Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fright Night - WOR-TV Channel 9



FRIGHT NIGHT is probably one of the most remembered and most loved movie showcase programs from the NY Metro area of all-time. I have yet to come across anyone of viewing age at the time who does not remember it. It holds a special place in many peoples lives and for very good reason. Simply put, it was one of the most unique and versatile movie showcase programs of it's era as well as offering the widest variety of films of any "monster movie" showcase at the time. All you really need to know about this wonderful showcase can be found in Jim Arena's wonderful article on FRIGHT NIGHT over at DVD Drive-In.

http://www.dvddrive-in.com/TV%20Guide/frightnight.htm

About the only thing Mr. Arena fails to mention concerns one of the foremost voices of FRIGHT NIGHT, Ted Maille. Other than that, it's a terrific article. So, there is really not too much I can add to it other than just throwing out some random information and sharing personal memories. So, here goes.

First off, of the "big three" monster movie showcases in the NY area, CREATURE FEATURES, CHILLER and FRIGHT NIGHT, it is by far that FRIGHT NIGHT is my favorite. I adored both CF and CHILLER, but FN was more to my tastes and offered the widest variety of horror films you could ever hope for. As a matter of fact, by the mid to late 70's, FN was really a drive-in theater or midnight horror theater right in your own living room. Briefly, FN ran on WOR-TV Channel 9 from 1973 to 1987. Much of the credit for it's programming goes to Lawrence Casey who was the stations programming manager at the time. As mentioned in Mr. Arena's article, the types of movies appearing on FN ran the gamut from old Universal horrors to Mexican horrors to Euro-Horrors to flicks fresh from the Drive-In circuit. When FN first aired, it concentrated on the old Universal films before gradually shifting to more "notorious" fare. How it was done is anybodies guess but there were times when these more violent films aired with little or no cuts at all. FN's time slot shifted at various times from 12 Midnight to it's most popular 1AM slot right after wrestling to later on 1:30AM but for 15 years, it was a steady, welcome friend and a fixture of WOR's Saturday late night programming. Sure, it was "rested" at various times for other programming but most times, our adventurous friend was there. The list of movies I saw for the first time on FN could fill a book. BLOOD AND LACE, DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT, SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED, CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE, DEATHDREAM and on and on it could go. It was also a place I could re-visit Euro horror films I had previously seen such as DEEP RED or BEYOND THE DOOR. Simply put this was a wonderful, memorable movie showcase from my youth. One that I hold near and dear and one that gave me a good case of the creeps on a weekly basis. It's probably the one showcase I miss the most and it's the one showcase I think of most when I yearn for this type of programming these days.

So, what are your thoughts and memories of FRIGHT NIGHT. I'd love to read them.

14 comments:

  1. The production of the original memorable videotaped opening, with its dissolves between pictures of movie monsters, may well have been the template for Channel 9's later opening titles of its early afternoon "Movie 9" in 1975, with its drawings of movie stars from various films in the station's library at the time (and dissolves from one illustration to another) plus Otto Cesana and his Orchestra's 1958 album track "Hi!," with a riff similar to "Hooray for Hollywood."

    It also appears that "Fright Night," at the time of its demise in 1987, was a casualty of the mass changes to the by-now WWOR's schedule by then-new owners MCA, which also saw the once-nightly "Million Dollar Movie" confined to weekend airings only in its final years (and removal of the memorable "Gone with the Wind" theme in favor of a synthesized open that was used on the other movie openings after the changeover).

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  2. That move to Secaucus and the adding of the second "W" to the call letters always enters my mind as the beginning of the end of a once great local indie.

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  3. But not mentioning Ted Mallie was not the only thing about Mr. Arena's otherwise great article that was erroneous. He'd left the ending "e" off of Jesse Elin Browne's surname (she was the first, and last, full-time female staff announcer/producer at WOR-TV in the RKO era), and misspelled Barbara Korsen's surname as "Corsen" (she was a sub-announcer for both Channel 9 and WABC-TV Channel 7 in the early 1980's, before joining ABC outright by 1984; today, she's the announcer for ABC's "America This Morning"). Mr. Arena got right Ray Marlin's name, though; he was a freelancer/part-timer who also handled announcing duties for New Haven, CT's ABC affiliate, WTNH-TV Channel 8.

    But would anyone know if there were any weeks on "Fright Night" post-1982 where the other famous "Voice of Channel 9," Phil Tonken, was at the mic to introduce the films and handle the bumpers?

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  4. Thanks for those corrections. Not sure about Mr. Tonken but if anyone knows for sure, feel free to let us know.

