Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Late Night Files: Jim Cook on WJET

Remember sneaking downstairs as a kid to watch TV in the middle of the night? You'd have the volume way down low so your parents wouldn't hear you, because you were supposed to be sleeping. But forbidden fruit always tasted better, and what subterranean delicacies awaited you in those witching hours.  In those days of thirteen channels, when VCRs were still a luxury (if they had been invented yet), local stations would come alive after midnight, especially on weekends. Old movies and TV shows, discarded by the media zeitgeist once something new came along, were resurrected, and often presented by a host. It was a cry of rebellion, to be awake when "normal people" slumbered, and experiencing some renegade entertainment banished from the popular eye. It was an intimate feeling of communion that other like-minded strangers were simultaneously sharing this piece of neglected culture with you. There was a mystery, an allure, as one never knew what to expect. There was an urgency too, as one could miss out on something unique, never to be repeated. All of this is lost in our current age of late night infomercials, and everything on-demand. The Late Night Files is a semi-regular column highlighting some of the shows that offered us surrogate companionship in the golden age of the late, late show.


From roughly 1981 to 1985, WJET (Erie PA's ABC affiliate) offered a double-bill of horror films on Saturday nights (often procured from the AIP or Independent-International catalogs), hosted by local DJ Jim Cook (pictured, right). The first incarnation of the program was entitled The Late, Great Horror Show.

Ian Eastman, writing for E-gor's Chamber of TV Horror Hosts, remembers:

"Although it shared a lot of the trappings of other horror shows (including a really funky orange and yellow dungeon set) it had a sensibility all its own. Jim didn't wear fright makeup or a costume. He was just a "regular guy" laughing at the movies with the audience (Oh yea... and hawking lots of pizza! Pizza Hut was the main sponsor). The double feature show was broadcast live and featured a really crazy cast of guest stars. The theme music was "Night on Disco Mountain" from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The closing music was a really screwed up version of "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" from a kiddy novelty album. SIR ROBERT GHOUL-LEY, a more traditional type of host in makeup, filled in when Jim was away. In 1982 the show was replaced by syndicated episodes of Elvira's Movie Macabre."

Mr. Eastman continues:

"Jim went on to host Video Rock, a half-hour music show, but was back in 1984 with The Just Right for Late Night Horror Show. The production values were a lot lower on this version of the show. The original dungeon set and props had been destroyed so the show was produced in the WJET lunch room! The show was prerecorded -- the original was LIVE -- so Jim's snide comments about the film were always showing up in the wrong places! I don't think this version of the show even lasted a year. But (sigh) it was still better than late-night infomercials!"

I became aware of Jim Cook in the fall of 1984, when we finally had a converter for the television (after spending two years convincing my mother that the set wasn't going to blow up on account of it), because WJET was on Channel 20 in our cable system. (I don't know why it never occurred to me previously to watch it via rabbit ears on my little TV upstairs.) Although Jim was hosting Video Rock at 1:30 AM, after Elvira's Movie Macabre, I do recall that the telecast of Elvira's show, featuring So Sad About Gloria, began with a brief shot-in-studio segment, that perhaps featured Jim introducing the Macabre Movie for the night. 

Later in the year, WJET reverted to the double feature format, and the show was re-christened with a new name, as cited above. And yes, this program was really lo-fi. The production values largely consisted of Jim in a sparse, poorly lit room, reading from a clipboard. Because each film was in a 90-minute time slot, which included commercials and his inserts, the movies were obviously trimmed to fit the schedule, but we didn't mind these things so much. In the days of the late, late show, it was the entire package that mattered more. Jim was a fun, hip personality who made the overall late night experience lively and endearing.

In the spring of 1985, the program switched to Friday nights, by Jim's own on-camera admission, "for ratings". Alas, just as the summer holidays began, The Just Right for Late Horror Show quietly slipped from the broadcast band. WJET would continue to show movies on Friday or Saturday nights, but without any host.

