Halloween TV Havoc!: Boris Karloff in “The Crystal Ball” (from THE VEIL TV Series, 1958)

You all remember Boris Karloff’s pre-THRILLER supernatural anthology series THE VEIL, right? Of course you don’t!! That’s because it never aired! It was being filmed at Hal Roach Studios when they went belly up, and only 10 episodes were filmed. Karloff had a role in most of the episodes, including this spooky oddity entitled “The Crystal Ball”, presented here for your Halloween enjoyment. (The series itself is available through Something Weird Video for all you Karloff Kollectors!):

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Halloween TV Havoc!: Richard Pryor Meets The Exorcist on SNL!

Back when SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE was actually funny, guest host Richard Pryor (making his first and only appearance on the show) starred in an EXORCIST parody called THE EXORCIST 2, which is no relation to the later film (and much better!). Pryor and Thalmus Rasulala (BLACULA ) play two priests battling Satan for a little girl’s soul, with Laraine Newman in the Linda Blair role. Enjoy this priceless Halloween spoof from 1975:

Halloween TV Havoc!: ALICE COOPER – THE NIGHTMARE (ABC-TV 1975)

This past August, I got to see Alice Cooper perform live in concert (on a triple bill with classic rockers Deep Purple and Edgar Winter!). The Coop’s Grand Giugnol antics, complete with a ten-foot Frankenstein, a murderous danse macabre with a ballerina, the famous guillotine routine, loads of pyro, and the incredible shredding of guitar goddess Nita Strauss, stole the show. Alice has always been the most theatrical of rockers, and the man’s still got it!

In 1975, Alice released his first solo LP without his longtime backing band, “Welcome to My Nightmare”, featuring Cooper classics like “Cold Ethyl”, “Black Widow”, “Only Women Bleed”, and the title track. A videotaped TV special was made to coincide with the album, and horror icon Vincent Price was brought in to play ‘The Curator of The Nightmare’ (Price did narration for ‘Black Widow’ on the record, predating Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”). If you’ve got an hour to spare (and I know you do – it’s a three day weekend!), here’s you’re chance to watch Alice and Vinnie in this Emmy-winning Halloween spectacular:

 

Confessions of a TV Addict #1: It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… No, It’s CAPTAIN NICE (NBC-TV 1967)

Yes, that’s distinguished actor William Daniels in those long-johns as CAPTAIN NICE, which aired Monday nights on NBC-TV for eight months and fifteen episodes during the height of the superhero camp craze in 1967. Similar in theme to MISTER TERRIFIC on rival CBS, I preferred this one as a kid because of it’s MAD Magazine-level of jokes and gags – which ain’t a bad thing, in my book! The silly superhero series was created by Buck Henry, who also (along with pal Mel Brooks ) was responsible for another campy sitcom, the 60’s spy spoof GET SMART!

Mild -mannered chemist Carter Nash works for the Big Town Police Department, and invents a super-secret super-formula that transforms him into Captain Nice. His domineering mother (Alice Ghostley) sews him up a super-suit and tells him to go out and fight crime like a good boy. Carter’s got all the powers of Superman, except he’s a bit of a klutz and is scared of heights. Nevertheless, Captain Nice hitches up his britches and embarks on protecting Big Town from the rotten bad guys.

Meter Maid Candy Kane (Ann Prentiss), unlike Superman’s Lois Lane, prefers Carter’s intellect to the brawny Captain. Big Town’s Mayor Finney (Liam Dunn) and Police Chief Segal (Bill Zuckert) are a pair of bumbling politicians dependent on the good Captain to save their city on a weekly basis. Carter’s never seen or heard father, forever sitting in his easy chair with a newspaper covering his face, is none other than veteran movie milquetoast Byron Foulger.

Captain Nice battled a super-powered caterpillar that accidently drank some of his formula, a treacherous Sheik (Larry D. Mann), and other assorted no-goodniks. He even had his own arch-enemy of sorts, the mentalist Medula (played by veteran bad guy John Dehner), who appeared in two episodes. Comedian Bob Newhart even guested in an episode as a night club owner targeted by gangsters, who the Captain was assigned to protect.

Despite the efforts of sitcom directors Gene Nelson, Charles R. Rondeau, and Gene Reynolds (MASH), and a writing staff that included GET SMART vets Henry, Dave Ketchum, Stan Burns, and Arne Sultan, the show was destroyed in the ratings by another superpowerhouse, CBS’s THE LUCY SHOW, and beaten to a pulp by ABC’s THE RAT PATROL. CAPTAIN NICE doesn’t have much of a presence on YouTube, but is available on DVD online, or you can watch episodes at http://www.tvguide.com/tvshows/captain-nice200367/. If you don’t take your superheroes too seriously, you’ll get a kick out of this slice of 60’s satirical camp! We’ll close things out here with the theme from CAPTAIN NICE. Maestro, if you please:

(Readers: do you have any obscure TV shows you’d like to see covered here? Please leave a comment and let me know!)

