Tag Archives: Horror host

THE NEW NIGHTMARE THEATER WITH SAMMY TERRY: FIRST IMPRESSIONS (WITH EDISON’S FRANKENSTEIN: 1910)

I have gotten several requests to do a write up on the new “Nightmare Theater” with Sammy Terry.  Despite the requests, I have been reticent for several reasons.  The new Nightmare Theater is in the grass roots stage, although whether or not it should be is debatable.  After all, Sammy Terry has a fifty year legacy, so it should not be a case of having to compete with the Johnny-come-lately horror hosts, of whom there are far too many of dreadful quality.  With his long history, Sammy Terry could be venturing into new territory, rather than reconquering the market of local television, especially since local television really no longer exists.


The first and most glaring problem with contemporary horror hosts is the question of whether they’re needed.  In the golden age of horror hosts there were a half dozen or so local television stations, and the video/cable/Internet age was something akin to science fiction.  If one wanted to watch James Whale‘s Frankenstein (1931), then you might get the chance to see it once a year via the local host, who, in our case in Indianapolis, was Sammy Terry on WTTV 4.  Today, the horror host is simply not a necessity, so in order to entice an audience the host should have interesting personalty, story, and characterization.  Today’s hosts simply get up and do their shtick.  Often, one questions whether or not they have even watched the hosted film.  If the host wants the audience to acknowledge his or her entertainment value, then his enthusiasm needs to be contagious.  It rarely is.  The host hardly has to have a back story and, indeed, some sense of mystery should be retained.  Today’s audience is much more sophisticated; the personality of the host, and his or her ability to make us care, is vital.  Instead, contemporary horror hosts can often be seen hawking their wares at various horror conventions, seeming more like used car salesmen than mysterious entities.

Mark Carter is the son of Bob Carter, the original Sammy Terry.  Bob has retired and has passed the cape onto Mark, who is a dead ringer for his dad.  Mark has an answer for the inevitable question “are you the Son of Sammy Terry?”—a classic “only Sammy’s blood has worn this cape.”  Unfortunately, Mark’s ready-made response has yet to be put to use in an actual public interview.  Instead, when local news programs interviewed the new Sammy Terry, he broke character when the question arose, which was a misstep.

I fondly reviewed the original Nightmare Theater two years ago, but the primary reason I have been reluctant to do this follow-up is because I have numerous associates working on the Continue reading THE NEW NIGHTMARE THEATER WITH SAMMY TERRY: FIRST IMPRESSIONS (WITH EDISON’S FRANKENSTEIN: 1910)

NIGHTMARE THEATER WITH SAMMY TERRY

On Friday nights in Indiana during the 1960’s and 70’s, you invited your best friend over to spend the night (Denny), pleaded with Mom to fix a tray of pizza rolls and, out of courtesy, asked to stay up late for a night of Nightmare Theater with Sammy Terry. Of course, Mom always allowed it, as you knew she would, fixed those pizza rolls, brought in the blankets and left the two of you to your night of magic because she sure as heck was not going to watch those “scary movies’.

The creaking of the coffin filled the house as you watched, transfixed, as Sammy Terry and his spider, George, emerged to host a night of classic horror.  Usually, it was one of the Universal movies starring Karloff, Lugosi, or Chaney, Jr.

Bride of  Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, The Black Room, Werewolf of London, The Invisible Man, The Wolfman, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and Creature from the Black Lagoon were frequently shown favorites.  Quite a few of the Val Lewton RKOs were shown regularly, as well as the occasional Jack Arnold film, such as Monster on the Campus, Tarantula, or The Incredible Shrinking Man. My own personal favortie was Ulmer’s The Black Cat with Karloff and Lugosi battling out to strains of the Beethoven 7th. If the films shown on Nightmare Theater were  not always approached by the filmmakers as high art (i.e. The Wolfman) , then there was certainly consummate craftsmanship that one always felt Sammy approved of.

In between the features, Sammy Terry would discuss the movies, make jokes with George and other regulars (Ghost Girl, Ghoulsbie) , have an occasional guest, talk about the Pacers, or show off the crayola drawings of Sammy and George that local children would send to WTTV 4.  Sammy had an inimitable laugh that would send shivers down the 8 year old spine.

If you made it to the end of the night (and frequently did not, hence the blankets)  Sammy would retreat to his coffin and bestow his wish of “Many Pleasant Nightmares.”  You knew, with excitement and dread, that he would return the following Friday.

There were lots of local urban myths about Sammy Terry and we were all too happy to spread those myths to fellow classmates since Sammy was a favorite subject.  Of course, this was long before the days of cable TV, VCRs, and even color TV (at least until the mid 70’s at our house) so the local WTTV 4 Station ruled the roost out of the four available TV Continue reading NIGHTMARE THEATER WITH SAMMY TERRY

FROM THE CRYPT OF CREEPORIA

“Alfred Eaker’s Fringe Cinema” is a column published on Thursdays covering truly independent cinema: the stuff that’s so far under the public radar it may as well be underground.  The folks making these films may be starving artists today, but they may be recognized as geniuses tomorrow.  We hope to look like geniuses ourselves by being the first to cover them.

The 1950s through the 1970s was the era of the horror host/horror personality.  Most of these characters, from Vampira on down to Sammy Terry, mixed horror and humor quite effectively and the period is widely considered to be a golden age of horror personalities.  Since then, Elvira, of course, made a name for herself.  Now, with the post myspace/facebook/youtube age, there has been a re-emergence, indeed a plethora of new horror personalities.  Predictably, most of these are pale, watered down imitations of the originals with no unique personality of their own, with a notable exception: Creeporia.

Creeporia, Episode 1, part 1: other episodes can be viewed at creeporia.com

Creeporia is the creation of producer John Semper Jr, who has an extensive 30 year resume, mostly in animation, which includes work with Jim Henson, George Lucas, and Stan Lee and shows such as the animated “SpiderMan” and “Static Shock.”  Semper’s sincere  affection for the classic Roger Corman school of horror humor is quite apparent in his Creeporia creation and the shows he has crafted for her.

Semper’s experience has taught him plenty and he’s savvy enough to know that the key lies in a well developed character with a unique personality.  He could not have done better in actress Kommerina DeYoung.  Young’s Creeporia thankfully does not resort to being yet another in the Vegas imitators’ school for Elvira, Vampira and those who came before.  Creeporia is  her own ghoul and she is sexy, but never resorts to caricatured farce.  Creeporia lives (sort of) in a crypt with a host of characters, such as a skull named Bonaparte (aka Boney), a corpse named Maurice, a spider named Harlan, a bat named Batty, and more.  There’s a bit of the zany Pee Wee Playhouse atmosphere in the Continue reading FROM THE CRYPT OF CREEPORIA