"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Sunday, October 1, 2017

31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN: BEFORE BOB WILKINS How Terrence's "Shock!" Became a "Nightmare"

Meet the San Francisco Bay Area's First Horror Host... Terrence!

Terrence KRON-4 Nightmare 02
Terrence (Russ Coughlin) and "friend" on the set of "Nightmare"!

Scores of those from Monster Kid Generation in the San Francisco Bay Area still exalt (and rightly so) our beloved horror host, Bob Wilkins, who haunted the airwaves emanating out of Oakland's Jack London Square at KTVU-2 on "Creature Features" during the 1970s (and even longer out of Stockton-Sacramento area). Fewer still have only but dim memories - if at all - of Castle Noir's "Asmodeus" on KEMO-20's "Shock It To Me! Theater." But, they had a predecessor who conjured up nightmares over at KRON-4 now 60 years ago: "Terrence."

In October 1957, Screen Gems (the television subsidiary of Columbia Pictures) released a package of 52 classic Universal Pictures horror titles for syndication to stations nationwide, promoted as "Shock!". These local broadcasts on stations across America created monster ratings in markets with 38% and far more, conjuring new legions of monster kids, as well as creating creatures that would become the fabric of local television for decades to come... The "Horror Host," led by Philadelphia's legendary "cool ghoul," Zacherley.

Meanwhile, in the San Francisco Bay Area, the "Shock" package was picked up by the then-NBC affiliate, KRON-4, marketed to viewers as "Nightmare," hosted by seasoned native broadcaster Russ Coughlin (whom later became the general manager of our local ABC affiliate KGO-7). As Terrence, Coughlin bowed "Nightmare" with James Whale's FRANKENSTEIN on October 3, 1957. The tall, slender Coughlin wore a regular suit, cracked wry monster jokes, broke ratings records, and incited lycanthropic student riots on the campus at UC Berkeley...

It's true - and there's much, much more to the story, so read all about it - beautifully and painstakingly documented in the pages of Michael Monahan (American Scary) and the late Lon Huber (UHF Nocturne)'s exhaustive - and currently out-of-print - history of San Francisco Bay Area Horror Hosts, "Shock It To Me! Golden Ghouls of the Golden Gate" (2011, UHF Nocturne). I harbor an unnatural love for Micheal and Lon's book and I still demand a reprint!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I was 7 when NIGHTMARE debuted on KGO, with the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN. Surprisingly, my folks let me watch it, alone with my older sister! The opening looked like a clip from some spooky mystery movie, with a tall, caped figure in cloak and black fedora hat, stealthily approaching an ivy-covered mansion. Switch to first-person camera... We enter through an unlocked door, from foyer to a study with brightly burning logs in the fireplace. A figure is seated in an easy chair. A woman's scream is heard, and dripping letters appear: NIGHTMARE!
A sepulchral voice deeply intones, "Yes, it's Nightmare! And I am your host for tonight's horrors, Terrence..."
I think this clip is either from an old serial but always looks in memory's eye as something like Victor Jory dressed up as The Shadow. Anyway, it was great. Funny how the newspaper TV listings described the old horror fims; I recall they called the 1930 DRACULA "a museum piece." ?!!?? Say what? If memory serves, the show came on at first around midnight on Wednesday nights, of all things...