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Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows: From Shock Theatre to Svengoolie

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The first comprehensive look at the horror movie programs that found their way to local TV stations in the 1950s, this book discusses how the motion picture industry initially disparaged and feared television but eventually began to embrace it, and it focuses on films grouped into the horror genre. Thousands of films that had long been gathering dust in film studio vaults The first comprehensive look at the horror movie programs that found their way to local TV stations in the 1950s, this book discusses how the motion picture industry initially disparaged and feared television but eventually began to embrace it, and it focuses on films grouped into the horror genre. Thousands of films that had long been gathering dust in film studio vaults gained new life with TV genre programming, and Chicago's tradition of TV horror movie shows was born in 1957. During my generally misspent youth, I devoted an inordinate amount of time watching the most preposterous movies ever made. I use the word preposterous advisedly, because that s the precise term to describe films involving giant scorpions, teenage werewolves, little green Martians, big alien brains, fire-breathing space turtles, 50-foot women, puppet people, humongous leeches, killer shrews, and grasshoppers as big as the Shedd Aquarium. Not that I have any regrets. --Author Ted Okuda, from the Introduction Although the motion picture industry initially disparaged and feared television, by the late 1950s, studios saw the medium as a convenient dumping ground for thousands of films that had long been gathering dust in their vaults. As these films found their way to local TV stations, enterprising distributors grouped the titles by genre so programmers could showcase them accordingly. It was in this spirit that Chicago s tradition of horror TV movie shows was born. TV viewers couldn t get enough of the old monster movies everything from glossy Frankenstein and Dracula epics to low-budget cheapies featuring giant grasshoppers and teenage werewolves. Here in Chicago, these films were broadcast on such horror movie shows as Shock Theatre, Thrillerama, Creature Features, and Screaming Yellow Theater. Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows: From Shock Theatre to Svengoolie is the first comprehensive look at Chicago s horror movie programs, from their inception in 1957 to the present. Through career profiles of the Horror Hosts who provided comedic interludes between commercial breaks, discover which creepy presenter was one of the 12 reporters to travel around the country with the Beatles during their 1965 66 U.S. tour, and learn about the politics behind Channel 32's sudden (and outrageous) switch from Svengoolie to the Ghoul. Also included are broadcast histories of such hostless programs as Creature Features, Thrillerama The Big Show, The Early Show, The Science Fiction Theater, and Monster Rally, along with a guide to 100 fright films broadcast on Chicago television and a look at the Shock! horror library that started a TV craze. Filled with rare photographs and ever-before-published data, Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows celebrates a grand tradition in local television.


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The first comprehensive look at the horror movie programs that found their way to local TV stations in the 1950s, this book discusses how the motion picture industry initially disparaged and feared television but eventually began to embrace it, and it focuses on films grouped into the horror genre. Thousands of films that had long been gathering dust in film studio vaults The first comprehensive look at the horror movie programs that found their way to local TV stations in the 1950s, this book discusses how the motion picture industry initially disparaged and feared television but eventually began to embrace it, and it focuses on films grouped into the horror genre. Thousands of films that had long been gathering dust in film studio vaults gained new life with TV genre programming, and Chicago's tradition of TV horror movie shows was born in 1957. During my generally misspent youth, I devoted an inordinate amount of time watching the most preposterous movies ever made. I use the word preposterous advisedly, because that s the precise term to describe films involving giant scorpions, teenage werewolves, little green Martians, big alien brains, fire-breathing space turtles, 50-foot women, puppet people, humongous leeches, killer shrews, and grasshoppers as big as the Shedd Aquarium. Not that I have any regrets. --Author Ted Okuda, from the Introduction Although the motion picture industry initially disparaged and feared television, by the late 1950s, studios saw the medium as a convenient dumping ground for thousands of films that had long been gathering dust in their vaults. As these films found their way to local TV stations, enterprising distributors grouped the titles by genre so programmers could showcase them accordingly. It was in this spirit that Chicago s tradition of horror TV movie shows was born. TV viewers couldn t get enough of the old monster movies everything from glossy Frankenstein and Dracula epics to low-budget cheapies featuring giant grasshoppers and teenage werewolves. Here in Chicago, these films were broadcast on such horror movie shows as Shock Theatre, Thrillerama, Creature Features, and Screaming Yellow Theater. Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows: From Shock Theatre to Svengoolie is the first comprehensive look at Chicago s horror movie programs, from their inception in 1957 to the present. Through career profiles of the Horror Hosts who provided comedic interludes between commercial breaks, discover which creepy presenter was one of the 12 reporters to travel around the country with the Beatles during their 1965 66 U.S. tour, and learn about the politics behind Channel 32's sudden (and outrageous) switch from Svengoolie to the Ghoul. Also included are broadcast histories of such hostless programs as Creature Features, Thrillerama The Big Show, The Early Show, The Science Fiction Theater, and Monster Rally, along with a guide to 100 fright films broadcast on Chicago television and a look at the Shock! horror library that started a TV craze. Filled with rare photographs and ever-before-published data, Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows celebrates a grand tradition in local television.

