Mad Marvin

Mad Marvin

Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog are familiar with my fondness for bad movies and for movie host shows. The bad movie subculture and the realm of movie hosts have always walked hand in hand with many movie hosts even appearing in various schlock film classics during their careers. Here is a salute to some of the most influential figures who made hosting bad and/or weird movies the time-honored American folk art it is today.

7. MAD MARVIN (Real name: Terry Bennett)

Program: Shock Theatre

Run: 1957 – 1959

Home Base: Chicago

Comment: Long before Jerry Bishop’s more well-known host Svengoolie and his even more famous “son” played by Rich Koz, Mad Marvin brought late-night b-movie fun to the Windy City. Marvin was a mad beatnik and was described in contemporary accounts as ” a combination of Charles Addams, Ernie Kovacs and Jack Paar.” Bennett’s program was so popular in Chicago that celebrities like Sammy Davis, Jr, Jerry Lewis and Burt Lancaster made guest appearances. Terry’s wife Joy appeared on the show as “Dear”, and also joined him in co-hosting the Mad Marvin spin-off show The Shocktail Party.

Musical tie-ins: Mad Marvin’s show had a house band called the Deadbeats, Zombie jazz musicians who boasted Patrick Ferrari himself as a member.



6. VAMPIRA (Real name: Maila Nurmi)

Program: The Vampira Show (NOT Chiller Theatre)  

Run: 1954 – 1956

Home Base: Los Angeles

Comment: Vampira is the woman whose sex appeal and sense of humor is credited with ensuring the long life of movie hosting and for its initial explosion of popularity, though there is evidence from Virginia and elsewhere that she may not have been the very first such figure as is generally believed.

Vampira’s charm and charisma enabled her fame to eclipse that of contemporary host Zacherley the Cool Ghoul, despite his much-longer run. Nurmi’s appearance as herself in the film The Beat Generation and as the undead wife of Bela Lugosi’s character in Plan 9 From Outer Space have kept Vampira’s face and name in the public consciousness. 

Musical tie-ins: In 1986 Maila Nurmi appeared in the Punk Rock musical Population: 1



5. GHOULARDI (Real name: Ernie Anderson)

Program: Shock Theatre 

Run: 1963-1966

Home Base: Cleveland

Comment: Ghoulardi the beatnik mad scientist was the figure most responsible for the “so bad it’s good” mentality taking hold in movie hosting. Anderson went far beyond his predecessors like Vampira, Zacherley and Mad Marvin when it came to poking fun at the schlocky nature of the movies presented on his late-night program.

Not content to just ridicule the films before and after commercial breaks like other Movie Hosts, Ghoulardi often edited himself into the movies to offer sarcastic comments or to clown around in the background of scenes. Replacing background music in the flicks with polka instrumentals was another trick favored by Ernie. Ghoulardi’s Friday night show was so popular it actually beat Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in the Cleveland area ratings.

Musical tie-ins: Anderson used jazz and blues as background music during his Host Segments despite the disapproval of station management. Many Cleveland area bands like the Cramps, the Electric Eels and the Mirrors were often called “the Ghoulardi kids” because of their fondness for his program and for their way of carrying the Ghoulardi attitude into the music scene. 

Moona Lisa

Moona Lisa

4. MOONA LISA (Real name: Lisa Cark)

Programs: Science Fiction Theatre, Moona’s Midnight Madness, Fright Night

Run: 1963-1975

Home Base: San Diego, St Louis, Los Angeles

Comment: Halfway between the eras of Vampira and Elvira there was Moona Lisa, who had one of the most original schticks in Movie Host history. Moona Lisa hosted her campy and schlocky movies from her private Moon Base, from where the Earth could usually be seen in the sky through one of the windows.

