given to (and approved by) Leo Gorcey’s character “Muggs” McGinnis (first name: Ethelbert), who is deemed so several times throughout the picture.

The simple synopsis of the plot: The East Side Kids are sent to reform school. There’s a bit more to it than that, though. Unjustly accused of stealing a truck (a truck that, unbeknownst to them, houses an escaped convict), they’re sent to a reformatory run by a kind warden, a cruel guard, and a couple of troublesome inmates that are secretly in cahoots with aforementioned cruel guard. Also on the docket: Bill Collins, older brother of cast member Bobby Jordan’s Danny Collins, is accused of murder and sentenced to death row. Eventually these plotlines unbelievably though perhaps predictably, collide. And since this is from 1942, it all ends on a relatively happy note. ‘Cept for the dude who died, anyway.

Needless to say, much of this is played for laughs. Even while incarcerated, Gorcey’s gang never seems too concerned with their situation. Even as Danny frets over his brother’s predicament back in the real world, the other guys just sort of blow it off – which admittedly does play out a little strange. I can’t imagine that being realistic even back in ’42.

Still, as a whole, the movie is entertaining. Indeed, I wasn’t sure if I’d still get a kick out of it when I sat down to convert my VHS to DVD for this review, but it greatly held my attention throughout. I was even genuinely amused by certain moments, which can’t always be said of semi-comedies of this vintage.

Look, the movie is in the public domain, so don’t just take my word for it; check it out for yourself. Since SOG didn’t add any sound effects, you’ll see it (almost) as it aired here!

(Fun Fact: Some years ago at a thrift store, I stumbled upon a 3-VHS boxset of East Side Kids films. Included were both of their Bela Lugosi collaborations, Spooks Run Wild and Ghosts on the Loose, as well as the title that really spurred the eventual purchase: Mr. Wise Guy. I never watched any of them, don’t think I even played any of the tapes, and subsequently the set became buried in my mound of crap videos. It should still be around here, somewhere, which is good, because unknown to me at the time was that the company who put it out, Passport Productions, was spawned from the ashes of Amvest Video, who we’ve seen here before. Cool winnins!)

Unfortunately, the movie isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t have much to do with plot, but rather stereotypes that were prevalent at the time. Ernest Morrison, often known as “Sunshine Sammy,” is the victim of some unfortunate racial jokes, as his character “Scruno” is the outlet for some now-wildly-inappropriate stereotyping. Look, I don’t claim to be a super-PC-advocate, but man, even I was uncomfortable with some of the gags at his expense.

That said, I am an advocate of not editing things of this nature to reflect current social attitudes. Yes, some of the jokes have aged terribly, but they reflect the time in which the film was made; you can’t rewrite history, only learn from it. And besides, the jokes are incredibly dated, but never really mean-spirited, if that counts for anything.

And with all that said, we now come to the rest of the show…

The first skit proper is actually an old bit from the WOAC TV-67 days, and I love it because it perfectly sums up SOG’s sense of humor, which very often syncs up with mine.

In a parody of the whole “carrying the Olympic torch” thing, here SOG dutifully marches with a plunger triumphantly raised, only to enter the studio bathroom and begin plunging! That’s all there is to it, and it’s great!

Truth be told, SOG doesn’t feature heavily heavily into this episode. I mean, he does, he shows up after each commercial-break, but it’s not new bit after new bit after new bit. His hosting duties, while prominent, maybe aren’t quite as prominent as they usually were, and I think that has much to do with this spot right here.

In a segment that takes up a healthy chunk of running time, SOG and guest Carl Thompson speak extensively on the Frightvision convention, coming later that month. Yes, Frightivision, the SOG-hosted horror convention; we’ve talked about it before! Here, SOG and Thompson thoroughly go over the list of guests and events coming to the show, and it goes on for around 8 minutes, which is pretty much a lifetime in horror-show-time.

That’s not a complaint on my part, though; I could not be happier this segment is present! I talked more extensively on the convention in the piece I just linked to (another SOG episode, Plan 9 From Outer Space, which aired later that same month), but Frightvision was a BIG deal. It was also my very first horror convention of any kind. Long story short: I positively loved it. I got to meet Ben “Gill Man” Chapman, Mark “Lost in Space Guy” Goddard, SOG’s own Fidge (who was great), saw Tom Savini (but didn’t meet him until the following year), and came home with some very cool loot (including a vintage SOG TV-67 promo card, which I still have to this day). All of the fanaticism that manifests itself in me for each and every Ghoulardifest began at the very first Frightvision, and for that I hold the fondest of memories.

So yes, seeing the segment that so aptly demonstrates the swirling hype surrounding Frightvision in the weeks leading up to it, that’s the sort of thing that can take me directly back in time. And movie aside, to me this is the defining moment of this particular episode.

An email segment. More (!) information on Frightvision is presented, and a spider glove that apparently belonged to Fidge is shown. Unless y’all want me to go email by email, there’s not much more I can say about it.

I would love to show the old school, wildly obsolete SOG email address, back when having an email address was still semi-innovative, but in the interest of avoiding confusion, I’ll refrain.

In the second mail segment, the reading of letters devolves into a long, drawn out explosion of fake fart noises, which has SOG and his crew dying with laughter. SOG: “Can you tell we’re so easily amused here?” Like the toilet torch earlier in the show, it’s a juvenile, and therefore riotous, moment. This is the stuff that helped cement my sense of humor, gang. You want someone to blame? Blame SOG.

Because my wi-fi is in a seemingly-perpetual state of precariousness, there were two other bits amidst all this insanity that I’m choosing to skip. One, a “Captain Kanga-Ghoul,” and the other, an on-location interview at a liquor store that happened to be one of Frightvision’s sponsors, were fun, sorta-filler bits, but frankly, I don’t have all that much to say about them. Also, I’d like to punch my wi-fi in the face.

Also, here is the point where I’d usually look at interesting (or so I think) commercials that aired during an original broadcast. I’m going to skip that feature this time around. Why? Because basically all of the ones I would have chosen were already covered in that previously-linked Plan 9 From Outer Space SOG episode recap. And the other, a goofy homegrown promo for a showing of Reefer Madness, was briefly looked at in the The Cat article I linked to way at the start of this post. I love it when I do my own work for me!

It all works out though, because I can end this article in accordance with the way this show itself ends: As the outro opens, SOG is seen jokingly patting his phony beard back into place, along with a “We’re not done yet!”

But, it’s what he says right after that that sums up not only the conclusion to this particular episode, but also the continuing 31 year odyssey his show has been on: “They say you’re not done till the show’s over! Or until you’re out of toilet paper; then you’re done!” I think I can speak on the behalf of SOG’s many fans when I say I hope SOG never runs out of toilet paper.

Boy, that sounded so much more philosophical in my head.

Happy 31st anniversary, Son of Ghoul!

(PS – I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to my legendary, groundbreaking, earth-shattering, trendsetting interview with the man himself!)

(PPS – They may not have been able to repeat this year, but man, I still love the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’ll stick with you guys win or lose! Just thought I should mention that somewhere, since the loss is naturally still on the mind of so many Northeast Ohioans right now.)

Amvest Video’s Grampa Presents VHS Series: 1942’s The Corpse Vanishes (1988)

amvest corpse vanishes 13

Last year, I started the new year off right with Superhost hosting Bela Lugosi in 1931’s Dracula. Now, I’m starting this year off right, with Al “Grampa” Lewis hosting Bela Lugosi in one of the films he was relegated to doing after Dracula, uh, typecast him somethin’ fierce. Do I know how to live or what!