 

You’re Gonna Make It After All: RIP Mary Tyler Moore

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She was America’s TV sweetheart in the 60’s and 70’s. Beautiful and talented Mary Tyler Moore has passed away at age 80, her smile no longer brightening this world. Mary was Laura Petrie, the perky and perfect suburban housewife on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, then broke new ground as single career girl Mary Richards on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, both seminal sitcoms from television’s Golden Age of Comedy.

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Born in Brooklyn Heights in 1936, Mary became a dancer as a teen, and got her first show business break as ‘Happy Hotpoint’, a tiny dancing elf in TV commercials for Hotpoint stoves. Her next break got her noticed, playing the sexy secretary on RICHARD DIAMOND PRIVATE DETECTIVE, which starred David Janssen. Mary never fully appeared on the show, only her smoky voice and dancer’s legs, and viewers were left to speculate on the rest of the package.

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Then came THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW (1961-66), a sophisticated (for its time) half hour about a comedy writer, based on Carl Reiner’s experiences working for Sid Caesar. Laura Petrie was, like Mary, a former dancer who met husband Rob while working for the USO. Mary’s singing and dancing skills were sometimes on display, but it was her comic timing with partner Van Dyke that earned her an Emmy for Best Actress. The pair was pure gold together, and they reunited several times after the series ended its run, including a memorable 2003 PBS adaptation of the stage hit THE GIN GAME.

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Mary made a few movies following THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, most notably 1967’s THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE with Julie Andrews and 1969’s CHANGE OF HABIT, Elvis Presley’s final film. She returned to the small screen in 1970, headlining her own sitcom THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. As Mary Richards, a thirtysomething single girl who moves to Minneapolis and lands a job as associate producer of the local Six O’clock News program on fictional WJM, she was an independent working woman paying her own way through life, something rarely seen on weekly TV. The show featured what’s possibly the best supporting cast in sitcom history: there was gruff boss Lou Grant (Ed Asner), newswriter Murray Slaughter (Gavin McLeod), sarcastic neighbor Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), bubbleheaded anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight), man-hungry ‘Happy Homemaker’ Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White), upwardly mobile neighbor Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman), and Ted’s sweet, naïve wife Georgette (Georgia Engel). All had the chance to strut their comedic stuff while level-headed Mary was the glue that held it all together. The series won 29 Emmys during its seven-year run, including three for Mary herself.

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Mary never made it big in feature films, though she did receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination as the icy, uptight mother of a suicide victim in 1980’s ORDINARY PEOPLE, Robert Redford’s directorial debut. Television was her home, and she starred in popular TV movies like FIRST YOU CRY (1978), HEARTSOUNDS (1984, with James Garner), FINNEGAN BEGIN AGAIN (1985, with Robert Preston), and the 1988 miniseries LINCOLN, playing Mary Todd Lincoln opposite Sam Waterson’s President. She proved herself as adept at drama as she was with comedy in these roles. She had an abrupt change of pace in 2001’s LIKE MOTHER LIKE SON: THE STRANGE STORY OF SANTE AND KENNY KIMES, based on the true story of a murderous grifter and her equally homicidal son. But it’s still as America’s TV Sweetheart she’ll fondly be remembered for, the girl who “could turn the world on with her smile, who could take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seems worthwhile”. Sweet dreams, Mary.

Halloween TV Havoc!: LIZARD’S LEG AND OWLET’S WING (“ROUTE 66”, 1962)

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The TV series ROUTE 66 followed the adventures of two young men (Martin Milner, George Maharis) as they cruised the fabled highway in their spiffy Corvette. The 1962 Halloween episode featured a special treat for horror fans, with Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney Jr. guesting as themselves. The three screen ghouls are debating the value of their old Gothic-style chillers vs the modern, “adult” horrors like PSYCHO. Karloff makes his final appearance in his Frankenstein makeup, while Lon dons the Wolf Man and Mummy makeups once again (and his dad’s Hunchback, too!). If you’re a classic horror lover, you’re absolutely gonna LOVE watching this Trio of Terror Titans (especially Chaney!) in “LIZARD’S LEG AND OWLET’S WING”:

(Also in the cast are Betsy Jones-Mooreland (Corman’s THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH), Martita Hunt (GREAT EXPECTATIONS, Hammer’s THE BRIDES OF DRACULA), veteran Conrad Nagel (whose nephew Don co-starred in BRIDE OF THE MONSTER), and rumor has it that’s Lon’s real-life grandson Ron in the opening scene.)

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