This lovely lunar maiden could be found in various sultry and seductive poses reclining on her furniture made of moon rocks. She would relax and offer wry commentary on the films being shown, and on her show in 1969 she inserted images of herself greeting the astronauts into footage of the Apollo moon landing. After several years hosting San Diego’s Science Fiction Theatre Moona Lisa moved over to Los Angeles to replace the iconic Larry Vincent, aka Sinister Seymour, on his b-movie show Fright Night. A run with Moona’s Midnight Madness in St Louis capped off the trifecta of movie shows hosted by the incomparable Lisa Clark.

Musical tie-ins: Moona’s show added a Beatles parody band called the Roaches as recurring characters during the British Invasion of the 1960s. 

Randy (right) and Richard

Randy (right) and Richard

3. Randy Clower and Richard Malmos

Program: The Texas 27 Film Vault

Run: 1985-1987

Home Base: Dallas

Comment: Before Joel and Mike there came Randy and Richard! Before Devil Dogs and Deep 13 there were cellumites and Level 31! Plus the T27FV featured a POV shot of multiple vault doors opening at the beginning. Okay, this duo means that technically this is a list of the EIGHT most influential movie hosts.

Randy and Richard were Film Vault Technicians First Class, or FVT1’s in military terms. The pair served in the fictional quasi-military outfit called the Film Vault Corps – “the few, the proud, the sarcastic”. The Film Vault Corps protected subterranean film vaults containing the kind of schlock movie classics that Movie Host programs always show. “Defending  America’s schlock-culture heritage” as the show put it.   

Within this pioneering format Randy and Richard would mock the b-movies they presented, would interview special guests like Vincent Price, and would have comedic sci-fi adventures defending their duty station from giant rats and celluloid-eating monsters called cellumites.

Since the show was two and a half hours long R&R would also show EVERY episode of old Republic Serials like Radar Men From the Moon and Canadian Mounties vs Atomic Invaders. T27FV, as the show is known to us fans, aka “Vaulties”, deserves to be remembered as an important show in the evolution of movie hosting. *** See the link below for my Randy Clower interview ***

Musical tie-ins: For the Christmas season of 1986 T27FV showed the 1965 Cinammon Cinder Show Christmas Special with Sonny and Cher, the Royale (sic) Monarchs and Bob Eubanks himself! In addition, when showing films that featured oddball songs (movies like Star Spangled Rhythm, Change of Habit, Just Imagine and others) Randy & Richard would provide comical lyrics at the bottom of the screen instead of the lame real lyrics to those songs.




2. ELVIRA (Real name: Cassandra Peterson)

Program: Movie Macabre

Run: 1981 – 1986, 2010-2011

Home Base: Los Angeles

Comment: Elvira’s success launched a new explosion in popularity for Movie Host shows, a category of local programming which had been undergoing what I jokingly call “an existential crisis” since 1975. A sizeable number of the b-movie shows of the past had occupied Saturday night timeslots after the local news. In 1975 NBC’s Saturday Night Live began to make the late-night Saturday airwaves its own personal fiefdom. Many stations dropped their Movie Host shows completely, moved them to 1AM slots after SNL went off the air or simply dropped the hosts and kept showing old movies in a stand-alone format.

Elvira’s Movie Macabre became the most popular Movie Host show in the country during its run and inspired many local stations to keep a host of their own or launch their own Movie Host programs, either imitating Elvira’s approach or trying a different type of host. Cassandra Peterson’s sense of humor was the REAL secret of her success, because her many lame imitators proved you can’t just put an attractive woman in a slinky outfit and score huge ratings. The schlockers shown on Movie Macabre featured frequently edited-in shots of Elvira making sarcastic comments about the film. Peterson engaged in this practice to a degree not seen since the days of Ghoulardi and proved a comic genius.

Musical tie-ins: Cassandra Peterson’s singing ventures could fill an entire article on their own.

