Tag Archives: the ghoul show

Front Row Entertainment’s Fantasy Mission Force VHS (1996)

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Unlikely as it may seem, I was super stoked to find this sealed VHS copy of the Jackie Chan film Fantasy Mission Force at the Midway Plaza Goodwill recently. And not because I’m a Fantasy Mission Force megafan, either; lots of people love it (albeit for all the wrong reasons), but I can’t count myself among them. It’s a whacked-out flick, and I probably should enjoy it for the complete insanity that endears it to so many others, but I just don’t. And you can’t make me.

Nor am I an especially big kung fu movie fan. I like some of the Bruce Lee films, and I have a special affinity for The Dragon Lives Again (a nutbar “Brucesploitation” film where “Bruce Lee” dies, goes to the underworld, teams up with Popeye, and fights Dracula. Yes, really), but if I have any kind of kung fu fandom in me, it is only of the most casual variety.

(Anyone who has seen both is probably now wondering why I like a film as oddball as The Dragon Lives Again but don’t like the-also-super-weird Fantasy Mission Force. Search me. Also, while on the subject of weird kung fu, I so wanted to love Bruce Lee Strikes Back From The Grave, but man, aside from that opening intro, dude, screw that. Awesome theatrical poster, though.)

Fantasy Mission Force ostensibly stars Jackie Chan (his role basically amounts to a bit part), is ostensibly set during World War II (cars from the 1970’s show up, and references to Abraham Lincoln, James Bond and Rocky are made), and is ostensibly…well, I don’t really know where I was going with that kinda-gag. It’s a crazy flick, though. (To be fair, all of the inconsistencies are intentional.) It starts off with a bizarre singing-drinking party, then later there’s a Scottish soldier and his ultra-annoying sidekick, a tribe of Amazons, and a sojourn to a haunted house. It’s one “what the hell?” moment after another, and I’m not exaggerating, that reaction is pretty much nonstop throughout the whole thing. Oh, and to top it all off, there’s an obnoxiously catchy theme song that bores itself into your head for 97 years at a time.

Actually, when I describe the movie like that, Fantasy Mission Force does sound pretty awesome. I take back all the awful things I said about it? Nah.

So, if I don’t really like the movie, why get so jazzed upon finding a sealed copy at Goodwill? It’s not even remotely rare, and if all I wanted was a sealed copy, I’m sure they’re found easily enough online. No, only nostalgia could get my adrenaline pumping in regards to a film like Fantasy Mission Force. Here’s the ultimate proof:

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That $2.99 price tag. I know it by heart. The image is burnt into my memory. This sticker is proof-positive that this tape originally came from Best Buy’s fabled (in my mind) $2.99 VHS section. Not only did I dearly love this section, where films of an otherwise-doubtful sales-potential resided (silent shorts, b-westerns, spaghetti westerns, cheesy horror/sci-fi; a lot of crap not unlike Fantasy Mission Force, basically), but that also means that this copy of Fantasy Mission Force is as identical in every aspect as possible to the one I had in the late-1990’s. Where did my original copy go? All will be revealed in due time (settle down, I’ll get there.)

Also, don’t you just love that picture above? Jackie seems to be glaring at the price with so much resentment. “I’m only worth three bucks?!

For a short time in the late-1990’s, I was on a kung fu kick, so when I saw this tape (and having seen no other Chan flick beforehand) in Best Buy’s $2.99 section, I snapped it up right quick. I was already well-acquainted with the section, so it’s not like I didn’t know what could reside there, but that didn’t stop me from happily carrying it to the checkout counter like I’d just found a pot of friggin’ gold. It must’ve been the summer of 1998, because I’m positive I didn’t have this the summer before, and because the clerk asked if I was getting it for my Dad for father’s day. No, nosy checkout guy, this one is [was] mines. Further evidence it was summer of ’98? I had my copy of the film for about a year before it left me.

Where, how and why it went, you’ll soon know. But first, a closer look at the tape itself.

