Some of the elder Horror fans out there may remember such television series as The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, Dark Shadows (which was actually aired during the day time), Tales from the Darkside and Amazing Stories. These were very popular television shows aimed at the horror audience. They were also aired on channels such as ABC, CBS and NBC. Another television show called The Late, Late show was unlike any of the above mentioned. This late night feature was not a series, but an unhosted show on national television that showed classic Horror films of the sixties to the (at that time) present. Frankenstein, Dracula and other iconic creatures of the night could be viewed every weekend, right before the channel in your local area went off of the air.
In the early eighties, basic and premium cable television started trail this classic idea and spawn features in the same vein of The Late, Late Show. The mother of them all was on premium cable, while other commercial infested channels had their own brand as well. Even with commercials added and most sex and violence taken away, this was still an enjoyable time for the Horror buff during the weekend, especially as a young kid/ Horror monger.
The four most popular of the group (two hosted by the same person, one without a host and one show two nights in a row, with two different hosts, who would occasionally do a show together) showed nothing but classic horror, while one of them showed a variety of sexploitation, cult films and of course Horror as well. Another cool aspect of these USA features is that the channel would air them twice each night. For those of you who remember these classic gems of Drive-In television, take a trip down memory lane to nineteen eighty six (before the DVD), when most of these shows premiered. Most of them lasted over a decade. Where have they all gone?
In nineteen eighty six, The USA Network created three different shows for basic cable dedicated to bringing the horror fan something to look forward to. The first to peel my eyes all night was USA’S Saturday Nightmares. This show was awesome. It had no host and would start off with an introduction as if you were walking down a theater hallway filled with static. Images of Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Leatherface (the popular movie monsters at the time, and still today) would scale the theater wall and appear on each screen around every corner until the night’s feature would begin. Saturday Nightmares never failed to bring the best of Horror motion picture into your living room(sadly, with ads throughout, but what could we do? It was basic cable). Classic films such as Halloween, The Howling, American Werewolf in London, Alone in the Dark and Friday the 13th (I-IV) would grace the screen every night as the horror fan could enjoy his or her favorite cinematic monsters. For some reason, they barely showed Prom Night, but showed Hello, Mary Lou: Prom Night II almost every other month. This was one of the hardest to see go, which faded off of the air in nineteen ninety four.
Shortly after Saturday Nightmares premiered, The USA Network added another program, which offered a little more than horror, but still showed our beloved genre in dominating proportions. This classic late show was titled USA’s Up All Night. It aired Friday and Saturday nights (after Saturday Nightmares) When the show first aired, comedian Caroline Schlitt was the host on Fridays, while comedian/ actor, Gilbert Gottfried took the job on Saturday nights. Just when the viewers were getting use to Caroline, she split and was replaced by B-movie actress, Rhonda Shear. Of course, Caroline did a great job hosting, but it became a home for Rhonda. She also gave the title that extra spice when she would announce, βUSA’s… UP(six octaves higher than the rest)… all night.β Occasionally, Gilbert and Rhonda would share the screen on both nights. The two of them were something interesting to watch between each segment of the featured film. Up all Night showed everything from Meatballs to Porkey’s… and from Sorority Girls at Slime-Bowl- A-Rama to Friday the 13th. Up All Night met its demise in nineteen ninety eight as The USA Network pulled it from the air. Just recently, a petition has surfaced to have this missed favorite put back on the air. As much as I would love to see that, I would love to see a Saturday Nightmares resurrection.
Also airing in nineteen eighty six, the premium channels’ king of drive-in classics (and the hands down best of them all… no commercials) was of course (and aptly titled) Drive-In Theater on The Movie Channel (later abbreviated as TMC. Not to be confused with Turner Movie Classics). Viewing the entire film was not the only icing on the cake, but this show was hosted by none other than the drive-in king himself, Joe Bob Riggs. He always made one excited to watch as he would introduce each film. There was not another show (and still hasn’t been to this day) with a breast count and body count (not to mention other insightful facts on the feature you were about to feast your eyes upon) at the beginning of each film.
Of course, the hosts of all of these shows could not pick what would be shown. It was up to the programming department of the channel. Joe Bob fought to get I Spit On Your Grave aired, but TMC refused it very time. He mentioned it on air a few times. They did show other classics such as Slumber Party Massacre (quite often, I might add), Fright Night, Class of Nuke ’em High and The Hills Have Eyes. Sadly enough (and for some unholy reason) all good things had to come to an end. Joe Bob Riggs’ Drive- In Theater was no exception to the severance of entertaining television. It was pulled from The Movie Channel’s line-up in nineteen ninety seven. Joe Bob did another show on basic cable for the last four years of Drive-In Theater called Monstervision on TNT. I caught onto this program almost at its demise (unlike the above mentioned, which I have been a fan of since their conception and premier). If another host did the show, I may have watched it more, but I was use to Joe Bob being uncensored, as he liked to be. I heard he quit the show for that very reason. Monstervision was pulled from the waves in the year two thousand.
During the mid eighties into around nineteen ninety five, television was pretty cool. Shows such as Up All Night, Saturday Nightmares and who can forget (the original) Headbanger’s Ball, with our (third and final) host Ricki Rachtman? Not horror, but Metal… which is just as good as Horror in audio form. Just as all of this retro-vision, such as 3-D and exploitation/ Blacksploitation are making a comeback, why can’t good horror broadcasting shows make a second appearance as well? I’m sure Joe Bob would be up for a new run at another Drive- In Theater. I know I would. To all of the above mentioned, you are sadly missed by more fans than you will ever know… Rest In Peace.