Hopefully you’ll recall my last Halloween post, in which I looked at Amvest Video’s release of 1939’s The Human Monster as part of their “Grampa Presents” video series of 1988. There was a long line of these tapes, but none of them are all that easily found nowadays, which meant that I really wanted one, any one. I mean, Al “Grandpa Munster in all but official name” Lewis hosting a bunch of cheap, primarily public domain movies? I need that in my life as much as possible.

Fortunately for my video collection (though unfortunately for my wallet), the acquisition of that first tape touched off a severe wave of, well, I don’t want to say obsession, but somewhere around that description. I thought I’d be happy with one or two, but in the months since that initial article, my Grampa Presents collection has grown to include a nice chunk of titles from the series (plus one of the horror movie trailer compilations Lewis hosted for Amvest, which is obviously related but not quite part of the line). Not too shabby considering I only got my first tape in early October, I’d say!

(And truth be told, even ‘regular,’ non-Grampa-branded Amvest releases of these movies have proven to be an area of high interest to me. I’ve managed to gather up several of those, too.)

Much of this had to do with the fascinating backstory, or lack thereof, regarding the line: basically, no one is quite sure how many of these Grampa Presents tapes were actually released. There is a long list of titles attributed to it (which we’ll get to in a bit), but only a portion of those have been confirmed to, you know, exist. Some of them pop up from time-to-time online, but then there’s others that have been confirmed but almost never show up. Even though I’ve managed to acquire a bunch of these tapes since that first one in October, I still stand by my statement in the earlier post that they range from “highly obscure” to “impossibly rare.” And those are just the ones I/we know about!

Anyway, needless to say, the saga continues now, with one of the titles in the series that’s on the easier end of the spectrum to find (relatively speaking), but was nevertheless one of my personal chasers…

amvest corpse vanishes 18

Bela Lugosi’s 1942 poverty row opus, The Corpse Vanishes. Cool winnins!

If you’ve read that Halloween post, you’ll know there were some problems with that first tape: namely, it was recorded in the wrong speed. Thus, the tape ran out out before the movie was over! This hurt me deep, but not as much as it would have had it been a movie I cared more for. I’ve never been big on The Human Monster (aka Dark Eyes of London), but The Corpse Vanishes is a different story; I’ve been fond of the film ever since first seeing it on Son of Ghoul waaay back in 1997 (one of my very first episodes – I had only begun watching Son of Ghoul a few weeks prior).

Because I actually like the movie, your Northeast Ohio Video Hunter was going to be exponentially more irked if there was something wrong with this tape. I’ll say upfront that all is well as far as that is concerned. It played from start to finish without incident, and given the EP recording speed, the picture quality wasn’t exceptional but certainly passable. Considering these videos were strictly budget affairs the whole way around, I was pleasantly surprised.

(Over the course of amassing these titles, and even the non-Grampa-hosted Amvest releases, I’ve learned a lot about the ups-and-downs of them. Indeed, thanks to how much more I know about all of this now, this is probably going to end up being the article I wanted to write last time. I know I’ll end up repeating a few things I said the first time around, so please bear with me.)

The cover art, though simplistic, is appealing. If you go and search out other images of the Grampa Presents line, you’ll see that the artwork can vary wildly from release to release. Some tapes use the original movie posters as a template, some (such as this one) use a real photograph, and others use hand drawn original artwork that can range from okay to, well, lets just say the hand drawn stuff sometimes isn’t the best. Make no mistake though, even the goofier-looking ones I love; these things have charm to spare!

As for this The Corpse Vanishes, like I said, it’s simplistic, but overall still very cool. The Bela image is appropriate, and the red and gray color scheme is attractive…

…Aw, who am I kidding? It’s all about the Grampa banner at the top. It totally takes the cover from “competent” to “I should probably have a poster of it made for my bedroom wall.” I’m seriously considering printing out copies of that “Grampa Presents” header and fixing them to some of my favorite tapes just to make them look better. “Grampa Presents: The Giant Spider Invasion.” “Grampa Presents: The Creeping Terror.” “Grampa Presents: M*A*S*H – Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.The possibilities are endless!

I should be getting a million dollars a week for these brilliant ideas.

amvest corpse vanishes 19

For as good as the front covers (can) look, the back covers are always pretty plain. Indeed, before you actually put the tape in the VCR, that’s where the budget roots of the video are first evident (unless you got one of those particularly cheesy-covered ones, in which case, that’s where the budget roots are first evident). Not that that bothers me in the slightest; budget tape charm and all that.

As far as the movie synopsis goes, it’s not exactly comprehensive or anything, but the one used here for The Corpse Vanishes isn’t quite as perfunctory as the descriptions on these tapes can be. Okay, it’s a straight two paragraphs without any frills, but hey, I’ve seen worse.

‘Course, it’s totally the “Grampa’s Ratings” feature that makes the back cover: three bats and the declaration of “GHOULISH GREAT!” AND it’s topped off with (ostensibly) Al Lewis’ personal signature to let you, the video consumer, know that this has his personal guarantee of quality. That’s awesome.

No kidding, for old public domain flicks like this, there were (and are!) untold multitudes of releases. So, something, anything that could make one particular version stand out from the rest could make the difference between an eventual purchase or continued shelf languishing. And you know, I think that’s another one of the things that I find so appealing about these releases; sure, there are countless ‘normal’ copies out there, but when you’ve got the option to watch the movie with Al Lewis bookends, well, why not take it? Sure, you may have to contend with some tracking issues, and no, the print used for the film won’t be Criterion Collection quality, but the ‘spooky horror hosted’ vibes of the tape easily makes up for all of that.

Also, I totally just thought of “Grampa Presents: Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster.Man that would that be awesome. I should be getting two million dollars a week for these brilliant ideas.

amvest corpse vanishes 20

There’s the cute lil’ tape itself. If you go back to my first Grampa Presents post, you’ll see the difference in the tape casing and reels. The Human Monster was in a more standard case but with thick, white, mega-cheap wheels. This one however uses more standard reels and a casing akin to the kind Memorex used for their late-1980s/early-1990s blank VHS tapes. (Not so unusual there; I’ve seen copies of Batman ’89 with the same casing.) Unlike The Human Monster‘s LP recording, The Corpse Vanishes is, as I said, in EP/SLP.

That anal-retentive description above isn’t just me being particularly pretentious; I do actually have a point to make. And that is: I’ve come to learn that there just isn’t any rhyme or reason to any of this. I’ve got a nice cache of individual Grampa titles, as well as several ‘plain’ Amvest titles, but there’s almost no standard formula to any them. Casings and reels vary between them, and more importantly, so do recording speeds. The majority were recorded in EP or LP, though there are some SP tapes out there, Grampa Presents included (of which I have three). As far as the Grampa versions go, the SP tapes seem to usually have a sticker of some sort on the back stating the fact (like this one), but EP and LP tapes have no such distinction. If you want to know before actually playing the tape, you generally have to look at the reels themselves (and with tapes that have larger wheels inside, that can sometimes be difficult), or gauging the weight of the tape itself (general rule of thumb: the heavier, the better).

Something else you need to be on the lookout for: Grampa’s host segments aren’t necessarily on each and every one. Yep, despite the appropriate “dis got Grampa” packaging, some tapes only feature him on the sleeve; the movie itself doesn’t feature the Al Lewis bookends. Four of my tapes demonstrate all the pomp and circumstance of Grampa, but he’s nowhere to be found on the actual recording (and three of those four are the aforementioned SP-recorded ones, so maybe those were later issues of some sort?).