Here is a great Youtube compendium of vintage Jim Cook clips from the original Late Great Horror Show.

And another:

God bless savedittube for keeping their VCR on!

Thanks to the miracle of online newspaper archives, what follows is a listing of films shown on Jim Cook's show from 1981 to 1985.  This is not comprehensive, as sometimes the daily television listings didn't extend late enough to include the second films. In many cases, the title of the film was not even mentioned in the listing, so we've omitted those dates as well. Listing for Elvira's Movie Macabre are included, also depending on the conditions noted beforehand.


Nov 14: (11:30) And Now the Screaming Starts / (1:30) Graveyard of Horror
Nov 21: (11:30) The Raven
Nov 28: (11:30) Destroy All Planets - (1:30) Night of the Blood Beast
Dec 5: (11:30) The Vampire / (1:00) A Bucket of Blood
Dec 12: (11:30) Terror in the Crypt / (1:30) The Screaming Skull
Dec 19: (11:30) The Conqueror Worm / (1:30) Phantom from 10,000 Leagues
Dec 26: (11:30) Frankenstein Conquers the World / (1:30) Demon Planet


Jan 2: (11:30) Assignment Terror / (1:30) The Spider
Jan 9: (11:30) Gamera Vs. Monster X / (1:30) Amazing Transparent Man
Jan 16: (11:30) Magic Serpent / (1:30) Day The World Ended
Jan 23: (11:30) The Eye Creatures / (1:30) Burn Witch Burn
Jan 30: (11:30) The Terror / (1:30) The Giant Gila Monster
Feb 6: (11:30) Dracula Vs. Frankenstein
Feb 13: (11:30) Night of the Blood Monster / (1:10) Castle of the Living Dead
Feb 20: (11:30) War Gods of the Deep / (1:10) Track of the Vampire
Feb 27: (11:30) Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror / (1:10) Attack of the Giant Leeches
Mar 6: (11:30) Doomsday Machine / (1:10) Last Man on Earth
Mar 13: (11:30) Reptilicus / (1:20) The Astounding She Monster
Mar 20: (11:30) The Pit and the Pendulum / (1:00) Terror From the Year 5000
Mar 27: (11:30) Journey To the Seventh Planet / (1:00) Attack of the Puppet People
Apr 3: (11:30) Black Sunday / (1:00) Return of the Giant Majin
Apr 10: (11:30) The Incredible Two Headed Transplant / (1:20) The Phantom Planet
Apr 17: (11:30) Maneater of Hydra / (1:20) The Brain that Wouldn’t Die
Apr 24: (11:30) Curse of the Swamp Creature / (1:00) Dementia 13
May 1: (11:30) Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster / (1:00) Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
May 8: (11:30) Attack of the Mushroom People / (1:00) And Now the Screaming Starts
May 15: (11:30) Return of the Giant Monsters / (1:00) Graveyard of Horror
May 22: (11:30) Planet of Blood / (1:10) Terror in the Wax Museum
May 29: (11:30) The Oblong Box / (1:20) War of the Monsters
June 5: (11:30) Masque of the Red Death / (1:20) The Killer Shrews
June 12: (11:30) Beware the Blob / (1:20) Night of the Witches
June 19: (11:30) Die Monster Die / (1:20) Attack of the Monsters
June 26: (11:30) Black Sabbath / (1:05) Night of the Blood Beast
July 3: (11:30) Yog - Monster From Space / (1:05) Vampire Circus
July 10: (11:30) Destroy All Monsters / (1:05) A Bucket of Blood
July 17: (11:30) The Angry Red Planet  / (1:05) Terror in the Crypt
July 24: (11:30) The Conqueror Worm / (1:30) Goliath Vs. the Vampires
July 31: (11:30) The Demon Planet / (1:30) The Screaming Skull
Aug 7: (11:30) Frankenstein Conquers the World / (1:30) Assignment Terror
Aug 14: (11:30) Gamera Vs. Monster X / (1:30) The Eye Creatures
Aug 21: (11:30) The Terror / (1:30) The Beast With a Million Eyes
Aug 28: (11:30) Castle of the Living Dead / (1:30) War Gods of the Deep
Sept 4: (11:30) Track of the Vampire / (1:30) Attack of the Monsters
Sept 11: (11:30) The Amazing Transparent Man / (1:30) The Magic Serpent
Sept 18: (12:00) Attack of the Giant Leeches / (1:50) Journey to the Seventh Planet
Sept 25: (11:30) The Raven / (1:50) Burn, Witch, Burn
Oct 2: (11:30) Terror From the Year 5000 / (1:50) Last Man on Earth
Oct 9: (11:30) Attack of the Puppet People / (1:00) Black Sunday
Oct 16: (11:30) Night of the Blood Monster
Oct 23: (11:30) Dracula Vs. Frankenstein
Oct 30: (11:30) The Mummy's Tomb / (12:40) Doomsday Machine
Nov 6: (11:30) Dracula / (1:00) Baron Blood
Nov 13: (11:30) Bride of Frankenstein / (1:00) The House That Dripped Blood
Nov 20: (11:30) The Invisible Man
Nov 27: (11:30) Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
Dec. 4: (11:30) The Oblong Box
Dec. 11: (11:30) The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant / (1:15) The Giant Gila Monster
Dec. 18: (11:30) Masque of the Red Death
Dec. 25: (11:30) Maneater of Hydra


