The Midnight Hour

Did your local TV station have its own ghoulish horror movie host?

I’d be surprised if it didn’t. Just look at E-Gor’s Chamber of TV Horror Hosts. Holy terror! There’s 337 of them on the list!

I planned to follow the link with a quick example from the boundless trivia on this nostalgic site. “Who’s on this list besides Elvira?” I wondered. I couldn’t expect to hook you with information about a horror host already so famous that she did Coor’s beer commercials and had a gig on MTV.

So I picked another more or less at random. Peter Lorre Jr. But what a story he turned out to be…

Peter Lorre Jr.’s stint as a horror movie host on Austin television in the mid-1970s came after a decade playing bit parts in Hollywood. He was a taxi driver in Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain, a character in an ABC Movie of the Week, The Cat Creature, and appeared in episodes of Mission: Impossible and Get Smart.

The actor’s real name was Eugene Weingand. Born in Germany and wanting to break into show business he capitalized on his slight resemblance to the Lorre of M and Casablanca fame by assuming a sound-alike name, Peter Lorie. When he took the step of petitioning a court to make that his legal name, American International Pictures, which had the real Lorre under contract, convinced the court to deny the request. However, Lorre died a few months later. Weingand promptly began calling himself Peter Lorre Jr., claiming to be the famous actor’s son, and succeeded in carving out a modest career. He even played a ghost called Boo-Berry in a cereal commercial until the real Lorre’s surviving brother, Andrew, persuaded General Mills to pull the ad.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]