|ATTENTION FELLOW FORMER FANS OF KABL
FIGHT THE AWFUL NEW FORMAT!
Join Will the Thrill and Monica, Tiki Goddess in protesting the horrendous change from classic Standards, Swing & Big Bands to creepy "Adult Contemporary" - if you prefer Louis and Keely to the Captain and Tennille, or if you know Dean Martin is way cooler than Ricky Martin, write to the clueless Corporate clucks who think only old people like great music, email@example.com, and demand they bring back our music that no one else plays! Don't let the eternally cool sounds of Sinatra disappear from the Bay Area airwaves - or die altogether in the 21st Century!
Also, call the KABL comment line to complain: 415.344-9060
On This Month's Thrill-bill:
Ask Monica, Tiki Goddess. There's nothing I like going to sleep with better than an old monster movie (well, next to Monica). Night in, night out. I have a huge collection of vintage monster movies on tape, the kind I grew up watching on Doc Shock's Mad and Horror Theater every Saturday afternoon back in New Jersey. I'm not kidding when I say I Was a Teenage Werewolf is one of my all-time favorite movies. Sure, it's a sentimental choice, but so what. Movies are visceral, emotional experiences, at least the good ones are. Sometimes even the bad ones. Teenage Werewolf is both: a great B movie, directed by Gene Fowler Jr., who was an editor for Fritz Lang, and shot by Joseph LaShelle, who won an Oscar for Laura. It's lycanthropic JD noir, baby. It starred Michael Landon, and his career went downhill from there. He was just so cool in this flick. I also love the score by Paul Dunlap. I love everything about it, chiefly the hauntingly nostalgic mood. That was me, guys and ghouls. I was a teenage werewolf. Now I'm a thirtysomething lounge lizard. Some things change, for the better. Some things stay the same, for good reasons.
One thing that has changed for the worse is the whole approach to making movie monsters. I don't dig this CGI crap. I'll take Ray Harryhausen's stop motion dinosaurs in 1966's One Million Years BC (which also benefited from a scantily clad Raquel Welch, another unbeatable special effect) over the computerized denizens of Jurassic Park any day. The thing about monsters made with computers is they look like targets in a video game, I don't care what anyone says. Lifelike my ass. Harryhausen's Cyclops in 7th Voyage of Sinbad or his skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts or the Rhedosaurus in Beast From 20,00 0Fathoms or the Ymir in 20 Million Miles to Earth (I can go on and on) are far more compelling, frightening, memorable and beautiful images than anything made by committee on a computer. Ray's creations have a dreamlike quality that enhances the fantasy escapism element. CGI is cold and calculated - Harryhausen designs and animates all of his creatures by hand, and that is a far more impressive accomplishment. I met Ray in person recently at the Rafael Center tribute this past July. He was a kind, eloquent gent. He signed a lobby card Bob Ekman gave me from It Came From Beneath the Sea, which I'm showing October 12. On stage Ray was interviewed by some nerd along with this guy who won a slew of Oscars for various Lucas-Spielberg projects, I can't remember his name because his work hasn't left much of an impression on me, to be honest. I was there to see the original legend himself. The highlight was when Ray removed a skeleton used in Jason and the Argonauts from his briefcase and posed it for the audience. It was like a goddamn rock concert, everyone went nuts. Next he showed us an original saucer from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and pretended it was hovering. God, what a great moment. There won't be another Ray Harryhausen again, ever. His imagination and genius have been replaced with computers and box office figures, and that is a true tragedy.
I also much prefer the King of the Monsters, Godzilla as portrayed by a Japanese stunt man in a rubber suit, over that wimpy fake Americanized electronic iguana-be everyone is already forgetting. I LOVE all monsters in rubber suits - the Creature From the Black Lagoon, the Monster of Piedras Blancas, the She Creature, the Hideous Sun Demon, etc. I have autographed pictures all over our house of monsters terrorizing voluptuous 50s pin-up babes (some signed by the babe, like Yvette Vickers, Beverly Garland, Jeanne Carmen or Mara Corday, and some by the beast, like Robert Clarke or Ben Chapman). Paul Blaisdell, who created the the She Creature, the bulb-headed alcohol-clawed aliens in Invasion of the Saucer Men, and the Venusian cucumber-shaped alien Beulah (AKA Cuddles) in It Conquered the World, among many others, is a big name in my book - who needs Stan Winston? There is something so soothing and comforting about the sight of a vintage B Movie Monster. It's an aesthetic thing as much as a sentimental thing. I don't know what it is, exactly. And I don't care. Monica does not share my obsession with B Movie Monsters, but she tolerates my passion, and that is just as good and rare to find. There is something so coolly corporeal about a rubber-suited monster. They are sometimes laughable, but in their own way are much more real than the more ambitious and elaborate Aliens and Predators polluting this barren, jaded post-drive-in 21st Century landscape.
