Saturday, September 11, 2010

Movie Hosts: A Trip Through Time

I have a fond place in my heart for TV movie hosts. These were not talk show hosts, but movie hosts. I don’t know where the phenomenon began, but when I was very young, 3 and 4 years old, it was very common to find movies on TV during the daytime all week long and on weekends that had a “host,” a person who would come on and introduce the movie and do interstitials before or after the commercials. These people were on one of the three or four networks, not on some homegrown, cable operated, nobody watches it, channel (There wasn't any cable at that time anyway).

Growing up, during the week it was Bill Kennedy at the Movies and Rita Bell's Prize Movie.

 Bill Kennedy knew a lot about the movies he showed, giving trivia and jokes as he went along. He was even a bit player in a few of the movies he showed. He had been through a moderate career as an actor before getting into the world of hosting. Over the years, as he got older and older, his toupee grew larger and more noticeable, but this guy was a lot of fun to watch.

 Rita Bell didn’t know so much about the movies, but she was nice. I read somewhere that she ended up in California doing something or other. And these two shows had all kinds of movies, including a lot of classic films from the 1940's and 1950's. I kind of lost track of them when I started school, but I did go on to watch an after school movie show that would often have series of Godzilla movies or other sci fi fair, like the Planet of the Apes films. Sad thing was that there was no host for these movies.

But on the weekends, on Saturday especially, there was the great Sir Graves Ghastly, a man named Lawson Deming who dressed up as a goofy vampire and did all kinds of comedy bits that were absolutely compelling for a kid. It was on this show that I first saw the British Hammer films, most of the Vincent Price horror films and, most importantly of all, the Universal Monster movies like Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy and Creature from the Black Lagoon. These movies also showed sometimes on the after school show, but it had no host, so it lacked the charm of Sir Graves.

As I got older, I found, late night on Saturday nights, a guy named “The Ghoul,” who showed creepy movies and blew things up with firecrackers and M80's. This guy was an absolute blast to watch and while he’s not on TV in Detroit right now, he’s still around on the web, and I see him every year at the comic convention.  His real name is Ron Sweed and he’s very kind and fun to be around.

Sadly, over time, all of these kinds of shows began to fade away, at least around the Detroit area. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, tried to keep it going, as well as others, but I never liked any of those. To me they lacked the innocence of the earlier shows.

But now I have found a local show called “Wolfman Mac's Chiller Drive-In,” and, I have to say, this show has the charm. It has the fun and the innocence, though occasionally they’ll show a movie with something a little racy in it. Keep your kids away from Barbara Steele (that’s all I’ve got to say about that). They really try to give this show the classic movie host feel, with lots of Ghoulish touches, sketches, and so on. I’m telling you, it’s pretty fun if you like this sort of thing. My kids like watching it with me, which is the bomb, and I feel like I'm going back in time in a way. I really like it. It’s on Saturday nights at 10pm on RTV (which is regular broadcast TV, channel 7.2, ABC) in Detroit. I think RTV is on in several different states, but not sure if Wolfman Mac is on those or not. I’m sure the website will say. And tonight they’re showing Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill.

Gotta love it.

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010

1 comment:

  1. Awesome flashback! I had forgotten about Rita Bell's Prize movie.

    I actually called in to Bill Kennedy one day and got to talk to him. I asked him some sort of question I got from the TV guide about "The Maltese Falcon". Didn't care about the answer, but I got on TV. (Even if it was just Channel 50!)

    An honorable mention should go to the hostless "4:00 Movie" on Channel 7. Used to have a silhoutte of a guy sitting in a director's chair. I think it went away when the evening news began coming on earlier and earlier. "Monster Week", "Planet of the Apes", etc. Great memories.


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