Since both Grampa and non-Grampa releases of the same movie share identical catalog numbers, and because there’s nothing that singles out one version or the other on the actual label affixed to the tape itself, it’s certainly possible that opposing editions could accidentally be thrown into the opposite box, or maybe even as a substitute when they ran out of the ‘appropriate’ version? I’m just spit-balling here.

Or maybe, and this is just another hypothesis on my part, they didn’t want to pay licensing fees for Grampa’s filmed segments anymore (provided there were licensing fees; I don’t pretend to know how this all initially went down), and began intentionally leaving the host segments off of later tape runs, but kept paying to use his image on the cover for the “name” factor? Remember, the sleeve promises us Grampa’s guarantee, but it never actually says he’s going to be hosting the movie. Maybe Amvest eventually decided to go the Gene Shalit route?

BUT WAIT! Conversely, my Amvest copies of First Spaceship On Venus and Missile To The Moon are plain, no Grampa on the artwork, and yet, his host segments are included on the actual tapes! Surprise cool winnins! So theoretically, any Amvest, supposedly-non-Grampa release from 1988 under their “Vintage Video” subsidiary (which goes back to at least 1985, but those are more reminiscent of the Goodtimes tapes in cover-style from the period, and pre-date the Grampa Presents series by three years anyway) could conceivably be unmarked Grampa titles!

Like I said, there’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Just when I think I’ve got a handle on matters, something comes along that makes me rethink everything I thought I knew beforehand. I’ve had my preconceived notions, and time and again they were dashed.

amvest corpse vanishes 22

Lucky for me, The Corpse Vanishes does indeed include the Al Lewis intro and outro. This is a good thing, because I can easily see this movie as-is any number of ways, and if watching it via a cheapie VHS from the 1980s is the way I wanna go, there are plenty of options available there, too. All it takes is a quick run through eBay and a couple of bucks in my pocket. (Though after getting all these Grampa videos, the latter is decidedly tougher than the former!)

But by now, it’s pretty obvious to anyone taking even a cursory glance at this blog that I prefer my horror movies, uh, horror hosted. Oh sure, I love ’em straight too, but having grown up with all of the Northeast Ohio movie hosts (as well as the enduring fondness for the local hosts before my time, i.e. Ghoulardi), I have a strong affinity for anyone dressing up in cheesy/spooky garb and throwing out hackneyed puns. These movies are just so much more fun that way, at least to me. Plus, it’s an aspect of television broadcasting that has largely (but not completely) fallen by the wayside, making it all doubly-interesting to me.

Needless to say, horror hosting had its roots in television, but by the late-1980s, when home video had not only become entrenched as a de facto part of any well-rounded entertainment center but had also progressed to the point where it was actually feasible to have budget tapes such as this, the genre also found a place on home video. I.V.E.’s Thriller Video spearheaded the concept three years prior with their Elvira-hosted tape series (which we’ve seen here before), and in some ways (I also said this in that Halloween post), Amvest’s Grampa series feels like a more cut-rate version of those Elvira tapes.

Al Lewis’ Grampa was a natural fit for hosting horror and science fiction films, and a year before he started this Amvest series, he began hosting movies for TBS’ Super Scary Saturday, which we’ve seen here before, too. The Amvest Grampa Presents series was quite a bit lower-budget than the TBS show; these segments were shot in front of a green screen, with Grampa superimposed over still-images.

The very beginning of this intro, I hope you’ll recall, I didn’t get to see last time; the start of that tape was basically “in progress,” and by the time the tracking and whatnot had settled to a watchable state, Grampa was already into his pitch. Luckily, it’s all complete on The Corpse Vanishes, though the program starts playing early enough that tracking is still a bit of an issue.

So what did I miss the first time around? Not that much; shots from, I’m pretty sure, White Zombie open the whole thing. Then a two-framed, single-colored bat flies on-screen, neon lightning bolts hit it (to signify transformation, though it doesn’t make much sense when you think about it), and then, there’s Grampa! That’s right, the tape posits that Al Lewis has the power to transform into a cartoon bat at will. That…is pretty fantastic.

amvest corpse vanishes 2

For the Amvest tapes that actually include the Grampa footage on them, these host segments are the same for each and every one. What, you thought Lewis was gonna film a unique intro and outro for each and every title? Nope!

So, after that whole bat-transformation thing (and a few token movie clips, ostensibly from other films in the series), the scene then shifts to a Dr, Frankenstein-like lab. This is where the tape we looked at last time essentially began. It’s basically Al Lewis being Al Lewis; he had his shtick down to a science by that point. So, when he’s forced to banter with an off-screen “Igor” or explain to the audience that he’s not Paul Newman (apparently, people get them confused!), it actually does come off pretty funny. It would have been easy for this all to come off flat, awkward, forced, or what have you, but Lewis is so sincere and energetic that you can’t help but get a kick out of the whole thing.

I love the backdrop for this part of the intro: like I said, it looks like Frankenstein’s lab, albeit a still of said lab, and it’s accented by random neon-squigglies, which, you know, 1988 and all that.

There is one thing different for the respective intro of each tape: at one point during the opening segment, there’s a space where a voiceover (“Igor”) announces the title of the movie and who stars in it, all while Lewis looks on expectantly. ‘Course, sometimes (many times!) they forgot to add the voiceover, which means Lewis exclaims “that’s the one!” to absolutely nothing, which is actually pretty funny, albeit unintentionally (I said the same thing when I reviewed the Human Monster tape, and the trend continues not only on this one, but on several other Grampa tapes I have).

amvest corpse vanishes 3

And that brings us to the movie itself: 1942’s The Corpse Vanishes. I really, really like this movie. Like I said earlier, this tape was one of my personal chasers in the series, and it was basically because of how fond I am of The Corpse Vanishes.

This is one of the poverty row, cheapie horror films that Bela Lugosi was increasingly relegated to doing as the 1930s wound down and the 1940s began. Sure, he still had ‘big’ pictures now and then (1939’s Son of Frankenstein, 1941’s The Wolf Man, etc.), but his output was becoming increasingly less glitzy. I mean, by the last decade of his life, he was starring in Ed Wood movies, which were the very antithesis of glitzy!

It was all a double-edged sword; sure, films like this kept Bela working and in the public eye, but for a performer that started out as a star of big-time, A-list films, it had to sting.

That said, regardless of the source material, Bela was still magnetic. You can’t help but be entertained by the guy. It’s no exaggeration to say that he saved even the least of these films all by himself; a star of lesser magnitude probably wouldn’t have been able to pull it off. It’s the same deal with Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr.; if their names are on something, it’s worth at least a quick look, because they were that good.

Furthermore, many of these low-rent Bela flicks have lapsed into the public domain. The Corpse Vanishes, obviously, but also others (like The Devil Bat and The Ape Man). The good news there is that, back in the day and today as well, there’s always something with Lugosi’s name on it out there on store shelves. Make no mistake, Bela is still a name draw. Sure, these public domain films (with the possible exception of White Zombie) aren’t really the definitive way to introduce someone (or yourself!) to Lugosi’s work, but they’re cheap and readily available, and if nothing else, like I said before, the guy had a magnetism about him that carried even the weakest films in his canon.

amvest corpse vanishes 4

As for The Corpse Vanishes itself, no one will ever claim it to be among Bela’s finest work, but taken for what it is (a wartime, poverty row horror film), it’s definitely an entertaining watch. It’s so simple, quaint, and despite the plot of a mad botanist killing virginal brides, somehow innocent. It almost seems like the kind of movie that could have only come out in the 1940s, with all of the ‘big’ Universal horror flicks of the previous decade to take inspiration from, and all of the sci-fi stuff of the 1950s yet to come. Sure, it’s something that probably could have been made in the 1930s, but it just feels so 1942.