Jan. 8: (11:30) Planet of Blood / (1:00) Dementia 13
Jan 15: (11:30) The Undefeated
Jan. 22: (11:30) Demon Planet
Jan. 29: (11:30) Black Sabbath
Feb. 12: (11:30) The Wolf Man / (1:30) Frankenstein's Bloody Terror
Feb 19: (11:30) title not listed / (1:30) The Black Cat
Mar 5: (11:30) They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
Mar 12: (11:30) Journey Into Darkness / (1:30) Frankenstein's Bloody Terror
Mar 19: (11:30) A Minute to Pray, A Second To Die / (1:30) title not listed
Mar 26: (11:30) Shalako (1:30) Tomb of Ligeia

-from here onwards, until further notice, the 11:30 slot was Elvira's Movie Macabre, and the 1:30 slot was Jim Cook hosting Video Rock-

Apr 16:
(11:30) Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde
Apr 23: (11:30) Blood on Satan's Claw
Apr 30: (11:30) The Devil's Wedding Night
May 7: (11:30) The Day It Came To Earth
May 14: (11:30) Crucible of Horror
May 28: (11:30) Silent Night, Bloody Night
June 11: (11:30) Blood Bath
July 2: (11:30) Alien Contamination
July 23: (11:30) Capture of Bigfoot
Dec 31: pre-empted by Dick Clark's Rockin New Years Eve


Feb 11, 18: pre-empted by Olympics
Mar 31: (11:30) Capture of Bigfoot
Apr 7: (11:30) Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks
Apr 21: (11:30) Crucible of Horror
May 26: (11:30) Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
June 2: (11:30) Schizoid
June 9: (11:30) Inn of the Damned
June 16: (11:30) Blood Bath
June 23: (11:30) Dr. Heckll and Mr. Hype
June 30: (11:30) Tombs of the Blind Dead
July 7: (11:30) Alien Contamination
July 14: (11:30) New Years Evil
July 21: (11:30) The Godsend
July 28: (11:30) Monstroid
Aug 4: pre empted by Olympics
Aug 11: pre empted by World Music Festival
Aug 18: (11:30) Monstroid
Aug 25: (11:30) Kiss Daddy Goodbye
Sept 1: (11:30) Pigs
Sept 8: (11:30) Mark of the Devil
Sept 15: (11:30) So Sad About Gloria
Sept 22: (11:30) The Human Duplicators
Sept 29: (11:30) Night of the Zombies
Oct 6: (12:00) Capture of Bigfoot
Oct 13: (11:30) Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks
Oct 20: (11:30) Inn of the Damned
Oct 27: (11:30) Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