Rich Koz

Rich Koz

1. SON OF SVENGOOLIE (Real name: Rich Koz)

Programs: Son of Svengoolie, The Koz Zone, Svengoolie  

Run: Son of Svengoolie: 1979-1986, The Koz Zone: 1989-1990, Svengoolie: 1995-present

Home Base: Chicago

Comment: Balladeer’s Blog is loaded with articles praising Rich Koz for his comedic brilliance and his importance in Movie Host history. Koz got his start as a writer for Jerry Bishop, the original Svengoolie, who hosted Screaming Yellow Theatre from 1970-1973. Bishop’s Svengoolie was a hippy vampire complete with an intentionally bad Transylvania accent. Svengoolie’s irreverent approach to the b-movies shown on Screaming Yellow Theatre and his incredible sense of humor made the show such a hit that celebrities like Bette Midler, Gabe Kaplan, Mort Sahl and countless others appeared on the show as guests.

In June of 1979, with Jerry Bishop’s blessing Rich Koz debuted as Son of Svengoolie, the original’s vampire son, wearing a mortician’s outfit and sporting the same campy accent. Taking the “so bad it’s good” aesthetic to new heights, Koz’s show became a legend winning 3 Chicago Emmies and inspiring many future Movie Hosts. Son of Svengoolie, or “Sven” for short, revived all the schtick of his predecessor and blazed a trail with plenty of new gimmicks of his own. Koz brought a wry drive-time DJ’s sensibility to the format and single-handedly churned out so much brilliant comedy material for each show that it’s easy to see why Sven is so revered by us younger generations of bad movie fans.

In 1989 Rich Koz returned with The Koz Zone, hosting newer horror films mixed in with the usual schlock classics like Attack of the Mushroom People. He took advantage of advances in video technology to edit himself into the flicks with giddy abandon, offering his typically hilarious commentary on the b-movies being shown. He also revived “Sven” for several episodes of The Koz Zone. In 1995 Sven returned to the air sans accent and as just plain Svengoolie this time, showing and mocking movies with veteran panache. Believe it or not the indefatigable Sven is still going strong to this day.

Musical tie-ins: Rich Koz and his musical director Doug Graves (real name Doug Scharf) made parody songs an integral part of the show. Using the tunes of popular songs the duo would write new lyrics to tie in with the movies being shown. Godzilla’s Back was sung to the tune of My Boyfriend’s Back during a Godzilla flick, Blob of Red to the tune of Barbara Ann during Son of Blob, Going to the Castle to the tune of Going to the Chapel during Bride of Frankenstein and many, many others. Youtube is crawling with the songs from Sven’s old AND new show if you’re curious.


Mascot FOUR original pics

Balladeer’s Blog

JOE BOB BRIGGS (John Bloom) – Long before he replaced Penn & Teller hosting TNT’s Monster Vision Joe Bob was a cable tv hit with his 1980s Movie Channel show Joe Bob’s Drive In. Bloom took advantage of the looser restrictions of pay cable to show the more cutting-edge schlockers that commercial tv would have shunned. TRIVIA: Joe Bob himself informed me that Joe Bob’s Drive In was filmed in the same Dallas studio that Texas 27 Film Vault originated from.

STELLA ( Karen Scioli) – Stella hosted Philadelphia’s Saturday Night Dead from 1984 to 1990 during which run her outrageous sense of humor (think of a Goth version of both Patsy AND Edina from Absolutely Fabulous) and her more-buxom- than Elvira body made her a legend. It wasn’t a drop in ratings that eventually caused this sultry red-head’s show to be axed, it was Scioli’s irreverence toward station management, and even public protests from fans couldn’t get Saturday Night Dead off the slab.

DR MADBLOOD (Jerry Harrell) – Virginia Beach, VA was home to the fictional Madblood Manor, home of the mad scientist Dr Max Madblood. From 1975 to 1983 Dr Madblood’s Movie presented schlocky films, wry commentary and comedy sketches in Virginia’s Tidewater region. Jerry Harrell frequently used pop-up on-screen blurbs to insult the movie, like the pop-up blurbs on Pop-Up Video but decades earlier. Dr Madblood’s Movie returned for a brief run in the late 80s and for several Halloween specials.


© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Filed under Movie Hosts

108 responses to “THE SEVEN MOST INFLUENTIAL MOVIE HOSTS: 1954 – 1987

  1. Why no Zacherley? I’d have put him in Mad Marvin’s place.

  2. C Schwartz

    GO SVEN! Did you know he had heart trouble recently?

  3. Thank you! I could never remember the name of the Horror Host who used pop-up riffs! Dr Madblood! Of Course!

  4. That Texas 27 Film Vault was a surprise. And I loved your interview with Randy Clower.

  5. Guy

    Remarkable look at the horror hosts who led up to 1988. I had never heard of Moona Lisa or the Texas 27 Film Vault.

  6. Cynthia

    Great list! It’s easy to see how much influence Randy and Richard’a Texas 27 Film Vault had on the history of movie hosting! Well done. Good to see a list that didn’t recycle the same overrated hacks.

  7. Tina

    Awesome list! I would have had Elvira at number 1 though. Almost nobody’s ever heard of Svenggoolie. But it was nice to see a list without everybody being a vampire or a mad scientist. You could follow your list from the 50’s all the way up and see the influences like steps in a ladder. Thanks for not wasting space on public cable people.

    • Thank you very much! I Sven is actually pretty well known among us Movie Host geeks. I wanted Elvira up really high though because of her importance and because of how she often gets needlessly trashed by the no-life dork crowd. They often haven’t seen her 1980’s show to realize she did a lot of jokes inserted into the movie even back then.

  8. Matt B

    Happy Turkey Day! I always wondered why so many of these shows seemed to vanish in the mid 70s. btw ur list is having a lot of reverberations among the odd and the obsessed. They don’t seem 2 understand what u mean by influence. I like how u went for unique ones. I would have put on John Stanley and Mazeppa and left off Joe Bob and Stella, but thats what makes these lists fun.

    • Thanks for the comment! I guess that’s predictable in certain circles. lol I considered John Stanley or Bob Wilkins but since Joe Bob always mentions how influenced he was by those 2 I went with just him since he’s better known than either if them to modern audiences.

  9. Persephone

    Very persuasive arguments! And I’m delighted to see you gave Elvira a high ranking. Congrats for restoring Texas 27 Film Vault to their proper place in horror host history, too.

    • Thank you very much! I figured you would be pleased with Elvira being up there. Everybody seems really pleased with my inclusion of Randy and Richard. They’ve been neglected for far too long!

  10. Gina

    Nice list! I would have put Stella on the main list and would have replaced Mad Marvin with Sinister Seymour. I love how you gave Randy and Richard from the Texas 27 Film Vault their well-deserved spot in history.

    Your list has gotten some of the goofy public access crowd in a snit. You should call your list “the 7 most influential horror hosts for people who have actually had sex with partners during their lifetime.”

    • Ha! Now that’s a little too mean. I wouldn’t go that far. But I did hear from one of the public access cable crowd – at least I’m assuming he’s public access cable – he signed his on-air name but I’ve never heard of him. I read his remarks out loud to everybody in the snooty voice of the comic book guy on the Simpsons and we all had a good laugh. I get a kick out of people with such poor interpersonal skills that they would get so huffy and indignant over something like this when addressing someone like me that they don’t know and have never met. Creepy.

  11. Killer list! It was good to see Sven at number one! He was always a hundred times better than Mike Nelson. I would have replaced Joe Bob Briggs with John Stanley but I understand your explanation of that.

