- Creature Features
Title for WNEW Channel 5's Creature Feature
Genre Horror Presented by Various Country of origin United States Production Location(s) Various; see article Running time 2-3 hours Broadcast Original channel WNEW, WDRB-41WGN, WTOG, KTVU, WDCA, KMTV, WQAD-TV, Cinemax Chronology Related shows Chiller Theatre, Fright Night, Creature Double Feature
Creature Features was a generic title for a genre of horror TV format shows broadcast on local U.S. television stations throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The movies broadcast on the various shows generally classic and cult horror movies of the 1930s to 1950s, the horror and science-fiction films of the 1950s, British horror films of the 1960s, and the Japanese "giant monster" movies of the 1960s, and 1970s.
Creature Features normally showed all the classic Universal Horror movies from the 1930s and 1940s, like Dracula, Frankenstein and others. Plus several old RKO films like King Kong, Son of Kong, and the original Mighty Joe Young. They also aired all the movies produced and distributed by American International Pictures. This included all the Roger Corman B-movies of the 1950s and 1960s like The Raven, and The Terror, plus most of the Japanese "monster movies" produced by Toho Studios, and Daiei Motion Picture Company (famous for their Godzilla and Gamera movies).
They also broadcast all the best British horror films by Hammer Film Productions, like The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, The Phantom of the Opera, The Curse of the Werewolf, and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Later, during the 1970s, Amicus Productions, and Tigon British Film Productions produced such films as Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, and The House That Dripped Blood, which became popular.
But what became most well known about Creature Features is the airing of all the "nuclear monster" and "space alien" science fiction movies. Created in the 1950s these movies were based on the idea of giant mutant monsters or aliens from outer space terrorizing Earth. These included Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The Amazing Colossal Man, Them!, Tarantula, The Thing from Another World, It Came from Outer Space, The War of the Worlds, Forbidden Planet.
Creature Features usually aired on Friday or Saturday night, around eight or nine o'clock. In some cities it aired on Saturday afternoons alternating with Kung Fu Theater and/or Bikini Theater. Because it aired after the traditional Saturday morning cartoon time block, it introduced many teenagers to classic monster movies.
TV horror shows of this sort started becoming more scarce during the early and mid-1980s; partly because acquiring broadcast rights for these films became considerably more expensive in the new era of cable television. Another considerable reason for their decline is the change in Friday and Saturday night viewer demographics as young people are increasingly less likely to stay home on those nights.
Broadcast cities (USA)
These are the major metropolitan areas of the United States in which Creature Features was seen:
- West Coast
Creature Features can be said to be one of the most popular horror shows in the United States. In all Creature Features was televised in almost 100 cities nationwide, throughout the 1960s to the 1990s, with more than 6,000 broadcasts aired, and more than 4,500 movies shown. This makes the program the most prolific horror show in U.S. television history.
WNEW-Channel 5 (New York City)
Creature Features was also broadcast in the New York Metropolitan Area, on WNEW, Channel 5 (Metromedia Broadcasting). It was hosted by Lou Steele (The Creep), who became familiar to Channel 5 viewers as the guy who started off the 10 o'clock News by asking: "It's 10 p.m.; do you know where your children are?"
Creature Features first aired from July to August 1969 on a test run, and was found to be a hit. It was continued on the air from November 1969 to August 1973, but was cancelled due to poor ratings and competition from WPIX's Chiller Theatre. Over the next six years the show would be rebroadcast periodically, but never with great success. It was re-broadcast in 1979-1980, but cut due to poor ratings again.
WKBG-Channel 56 (Boston)
Creature Double Features was the name of a show broadcast by WKBG Channel 56 in the Greater Boston area. In 1972 WKBG, a station in the Kaiser Broadcasting chain, aired its collection of Godzilla movies on Saturday under the title, The 4 O'Clock Movie.
Shortly thereafter, they started calling it Creature Feature and then Creature Double Feature. The show quickly became a staple of the station's Saturday programming schedule during the 1970s and early 1980s. The final show was sometime in 1983.
WUTV-Channel 29 (Buffalo)
Creature Feature was the name of a show broadcast by WUTV Channel 29 in the Buffalo area. In 1971 WUTV aired the program on Saturday night. It later moved the program to Friday nights. It featured a collection of Japanese monster movies, American International Pictures movies and various titles from Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures and other B movie companies. It eventually changed the name of the program to Sci-Fi Theater and moved it to Sunday Nights. It made a brief return in the late 70's on Saturday afternoons, but the contracts for the rights to most of the station movie packages began to run out and the station did not have the financial resources to renew or acquire new packages.
WKBS-Channel 48 (Philadelphia)
In the Philadelphia area, another Kaiser/Field station, WKBS Channel 48, aired this program between 1976 and 1979 after the success the show had in Boston. Two of the most popular films included Attack of the Mushroom People and Tourist Trap.
WGN-Channel 9 and WFLD-Channel 32 (Chicago)
Creature Features was introduced into the Chicago metropolitan area on Chicago's WGN Channel 9 in the fall of 1970. Hosted by Carl Greyson, and later Marty McNeely, this version of Creature Features ran until 1976.The show used the theme music of Henry Mancini's Experiment in Terror. After WGN canceled its version, WFLD Channel 32 briefly used the title (sans 's' - it was called "Creature Feature") for its own weekend screenings of horror movies; no host appeared on the WFLD version. This show ended with the premiere of Son of Svengoolie in 1979.
