Along with several other movies and things (almost always the same ones), every October I re-watch American Scary: a fantastic 2006 documentary about American “Shock Theater” television hosts from the 50s all the way through to “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark” in the 80s and 90s.
If you’re unfamiliar, horror hosts were a broadcast mini-phenomenon. Back in the days when you only got 4 channels, and many shows were produced locally, most television markets had a weekend late night horror movie program. These programs played films that were gotten on the cheap, so to add variety and a certain panache, a flamboyant host would introduce the film and commercial breaks. These hosts became local/regional celebrities in their own right, “enriching” the viewing experience, and often over-shadowing the films they were showing. Eventually, their shtick was a perfect fit for local-access cable in the 80s. There would be no MST3K without these original horror hosts paving the way for such silliness.
I was lucky enough to befriend a few of these hosts as an adult, and let me tell ya, they were still big stars to me. Heck, to this day, Vincent Price is in my same head space as “Dr. Creep”, “The Cool Ghoul”, and “Sammy Terry”.
If you’re a North American who had a taste for such things back then, it’s darn near guaranteed that your local host pops up in American Scary; from Al “Grandpa” Lewis to Zacherley, they’re all there.
In addition to the nostalgia-bombs, there are also clips of many beloved artists reminiscing about our horror hosts. The late Forrest J. Ackerman shows up, of course. But so do such luminaries as Neil Gaiman, Leonard Maltin, Joel Hodgson, and good ol’ Tom Savini!
American Scary is apparently out of print, but can be found streaming “free” after a quick Google search (it’s also on Netflix and iTunes). Having said that,I believe many folks will want to “own” the movie and pull it out once a year. It’s not just a nostalgia thing; my kid is 20 and he dug it, albeit from a completely different perspective...
Enjoy, and feel free to mention your favorite horror hosts or October re-watches/re-reads in the comments!
First ten minutes:
(I know I’m jumping the gun on this October stuff, but it’s 100F in the shade and 90% humidity where I am; I really miss those northern autumns!)
Cheers, and let’s just pretend it’s chilly and foggy outside.