Friday, December 4, 2009
FRIDAYS WITH FRIGHTENSTEIN
My love of Vincent Price’s tongue-in-cheek horror films (and horror-comedies) really blossomed in the 1990s, but the seeds were planted much earlier, all the way back to my days as a child watching TV in the 1970s.
Vincent could be seen everywhere those days… he was a frequent guest on talk shows, variety shows (an appearance on “The Muppet Show” a standout), specials (he sent Alice Cooper’s “Welcome to my Nightmare” into horror-kitsch orbit), game shows (Hollywood Squares in particular) and sitcoms (who could ever forget the life he brought to the very special Hawaii episode of “The Brady Bunch” – by then a very tired and played out program).
When Vincent wasn’t cavorting in first-run broadcasts, he could be seen in reruns of some of the best TV guest-shots ever, such as multiple appearances as Batman villain Egghead and a tripped-out lark as Maxwell Smart’s nemesis Dr. Pym on “Get Smart.”
There is one show from my childhood that Vincent was the “incidental” star of. And I didn’t realize it then, but this show is just as much a reason for my love of horror-comedies today as any of the classic comedians or animated cartoons that tread down dark and spooky corridors during Hollywood's golden age.
I’m speaking of a wonderful syndicated show out of Canada called “The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.” This show took the best elements of the Milton the Monster and Groovie Goolies cartoons and transported them to a live-action kids show format that shared its outrageous style of humor with the likes of “Laugh-In” and Soupy Sales and was a foreshadow of a couple of kid-show spoofs yet to come, Pee Wee’s Playhouse and the inimitable powerhouse of New Jersey local programming, Uncle Floyd.
Billy Van played Count Frightenstein and a host of other characters, with support from Fishka Rais as Igor, Joe Torbay as Gronk and Guy Big as Count Munchkinstein. And some awfully cool, clever, kooky monster puppets.
(The Frightenstein cast's fellow Canadian Joe Flaherty may have seen the show a time or two).
Aparently the producers or distributors weren’t confident in their ability to sell the show to American audiences, so they commissioned new “bookend” scenes be shot starring Vincent Price. Honestly, as awesome as Vincent always was, they didn’t need to do that. The show was perfect as is. But if that’s what it took to bring the show to America, then I have no complaints.
The show has had a resurgence in recent years as people in my age-group fondly look back on it. With new outlets for "Frightenstein," it now can be shared with the children of these now-grown fans, perhaps creating a new generation of Frightenstein aficianados in the process.
It was released on DVD a few years ago but is now out-of-print and fetching prices of over $100.00. If money is no object to you then you can buy it here:
Otherwise, if you have a Netflix account you can rent the DVD or watch it on your computer or TV as a "instant play" selection. It is also being shown on the digital TV networks Drive-In Classics and Space.
There are some great articles about this show which you can read here and here. But nothing beats actually checking out a clip from the show, and we’ll do that here every now and then on Friday’s… so enjoy!