WTOG-Channel 44 (Tampa/St.Petersburg)
Creature Feature was also shown from 1973 until 1995 on WTOG Channel 44 in the Tampa Bay Area. Its host was Dick Bennick Sr., performing under the name "Dr. Paul Bearer". The show created a large fan-following, and was recognized as the longest-running Creature Feature in America . The show was canceled after Bennick died following open heart surgery in 1995. In October 2004 Dr. Paul Bearer's long lost nephew; Professor Paul Bearer hosted Creature Feature but only for that month ending in a Halloween triple feature. There were talks to possibly bring the show back again in 2005 but nothing further developed.
WCIX-Channel 6 (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale)
KTVU-Channel 2 (San Francisco)
Creature Features ran on KTVU in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1971 to 1984, hosted by Bob Wilkins, and later by John Stanley, who took over in 1979. Wilkins had been hosting a similar program on KCRA in Sacramento from 1966, Seven Arts Theater. Wilkins showcased many classic horror and sci-fi movies; the classic low budget Plan 9 From Outer Space, produced and directed by Ed Wood Jr. and which features the last footage of Bela Lugosi, was first televised in the Bay Area on Creature Features. He also interviewed many sci-fi and horror movie personalities on the show, including Ray Harryhausen, Christopher Lee, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, John Landis, Douglas Adams, William Marshall, Forrest J Ackerman, Buster Crabbe, and several Star Wars performers.
WDCA-Channel 20 (Washington, D.C.)
Creature Feature was also the name for a horror show in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area, broadcast on WDCA Channel 20, from 1973-1987. It was hosted by Dick Dyszel, known locally for his work as Bozo The Clown and Captain 20. On air he was known as Count Gore de Vol, and to this day is considered to be the longest running horror host in history. Today Count Gore de Vol hosts a Creature Feature website horror show.
KMTV-Channel 3 (Omaha)
KMTV Channel 3 in Omaha, Nebraska aired a long running show called Creature Feature. It was broadcast from 1971 to 1983, and was hosted by Dr. San Guinary. It was broadcast throughout the Omaha Area. Long after the show was cancelled, and after its host had died in 1988, the show was rebroadcast from 2001 until 2003, hosted by a new character known as "Son of San Guinary".
A biography of "Dr. San Guinary" (a.k.a. John Jones), is currently in the works.
Creature Feature LIVE was introduced in 2011, with the latest "Dr. San Guinary" hosting live, a classic movie on the big screen, each month.
WQAD-Channel 8 (Quad Cities)
Creature Feature was also the name of a horror program broadcast on WQAD-TV in the Quad City area. From 1968 until 1977 it was hosted by a local business man named Chuck Acri, sponsored by Acri's home improvement business.
Acri marketed and distributed the program from the Quad Cities, including Milan, Illinois, to Cedar Rapids, Iowa (KCRG) to Peoria (WEEK) and Springfield (WICS), Illinois. Acri's Creature Feature may have had the widest distribution of a local, hosted TV horror movie program in the U.S.
KSHB-Channel 41 (Kansas City)
Creature Features was the name of a horror show which aired on Friday nights at 11:30 P.M. in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area on KSHB-TV Channel 41 beginning in 1981 through 1988. The hostess was Crematia Mortem (played by news announcer Roberta Solomon).
Assisting her were such characters as Rasputin and later Dweeb, her mostly unseen sidekicks. Other folks to visit Crematia's spooky castle home included her mother Desiree, her sister Cremora, and strange old cousin, Henry. This syndication of Creature Features could also be seen via cable in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.
WSJV-Channel 28 (South Bend, Indiana)
Creature Features was also the name of a horror show which aired on Saturday nights in the South Bend Metro Area on WSJV-TV Channel 28, from 1968 till 1972. The show featured artwork of 4-6 monster heads on a blue background used during announcements, or other another watercolor of a black castle on a long winding road in the moonlight. It was mentioned in letter from Joseph Meeks in issue #10 (March 1994) of Scary Monsters.
WKBD-Channel 50 (Detroit)
Broadcast cities (International
The 0-10 Network had four different actors host Awful Movies, as Deadly Ernest. Ian Bannerman in New South Wales, Shane Porteus in Queensland, Hedley Cullen in South Australia, and Ralp Baker in Victoria. Deadly Ernest would appear in short comedy skits during the commercials, with other characters. One of the Deadly Ernest would start with himself and another ghoul, dressed in undertaker's attire, running outside and inside the Studios to a fast-paced instrumental tune.
Creature Features which aired on ATN-7 Channel 7 was hosted by Vampira - played by Jill Forster.
Each reused the title of a low-budget movie produced by American International Pictures during the 1950s. Some of the new movies were remakes of the earlier films, and some only had the title in common.
In 1975, Research Games Inc. released a board game based on "Creature Features." The gameplay greatly resembled Monopoly, however, instead of buying properties, houses and hotels, players would purchase Universal films like Frankenstein or Dracula, then purchase the stars involved, such as Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi.
Second City Television had a recurring skit, "Monster Chiller Horror Theatre", with parodies of horror films, particularly ones featuring a recurring fictional film series villain, Dr. Tongue (played by John Candy), and a host, Count Floyd, played by the stations fictional newscaster, Floyd Robertson, both played by Joe Flaherty.
Notes and references
New York City
Creature Features series by Cinemax
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