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  5. On the opposite extreme from "Fright Night" was the short-lived "Festival of Thrillers" on WNBC-TV (Channel 4) which ran from 1965 to 1968, every Saturday or Sunday night after the weekend reruns of Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show." This series pretty much ran the same 35 horror films over and over and over (for an average of five times over the three years this show ran, not counting a few of the flicks airing on "Movie 4" in that period): 17 of the best-known Universal Horror titles from the 1957 Screen Gems-syndicated "Shock!" package (including, of course, "Dracula," "Frankenstein" and "The Wolf Man"); 13 miscellaneous films (a few other Universal Horrors plus a few Columbia Pictures horror films) from the supplementary 1958 "Son of Shock"; and five miscellaneous titles (the infamous British "Fire Maidens of Outer Space," plus "Mad Love," 1935; "Fiend Without a Face," 1958; "The Haunted Strangler," 1958; and "First Man Into Space," 1959).* On only three or four occasions did they break out of the box; two Hammer films ("The Curse of the Werewolf" and "The Brides of Dracula") premiered under this umbrella, and later on they had a showing of the 1955 Hildegard Neff "Svengali" and another Hammer title, "Shadow of the Cat." But it could be argued with some conviction that in terms of variety, "Festival of Thrillers" actually made "Creature Features" and "Chiller" look like "Fright Night" in comparison. In the last two or so months of these films running in the summer of 1968, the "Festival of Thrillers" banner had been jettisoned in favor of a seventh night of Channel 4's late night showcase, "The Great Great Show." That the station's rights to these horror films ended was cemented when a proposed screening of "The Invisible Man Returns" (1940) for Aug. 31/Sept. 1, 1968, was replaced when that late night/early morning came by a showing of the 1945 film "Between Two Women" (Van Johnson's last film as intern "Red" Adams in what by then was the Dr. Gillespie series).

    WNBC's running these horror classics to such a point that they ended up running them into the ground may have been a factor in interest in these monster films falling to an absolute low by the time their rights to these films expired in 1968; not to pick up again until after WNEW got the package(s) for a song a year later for their "Creature Features."

    * WNBC, however, did not get all the titles; a few scattered films from both "Shock!" and "Son of Shock" were divided amongst WOR, WNEW and WABC over the course of "Festival of Thrillers'" run.

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  9. Just wanted to say that viewing these intros from "Fright Night" and "Chiller" brings back alot of memories. But does anyone remember WOR-TV's "Tales of Terror" which was also a late night intro to their horror movies. It started off with thunder & lightening building up with some errie music and then showing a bunch of spooky melting candles displaying the words "Tales of Terror". This was from the 70's and was my absolute favorite. But I can't seem to find it anywhere. Not on Youtube; etc. Sure would like to see this one again. Any info would be appreciated.

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  10. "Tales of Terror," from what I could tell, ran from c.1971-72 up to summer 1973 (a few months prior to "Fright Night's" debut); in the interim (August-September 1973), WOR used the "Midnight Movie" moniker. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the "Tales of Terror" open would exist in any form, as Channel 9 junked anything and everything after they moved their studios to Secaucus in 1986.

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  11. Ch 9 in the early to mid sixties also ran Supernatural Theather which ran against CH11's Chiller Theather. The opening began with a series of clips from various horror and science fiction movies with electronic music in the background. Some films they showed clips from that I remember were FORBIDDEN PLANET (Which is where I think the electronic music came from) QUEEN OF OUTERSPACE and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS. Oddly, I don't remember them ever showing those films.
    They showed a lot of 1950's sci-fi film (mostly from United Artists like THE FLAME BARRIER) The fact that WOR was owned by RKO General explains many of the films from forties were the RKO Val Lewton films like THE CAT PEOPLE.
    I can still remeber the WOR annoucer would come annouce the title which he would say "Tonight on Supernaturalwe have the spine tingling tale of terror THE FOUR SIDED TRIANGLE"

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  12. Wow! Sure brings back memories growing up. At midnight was wrestling. Then the channel 9 announcer would come on a say WELCOME TO FRIGHT NIGHT.
    The best is when they would have back to back horror movies. I would stay up till 5am watching both.
    P.s. It seemed like every commercial was a Ronco product.

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  13. Do I? Man! The opening of Chiller Theatre on Channel 11 used to scare the shit out of me growing up as a kid! Seeing that Claymation of 6 fingers coming out of a pseudo lake and seeing it go slowly down, while hearing the sound "CHILLER" as it ends! YIKES! Still gives me the willies, and it's been almost 40 years since! Check it out on YouTube!

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  14. Smoothjazzandmore, if that scared you the original opening of Chiller would of had you running out of the house, if you've never seen it go on youtube original Chiller opening

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