Friday, October 28

Farewell Zacherley

Legends. Icons. People throw around words like those far too often nowadays. It is rare that a person rises to the very top of their chosen profession and becomes the undisputed best at what they do.

But John Zacherle, aka Zacherley, aka Roland (emphasis on the RO), was just that. He was the very epitome of a TV horror host, the definition of the word. The gold standard all other hosts aimed for.


Zacherley pioneered techniques that are used to this very day by horror hosts everywhere, including the “cut-in”, where he would insert himself into the movie as if he were part of the action. This back in the 1950s, mind you, decades before green screen technology. His madcap experiments and zany skits were the stuff of legend, and imitated by hosts to this very day.

He had a long career that touched many areas, including hosting American Bandstand and Zacherley’s Disco Teen, being a radio deejay, recording a number of monster novelty records with songs that cracked the top 10 on the Billboard charts, appeared on the cover of Famous Monsters Magazine, edited two paperback anthologies of horror stories, hosted the Horrible Horrors VHS compilation, was a regular staple of the Chiller Theater Expo conventions and so much more. Check out his website to learn more at

But above and beyond all of that he was a great guy. I got the chance to meet Zach at the Wonderfest convention in Louisville, KY in 2007. I will always be indebted to Dave Conover and the WF convention for that opportunity. That weekend I was part of a panel on horror hosting alongside Zacherley, and a photo of the two of us taken there by Eileen Colton even appeared in USA Today.

I later did a painting of Zacherley that I ended up mailing to him. I never said anything about it publically, as I just wanted this to be a gift for him. He loved it, and I later spotted it in another horror host’s (Karlos Borloff) video that was shot in John’s home. That’s my painting hanging right beside him in this shot. It is a pic of him doing his famous amoeba experiment – and I ironically didn’t even take a picture or scan it before mailing it. This frame grab is all I have of it, although you can see it in Borloff’s video quite clearly.

John was always kind and supportive and a true professional. He will be missed, but definitely not forgotten. Here’s to you, Zacherley, thank you for the inspiration and for being such a class act. May your Jacob’s ladder always burn bright.

Thursday, October 27

Guest Appearance on Bloody Pit of Rod Podcast - Dr. Black

It was my pleasure to get together with my old friend Rod Barnett recently and make a guest appearance on his podcast to discuss the 1976 Blaxploitation horror film, DR. BLACK/MR. HYDE.

Rod has been diligently plugging away at both his podcast (The Bloody Pit) and his blog (Bloody Pit of Rod) for years. This was my first appearance on his show, and we had a blast catching up over beers and talking about this film, which we both really dug.

It's a pretty solid little film, much maligned and underrated. Stars Bernie Casey and Rosalind Cash. You can check out the episode HERE, via direct listen there or there are links to download it directly or through itunes there too.

Give it a listen, and then you can watch the entire movie below, via YouTube.

Wednesday, October 26

The Walking Dead Violence continued...

I had several people on facebook message me about my post on THE WALKING DEAD earlier this week. Most were in agreement with me that it was a terrific episode, full of tension and drama and heartbreak. A few sided with the show's detractors that it went too far, that there was no reason to show that level of gratuitous violence.

I had time to reflect on it a bit more over the past couple of days, and have come to the conclusion that this is really much ado about nothing, or at least nothing new. You see, the Walking Dead has been doing this for years, the public had just conveniently forgotten it. Remember Noah, the character who had his face literally ripped apart by a hoard of zombies while Glenn watched on a mere inches away behind a pane of glass?

How about in Season 5 when the bad guys had our heroes lined up, once again on their knees, hands bound and mouths gagged, bent over a trough so they could BASH THEIR HEADS WITH A BASEBALL BAT, slit their throat and drain their blood to use their meat for a community of cannibals?

Or the violent deaths of any of a number of characters over the years, not to mention the many, many disgusting things done to walkers over the years. No love for them?

So why not the outcry over any of these things? Why the current batch of complaining like the violence in this year's opener is something new?

If the very same things that Negan did in the most recent episode were done to a walker, or a less prominent character, you wouldn't hear this outcry. It is because it was a main character, a beloved character, and that really is a testament to the writers of the show, that they can make people care that much about the characters.

The premiere drew 17 MILLION viewers, which tells me the WD cast and crew is doing something right, so don't expect it to change anytime soon. And it shouldn't. It's a HORROR show, directed (at least that episode was) by makeup special effects genius Greg Nicotero. Of COURSE it's going to be special effects laden! And dark - I would expect no less. This is a horror program kiddos, not THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. Tune in to the CW if you want lighter fare, but don't be surprised or feign shock at what should be pretty damn apparent. This ain't gonna be pretty. It hasn't been for some time now. So stop with the false outrage already, the complaints and whining. If you don't like it, stop watching. The ratings will just continue right along swimmingly, and your fair sensibilities won't be upset.