-from here onwards, Jim Cook was back to host the double feature format-

Nov 17: (11:30) Gamera Vs. Monster X / (1:00) Assignment Terror
Nov 24: (11:30) War of the Monsters / (1:00) Graveyard of Horror
Dec 1: (11:30) Frankenstein Conquers the World (1:00) And Now the Screaming Starts
Dec 8: (11:30) Reptilicus (1:00) The Conqueror Worm
Dec 15: (11:30) Destroy All Monsters / (1:00) The Raven
Dec 22: (11:30) Yog, Monster from Space / (1:00) War Gods of the Deep
Dec 29: (11:30) The Magic Serpent (1:00) Goliath Vs. The Vampires


Jan 5: (11:30) Journey to the Seventh Planet / (1:00) Track of the Vampire
Jan 12: (11:30) Doomsday Machine (1:00) A Bucket of Blood
Jan 19: (11:30) The Eye Creatures / (1:00) The Amazing Transparent Man
Jan 26: (11:30) The Angry Red Planet
Feb 2: (11:30) Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster
Feb 9: (11:30) Attack of the Mushroom People
Feb 16: (11:30) Return of the Giant Monsters
Mar 2: (11:30) The Crimson Cult
Mar 9: (11:30) Frankenstein's Bloody Terror
Mar 16: (11:30) Baron Blood
Mar 23: (11:30) The Oblong Box
Mar 30: (11:30) Tales of Terror

-from here, the schedule moved to Friday nights, by Jim's own admission, for ratings!-

Apr 5:
 (11:30) The Terror / (1:00) Equinox
Apr 12: (11:30) Tomb of Ligeia  / (1:00) Dementia 13
Apr 19: (11:30) Circus of Fear / (1:30) Black Sunday
Apr 26: (12:00) Night of the Witches / (1:30) The Brain That Wouldn't Die
May 3: (12:00) The House That Dripped Blood
May 10: (12:00) The Pit and the Pendulum / (1:30) Attack of the Puppet People
May 17: (12:00) Return of the Giant Majin
May 24: (12:00) The Incredible Two Headed Transplant
May 31: (12:00) Masque of the Red Death / (1:30) Maneater of Hydra
June 7: (12:00) Planet of Blood
June 14: (12:30) Return of the Giant Monsters / (2:30) Tales of Terror
June 21: (12:00) Attack of the Mushroom People
June 28: (12:00) Baron Blood / (1:50) Circus of Fear

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Love Letter in 78 RPM

One night, when I was about fifteen, while looking at my father's stereo in his apartment, I had remarked that his record player had "just two speeds". Mr. Subtlety Himself responded, "Well, who wants to listen to pissin' 78's?"

I, ever the complacent one, said nothing, preferring to keep my then-pastime of collecting and listening to 78 RPM records part of my secret world that was sequestered from the rest of humankind. Collecting these ten-inch pieces of shellac was an extension of my ongoing appreciation of, forgive me, "old music".  

Somewhere in my pre-teen years I became hooked on big band sounds through hearing them on the radio (leading to my lifelong love of jazz). When I was old enough to be home alone without a babysitter on Saturday nights while my mother went out boozing, I would often tune into the big band show on CFCA 105FM which began in the early evening and went well into the wee hours. Although Glenn Miller was a personal favourite, these young ears otherwise couldn't decipher between a Tommy Dorsey or a Harry James: it was the overall sound, ambiance and mood that appealed to me. My tastes would soon extend beyond swing, into what would be classified as popular music of the 1930s to the 1950s.

