Shock Show Update: Monster Movies on KDOC-TV (Channel 6, Irvine, CA)

Until now, I had only thought of KDOC-TV, a local Anaheim-Irvine station that proclaims itself to be the home of "Endless Classics" and sports a Woody as its logo (don't get excited, pervs -- I meant the style of vehicle, sitting in front of a sunset, replete with surfboard on its roof), as merely a place where I could watch repeats of old Johnny Carson skits right at bedtime. Then, Carson was removed from the schedule, and suddenly, I didn't think of KDOC-TV at all. Sure, they play several series of which I am enamored (The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, Cheers, Wild Wild West, The Honeymooners, Hawaii Five-O), but they also play a lot of crappy shows, too, and in this age of the DVD, I would rather just get the series I like on disc or on Netflix, and watch them completely uncut... and also not have to put up with a load of commercials to boot. Classics KDOC-TV may play, but I'd rather watch them my way.

However, this doesn't mean that I pass up the occasional episode of the Zone before I hit the sack. The other night I tuned in, and I received a most pleasant surprise. A commercial came on alerting me to the fact that KDOC was going to be playing "Monster Movies, Every Saturday night!" I figured immediately that I would be hit with the usual lump of public domain titles or more ancient prints of old dubbed Godzilla flicks (something I wouldn't pass up regardless), but then came the second surprise. Lon Chaney, Jr. leaped into the TV frame, resplendently ferocious in his old Wolf Man guise! The hope sprang up in my heart that perhaps these guys had gone the extra mile and secured themselves a Universal package. Even though I own all of the classic Universal flicks (at least, the ones out on DVD currently), I still thrilled at the thought of a regular run of these films on television again.

Tuning in Saturday night, here is what met me: an introduction filled with most of the classic Universal Monster crew, all in glorious black and white! Simple, direct, and to the point: "Welcome to KDOC-TV's Monster Movies!" The gate to a castle opens up and there they are: The Creature, The Invisible Man, Frankenstein's Monster, Ardath Bey, The Wolf Man, The Mummy... all rushing at the viewing so fast one can't help but feel compelled to watch the show. Plus, in the mix, four wonderful images of Boris Karloff -- but strangely, no Lugosi, no Dracula. The intro continues: "This week, the all-time great monster movie, The Wolf Man, starring the great Lon Chaney, Jr.!" Here's the deal: whether this is a designed package from Universal itself, or if KDOC did more than just slap their logo and announcer over the designed package, the effect of both the ads and the intro is immensely appealing, and kudos should go out to whomever is responsible.

Even though I own the DVD for Wolfie's epic, I watched regardless of this fact. The only things I dreaded were the interruption of commercials, and the disappointment I would feel if my eyesight were saddled with a sorry-looking print. But the commercial breaks were swift, and spaced around 12 minutes apart, leaving one time to really sink their fangs into the flick before being jolted away. Best of all, despite a two-hour time slot on the guide, the film ended at 10:31 p.m., meaning that even with ads, the seventy minute film only took just over ninety minutes. (They filled the time with an unannounced Zone.)

Late in the show, they ran a promo for next week's film, The Mummy, and it was especially pleasing to hear them pay the proper obeisance to Karloff, referring to him as "The One and Only Boris Karloff." This is a very important point, because I am not thinking of myself when I feel joy over the airing of this series of films; I am thinking of the next generation of movie nuts and horror fiends. My own personal introduction to the Universal Monsters and many, many others came via an after-school matinee show on KTVA-TV Channel 11 in Anchorage, Alaska, though that particular time-slot filler didn't have any attempt at surrounding the watcher with monster knowledge or imagery; they simply showed the films and didn't comment on them otherwise. But I happily blundered into watching them, in much the same way that I hope younger viewers of today might discover these films for themselves. And part of this process is falling in love with Karloff and Chaney and Lugosi and Rains, and it helps that this show goes the extra step in putting their names quite clearly before their audience.

Looking at the channel's website, I checked out the page where they list the upcoming films through September 1st, and I do indeed have all of the films listed. The last Saturday of August, though, brings us William Castle's I Saw What You Did (which I have never seen) and then September 1st has The Deadly Mantis, an OK film with a pretty sweet monster that is nonetheless nowhere to be found on DVD yet (and that I first saw on that long gone KTVA Channel 11 matinee show in the '70s). 

So, I will definitely be taking the opportunity to sit down to watch these two films, and will certainly have the show on in the background on the other Saturdays, should I fail to have anything else to do outside the home on those nights. Mainly, it will be for the atmosphere (if I really want to watch The Mummy's Curse, I will simply watch it flat out on disc), and to give myself the warm feeling that, somewhere out there, new fans are hopefully being created by some of the oldest denizens of the scare game. They've got to do it; today's fiends simply aren't up to the task.


Steve Smith said…
Hi Rik,

I just stumbled across your blog...yes, a few years late. To answer your question, my name is Steve Smith & I was the person responsible for acquiring the Universal monster movies at KDOC when I was Program Director.

And I was the person who made the promo spots because I was also PR/ Publicity Director.

I am really glad to read that you liked my stuff!

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