But I bet you still tune in, despite your weak protests to the contrary. Because, as I mentioned before, the writers have presented characters you care about, and the majority of you will be tuned right back in Sunday night to see how far it goes this time.

Tuesday, October 25

12 Hours of Terror 2016 Recap

The 12 Hours of Terror marathon at the Belcourt theater was this past Saturday night (October 22nd, 2016) and was a frightful good time for all in attendance! The lineup this year was a fun and eclectic mix of films, and there were plenty of shenanigans from the Belcourt staff to keep the mood lightened and crowd entertained, too.

The festivities kicked off with a short set from THE BOO DUDES, a horror rock band made up of a Vampire guitarist, mummy bassist, headless horseman drummer, vampire keyboard player and alien guitarist. They were great and entertaining and had the crowd chanting "Booooo" lovingly between songs to cheer them along.

The first film of the night was the Joe Dante classic, THE HOWLING. I'd never seen this one on the big screen, and the print was a blood-red tinged 35 mm print. Great start to the evening.

Next up the Boo Dudes played a super short set, followed by the second film of the night, the insane MYSTICS OF BALI.

During the movie, in the section where the woman's possessed head and organs separate from her body and fly in search of victims (yes you have to see it to believe it if you've never experienced Mystics in Bali) the Belcourt staff ran up and down the aisles dangling a head and organ prop over the crowd to their delight! William Castle would have been proud.

The next film was the 1980s film SOLE SURVIVOR. I'd never seen this one before, and it was probably my favorite film of the night. Final destination definitely lifted a thing or two from this one.

HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER was next, in a beautiful 4k transfer.

I had the honor of introducing this one, and brought up three contestants from the crowd to do a quick sketch portrait of Henry before the movie, with prizes to the winner.

The Belcourt staff had once again transformed the lobby into a haunted house during the movie, and did a great job!

The next film was a first for the 12 Hour marathons - a 3D movie! THE 1960s film THE MASK was next, and the print was gorgeous!

I handed out a stack of paperback books to the audience before this one, a tradition started by the late Jim Ridley, and one I very much intend to keep alive.

THE PIT was next up, another film I'd not seen before. This 80s gem is really fun!

The evening was rounded out with FROM BEYOND, the splatertastic Lovecraftian Stuart Gordon classic.

As we all emerged into the daylight at 10 the following morning the survivors gathered for a group photo. The 12 Hours of Terror has become a Nashville tradition, and one that is not to be missed by horror movie aficionados. I want to thank everyone who came out to the event - the show was sold out - and I'd also like to thank The Belcourt for inviting me to participate as well. I'm already looking forward to next year's show! It's just a shame we have to wait 365 days for it to get here!!

BTW, I swiped these pics everywhere I could, so thank you to all who shot these photos. If you wish to be credited please let me know, and again, thank you for coming out to the event!

Monday, October 24

THE WALKING DEAD S7 Premiere - Let the Complaining Start

Last night THE WALKING DEAD season 7 premiered to what will surely be record viewing numbers. Season 6 left us with a cliff-hanger that promised the brutal death of a Walking Dead cast member - an event that was taken straight from the pages of the comic it is based on. This death came at the hands of the show's latest villain, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a character that is once again taken from the comic). Many Walking Dead fans complained about the season 6 finale, and the fact they had to wait the entire summer to find out who gets killed. Many even boasted that they would never watch another episode (although I bet almost every one of them was glued to their sets when it aired at 8pm central last night).

This season's episode picked up right where last year's left off and although the event deviated somewhat from the comic (I won't go into details here because this blog, and my own personal philosophy, is 100% spoiler-free) it still delivered and was a fantastic piece of TV drama. I have to admit I have not read the comic, and actually think that probably works in my favor as I approach each episode fresh, able to enjoy it without comparing and contrasting it to the source material.

Once again, however, the complainers have come out of the woodwork, and I have to say this has gotten completely out of hand. Social media was immediately inundated with people spouting off about how upset they were at the episode, how they would never watch another episode, how the show was ruined, etc., etc. Enough already.

Even my own home town of Nashville's beloved alt-newspaper THE NASHVILLE SCENE joined in, as they unveiled a fluff piece online this afternoon by a writer named Amanda Haggard entitled "Dear THE WALKING DEAD, I'm Over You." In this article she gripes about how much she disliked the premiere and ends with the line: "TWD, I’m over you."

WHO CARES? It's complaining, and nothing more. The opinion of one person who, by her own admission, the show probably isn't for. No kidding! So stop watching already, end of story. I have to ask, why in the hell did The Scene bother to run this piece? Seriously, not a good look, Scene.

The truth of the matter is that last night's episode was full of drama, tension, fantastic special effects and delivered an event that will have repercussions for the characters the remainder of the show's run. But then, that's just my opinion.