Other than a couple of Beatles 45s and Jerry Lee Lewis' "Breathless" on 78, I never had a rock and roll album until I was eighteen. As an example of how much of a Luddite I was, here are some LPs I got for Christmas during my teen years, procured from the cheap bins at Woolworth's:  The Glenn Miller Story; Enoch Light and the Light Brigade; Al Hirt. When we were required to do an "all about me" project for my Grade 9 French class, my mother suggested that I should tell about my love of Glenn Miller and big band music. I instantly vetoed that idea, stating that my classmates would think I was nuts if they read that. (In hindsight, I wished I had put it in, just to scare the shit out of them.) Yes, while my peers were listening to "Tom Sawyer" and "Highway To Hell",  I was learning the lyrics to "Have You Got Any Gum Chum" by The Crew Chiefs, or "Just To Be With You" by Eddie Fisher.

While there were plenty of these vintage sounds to be heard on the radio or on 33 RPM, I also became interested in 78s upon seeing a stash of them in my friend Todd's father's record collection, thinking they looked cool, and added these to my "search" list in those Saturday morning yard sale journeys. In the summer before I was to begin Grade 10, I spent an entire week's worth of allowance money on a small standalone record player, bought from a yard sale by my mother's friend Rae (the resale queen, who was always making a buck with buying and selling). It had four speeds: 33, 45, 16... and 78! All right!

My two "big hauls" of 78s were also performed during these eight weeks away from school. The first was when I spent another entire week's worth of allowance money on an album containing ten 78s in its paper sleeves, found at an antique shop in the sticks. (I even got to choose which platters out of dozens to fill it with!) Later in the season, my former Grade Five Teacher, and fellow yard sale freak, had a sale of his own. (Noticing a pattern here?) In his garage was a huge wine box full of 78s, marked with the sign, "Free for the taking!" I grabbed them all, and boy was it fun trying to balance a heavy box of records on my ten speed back home... downhill!

Although I collected 78s and comic books foremost because I enjoyed them, my secondary reason for doing so was for their future increasing value. One afternoon, while browsing through an antiques price guide in the "reference only" section of the public library, I was tickled pink to discover a listing for a Sir Harry Lauder side, which I owned. Its estimated value? Ten bucks! Woohoo! In a haphazard attempt to preserve these records for posterity, I had also made paper sleeves to hold them in, from a huge roll of newsprint I had acquired some time before.

What about these sounds possibly appealed to this young man who was conceived decades after they were in vogue? A lot of this stuff was already out of style before my parents would have even graduated high school! As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I've always been enamoured of "old things": architectural art deco design, the look of antique cars, and of course, old movies, TV shows, and books. Perhaps the adoration simply resulted from seeing much of this still around in my hometown during those influential years, and consequently, they still felt "in the present". The older generation, who came of age when all of this was new, was still the dominant workforce, and continued to keep it alive. For instance, a favourite downtown newsstand-novelty store, with its trademark creaky wooden floors, still managed by the same owner after forty years, constantly had this type of music playing from the store's PA system.

A greater truth, perhaps, is that the chief appeal of these sounds was the nostalgia they instilled in me. However, nostalgia is a selective process, where one solely recalls the good things of a past era. The time our parents referred to as "the good old days", from which this music originated, was also rife with economic hardship and war. These sounds took me back to what I nonetheless believed to be simpler times, full of the same virtue, hope and old-fashioned values evoked in their melodies.

One's teenaged years encounter numerous psychological and physical changes as they advance, and likewise, one's tastes change with the same rapidity. Although I still enjoy that music to this day, it wasn't long before my concentration shifted to paperbacks (previously discussed here) and eventually, film.

In time, that yard sale record player drew its last breath, and when I finally started listening to comparatively modern music, I had purchased a stereo including a record player with only (gasp!) two speeds. The 78s, once a significant part of my youth, were unplayed for years, until I decided to include them in my own yard sale during my early 20s. They sat on the driveway in a box which had I marked with tongue in cheek, "Free to a good home".  The fellow who picked them up told me that in his country house he had a windup Victrola to play them on, so yes- to a good home they went!

Oh. And what, you may ask, was the first rock and roll LP (if you could call it that) I bought at eighteen? The soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever.