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Enter the Crypt as John "The Unimonster" Stevenson and his merry band of ghouls rants and raves about the current state of Horror, as well as reviews Movies, Books, DVD's and more, both old and new.

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From the Desk of the Unimonster...

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01 May, 2010

Mombie's Musings: For the Love of a Horror-Host

It has become painfully apparent to me that I am getting older. My children are growing and the world is changing… MY world is changing. As I go through this painful lack of control, I find myself more nostalgic every day. I also find myself losing patience with overused words or phrases as well. This impatience I completely blame on my retail career which spanned nearly two decades. Catchphrases such as “new and improved,” “rollout,” and “ramp-up” made my head cringe, and I would go out of my way to substitute ANY word or phrase just so I didn’t have to hear them again. Since leaving the retail world to concentrate on raising my boys, I have become more cognizant of what is going on socially and politically… and well… I don’t have to tell anyone that politicians can overuse a phrase more than Carter has little pills. Oh, did that lose some of you? Okay… let’s try another… politicians can overuse a phrase more than Nintendo has Pok√©mon characters. There is one phrase… one I wish they would FOREVER cease to use, and that is “Fearmonger,” because to me… there was only one Fearmonger, and he invaded our home on Saturday nights in the early 1970’s. It is to him I owe a deep gratitude for the love of classic horror movies that I still have today.

In 1971, the Louisville TV market boasted only three channels (not counting the PBS channels, which you could always get in). My boys always find this amusing that we only had THREE channels to choose from, and when there was “nothing” on… well… Today, we have hundreds of channels to choose from, and STILL there is NOTHING on. In February of that year, an upstart “Independent” channel came into town, WDRB-TV 41 (now Fox). You would have thought the heavens had opened up. Finally, WE had a clown show (Presto was his name), and we would get treated to a myriad of syndicated shows like Ultraman, The Patty Duke Show, and The Munsters. Then, a beautiful thing happened in March—Fright Night premiered at 7 p.m. on Saturday nights! This was especially great for someone my age at the time (I was 10 and my three younger siblings stair-stepped down in years from me). Fright Night typically ran a double-feature, so it would fill the time slot until 10 p.m. Now, Fright Night was the Shock Theater package of films primarily containing some of the Universal and MGM classic movies that had great movie runs, and some that had B- and perhaps C-movie status. You would be treated to THEM! one week and a couple of weeks later have to contend with Ed Wood’s BRIDE OF THE MONSTER. The variety was fantastic….and to top it all off, we had a dry-humored, low-budget Horror Host to match this set-up.

Charles Kissinger was the Fearmonger. Using just a light on his face, and cracking some very...very…worn out jokes, the Fearmonger would introduce the movie and occasionally pop in-between commercial breaks. It was so low budget that we could even recreate the Fearmonger at home. Frankly…when I saw THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT….there seemed to be a bit of Fearmonger-ish camera work there. The humor was SO much appreciated too…I mean, BACK THEN…THOSE MOVIES WERE SCARY!!! I’ll never forget the torture after one showing of THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, for YEARS my brothers saw fit to torture my sister and me by pounding on our bedroom door at night and yelling, “MORGAN! COME OUT! COME OUT!! MORGAN!!” I’m not sure how many years went by before I could actually watch that movie alone, but I have recovered from that psychological sibling beat down. In fact, LMOE is one of my favorite movies and I watch it now several times a year. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Vincent Price is in it either.

Fright Night ran until September 6, 1975, and it is sad that none of the tapes of the shows exist anymore. Oh maybe perhaps SOMEONE out there recorded something…and has it buried in their barn… All I know is I have no memory of the theme song. I have a faint recollection of the Fearmonger’s voice (seemingly a cross between Karloff and Barnabas Collins). I only have a deep-appreciated love for those old movies…and this love I have passed down to my boys as well. It is difficult to believe that nearly 40 years have gone by now, and I have seen several different horror host. Many of them are much splashier with bigger budgets… Many of them injecting their own “brand” of humor into their characters and all of them with the same goal in mind—DO NOT LET THESE CLASSIC MOVIES FADE AWAY.

For me, I will always remember Saturday nights as Fright Night, and Charles Kissinger’s portrayal as the Fearmonger saying, “Good evening, Fright Night fans…”

Shhhhh….I hear pounding on my door…
I’d like to thank the following website for its information and dedication to Charles Kissinger: The Fearmonger's Chambers

Sheila “Mombie” Fiene

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

So why hasn't WDRB ever tried to bring it back? Seems simple enough, and they have a far bigger budget since then.