Back in the antediluvian era of broadcast television — before cable and VCRs and DVDs allowed us to take movies for granted — every city had its own locally-programmed creature feature show.
Most of them were on late at night, and many had ghoulish and comical hosts in the Vampira vein; these shows are meticulously documented on Corpse S. Chris’ indispensible blog Horror Host Graveyard.
But this blog has a narrower focus. It’s about only one late night creature feature: Minneapolis station KSTP’s Horror, Incorporated.
For most of its run, this show had no host. It didn’t need one. To me, the movie selections always seemed great, and as a Minnesota kid in the 1970s, it became a big part of my film education.
I was introduced to so many movies late at night on channel 5 — the Universal horror films of the 30s and 40s, the Columbia sci-fi flicks Ray Harryhausen made with Charles Schneer in the 1950s, William Alland’s Creature From the Black Lagoon series, the Roger Corman adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe, the poverty-row programmers that Lugosi made on his long slide down.
Consider this blog a love letter to that show, to that era of television, and, perhaps just a little, to that time in my life.
Of course we can’t sit together until 4 am, you and I, and watch the old Horror, Inc. show together, and take in the movies one by one and talk about them.
So I’ve decided to embark on a strange project: I’m going to start right at the beginning of the show, from its first broadcast, and list the movies on the schedule and write about them. Assuming the show ran 10 years in its original incarnation, and was broadcast every week, that means we’re talking about 520 installments. So I’ve got my work cut out for me.
This might take a while, and I’m not going to promise it won’t hurt.
But before we dive in, let’s find out where the show began, and learn about the show’s fondly-remembered opening.
According to the delightful E-Gor’s Chamber of TV Horror Hosts, here’s what Steve Hammergren, director of KSTP studios, had to say about the origins of the show:
Horror Incorporated probably started in 1969. The first incarnation didn’t have a host, but it featured the great voice-over talent of Mr. Jim Wise, who worked at KSTP radio. The person exiting the coffin at the beginning and returning to the grave at the end, was my late friend Warner Smithers, who was then a floor director. Other crew members included Forrest Stanford, who ran the fog machine.
The narrator would then read the following words:
“Lurking among the corpses are the body-snatchers, plotting their next venture into the graveyard…. the blood in your veins will run cold, your spine will tingle when you join us for an excursion through Horror Incorporated!”
This open and close ran for many a Saturday night in the early ’70s.
For a couple of seasons in the mid to late 70’s, Tom Hamper hosted the show on tape as “Graves.” He was supposed to be a “vampire butler” or some such creature. He and a couple of pals acted out little skits between the movie segments. When that format ran out of gas, the station resumed the old “no host” format, until the series went off the air in the late 70’s.
Hammergren missed some of the dialogue in the opening spiel — you can hear it in the clip above — but he is right on the money regarding the year it started. Channel 5 had long broadcast a generic late-late movie on Saturdays, but that ended after the November 2nd, 1969 broadcast of Golden Boy starring William Holden.
According to the microfilmed archives of the Minneapolis Tribune, Horror, Inc. premiered the following week, on November 8, 1969. Its first offering was Todd Browning’s 1931 Dracula.
Graves was the first attempt to add a host to the show. In later iterations there would be other hosts, but we’ll get to that, in time.
Until then, come along with me, into the chamber of horrors, for an excursion through….Horror, Incorporated!