Sunday, October 30, 2016
COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN BLOGPOST #30: RIP ZACHERLEY!
There was a glorious period of time when major television markets had regular late night horror movie programming. The station would buy up blocks of movies to show during their schedule, and inevitably there would be a bunch of horror and sci-fi films in the mix. It's because of programming like this that so many obscure and z-grade films (Ed Wood, I'm talking to you) are remembered today, and it's also how many of the the people that went on to create the horror and sci-fi that we know and love first developed their love of these genres.
Some of these channels came up with their own horror host to present the films. They would create a persona, develop costumes and sets, and create an environment best suited for seeing the weird and bizarre genre creations that hit the screen. There are legends among these hosts that get mentioned regularly: Vampira (as seen in Plan 9 From Outer Space, Ghoulardi (played by director Paul Thomas Anderson's dad Ernie Anderson), Elvira, Svengoolie, and so many more. They were funny, they were weird, and they introduced their viewers to an entire world or ghoulish cinematic delights.
Three days ago a legendary Horror Host passed away. John Zacherley, known best to his fans as just Zacherley died at age 98. Between 1957 and 1960 he hosted Shock Theater out on WCAU in Philadelphia and WABC in New York. Zacherley would present the films with his lab assistant Igor, and would occasionally break into the movie to perform a comedy routine. This developed the template for how Horror Hosts would present their programming, and it's still being followed today. He also recorded Dinner With Drac, a top ten novelty song, and hosted a teen dance show called Disc-O-Teen. Actually, he built a lifelong career out of the character that he only played on TV for four years.
Because of the era he broadcast during, there isn't a lot of footage in existence of Zacherley in action. What is available was assembled into a compilation called Zacherley archives, which someone has kindly posted on YouTube.
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