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Front Row Entertainment was a budget outfit, and make no mistake, their Fantasy Mission Force sure looks like a budget tape. You’d never see a major studio putting out something looking like that above. That said, it IS a bit more competent than a lot of cheapo videos. At least as far as the packaging goes. I mean, look at it. The pinks, blues and whites make it look like something akin to an ice cream cone. Do I dare take a bite out of it? It’s an aesthetically pleasing sleeve, even if it doesn’t scream “hot kung fu action!” and completely belies the actual product, which as previously mentioned, is NOT a thing of beauty.

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The back of the sleeve is plain-Jane, but adequate enough. I mean, the description is perfectly serviceable, though the final sentence is a massive understatement. Maybe it’s impossible to properly explain a film like Fantasy Mission Force in the space of one VHS back-cover.

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See, sealed. Did you think I was lying? I wasn’t. I can get an opened copy anywhere, so I refuse to crack the seal of my assuredly-from-Best Buy-and-just-like-the-one-I-used-to-have version.

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No, I didn’t succumb to temptation (ha!) and open it. As fortune would have it, I received a totally random and completely sleeve-less copy in a recent tape lot. Why was it in there? Was it a premonition? I don’t have the answer to those burning questions, and you’d better believe I wasn’t even remotely as excited as I was when I found the Best Buy-sealed copy (seriously, what are the odds of that in this day and age?), but if nothing else, it allows me to show you, the reader, what the actual tape looks like. Exciting, isn’t it? Amount of tape used: approximately a foot. High quality it was/is not.

Okay, the preliminaries are out of the way. Now, the real reason I was so excited to find this: my original copy is the subject of one of my fondest Northeast Ohio horror movie host memories. Behold!

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That is absolutely my original copy in The Ghoul’s hand, during the summer of 1999. The Ghoul had been on WBNX TV-55 for roughly a year at that point, and that year had seen me become a big fan of his. I had also watched my copy of Fantasy Mission Force twice in that year, and I just couldn’t stomach a third. I mean, no kidding, it sucks pretty bad. So, my VHS became the subject of the first package I ever sent The Ghoul. The package also included a “Parma Yo-Yo” (which The Ghoul seemed to like a lot but never did anything with again) and a big “Ghoul Power!” banner, but the Fantasy Mission Force tape was a grand finale of sorts. Being a young, 13-year old Ghoul fan, of course I asked him to blow the thing up.

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Being a man of the people, The Ghoul kindly obliged my request (“ask and you shall receive in Ghoul Power land!”), and trust me, there is no more fitting fate for Fantasy Mission Force than one of The Ghoul’s boom-booms. I really was jumping up and down during this whole segment, and the final fate of my awful movie was totally the topper. You have no idea how much I just loved all this. And while it doesn’t translate as well into still-pictures, this was a seriously satisfying blow-up.

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Those final two images are the last looks I ever had of my beloved Fantasy Mission Force tape. I don’t know what kind of firecracker he used, but man, that thing obliterated the video, as you can well see. It was, and is, a beautiful thing.

Keep in mind, not once have I regretted sending The Ghoul that tape. Oh, there are plenty of tapes I had, later got rid of, and ended up regretting, but this wasn’t one of them. The whole segment has become legendary to me. Fantasy Mission Force may not be good for much else, but it was certainly good for this.

And now I have a sealed copy, just like the one I sent to The Ghoul 15 years ago! Has it really been that long? Sure doesn’t seem like it. Maybe if The Ghoul ever comes back to local TV, I’ll send him this copy, too…

Nah, the chances of me coming across another sealed copy from the long-gone Best Buy $2.99 section are just too slim. The only question remains: where to put the tape? It’s stupid sealed Fantasy Mission Force, after all. It’s gotta go somewhere of semi-honor, doesn’t it?

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It’s got action like Commando, and it’s got comedy like Dan Aykroyd. A fitting combination? Hmmmm…

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

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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.

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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.