  12. mmc

    I would have mentioned Big Chuck and Hoolihan/ Lil’ John just for sheer longevity. Big Chuck and Hoolihan took over Ernie Anderson’s slot when he left in 1966 and were together until 1979 when Bob Wells (Hoolihan ) left to be a station manager in Florida. They replaced them with Lil’ John, a member of their crew who appeared in their skits. In total the show ran from 1966-2007 when Fox started programming the time slot. (They recently came back to do a Saturday morning skit show)

    They didn’t do commentary but tons of skits like
    Ben Crazy – a parody of a popular 60’s TV medical drama, Ben Casey with Big Chuck as the title character
    The Certain Ethnic _____ – a play on Big Chuck’s Polish heritage featuring Chuck as “Stash Kowalski” – a stereotypical Polish Clevelander (e.g., The Certain Ethnic Driver, who drives through red traffic lights and stops at green lights). Originally, the skits were entitled “The Polish ____”, but after a few complaints, were changed to “Certain Ethnic”
    The Kielbasa Kid – a parody of TV westerns, with Big Chuck as the bumbling hero
    Parma Place – a parody of the 60’s soap-opera Peyton Place; originated on Ghoulardi but was continuously rerun throughout the entire course of Hoolihan & Big Chuck and Big Chuck & Lil’ John
    Soul Man – a parody of Superman where Big Chuck (as “Ed Tarboosh” – mild mannered TV producer) would – with the help of his “soul pills”–became Soul Man, who was a big, black, and bumbling superhero (played by longtime station cameraman Herb Thomas)
    Mary Hartski, Mary Hartski – a parody of the 70’s TV show Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

    • I love Big Chuck and Little John! I knew that by limiting my list to 7 main entries and 3 honorable mentions I would make it more fun because there are so many that could have been on the list with very good reason.

      Do you like the 25 Years of Saturday Nights collection of Big Chuck and Little John highlights? And did you like Ghoulardi’s appearance on Joe Bob Briggs’ show that time where Ernie was a good sport and did a “Looooove Boat” promo like he used to do on network tv?

  13. mmc

    I should clarify–only Hoolihan left–Big Chuck was there for the entire run

  14. mmc

    There’s a highlight collection? Where can I lay my hands on it?

    i miss those days. At one point Cleveland had three schloch horror hosts on the air–Big Chuck and Hoolihan on Friday night, the Ghoul on Saturday night and Superhost on Saturday afternoon.

    • I’ll dig in my old emails to get the place for the Chuck and John tapes. they also have some Ghoul material too.

      While I’m checking on that I do recall off the top of my head that Hauntedbog dot com has some Ghoul material including his 1990 Thanksgiving/Christmas showing of Blood Freak. Haunted Bog also has other hosts and has a 2 hour tape of Stella’s comedy routines from Saturday Night Dead.

      And Asylum of Oblivion has Movie Host compilations that include a LITTLE BIT of Superhost material.

      When I find or remember the Big Chuck place I’ll post it here, so keep checking back.

      • It’s Stumpy disk that has various Ghoulardi and Big Chuck & Little John compilations, plus a literal ton of other movie hosts including Dr Paul Bearer one of my favorites!

  15. Incredible list! Texas 27 Film Vault is getting its long overdue recognition now! I would have had Elvira at #1 and would have gone with John Stanley over Joe Bob, but it’s hard to find fault with what you did here.

  16. Angela

    Go ahead with Randy and Richard! Texas 27 Film Vault maybe should have been number two from the looks of things. Sven deserves number 1, though. How about Crematia Mortem? I would have put Stella on the main list and put Crematia on the list of honorable mentions.

    • Thanks for commenting! The love for Randy and Richard and Texas 27 Film Vault has been terrific! I always preferred Stella to Crematia Mortem but I love hearing from other people about who they would have put on or left off a list like this.

  17. How come no Graveyard Theatre?

  18. Thanks for including Moona Lisa and Stella! Too many people think Elvira and Vampire were the only kind of horror hostesses.