30 review for Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows: From Shock Theatre to Svengoolie

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Such a big part of my childhood- I love Svengoolie! The best part was, even at a young age, us kids we allowed to stay up late, eat junk food, and wear all the spooky makeup we wanted:) Can't wait to read this..I live in Austin now and am going through Sven withdrawal:( Such a big part of my childhood- I love Svengoolie! The best part was, even at a young age, us kids we allowed to stay up late, eat junk food, and wear all the spooky makeup we wanted:) Can't wait to read this..I live in Austin now and am going through Sven withdrawal:(

  2. 4 out of 5

    Don Weiss

    Exceptionally well-researched and informative. I was born after Shock Theatre and the original Svengoolie ended their runs, but I--and, as I'm sure, other classic horror fans of my generation-- thoroughly enjoy the current Svengoolie on Me-TV. The Horror Movie Host has become a rarity, and it's fascinating to learn how it all began. Exceptionally well-researched and informative. I was born after Shock Theatre and the original Svengoolie ended their runs, but I--and, as I'm sure, other classic horror fans of my generation-- thoroughly enjoy the current Svengoolie on Me-TV. The Horror Movie Host has become a rarity, and it's fascinating to learn how it all began.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    I inter-library loaned this book because used copies are expensive - in a sense, I'm glad I did. It's a solid attempt to record a history of the presentation of horror films in the Chicago TV Market. I worded it like that because the book is not simply about Chicago horror hosts, but also about famous and memorable shows that featured no host (like the "Experiment In Terror" intro-ed CREATURE FEATURE). This is a good-natured and informative book that has a few things going for it. The authors gre I inter-library loaned this book because used copies are expensive - in a sense, I'm glad I did. It's a solid attempt to record a history of the presentation of horror films in the Chicago TV Market. I worded it like that because the book is not simply about Chicago horror hosts, but also about famous and memorable shows that featured no host (like the "Experiment In Terror" intro-ed CREATURE FEATURE). This is a good-natured and informative book that has a few things going for it. The authors grew up experiencing the content, so it does a great job of capturing those halcyon days (including my own youth in the mid to late 1970s) when one had to actually *watch* television for the horror and monster movies you so desperately craved, when each movie was an event and needed to be committed to memory (I would sit with the new TV guide and circle every movie marked horror, science fiction, fantasy or mystery/suspense - then try to figure out how to watch them all!). A wide variety of movies could be seen, and b&w stood proudly next to color. Now, in this age of easy access, movies don't really seem to mean much to young viewers, they're just a variable commodity to be bought on dvd, downloaded, tivo-ed and erased while scanning 800 channels full of nothing. And while almost everything *seems* to be available now, it's only available at a price, or tied up on one network. Movies were better when no one cared about them, because then *you* could make them important. Now that they're just something to be exploited, you don't *need* to care because someone else cares much more, but for the wrong reasons... if that makes any sense. Back to the book. There's nice write-ups on Marvin (the creepy beatnik wife-murdering horror host character in black turtleneck and thick glasses) which is supported by information from the actor's wife (since deceased) and promotional photos (silent Marvin footage can be found on Youtube, married to the audio track of his last appearance, in which his faceless, mute wife character finally shows herself and speaks). Svengoolie and Son of Svengoolie are also covered, along with the short stint of The Ghoul and the large impression made by Cleveland's Ghoulardi. Some interesting tidbits are gleaned (I especially liked the original - Jerry Bishop - Svengoolie coverage because I like the host, he's a great marriage of the horror host tradition with the zeitgeist of the moment, a wise-cracking, hippie vampire) and I especially liked the mentions of other local television programming which has mostly fallen by the wayside (will the world ever see anything as odd as the described news show "Heart of the News", in which headlines were breathlessly read by an attractive lady reclining on a heart-shaped bed. Not likely!). The truth is, the rise of UPN and the WB and Fox has killed local TV and now all your programming is fed to you by corporate monoliths and has no connection to your locality in any way, anymore. And so alienation and dislocation continue to grow... the better to control you in your era of digital freedom. On the other hand, if I could, I'd give this book 2 and a half stars. Why? Because, honestly, it's 2/3rds of a book padded out with a needless review list of horror films, the listing of the Shock! and Son of Shock! film packages that these stations would show, contact info for horror movie fans and lists of those old 8mm reductions of classic movies you could buy from Captain Company, along with an enormous index (never thought I'd complain about an index being in a book). In truth, the amount of actual useful material/information provided here could have easily been contained in a longish article for SCARY MONSTERS or FILMFAX magazine (if that latter still exists) - or, better yet, made a very nice article for a website. The nature of the material being examined - lost and forgotten audio/visual ephemera of local programming - really makes it a topic to be exploited best by links to sources like You Tube. So, anyway, an okay book but nothing to write home about. I have a few of these horror host books coming down the pike (could not find copies of the SIVAD SCRAPBOOK or the ZOMBOO Scrapbook to save my life) because I dearly love the topic, but I would might suggest other horror host fans simply get your local library to ship in the copy I got from the Chicago Public Library.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Wade