The plot, yeah, it’ll sound like fairly formula stuff. And you know, it is. I’d never argue otherwise. But again, taken for what it is, it’s still fun. Lugosi plays a mad scientist (gee, you don’t say!), one Dr. Lorenz, who has a shrewish, aging wife. Wifey wants to stay young and beautiful forever, so Lorenz concocts a plan wherein he’ll poison the orchids sent to brides on their wedding day. When they collapse from said poison (and appear dead, though they’re really not), he kidnaps the body and takes it back to his lab (hence, “The Corpse Vanishes”). Once back at the lab, he extracts vital fluids from the bride and then injects them into his wife, which temporarily renews her youth.

It’s a scheme that has any number of holes in it (and it doesn’t take much for the viewer to realize that, either), but Lorenz goes ahead with the plan anyway. Eventually, this all attracts the attention of journalist Patricia Hunter, who is eager to get a story out of the deal, and sets off to get to the bottom of things…

Look, you don’t have to rely solely on my word for any of this; this film has been in the public domain for years, so check it out for yourself here. It’s only a little over an hour long, so have at it next time your favorite prime time drama is in reruns!

amvest corpse vanishes 5

Despite the inherent cheapness of the film, it still manages to pull off some pretty cool scenes. I mean, geez, Bela and his wife sleep in coffins! With movies like this, where the budget is obviously on the really cheap side, the idea of the baddies nappin’ in coffins is a good, simple way to get the creep factor going, even though it’s become a pretty common trope. Heck, it was probably a common trope back then.

But, in that small way, the movie even more recalls 1931’s Dracula, and that can never be a bad thing when Lugosi is in the vicinity (even if it does plays into that typecasting that hurt his career so much).

They sleep in coffins, man!

amvest corpse vanishes 6

Another cool aspect: Bela’s basement laboratory.

I really like Bela’s mad scientist lab. It’s not especially expansive, and it’s clearly limited by Monogram’s $5 budget, but at the same time, it’s so sincere. The very presence of a cut-rate lab just adds volumes to the film, though I’d be hard pressed to really explain why. Just seems more ‘complete’ that way, I guess?

Bela’s got a cool lab, man!

amvest corpse vanishes 7

Oddly enough, the ending card is rendered as a still-frame, complete with the dust and whatnot frozen in it, all while the music continues to play. I’m not sure if Amvest themselves did that, or if that’s how it came to them. The who and why of this I couldn’t say, but it’s a little strange.

In addition to countless budget videotape releases such as this one, The Corpse Vanishes was also the subject of an early episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which is probably how many people recognize the film nowadays. Being one of the first episodes of the national iteration of the series, it’s not one of their stronger efforts, though things always go better with MST3K.

‘Course, things always go better with Al “Grampa” Lewis, too…

amvest corpse vanishes 8

Which brings us to the part I was totally begrudged the first time around: Grampa’s outro segment. Like his intro, these were always the same for each tape.

Playing off his whole “comical undead vampire” act, the first thing he says once returning from the movie is “Oooh, that was so scary, it scared the blood right back into my veins!The Corpse Vanishes is many things, but by 1988, I really can’t see too many people finding it genuinely frightening. Was it even that scary back in ’42? Anyway, Grampa then follows that statement up with “Blood and gore, that’s my meat and potatoes!” That applies even less to The Corpse Vanishes, but the dialog absolutely adds to the atmosphere and general theme of the tapes nevertheless.

Plus, the outro segment was the same for every movie presented in the line, so what can you really expect in the way of accuracy?

That said, given the jokey Grampa open and close to the tapes, and most of the titles in the series, much of it is (well, was) pretty safe for the kids to watch. I made this comment last time, but it seems like these tapes would make good TV viewing for those that were too young for trick-or-treating but still wanted a Halloween experience.

Well, most of the movies fit that bill, anyway…

amvest corpse vanishes 9

This is the part I was pretty bummed about not having on my first Grampa Presents tape: after coming back from the movie and goofing around for a bit, Lewis then presents a “complete” list of titles in the Grampa Presents line!

This is important, because this is the only solid listing we have (that I know of anyway) for the Grampa Presents titles. Now, it’s highly doubtful that all of these were released with the Grampa branding; some of these were released by Amvest back in 1985, though with the same catalog numbers as given here. My guess is that all of these movies were, at some point, released by Amvest, but not all of them featured Grampa.

I make that distinction because Lewis himself says that each and every one will be presented by him, which, I’ve got four releases (Monster From Green Hell, Giant From The Unknown, The Living Head, and The Last Woman On Earth) that have him on the cover but not actually hosting. But then, I also have two that don’t mention him on the cover but he does host (the aforementioned First Spaceship On Venus and Missile To The Moon). I said it before, I’ll say it again: there’s just no rhyme or reason to any of this.

Throughout the scroll, Lewis speaks via voiceover, making generic comments such as “Ooh, I remember that one!” When he’s not being generally excited over the offerings, he’s yelling at the unseen (and unheard) Igor about his eating habits; apparently, Igor refuses to learn how to use a knife, fork and spoon.

I said before that this shtick was funny rather than awkward. Mostly, it is. However, for this spot, it’s clearly just filling time. I mean, it makes sense; it was either have Lewis babble in the background or have dead silence as the titles scroll, I get it, but yeah, his dialog here is amusing but pretty much just filler.

The list of titles consists mostly of standard public domain stuff: The Little Shop Of Horrors, The Terror, and so on. But, there are some really surprising offerings, too. Alice, Sweet Alice and The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant are there, and those are both confirmed to have actually been released. (They’re also definitely NOT for kids!) And, there’s a few that haven’t been confirmed to have been released as part of the Grampa Presents series (that I know of) but MAN I hope they were; namely, Night Of The Living Dead, Godzilla Vs. Megalon and Vampyr. You have no idea how badly I’d flip if I stumbled across any one of those three at a thrift store.

amvest corpse vanishes 10

After the scroll finishes, Lewis then goes into where you can actually buy these tapes. You need to look for the tapes with his face, which as we’ve seen, wasn’t quite true, though I doubt Lewis knew that while filming. (In an argument with the still unseen and unheard Igor: “Forget Tom Selleck with the mustache and everything! MY face and the official ratings are on the box!” That’s right, Al “Grampa” Lewis just referenced Magnum while pitching horror movies – now THAT is awesome!)

What’s more, there was a specific Amvest “Casket of Horrors” display for video stores; how cool is that! Given the rarity of most Amvest tapes nowadays (both with and without Grampa on ’em), distribution was almost certainly very limited. I’d like to say for every 20 online listings for a similar title from Goodtimes, there’s only 1 for an Amvest, but even that wouldn’t be true; Amvest tapes are generally few and far between.

Therefore, I can’t imagine too many of these “Casket of Horrors” displays making it out there, and even less surviving to this day. Who knows if any were even produced beyond the one seen in this outro. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that I. NOW. NEED. ONE. Coolest Halloween party decoration ever!

As far as I’m concerned, it just doesn’t get much cooler than the image above. That screencap succinctly sums (allitration) up everything that is right with these tapes and the whole horror movie ideal that they present so vividly. Would it be wrong for me to create posters of that image above and hang them all around my house? Because I’m coming dangerously close to doing just that.

Well, maybe just one to hang up somewhere…

amvest corpse vanishes 11

AND, if you couldn’t find one or any of these tapes in an actual brick-and-mortar store (and odds are most people couldn’t), Grampa gives you the details on how to order direct from Amvest! And even with ordering direct from the company, these were budget affairs; $13 was a pretty cheap price for a VHS tape in ’88. Granted, you wouldn’t be getting something on par with a, say, CBS/FOX release, but still…

Rahway is pronounced “Raw Way,” to which Grampa takes particular delight. “These are our people! That’s the way we like it – raw!” I’ll let you make up your own mind regarding that bit of dialog.

