The Making of The Undead Hepcat's Monster Show Part V : "Shriek Week" and Season Three

After shooting the material for Season Two, while I was still on break for the Holidays I got a message from Scott Morschhauser that he had something for me and I should go to a show they were having in the Village of East Davenport to pick it up. I went, and he had some stuff for my fan-club give a-ways, as well as a  VHS copy of Der Golem ("maybe you can use this") and a book titled Ghostmasters.


This was an exhaustive and fully illustrated look at the "Spook Show" phenomena that lasted from the late 30's through the 50's. The Spook Shows were sort of horror movie themed magic shows that were one of the main precursors to television horror hosts. If there was any doubt that Mr. Morshauser was the coolest person living, this laid it to rest.

I read the book over and over, and made liberal use of the reproduced posters inside for my own advertising. It also gave me the idea to do a live show.

I put on my poker face and made another call, this time to the Student Activities Office and I was eventually put in touch with the director, Guy Sims. I told him what I was doing with UNI-TV ("Oh, like 'Dinner and a Movie?'") and made my pitch:

A popular Spook Show from around the end of the fad revolved around a film called "Monsters Crash the Pajama Party." It was created specifically for this purpose, and is predictably cheap, campy and ridiculous; but at one point the mad scientist's creation escapes and the actor breaks the 4th wall yelling that the creature is loose in the theater. At which point, theater staff would cut all the lights and actors in gorilla costumes would run into the theater screaming and growling and jostling people.



I told Guy that I wanted to show this movie in one of the Student Union's auditoriums and host it live, making jokes and getting the crowd involved in making fun of it. Then I'd do this gimmick with the apes using some accomplices. 

As luck would have it, Guy was in the middle of planning a week of Halloween activities for the next school year. He said yes, and I was officially part of Shriek Week.

                                                                                   ...

At the end of that semester I moved out of the dorms and into my first apartment. It was the basement of a small house a few blocks from campus. I moved in later that Summer and got to work on Season Three.

By this point all of the people I knew at UNI-TV were gone (Jason had graduated and Mr. Varn had gone on to bigger and better things), but I assumed I could still put the show on the air. I put together a set of films that were arguably the best line up I've done to date (although I also paid the least amount of concern regarding their copyright), wrote a solid script with bad puns, jokes and commentary on the films, and built a couple of tomb stones out of cardboard boxes and paper mache for a set -- which I put together in a corner of my new place. All of these elements were actually pretty good...the problem came when I went to actually put them together.

When it came time to film, I invited two (female) friends over to help me with the lines and to run the camera. We all agreed, very sensibly I'm sure, that a few cocktails would probably liven things up. They did, and we all had a lot of fun. We also ate up a mostly unwatchable hour or so of video tape.

There are a lot of botched lines, a lot of goofing around.... To make maters worse, I used the same camera as I did the last time, but didn't bother with things like additional microphones, monitors...I'd assumed at the time I could fix everything in editing, but forgot that I didn't have the same access to the editing suite as I did before.

Re-watching my work print was like seeing hidden camera footage of me being drunk at a Halloween party
When it came time to edit in by clips, I was making a dub by connecting two VCR's. That's the same principle I used in UNI-TV's lab, but they had much nicer VCR's that let you pause and advance a frame at a time for more exact editing. I also had so much extra non-sense taped it was incredibly difficult to find usable takes. I managed to pull something resembling a set of episodes together, but the whole thing was pretty half-assed. I didn't really have a proper opener or a closing credits sequence (not sure why I didn't just re-use an older one); so the show just starts abruptly with me and jumps into the movies.

The graphic in this still was added during my "restoration project"




I made kind of a title card-less opener in "character" as myself, delivering a William Castle type warning about how shocking the show was; and this may be the diamond in the rough with this season.  

Vengeance of the Zombies (9/17)
I Drink Your Blood (9/24)
Werewolf vs. The Vampire Woman (10/1)
Ratfink A-Boo-Boo (10/15)
Baron Blood (10/22 ?)
Svengali (?)
Dracula vs. Frankenstein (?)
                                                                          ...

 I was hacking these together in my basement apartment well into that Fall Semester, and was distracted by school and the Shriek Week deadline. The copy-protection that was on one of the tapes Baron Blood, made it unusable. I also filmed segments for two episodes that I don't have copies of (Svengali and Dracula vs. Frankenstein). I have no memory of what happened to these -- if they made it to air and got lost or if they were never completed. Since I wasn't in the dorms any more to check, I had no idea if any of them made it on TV. 

For Shriek Week, I got the idea to build a rig so that I could fake sawing someone in half. I had a solid design, and a volunteer to help me build, transport the thing, and then act like the victim but everybody had their own deadlines to meet with school and work and this project kind of fizzled. We managed to put on kind of a half-hearted verson of the illusion, which I was pretty disapointed by. Luckily this was Friday night, and the crowd was supportive (and wasted). It was fun and stupid and silly and that made up for a lot.

At that point I was upset at myself for taking a step backwards with the quality of the show, but I'd also developed a social life and was more or less satisfied that everybody involved was having fun. I decided that since I was out of the dorms it was time to take a break. I collected my tapes after Halloween, put my suit back in my closest and didn't dust it off until that Summer...










Comments

  1. I don't even remember 'Shriek Week', but then I was so far removed from campus life (physically and mentally) that wild apes could have been rampaging and I would have only noticed when I tripped over the body parts on the way to class.

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