    Written in such a ways that you really need to be from Chicago to appreciate. Spent more time on the movies then the personalities that brought them to us. Disappointing but still not a bad read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I didn't read it cover to cover, but got a big kick out of the chapters I did skim through. Yes, the Son of Svengoolie I remember as a kid is the same ageless guy (Rich Koz) that's back on the air now. Love him. An interesting little factoid is that Cleveland horror host Ghoulardi, played by Ernie Anderson (predecessor to Detroit's "The Ghoul"), is the father of director P.T. Anderson. Perhaps father and son hunted quail together. hee hee If, like me, you have fond memories of staying up late to I didn't read it cover to cover, but got a big kick out of the chapters I did skim through. Yes, the Son of Svengoolie I remember as a kid is the same ageless guy (Rich Koz) that's back on the air now. Love him. An interesting little factoid is that Cleveland horror host Ghoulardi, played by Ernie Anderson (predecessor to Detroit's "The Ghoul"), is the father of director P.T. Anderson. Perhaps father and son hunted quail together. hee hee If, like me, you have fond memories of staying up late to watch your favorite horror movie host, you'll be greatly amused by this book. Patrick was also skimming through it the other night and related a hilarious tidbit to me involving a mishap between Frankenstein and Sammie Davis Jr. Too darn funny. Also of interesting note was the short-lived airing of The Ghoul of Detroit fame in Chicago and the angry backlash against him by Chicagoans. I was a bit too young to remember him or the original Svengoolie (Jerry G. Bishop) who was supposedly a guitar strumming hippie version of the character Rich Koz does now. I'm off to look up some youtube clips of the original "hippie" Svengoolie.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joel Thomas

    As the title may show, this book's content will primarily appeal to a couple select groups of people -- fans of classic local Chicago television and "creature feature" horror movie fans. I'm only at the fringes of those groups, having grown up after most of WGN and WFLD's classic TV era took place but still in time to catch the last of it and have an appreciation. I never even heard of Svengoolie until encountering the show on ME-TV (along with many others) in the past few years, but that was en As the title may show, this book's content will primarily appeal to a couple select groups of people -- fans of classic local Chicago television and "creature feature" horror movie fans. I'm only at the fringes of those groups, having grown up after most of WGN and WFLD's classic TV era took place but still in time to catch the last of it and have an appreciation. I never even heard of Svengoolie until encountering the show on ME-TV (along with many others) in the past few years, but that was enough to get me fascinated by the horror movie TV show host topic. This book includes a blend of Okuda's personal memories, interviews and anecdotes from behind the horror show scenes over the years, and a beautiful amount of minutiae-drenched history. If you're interested in these topics at all, you'll find this book an enjoyable read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Anecdotes and interviews highlight this history of the horror-movie-show tradition in the Chicago area. I didn't expect to be blown away by amazing writing here, and I wasn't. But it was informative, interesting and once again made me wish I had grown up in the heyday of this kind of programming. Is there a better form of cultural education than watching a late-night B&W Universal monster classic in the basement with your friends while a local television personality performs bizarre skits at com Anecdotes and interviews highlight this history of the horror-movie-show tradition in the Chicago area. I didn't expect to be blown away by amazing writing here, and I wasn't. But it was informative, interesting and once again made me wish I had grown up in the heyday of this kind of programming. Is there a better form of cultural education than watching a late-night B&W Universal monster classic in the basement with your friends while a local television personality performs bizarre skits at commercial breaks? No.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    bought this on a whim when perusing the bookshop inside the Heartland Cafe up in Roger's Park, Chicago reading a book like this makes me wish i'd had a WGN affiliate or something like it when i was a kid. and that maybe i was a kid 30 years ago! there's also a decent set of appendicies, including a list on monster movies. bought this on a whim when perusing the bookshop inside the Heartland Cafe up in Roger's Park, Chicago reading a book like this makes me wish i'd had a WGN affiliate or something like it when i was a kid. and that maybe i was a kid 30 years ago! there's also a decent set of appendicies, including a list on monster movies.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Derek

  10. 4 out of 5

    Philip

  11. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rich

  13. 5 out of 5

    Phil Wolf

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marie Everett

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christina

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chad

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kevin G

  21. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  22. 4 out of 5

    John

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael Blackmore

  24. 5 out of 5

    Milantropio

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gregory Litchfield

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steven Tsapelas

  27. 4 out of 5

    Paul Corupe

  28. 4 out of 5

    Phil Salomon

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jay Dougherty

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

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