Was it for everyone? Of course not. Nothing is. There are plenty of shows that I don't bother to watch because I know they aren't the sort of show I like. But then, I don't waste my time complaining about them, either. Unlike some members of the press, I have better things to write about.

Thursday, October 20

Top 10 John Agar Films Revisited

Back in March I put together this video counting down the top 10 films of sci-fi action hero John Agar. I thought Halloween would be a good time to revisit that list, as there are some fun films on here, and who doesn't love John Agar?

I had the pleasure of interviewing John's son, also named John, in Scary Monster's Magazine #76 - you can read that interview here.

The band THE DEAD ELVI are certainly big fans of John Agar. I put together a music video for their song JOHN AGAR RULES. The Dead Elvi are headed by my buddy kevin Clement and the house band for the awesome Chiller Theatre Expo in New Jersey. For years Zacherley would appear at the show and it was always a tradition to have him come on stage and sing with the band. Now that is awesome!

And last but not least, here is one of my RECOMMENDED MOVIE OF THE WEEK episodes where I recommend a John Agar movie, THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS. B-movie schlocky fun here, folks!

So until next time, this is Dr. Gangrene saying stay mad, and remember, John Agar Rules!

Wednesday, October 19

Belcourt Theater 12 Hours of Terror RETURNS

This Saturday October 22, 2016, at the historic (and newly renovated) Belcourt theater in Nashville, TN, the 6th annual Halloween event continues with another 12 hour marathon. The website describes it as a marathon of monsters, murderers, mad scientists, myths, mayhem, masked unknowns and mysteries that span the decades and most known exhibition formats.

The fun starts at 10pm - get there early to catch a performance by Nashville spooky rockers The Boo Dudes. This is a must-see event for horror fans in the Middle TN area. The Belcourt staff always does an amazing job, and I will be introducing one of the movies myself during the night, HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER.

You can read a recap of last year's event here. It is always a total blast and endurance test of celluloid chills.

General Admission: $20/$15 for Belcourt members. Tickets are going fast, so grab yours early

Here's a shot of the crowd lined up around the corner last year waiting for the doors to open!

So what movies are they showing? Well, you'll have to show up to see! But here's what information the Belcourt has released so far:

Joe Dante's 1981 lyncanthropic masterpiece.

4K 30th-anniversary restoration of John McNaughton's unsettling horror-crime film.

THE PIT, 1981
"A perverted young boy whose teddy bear tells him to throw people in a pit full of monsters."

And here's what local paper THE NASHVILLE SCENE said about the rest of the night:

We can't reveal any of the four remaining titles, but The Belcourt has these little hints for us:

1. "A very rare international supernatural thriller that you'll totally lose your head over"
2. "An under-appreciated gem of '80s paranoia"
3. "A film in anaglyph 3-D"
4. "An eye-popping finale"

Seasonal Scene faves Boo Dudes will rise from the grave to play a set, and there will be a special guest appearance from local legend Dr.  Gangrene. There's more — costume contest, giveaways, gimmicks — but by this point, I'm thinking you're already sold. Admission is $20, and $15 for Belcourt members. Get your hands on tickets at The Belcourt's site.

AGAIN, this is one you don't want to miss. Sat, Oct 22nd 10pm! See you there!

Monday, October 17

R.I.P. Ted V. Mikels

I was truly saddened to learn today that director Ted V. Mikels passed away. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ted in 2003 when he was in production for his film MARK OF THE ASTRO ZOMBIES, a follow up to his classic THE ASTRO ZOMBIES in 1968. He was so giving of his time and mailed me photos and memorabilia to use for the article. He later sent me a trailer reel that he cut together himself for me to use on my TV show, Chiller Cinema, and we stayed in touch over the years. A class act, all the way. I was really glad that he was able to keep working late in his career. Ted was a true maverick who made movies and lived his life his own way, outside the system. Here's to you, Ted. I will be firing up my CORPSE GRINDER tonight in your honor.

The Fantastic Films of Vincent Price #68 - More Dead Than Alive

In this one Price plays Dan Ruppulo, owner of a traveling sideshow and shooting show. He runs across former criminal and killer named Cain (Clint Walker), recently released from prison. Cain only wants to live a peaceful life, but his past just won't let him. Also stars Anne Francis as a painter named Monica who befriends Cain. Price is great as the sideshow barker in this one.
About this series: Dr. Gangrene, Physician of Fright and Award-winning Nashville-based TV Horror Host (aka writer/film historian Larry Underwood) explores the films of the merchant of menace, Vincent Price, in chronological order from first to last, approaching them from a scholarly perspective, offering commentary, review and criticism.
Music: "Backed Vibes", "Hot Swing" Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 Opening Credits Artwork: Used by permission from Mark Maddox, All film clips © respective studios and used purely for academic purposes and Fair Use under Copyright Act 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107

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