I wonder what happened if/when someone ordered a tape that didn’t actually exist as a Grampa version? Refund? Replacement? Given that this info is shown right after the list of videos supposedly available, while I don’t think each and every title had a respective Grampa Presents version, my guess would be that, at the very least, the person ordering would get a non-Grampa edition. Like I said before, I suspect there were Amvest releases for all or most of these, but which ones were released with some form of Al Lewis involvement is the big question here. I don’t know, and it seems nobody else really does, either.

Anyway, keeping up the act to the very end, Grampa admits that the 4 to 6 weeks delivery time is due to the bats in your neighborhood not flying that fast. Yeah, Al Lewis posits that your tape would be delivered by a bat. How can you not like the guy when he says things like that?

Grampa’s final pitch? Go out and buy Amvest videos, because if you don’t, one night when it’s dark and you think you’re alone, you won’t be – he’ll be there. He then bursts into that famous Grampa laugh as the screen fades out and then into the final image of the tape:

amvest corpse vanishes 12

As a final touch, the copyright info contains computer-generated blood steadily dripping down the screen! And to make things complete, ‘spooky’ music plays in the background! Very, very cool!

amvest corpse vanishes 21

The Corpse Vanishes is public domain, and thus, there is no shortage of varying releases. Mystery Science Theater 3000, Son of Ghoul, any number of other horror hosts out there, any number of cheapo DVDs out there, free and clear online downloads, there are countless options available to you. It’s not even remotely hard to find a copy of this movie.

But, if you want to watch the film in a way that only the late-1980s video era could present, Amvest’s release of the movie via the “Grampa Presents” line of tapes is the best way to go. It’s not perfect, it’s not a restored print of the film or anything like that, but as far as sheer coolness goes, it’s hard to beat. This is a perfect slice of late-1980s budget VHS memorabilia, one that I am absolutely thrilled to have in my collection.

Will I ever do another post on one of these tapes? Well, probably not. Maybe if/when I get the ever-elusive Grampa Presents version of 1922’s Nosferatu, or a previously ‘unknown’ release, but otherwise, I’d just be saying the same things about the Al Lewis segments over and over, with only the movie review portion changing. I mean, you never know, but as of right now, I’m pretty happy with this one as my final word on matters.

I’ve actually wound up gaining a real respect for Amvest. They had a real quirky sensibility, and as these Grampa tapes prove, they occasionally went out of the usual budget video “domain” and did their own thing. When I started collecting these (only a few months ago), I never thought I’d feel that way.

Furthermore, in whatever small way I may have helped unravel some of the questions regarding these Grampa Presents tapes, even through the confusion and disappointments, I enjoyed progressively learning more and more about them. There just aren’t many companies and their associated video releases that I can say that about.

And needless to say, I still want more of these! The search will continue! I won’t rest until I can fill an entire shelf with Al Lewis-hosted cinema!


Hey, wait, hold up! We’re not quite done yet!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the entire list of Grampa Presents titles as given during the end segment of this tape! Besides numbering them and correcting a few grammatical errors, I have also gone ahead and listed the titles that are actually confirmed as being released as part of the Grampa Presents series. Besides what I personally own, I am citing The VCR from Heck (these two pages specifically), VHSCollector.com (this page in particular), the Mike’s VHS Collection page over at Cinemasscre, as well as various online sales I have personally seen. Also, here’s a specific thread on the subject over at the Our Favorite Horror Hosts forum. (And yes, I plan to share what I’ve learned there as soon as this page goes up!) Please check out those sites once you’re done here; there’s a wealth of information not only on these Grampa Presents tapes, but on so many other subjects, as well.

Keep in mind that while this is the complete list of titles as given on this tape, the ones marked as “confirmed” are by no means the final say on the matter. These are just the ones that *I* am aware of. If you know of or even own one that hasn’t been confirmed as existing, hey, speak up in the comments! (Pictures would be helpful, too!)

And of course, the possibility exists that this actually isn’t the complete list of titles; there may well have been further videos released that included the host segments or appropriate packaging. I have no evidence of anything like that ever happening, every title I’ve found or seen has corresponded appropriately to this list, but hey, you never know!

(* = Indicates that I personally own a copy of that title, and thus I know for sure it was released by Amvest in some form at some point. [Confirmed] = Indicates this title was indeed released as part of the Grampa Presents series, either with him on the tape itself, on the packaging, or both. If Al Lewis is present in or on the tape in any way, I’m considering it officially released as part of the series.)

1. VV-430 – Night Of The Living Dead [Confirmed]*
2. VV-432 – The Little Shop Of Horrors*
3. VV-439 – The Terror [Confirmed]*
4. VV-442 – The Devil Bat [Confirmed]*
5. VV-443 – Horror Hotel [Confirmed]
6. VV-446 – The Ape Man*
7. VV-458 – Frankenstein’s Daughter*
8. VV-471 – Godzilla Vs. Megalon*
9. VV-476 – White Zombie*
10. VV-501 – Ghosts On The Loose [Confirmed]
11. VV-515 – The House Of Exorcism [Confirmed]
12. VV-516 – The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant [Confirmed]*
13. VV-517 – Spider Baby [Confirmed]
14. VV-518 – Spooks Run Wild [Confirmed]*
15. VV-519 – The Indestructible Man
16. VV-520 – The Corpse Vanishes [Confirmed]*
17. VV-521 – Phantom From Space [Confirmed]*
18. VV-522 – Who Killed Doc Robin?
19. VV-523 – Killers From Space [Confirmed]*
20. VV-524 – The Human Monster [Confirmed]*
21. VV-525 – Scared To Death [Confirmed]*
22. VV-526 – The Vampire Bat
23. VV-527 – Death Race 2000*
24. VV-528 – The Phantom Of The Opera (1925)
25. VV-529 – Invisible Ghost [Confirmed]
26. VV-530 – Bride Of The Gorilla [Confirmed]
27. VV-531 – Carnival Of Souls [Confirmed]*
28. VV-532 – Witch’s Curse [Confirmed]*
29. VV-533 – Snow Creature [Confirmed]
30. VV-534 – Battle Of The Worlds*
31. VV-535 – Dementia 13 [Confirmed]*
32. VV-536 – Alice, Sweet Alice [Confirmed]
33. VV-537 – Vampyr
34. VV-538 – Radar Men From The Moon (Part 1)
35. VV-539 – Radar Men From The Moon (Part 2)
36. VV-540 – The Death Kiss [Confirmed]*
37. VV-541 – Nosferatu [Confirmed]*
38. VV-542 – Yog, Monster From Space [Confirmed]
39. VV-543 – First Spaceship On Venus [Confirmed]*
40. VV-544 – The Crawling Eye [Confirmed]*
41. VV-545 – Giant From The Unknown [Confirmed]*
42. VV-546 – Immediate Disaster
43. VV-547 – The Last Woman On Earth [Confirmed]*
44. VV-548 – The Living Head [Confirmed]*
45. VV-549 – Mesa Of Lost Women [Confirmed]
46. VV-550 – Missile To The Moon [Confirmed]*
47. VV-551 – Monster From Green Hell [Confirmed]*
48. VV-552 – Nightmare Castle
49. VV-553 – The Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy
50. VV-554 – Mars Attacks The World*
51. VV-555 – Satan’s Satellites
52. VV-556 – The Island Monster
53. VV-557 – Wild Women Of Wongo
54. VV-558 – Wrestling Women Vs. The Aztec Mummy
55. VV-559 – Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (Michael Rennie) [Confirmed]
56. VV-560 – She Demons [Confirmed]*
57. VV-561 – Creature From The Haunted Sea [Confirmed]
58. VV-562 – The Ape [Confirmed]*
59. VV-563 – The Phantom Creeps [Confirmed]

———————
Special Compilations:

60. VS-005 – Grampa’s Silly Scaries – Vintage Horror-Themed Cartoons [Confirmed]
61. VS-006 – Grampa’s Monster Movies – Vintage Horror Movie Trailers [Confirmed]*
62. VS-009 – Grampa’s Sci-Fi Hits – Vintage Science Fiction Movie Trailers [Confirmed]*
63. VS-010 – More Silly Scaries – Vintage Horror-Themed Cartoons [Confirmed]

Big Chuck & Lil’ John’s Re-Created Ghoulardi Show (2000)

ghoulardi4

Northeast Ohio in the late-90’s/early-2000’s saw a kind of resurgence in interest for our local horror movie hosts. Not only were Big Chuck & Lil’ John and Son of Ghoul plugging away (which still continues to this day, albeit with a little break for Chuck & John from 2007 to 2011), but The Ghoul had also returned to local TV in 1998. It seemed like there was a revived interest in all things having to do with or were otherwise spawned by Ghoulardi. Perhaps it was because the death of Ernie “Ghoulardi” Anderson in 1997 re-ignited local love for this sort of thing, even though that love had never really went away (and is still there now, though to a lesser extent, sadly).

ghoulardi9

Perhaps the zenith and/or culmination of this re-ignited interest in all things Ghoulardi took place in 2000, when “Big Chuck” Schodowski, who worked on the original Ghoulardi show, gathered up some of the remaining footage of Ghoulardi (and frankly, there’s not a whole lot in the first place) and put together a re-created Ghoulardi show to be aired during an episode of The Big Chuck & Lil’ John Show (I don’t know if it was Chuck alone specifically behind this, mind you, but he was always a big Ghoulardi torch-bearer, for obvious reasons, so it stands to reason that he had to be a large part of making this happen). I was a regular viewer of all this stuff then, my fandom was as strong as it ever was, but it would take something really special, something really momentous to get me to sit up and say “Okay, I’ve got too see that!!” The re-created Ghoulardi was such an event. I was seriously, seriously stoked for this show, so much so that while I had a working VCR, it was decidedly lower-quality, and didn’t record in Hi-Fi. So, I made the trip to a nearby Aunt’s house and used her VCR to record get a Hi-Fi, higher quality SP copy (which I still have to this day).

ghoulardi1

Back then, I wasn’t quite the commercial junkie that I am now, though the seeds were obviously there, because when I first saw the promo for this event, I knew I had to have not only the actual show, but the advertisement for it as well. In the days before DVR, this wasn’t as easy as it is for me nowadays. Luckily, M*A*S*H came to the rescue, as I was a big taper of WJW’s late night reruns of the show (ah, the days before complete season DVD sets). I was able to capture the re-created Ghoulardi show promo near the end of an episode of M*A*S*H, and it’s the screenshots of that promo you’re seeing in this article. We’ll take a bit of a look at the promo itself too, but for now, let’s just talk about the special, using the promo’s screencaps as a guide.

ghoulardi2 ghoulardi3

Big Chuck & Lil’ John only appeared at the beginning and end of the show, the rest was made up entirely of Ghoulardi segments wrapped around the movie as well as a few period-correct things to further add to the mood (more on that in a bit). They even used a still of a vintage WJW TV-8 station I.D. card during the broadcast. Only the necessary very-2000 commercials broke the vintage 1963/1964 groove the show managed to establish.

ghoulardi6

One thing not mentioned during the promo is what movie was going to be shown. Those savvy in the ways of old sci-fi and horror flicks will be able to tell from the screenshot above that it was The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Also apparent from the screencap was that not only did they wrap the movie with Ghoulardi segments, but they also attempted to re-create Ghoulardi’s movie drop-ins. There were some sound effects, sure, and Ghoulardi himself was superimposed during the movie. Since, for obvious reasons, they had to make do with old footage of him to superimpose, that aspect maybe wasn’t as successful, but it was still cool to see. Better they try it than not, right?

As for The Brain That Wouldn’t Die itself, that was actually one of the parts of the special I don’t recall being all that excited about. Y’see, the movie has been a staple of these types of shows for years, and even at that relatively early period in my ‘career’ (ha!), I was kinda sick of it. The VHS release of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffing was enough for me at the time. A funny thing happened when I was transferring my VHS copy of the re-created Ghoulardi show to DVD several months ago, however: I found myself actually getting into it! Yeah, technically it’s a bad film, and yet, there’s something captivating about it. Honestly, I sorta dig it, which at one point is something I never thought I’d say.

ghoulardi7

Old commercials! This was one of  the other “period-correct” things I was talking about earlier. To further the vintage Ghoulardi show-feel, several old ads were shown at certain points in the broadcast. That shot above featuring a pre-prez Ronald Reagan was probably the most interesting of the bunch, but truth be told (and this may sound odd coming from an old commercial-junkie), I didn’t find any of them all that memorable; seemed like standard public domain stuff, the kind of commercials you can find on any number of cheap DVD comps. Still, the fact that they went the extra mile and included them in the broadcast is, to me, more important than however entertaining the individual commercials are. The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts in that aspect, I guess. Does that make any sense?

ghoulardi8

“Oh wowsers gang! He’s back! The Cleveland legend, Ghoulardi! Join Big Chuck & Lil’ John for the re-created Ghoulardi show, Friday at 11:30 PM! It’s just like it used to be! Even the commercials are old! So set your VCR for what’s sure to be the biggest, most-taped show in Cleveland history! The re-created Ghoulardi show, Friday at 11:30!”

That’s the entire transcipt of the voiceover in the promo, and man, it’s like they tailored it especially to me, particularly that part about setting the VCR. In a succinct 20 seconds, they managed to cover all the major points of the show. I don’t know if it really ended up being the most-taped show in Cleveland history, but it’s probably safe to assume that more than a few people were recording. You can tell that this was a big deal in WJW’s eyes because of the fact it even got a promo; Big Chuck and/or Lil’ John did (and do) plenty of commercials for local businesses, but promos for their own show had long since become scarce, if not non-existant (I sure don’t recall any, at least).

When it was all over, Big Chuck & Lil’ John popped back in to close the show, and they mentioned that they might be up for doing another re-created Ghoulardi show (there’s probably just enough suriving footage to get one more good re-creation), but as far as I know, another one never happened, and I’m not sure if this one was even repeated. Still, what an extremely cool idea, and it played out perfectly. I wasn’t around for Ghoulardi’s original run on Cleveland TV, but boy, seeing the re-creation was and is an absolute blast.

(For those that want to see the re-created Ghoulardi show, it’s available officially from Big Chuck & Lil’ John’s official site: http://www.bigchuckandliljohn.com/merchandise.html )

The History Of The Ghoul Show On WBNX TV-55, As Told Through Old Promos.

ghopros

I’ve mentioned before what a faithful viewer of The Ghoul I was during his run on Northeast Ohio’s WBNX TV-55. For the first two years he was on the network (1998-2000), he was on Friday nights at 11:30 PM, and many, many of my weekends were kicked off by staying up late and catching an awful movie with The Ghoul. In the fall of 2000, his show was moved to Sunday nights at 12 midnight, and then later to 1 AM. With the timeslot switch also came changes in the movies and what The Ghoul could-and-couldn’t do.

I taped and still have many of those Friday night shows, though perhaps ironically, I wound up with even more of the Sunday airings; because I usually had school the next day, staying up and watching was pretty much out of the question. So, I’d set the VCR timer and tape each episode, but I always had a hard time catching up, and thus unmarked tapes would just keep piling up. The result was that up until 2011, I had boxes full of tapes with no knowledge of what was on them other than the vague description of “The Ghoul” (if even that). Starting in ’11, I made a concerted effort to dig out and mark each tape accordingly, and while there may be one or two stray tapes (just when I think I’ve found them all, I come across another), the vast majority are now labeled as they should be. I was constantly discovering “new” episodes, the contents of which were occasionally quite surprising.

Anyone that’s read even a little bit of this blog knows what an old commercial/promo junkie I am. Needless to say, any old spots featuring our local horror movie hosts are waaay up at the top of my “want list” whenever I go searching through new old tapes. In the case of The Ghoul, all of my promos come from my personal tapes. WBNX often (but not always) aired one last promo for the show during the final commercial break of whatever was preceding The Ghoul. Since I always I set the VCR timer to begin recording a few minutes before the show’s start-time, I wound up with a good number of Ghoul promos.

ghopros2

Not counting spots that mentioned The Ghoul was appearing somewhere locally or commercials for local businesses (the Norton Furniture ads, for example), I have 65 episode promos total, 64 of which I have the actual episodes for (we’ll get to why there’s one missing in a bit). Add to that the extremely large number of episodes I have recorded that didn’t have a corresponding promo on the tape, and well, I’ve got a lot of Ghoul saved. Obviously, unless I wanted to have a 3-day long post, I can only spotlight a very, very small portion of all that. So, let’s check out some old Ghoul promos, ranging from the years 1998 to 2002 (he was on WBNX until 2003, but I don’t have any promos from that year). Not only will they give a glimpe of WBNX’s Ghoul advertising, but they also serve to trace the history of the show on the network.

(I should note that describing the promos in detail or transcribing them would quickly become redundant; typically The Ghoul would act “wacky” while mentioning that week’s movie, and then the title and time would be shown. They’re all pretty much the same in that respect. I’ll mention interesting points if need be, but my comments will ere more on the personal and historical side of things rather than a strict review of the promo itself. Indeed, the larger purpose of this article is to trace The Ghoul’s run on WBNX, which actually works pretty well going by promos, believe it or not.)

Frankenstein Unbound Promo (1998)

ghopro1 ghopro2

Of all of the promos I have, this is the only one I don’t have the corresponding episode for. I almost never taped anything off of WBNX during The Ghoul years except, you know, The Ghoul (though around 2003, when The Ghoul was winding down and/or completely off-the-air, I did find the need to record many Just Shoot Me reruns off the station. Don’t ask me why). In the summer of 1998, for some reason I decided to tape Gold Of The Samurai off of WBNX. It’s a movie I have zero interest in watching nowadays, but recording it did net me this very early promo for The Ghoul on the channel, so hey, no complaints. Aside from the July 10, 1998 premiere promo (which I covered on, well, this past July 10), this is the earliest promo for the show I have. The Ghoul had only been on WBNX for about a month and a half at that point.

Since I don’t have this episode, it’s hard for me to say much about it, but when The Ghoul first came back, most of his segments were made up of his introducing older bits from his 1970’s & 1980’s runs. Shortly into his WBNX run, he began focusing more on new material, with the older bits being relegated to a “Ghoul’s Vault Of Golden Garbage” segment in each show. Don’t quote me on this, but I *believe* it was around the time of this promo or soon thereafter that The Ghoul began focusing on newly filmed bits and whatnot.

Santa Claus Promo (1999)

ghopro3 ghopro4

Ah, Christmas time with The Ghoul. The holiday season was always a lot of fun on the show, and The Ghoul always went all-out, especially for his second holiday season on WBNX. Not only did he run Santa Claus for the second year in a row, but in the weeks leading up to this Christmas Eve airing, he also ran Santa Claus In Mother Goose Land, which was actually the Santa Claus-less The Magic Land Of Mother Goose (out of all of my personally recorded tapes, my copy of that episode is the only one to have oxidized, for reasons I don’t understand because the other tapes in the box, including The Ghoul’s airing of the ’89 Phantom of The Opera, were fine. As it stands, I still have the tape, but you get sound without picture, and I learned the hard way it clogs VCR heads right quick. So, what the hell?). The 1935 version of Scrooge was also shown during that ’99 holiday season. So yeah, like I said, The Ghoul went all-out.

Anyway, Santa Claus was a Ghoul favorite. I’ve got a total of four separate Ghoul airings of the movie (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001), perhaps the most of any movie during his WBNX run. The 2000 broadcast was chopped up beyond belief, but I’m fine with that, because while it’s become a cult-classic, frankly I can’t stand this 1959 Mexican film. I should be all for it, seeing as it’s incredibly bizarre and twisted. But, meh, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians was always more my speed, anyway.

Godmonster Of Indian Flats Promo (2000)

ghopro5 ghopro6

Now we’re talkin’! The Ghoul was responsible for introducing me to some very bizarre, very obscure films I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. When this film showed up on his online schedule and I read up on it, I was seriously stoked. However, the reasons for my excitement were only partially due to the “out there” movie. Let me explain: During Thanksgiving 1999, The Ghoul ran Blood Freak, in which drugs turn a guy into a mutated killer turkey. It was a wild film, and I had set the VCR to tape it. Problem was, I had pretty well ran that particular VCR into the ground; sometimes it would record uninterrupted, other times stop recording after a period of time and turn off. Unfortunately, Blood Freak was one of those times when the VCR decided to stop, and needless to say, I was salty. By the time Godmonster Of Indian Flats rolled around, I had gotten a new (albeit somewhat used) VCR from a relative, and while I eventually ran that one into the ground too (some things never change! Just ask the stack of screwed-up VCRs sitting in the same room as I am!), for the time being I was good to go.

Godmonster Of Indian Flats may not have completely taken the sting out of losing Blood Freak, but it certainly satisfied the lingering need for a “what the hell is this?” movie. How so? Well, the film details a mutated sheep fetus going on a rampage. Yes, it’s a film about a monster sheep. The scariest thing? It’s not nearly as awful as it could have been. Well, apparently so, at least; The Ghoul airing was so chopped up that the film was rendered completely incomprehensible. However, there are actually a number of positive/semi-positive reviews on it out there. I’m very, very happy to have this episode saved for posterity, but you know what? I think I still rather have Blood Freak. Like John Mellencamp once sang, I ain’t ever satisfied.

Indestructible Man Promo (2000)

ghopro25 ghopro26

First off, someone goofed: It’s IndestructIble Man, not IndestructAble Man. Hope no one got canned over this monumental, station-rocking error that’s on par with Janet Jackson flashing everybody at the Superbowl. Anyway, this 1956 Lon Chaney Jr. film is a staple of horror movie shows and public domain VHS and DVD sci-fi sets. Even Mystery Science Theater 3000 tackled it once. But you know, I’ve never really liked the movie at all. It should be a lot of fun, but I’ve always found it deadly dull.

So why give this promo a spotlight? Because, I was actually IN this episode. Dad and I took a trip to the now-gone B-Ware Video in Lakewood for a Ghoul appearance, and we ended up in some crowd shots when this episode aired a few weeks later. So, not anything special, it’s not like I was in a skit or anything, but still pretty cool for a 14 year old Ghoul fan. And no, I’m not posting a screencap of me in the crowd; I don’t think any of us looks good at that age, but I will say I’ve aged for the better.

