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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Horror > TV > History > Comedy > American Scary (2008/Cinema Libre DVD)

American Scary (2008/Cinema Libre DVD)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: B-     Main Program: B-



To understand the Horror genre in America, you can hear about the rise of 1950s B-movies, the Universal classics, the Hammer Horror imports, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, 1968 breakthrough at the big studio level (Rosemary’s Baby, then The Exorcist) along with the independent golden age classics (Night Of The Living Dead, Black Christmas, Texas Chain Saw Massacre) or how TV (Night Gallery, Kolchak: The Night Stalker) and pop culture (model kits, original Scooby Doo, Groovie Goolies animated series) responded to a new love of Horror movies of all kinds.  American Scary covers the one most often missed: local TV Horror movie hosts!


In order to make money from their feature film catalogs on TV, Universal and Columbia (among others) created packages of their holdings for syndication that any channel could bid for and would give them some good and interesting (and sometimes edited for violence and other content) prints (videotape did not take total hold until the 1980s, so 16mm prints would be sent to many stations) of these films would be shipped for broadcast.  Instead of showing movies cold, many stations had hosts for their movie broadcasts (the late character actor Regis Cordic hosted a showcase for non-Horror films call the Million Dollar Movie) and this included a sudden wave of Horror hosts.


Many would dawn costumes and make up long before Elvira became the last of this cycle to introduce and joke about the films being shown.  It was not Mystery Science Theater 3000, but some of these hosts would come with a cast of players and they would do silly skits.  It all depended on the channel and show set-up.  In Pittsburgh, make-up legend Tom Savini used to watch Chiller Theater on the then WIIC-TV channel as hosted by Bill Cardille, who did not wear any make-up at all.  He just wore a suit and told odd jokes, but his show too was fun and Savini amusingly remarks that he thought that was the height of success in the world of entertainment at that time.  He got the fun of it.


However, in all the shows, there is an energy and spirit that comes through as the program (running 92 minutes and I wish it were longer) at a time when TV and media in general was more innovative, creative, fun and talking to people instead of at them.  This sounded like a fun DVD and it is, as well as a must for Horror and Comedy fans.



The 1.33 X 1 full frame image is a mix of all kinds of NTSC analog video, some of which is in black and white, but the transfer is not bad overall.  You can see the limits in the new interview footage.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 is a mix of simple stereo and the original mono audio from all those channels all those years ago.  Extras include the original pitch reel for this project, bonus interviews, trailers and an audio commentary by the makers.  I just wish there were more samples of the original shows nationwide.  These are almost orphan programs and if this is a long term success, maybe we’ll see more of the vintage vault Horror skits sometime down the line.  Until then, don’t miss American Scary.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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