As I said, I discovered most of my beloved B Movie Monsters on Doc Shock's Saturday afternoon horror programs broadcast out of Philly. TV horror hosts were ubiquitous from the 50s and 60s, when the Shock Theater package was syndicated and presented by the likes of Vampira and Ghoulardi, up through the 70s. Every urban market in the country had their own TV horror host. Elvira carried on this tradition in the 80s, but of course her milky white cleavage was the main attraction (no complaints here). This is yet another classic pop-cultural past time that has been sadly cast to the wayside of contemporary commercialism. These kids today don't know what they're missing. Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a great show, and a natural progression of this type of program, but sometimes I did want the robots to just shut up so I could enjoy the movie in peace.
I did not grow up around here, but those who did fondly and feverishly recall the glory days of Creature Features on KTVU, hosted by Bob Wilkins throughout the 70s and John Stanley in the early to mid 80s. (My interview with Bob from last year is posted under the archives.) This was the Bay Area equivalent to Doc Shock's Mad and Horror Theaters. Creature Features was on every Saturday night, I believe (Wilkins also hosted a simultaneously broadcast horror movie program out of Sacramento's Channel 3). Bob and later John would host two vintage monster movies, culled largely from the classic libraries of Universal and Hammer along with the Monogram, AIP and Allied Artists wonders, as well as some true obscurities. Also on the program were trailers, clips, collectors with their collections, and special celebrity guests, all giants of the genre, like Christopher Lee, William Shatner, and Buster Crabbe, to name but a few.
Bob left the show in 1979, and then John Stanley, formerly a fan and an expert journalist, took over as host until the show's cancellation in 1984. Fans have been mourning its loss ever since. Bob was also famous around these parts as Captain Cosmic, weekday afternoon host of Japanese cartoons and cinema, aided by his robot, 2T2.John went on to publish several volumes of his exhaustive Creature Features Movie Guide. A new updated edition is coming out soon.
Hmmm cheesy movies, trailers, special guests, colorful hosts .sound familiar?
Well, all this month in Thrillville Theater I am presenting THE RETURN OF CREATURE FEATURES TO OAKLAND, LIVE ON THE PARKWAY STAGE! This means the original set will be re-created, thanks to the help of Doug Jones, who worked on the original, and we will also show incredible monster movie trailers of the 50s and 60s culled from the amazing collection of Bill Longen, AKA Uncle Bill, the Trailer King, who also wrote scripts for the show. The first three programs will be hosted by John Stanley, who has co-hosted a couple of hit Thrillville shows in the recent past, and for the last one Bob Wilkins is returning to Oakland! That's right, direct from his home in Reno, the very humble Mr. Wilkins is making a very special, rare public appearance that you may not ever see the likes of again - exclusively for Parkway patrons and Thrill seekers.
The kickoff program on October 5 features the theme Atomic Mutations on the Loose. Our films this evening will be Toho's classic radioactive noir The H Man (1959) with the American International Pictures drive-in gem War of the Colossal Beast (1958), Bert I. Gordon's sequel to his previous hit, The Amazing Colossal Man, which I showed during last October's Creature Features. Gordon also directed one of Monica, Tiki Goddess's favorite Creature Features, Village of the Giants (she also loves The Invisible Man.) The H Man, about slimy blob-men on the rampage, was directed by the great Inoshiro Honda, who directed most of the great monster flicks from Toho's golden era, including many in the first Godzilla series, Rodan, Mothra and more. Uncle Bill, the Trailer King has provided me with several classic Japanese monster trailers, and our special guests for the evening, besides John Stanley, will be August Ragone from Kimono My House and his pal, G-Fan Magazine's Bob Johnson.