  19. Very nice list! I would have had Zacherle and Crematia Mortem instead of Mad Marvin and Stella.

  20. Go SVEN! He rocks and that wimp Mike Nelson gets all the credit!

  21. u go with the ladies! Nice 2 c them get some pub and thankfully no Mike Nelson. lol

  22. Fantastic! Randy and Richard were way ahead of their time!

  23. Big Eagle

    Don’t forget Chiller Theater with Chilly Billy (Bill Cardille) out of Pittsburgh. Not to mention the lovely, emotionless Terminal Stare. Bill was a reporter at Channel 11, and played a reporter in Night of the Living Dead, and the remake, as well as a few others. His daughter, Lori, was the star of George Romero’s Day of the Dead (1985) I used to watch Hoolihan and Big chuck on friday nights, then Chiller Theater on Saturday nights to get my horror fix. Also Super Host of Saturday afternoons,and occasionally the Ghoul, and later Son of Ghoul. I still try to catch Big Chuck and little John every Saturday morning at 11 am on channel 8, but it is only a half an hour and only skits. Still awesome stuff though.

    • Thanks for the comment! Good old Chilly Billy! Remember Georgette the fudge lady, too. See my replies to other comments regarding how you can buy some Big Chuck and Little John, Superhost plus other movie host footage.

  24. Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in
    Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Cheers

  25. Hey there! I can see little bits of all these other shows in the end product – MST3K. Interesting list.

  26. The Texas 27 Film Vault should be remembered but I don’t think it deserves number 3 on this list.

  27. Randy and Richard are certainly gaining renown around the internet thanks to you!

  28. hogan italia,hogan rebel uomo Tra i giocatori della squadra del sud della California è Patrick Cantlay, che ha preso medaglia d’onore al concorso Junior Coppa America Ragazzi che si è tenuto due settimane fa al Royal Oaks dove ha guidato la sua squadra alla vittoria.

  29. The Texas 27 Film Vault and Elvira seem like the best from these.

  30. Loved this list! I think PeeWee Herman would have been good too!

    • Thanks! Pee Wee is an interesting thought, epecially since he was part of the Groundlings which spawned Elvira AND Laraine Newman, as in Laraine Newman’s Canned Film Festival (after she left SNL)

  31. No Dr Morgus? Fuck you!

  32. I would have had Bob Wilkins on tne main list.

  33. Crematia Mortem always gets jobbed.

  34. I’m glad to see Dr Madblood get some love! His innovations helped lead to the Minnesota puppet show too.

  35. These shows were paving the way for MST3K in a way especially Rich Koz!

  36. How about Commander USA?

  37. Cool! These kinds of Horror Host shows are always popular!

  38. Moona Lisa is underappreciated for a lady who lasted 12 years.

  39. Vic

    Ghoulardi was awesom!

  40. Odd choices but I see what you were going for.

  41. Hi,pls want to ask if there is any an individual for java,if there is not,pls when will there be

  42. Thank you for your article.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

  43. Chu

    Awesome shows! Moona Lisa and Texas 27 Film Vault were new to me.

  44. Max

    Only later did the firms discover that they had been defrauded after the real account holders reported the unusual transactions to their banks.’I said couldn’t they see that only the night before I’d used the card to buy tickets for Cinderella at the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton. Beatrice is risking the monarchy’s future by flaunting her privilege in a world of increasing restraint,By Published: 01:26 GMT,Fishermen working off the coast of Taiwan dredged up the jawbone of an ancient human ancestor that lived in the area around 200,’Each of those slopes, adding some star quality. taking him to the Savile Row HQ where he meets the equivalent of 007s M.1,000 Total ?

  45. Sal

    Some odd selections but some were my favorites!

  46. Dan the Demon

    These hosts really did cross over to mainstream and didn’t stay known only to fans of horror hosts.

  47. D.G.

    Thankfully you didn’t have the awful Dr Kelp on this list!

  48. Judy S

    I agree with you. To have influence you need to have appeal to more than the super fans and these hosts and hostesses did that.

  49. Debera

    Fantastic! Moona Lisa is my new favorite! Sorry Pearl!

  50. Senuke


  51. Stefanie

    Nobody would even remember Randy and Richard if it wasn’t for you!

  52. Gina

    Moona Lisa deserves at least as much attention as Elvira gets.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s