Trading Places Promo (2000)

ghopro11 ghopro12

Uh oh, we’re getting into the “Sunday era.” Look at that timeslot, and look at that movie. Not very “Ghoul Power,” is it? Not that there’s anything wrong with Trading Places, it’s a very popular comedy, but geez, it’s about the last thing I think of when I think “Ghoul Movie.” Y’see, when WBNX moved The Ghoul to Sunday nights, they also imposed some very un-Ghoul-like rules. Not only was the timeslot just awful, but the movies changed from the horror & sci-fi flicks to an all-around selection. Those types of films still played now and then, but comedies, dramas, action and adventure movies were also now part of the show. Furthermore, The Ghoul couldn’t add sound effects and whatnot to them. And, to make matters worse, The Ghoul’s segments were cut back. This was probably done to avoid the sometimes incoherent editing of the movies during the Friday shows. Sure, ostensibly people were tuning in for the movie, but Ghoul fans know it was more about the overall experience. Yeah, sometimes it was impossible to follow a film’s plot, but that was really part of the fun. The Ghoul would pack so much iinto each show that a lot of the time it seemed the movie was actually an afterhtought. The Sunday move changed all that. Once in awhile The Ghoul would be allowed to show an old-style film with all of the effects and everything, but those instances were few-and-far-between.

I remember the first Sunday show. The change had been announced almost casually (just the week before, if I recall correctly), and needless to say, I was instantly irritated that my Friday night institution was being disrupted. But, that’s what VCRs were for, right? Unfortunately, after seeing that first Sunday show, any hopes of mine that The Ghoul would be the same other than the night he aired were dashed. The movie was the 1993 kid’s flick Remote, and to rub salt in my wounds, not only were The Ghoul’s bits limited, but the movie had no audio dubs, and to further distract people from the fact that this was The Ghoul, the movie actually had it’s own bumpers like it was just any old weekend airing, something that was not done prior (The Ghoul had bumpers for the overall show, but not the movie specifically). I was completely crushed. The whole vibe that the show had established since starting ’98 was largely wiped away in one fell swoop. The Ghoul was very vocal both on-air and during personal appearances about how displeased he was with the move (at one point during the end credits, a line read “Help! Get us off Sunday nights!”). What made it even harder to take was that when The Ghoul did show up on-screen, he was still very entertaining, but that just made the changes all the more glaring.

In The Army Now Promo (2000)

ghopro13 ghopro14

Yep, even Pauly Shore made it onto the show in that Sunday era. This promo is pretty funny, because The Ghoul very clearly states how much he hates Pauly Shore movies. Can’t say I blame him, because hey, if you gotta show comedy films, they might as well be good ones, right?

In retrospect, I think (and this is just my guess) that WBNX may have been trying to give The Ghoul a more all-around appeal akin to Big Chuck & Lil’ John. At one point they showed strictly horror & sci-fi films, and then that changed to a general film-selection in the early 90’s. Problem with that was that Chuck & John may have been horror hosts, but they didn’t really dress or act like them. The look of The Ghoul instantly placed him as a bonafide horror host, though, and thus the switch-up didn’t work nearly as smoothly.

Alice In Wonderland Promo (2000)

ghopro21 ghopro22

Yep, even Disney movies were fair-game for the Sunday era. I mean, geez, Alice In Wonderland?! I wouldn’t watch that on my own, and I sure don’t wanna see it on The Ghoul! And to make matters worse, would you believe this was the Halloween show?! Man, let the guy show something appropriate for the season! The Sword In The Stone was also shown during the Sunday era, for the record.

This promo is pretty funny. The Ghoul starts off stating he’d like to say that week’s episode in 3-D…he’d like to say that, but he can’t. It’s the same old “cheap show!”

Blood For Blood Promo (2001)

ghopro23 ghopro24

The Ghoul told viewers to call the station and ask to get him off Sunday nights. His displeasure wasn’t exactly secret. I know I did my part (well, Mom called for me, same difference). It didn’t help. Instead, he was pushed back an hour to 1 AM. I couldn’t really stay up and watch him either way, of course. Shortly after being moved to 1 AM, he began calling it the “Breakfast Club.” It wasn’t really an “official” renaming of the show, maybe more of a “making the best out of a bad situation” type deal, but The Ghoul did specifically call it the Breakfast Club during promos and the show.

Furthermore, certain segments were produced with a different set than usual. Brick-walled and with a table and usually a couple other guys from the show (Frank-On-Line, etc.) hanging out. You know, a breakfast club. You’ll see more of it in the next promo, but the screencap on the left above gives you an idea of the set. It was definitely, well, different. Also, while The Ghoul started at 1 AM prior to this episode, this promo makes it sound like this is the first “Breakfast Club” show. it’s hard to tell because of the static during this broadcast’s reception (gotta love rabbit ears). So, Blood For Blood (a Lorenzo Lamas film I have no desire to see) *may* have been the first Breakfast Club-branded Ghoul show.

Mark Of The Vampire Promo (2002)

ghopro19 ghopro20

This is one of those few-and-far-between shows I was talking about earlier. 1957’s Mark Of The Vampire was given the full Ghoul treatment, and this is mentioned prominently in the promo. In that left screencap you can see the regular Breakfast Club set, and notice that the show is now listed as “Monday at 1 AM,” as opposed to the previous promo’s “Sunday At 1 AM.” Make no mistake, it’s the same late Sunday/early Monday timeslot for both. I certainly don’t recall The Ghoul ever airing late Monday/Early Tuesday, at least.

200th Episode Promo (2002)

ghopro17 ghopro18

Let’s end this with a promo for one of the coolest shows of The Ghoul’s entire WBNX run, Sunday night or otherwise: The 200th Episode. No, the movie in the episode isn’t called Bicentennial, it simply means it’s The Ghoul’s bicentennial. The reason a movie isn’t listed during the promo is because there is no one specific movie. Rather, the show starts off with How To Make A Monster, and after returning from each commercial break, a different movie is in progress, finally ending with the conclusion of Blood Freak (alright, now I’m *kinda* satisfied). As The Ghoul counts off in this spot, there are a total of eight movies. No, it doesn’t make much sense as a coherent movie, but it’s a cool idea and pretty fun, and overall much more memorable than the 100th episode, The Head.

A some point in later-2002, The Ghoul would actually be moved back to Friday nights, but it was at some verrrry late hour. Even with my being a night owl, I still couldn’t really stay up and watch, not unless I wanted to sleep-in until 3 PM Saturday. Even with the slightly better timeslot, the movie selections/restrictions/etc. remained the same. I know for certain that I have the first back-to-Friday show (Yesterday’s Target), and perhaps I may have a few more episodes I’m just not recalling. But nevertheless, it became so hard to keep up with taping (and never getting around to watching), and all the changes were so disappointing, that at that point I fell away from taping The Ghoul. He wouldn’t be on WBNX all that much longer, leaving the network at some point in 2003. In retrospect, I wish I would have kept up, but oh well.

I have a lot of videotapes, and of the many I personally recorded myself, some of my most treasured are the ones featuring our local movie hosts. Obviously, a large part of that collection is made up of episodes of The Ghoul. It’s easy to complain about some of the changes/restrictions imposed on him later in his WBNX run, but even then, when it comes right down to it, it was an entertaining show. I wish some network would see fit to get The Ghoul back on TV; now that Big Chuck & Lil’ John are back and Son Of Ghoul never left, it would be kinda sorta close to the days of the late-90’s/early-2000’s, when this was the TV that absolutely made up my weekends.