This is a repost of one of my more popular posts. I still get people contacting me who have come across this and have memories of Monster Movie Matinee, the Syracuse-based show that ran for many years at 1 PM on Saturdays. In the years since this ran back in 2009, a documentary has been made which chronicles the show and its effect on the many kids who found themselves glued to the couch watching classic (and not so classic) horror films. More clips and photos have come to light including the intro at the bottom. If you are interested in the documentary you can get more info at its Facebook page, Monster Mansion Memories.
Hope you have a very scary Halloween! Or not– it’s not necessarily a holiday suited to everybody’s taste.
With Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, my mind switches back to past Halloweens and all the things that go with them. Part of my normal Saturday routine growing up was to be in front of the TV at 1 o’clock to watch Monster Movie Matinee, a show out of Syracuse that ran for a couple of decades and showed classic ( and not so classic, as the years went by) horror and sci-fi movies.
It was a great kitschy broadcast. It would start with the camera panning in over an obvious model of an haunted-type mansion on a hill as eerie monster movie music played. It was hosted by Dr. E. Nick Witty (I think this is supposed to be funny but it eludes me) and his assistant, the wretched Epal.You never saw anything of Dr. Witty but his long emotive fingers. His voice was kind of a bad Bela Lugosi copy that played perfectly for this type of show. Epal, played by the station’s longtime weatherman who also played other characters (his other main character,Salty Sam, introduced me to Popeye cartoons) on a number of other shows, was covered in rough-edged scars and wore an eyepatch. He seemed to constantly erode as the years passed.
They had storylines that they used as they introduced the films, little vignettes that ran from week to week. Goofy stuff but fun. They let the movies they showed be the real stars and I saw most of the greats through them. All the Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman movies were in regular rotation in the early years mixed in with a plethora of lower quality, monstery B-movies, which kind of took over in the later years.
I remember one wet and dark Halloween Saturday back then spending the afternoon watching one of my favorites with Dr. Witty and Epal. It was The Creature From the Black Lagoon. It was a movie that was shown at least a few times a year so it became part of the kid memory bank. It was the story of a group of geological researchers sent to explore a fossilized skeletal claw-like hand found up the Amazon where they encounter the Creature, a rubber-clad Gill-Man who makes repeated attacks on the research vessel, finally abducting the babe girlfriend of the main scientist.
Originally in 3-D in the theaters, was a pretty stylish 50’s monster movie. Pretty good quality, actually. The Creature was a great costume, very sleek and somewhat believable- at least to the kid sitting on the couch with the Fig Newtons. It had nice underwater photography of the Creature gliding after his prey and also had great sound and music that really enhanced the story. It wasn’t the scariest but it kept you involved with the story. I always felt more of a connection with the Creature than I did with the crew of researchers and actually felt myself kind of rooting for him at times. Much like King Kong, he seemed sadly alone.
That wet and dark Saturday many years ago seems to come to life now whenever I think of the Creature or Halloween, for that matter. I remember the light. The smell of that living room. Funny how certain things, even the smallest trivialities, imprint on the memory when coupled with something important, as Halloween was to a kid.
Today I’m thinking of that day and that lonely Gill-Man and Dr. Witty…