Next, on October 12, beware Menaces from the Deep. Our aquatic subjects include the Zombies of Mora Tau (1957), featuring a horde of living corpses who guard an underwater treasure in an exotic hellhole. This atmospheric little terror stars buxom and beautiful Allison Hayes, better known for her cult classic Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. I would love to show that one but haven't been able to obtain a print. Zombies is almost as absurdly entertaining and is rarely screened, and I am so happy to have it for this series. It was directed by Edward Cahn, the cheap madman behind many of my favorites from that era, including It! The Terror from Beyond Space, Invasion of the Saucer Men, The She Creature, and Creature with the Atom Brain. I'm pairing it with 1955's It Came From Beneath the Sea, featuring Ray Harryhausen's giant "sextopus" attacking San Francisco, even tearing down the Golden Gate Bridge! Ray couldn't afford all eight arms for the mutant octopus, so you're supposed to assume there are always two more tentacles lurking beneath the surface, while the other six are busy wreaking havoc. Our musical guest for the evening will be the one and only Robert Silverman playing his thrilling theremin before a Q&A on the eerie instrument, used in many a monster movie of yesteryear, conducted by myself and Mr. Stanley.
October 19 features a double shot of Gothic Goosebumps. From Hammer Studios comes Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), the sequel to their premiere blockbuster The Curse of Frankenstein. Peter Cushing is back as the mad doctor who continues his evil experiments under the secret auspices of an insane asylum. This colorful period piece shows off Hammer's stylish sophistication but also their trademark gruesome shocks and psychological terror. On the same chill-bill is Bela Lugosi in one of only three roles where he portrayed an actual vampire, 1943's The Return of the Vampire. The other two were of course the landmark Dracula from 1931, and his only other appearance as Drac in 1948's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (another of Monica's favorite Creature Features, mine too). In Return, a Columbia release, Bela dons the cape and fangs but Universal owned the rights to the Dracula moniker, so he's called something else, but he's still a suave bloodsucker, and his assistant is a werewolf! These two will absolutely put you in that Halloween mood. I will have special surprises lined up for this evening - so secret that not even I know what they are yet!
And of course the theme on the evening of October 26 is simply and gloriously, The Return of Bob Wilkins. I had to dig up some extra special Creature Features for Bob to host, cigar and all, and I think you'll dig my choices. First is William Castle's The Tingler (1959) starring Vincent Price. Fans are already wondering if I'll rig the couches for electric shocks a la Castle, but so far I haven't figured out a way to do that without setting the theater on fire. I don't want to turn the Parkway into the House of Usher. Bob Wilkins will be electrifying enough. Bob will introduce the first feature; after it's over he'll be joined onstage by John Stanley and Bob Shaw, KTVU's ace entertainment reporter, who got his start as a CF staff member after writing in and constantly correcting Wilkins' monster facts. It will be a reunion you can witness only on the Parkway stage in Thrillville Theater.
The second feature of this historic evening will be the one and only original masterpiece, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968), possibly the movie that scared more shit out of more children than any other movie ever shown on Creature Features. Parkway head honcho Kyle Fischer vividly recalls the first time he saw this flick on Wilkins' show. It frightened and entranced the little tyke. It's still something of an endurance test. In our interview from last year, Bob told me he thought it was the best movie he ever presented. He'll be doing it again here, live before your eyes. I'm holding over Living Dead right on through Halloween evening, when I'll be showing it twice. The first show on Tuesday October 31 of course will be the Thrillville Nursery Halloween Costume Contest for Babies. Parents, dress the little monsters up and win a prize. There will be another costume contest before the 9:15 showing of Living Dead, adults only, conducted by myself and Monica, Tiki Goddess.
(Thrillville to George Romero in Pittsburgh, PA: you made two brilliant sequels to Night of the Living Dead, 1978's apocalyptic Dawn of the Dead and 1985's Day of the Dead. Where the hell is the obvious fourth installment, Twilight of the Dead? Or Millennium of the Dead? Heck, even Half Hour of the Dead would be appreciated amid the glossy shlock that passes for horror these days. Get off your ass and do what you were put here to do before you turn into a zombie yourself, my man! We need you!)
In the meantime, I am following my own humble calling, bringing classic cheap thrills to the masses, the way they were meant to be experienced: with a beer, a babe, buffalo wings, or even Bob Wilkins.