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.]

Restoring Classic Monster Movies

Universal Studios’ 100th anniversary celebration is – what else? – another chance to sell old movies. The difference this time is they will be selling newly restored classics.

Fans will welcome the inclusion in that project of historic horror films like Dracula, Dracula Spanish, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and The Birds on a list that also features award-winners, megahits and general favorites like To Kill a Mockingbird, Jaws, All Quiet on the Western Front, Schindler’s List, Out of Africa, Pillow Talk and The Sting.

Jimmy Sangster Dies

Veteran screenwriter/director Jimmy Sangster died August 18, aged 83. His screenplays included Hammer’s classic relaunches, Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula. Although he moved into directing, it was under pressure from the studio bosses and he was never happy with the results.

[Thanks to Steve Green for the story.]

Ackerman Cited in Horror History

Jason Zinoman, best known as a contributor to New York Times on topics including theatre, turns his attention to cinematic horror in Shock Value: How A Few Eccentric Outsiders Gave Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, and Invented Modern Horror, published by Penguin Press in 2011.

Although the NY Times own review of Shock Value complains that “the ‘fanboys’ are given short shrift” Zinoman did not neglect the #1 fanboy of all time, Forrest J Ackerman. For example:

Ackerman knew something was changing in the late Sixties when he saw Night of the Living Dead for the first time. He didn’t care for it, but what really captured his attention was not the undead gnawing on human flesh. It was the sight of small children watching the movie, cowering at this shocking violence. It baffled him. He had built an entire career on understanding what makes little kids tick, and this proved to be a complete mystery. After the movie Ackerman, always friendly, walked up to a child, who was maybe eight years old, and asked him what he thought. ‘I loved it!’ he said, running out the door, thrilled. Ackerman stood there, truly horrified.

Zinoman also notes that Forry came up with the idea for Famous Monsters of Filmland after the 1957 LonCon. Forry was at a newsstand in Paris, where he saw some French monster magazines. He then decided that a monster magazine would work in America, and took the idea home with him.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]