Chiller Theatre (New York)

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Chiller Theatre was a Saturday night show on Channel 11 WPIX in New York City that showed classic horror movies.

History[edit]

1960s[edit]

Chiller Theater actually began on WPIX during 1961 and in 1963 included Zacherley ("The Cool Ghoul") as the on-air host. However, by 1965, Zacherley left the show and a new opening was created using a montage of clips from various 1950s sci-fi films. This montage of clips started with the classic scene from Plan 9 from Outer Space with Vampira coming out of the woods. Then, the clip from The Cyclops, showing Actress Gloria Talbot just inside a cave looking at the Cyclops. Various other clips continued throughout the montage, concluding with the classic "goof" from Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, with the giant alien from outer space, picking up one brand of car and then shown throwing a completely different brand of car into a ditch. The entire montage was permeated by a frightening library music track ("Horror Upon Horror" by veteran British composer, Wilfred Josephs). Many "Baby Boomers" from this era growing up in the Tri-State Area, have said that this opening provided many nightmares and sleepless nights, forcing some to change the channel when this opening began.

The montage opening served until the late 1960s when another introduction was produced, featuring the word "Chiller" rendered in white paint on a black board, then lifted up, the gooey white paint slowly running down the board like blood while creepy chamber music played in the background. The bumper to this version simply showed the painted "Chiller" as a title card. To get an idea of what this might have looked like, one can view the logo The Chiller Theatre Convention created for its shows that are shown bi-annually in New Jersey. It is not known if this opening was the original dating from the show's inception or if it was created out of necessity; it has been suggested that the montage opening was dropped in favor of this version since by the late 1960s film studios began to charge television stations royalties for film clips. For some reason, few fans of the show recall this opening, and it is hoped someone can provide more description here.

1970s[edit]

By 1971, the painted title card sequence was gone and replaced by the popular claymation six-fingered hand introduction.

This opening was produced by legendary annimation specialist, Rankin/Bass of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman fame. A solitary swamp sporting a pool of blood in the foreground, a dead tree in the background, and suddenly a six-fingered humanoid hand rises from the froth while it moans, "Hoo ..." As the hand rises, the word "Chiller" simultaneously grows from the mud as if weeds and the hand passes over each growing letter approvingly, then snatches them one by one before returning to the swamp, groaning "Chillllller ..." deeply in a very creepy voice, all while a reverb-heavy electronic track plays, presumably created with synthesizers. The combination of the surreal imagery and early electronica was unusual enough to cause a fright to those viewers, similar to what the viewers of the Montage Opening of the 1960s experienced.

This opening was used throughout the remainder of the show's run. This was as equally a memorable opening, as that of the Mid-1960s Chiller Theatre Montage opening, among various Chiller Theatre fans, causing the younger viewers of the show to have nightmares.

The program usually aired at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday nights, but for a time in 1974, it was aired at 11:30 p.m. It went off the air at the end of 1978 and returned in early 1980 at 2:00 a.m. Sunday late-night.

1980s and 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 revivals[edit]

It was finally cancelled in 1982. The WPIX program showed very much the same classic horror and science fiction movies as the Pittsburgh station did.

After a 26 year absence on WPIX, Chiller Theatre returned on Saturday, October 25, 2008 at 8 p.m. for one night, with Tarantula as the movie of choice. The fans and new converts greatly anticipate a groundswell of support for more revivals of this show, if not a permanent place on WPIX's Saturday night roster. The show opened with the Classic Black and White Original Opening, followed during commercial breaks of the famous Six Finger Clamation Hand.

On August 13, 2009, WPIX officially announced a return of the annual Halloween special. It was revealed in October that Chiller Theatre would air the Hammer chestnut The Evil of Frankenstein with Elvira, Mistress of the Night as hostess, replacing Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul. The fan response was positive, and WPIX allowed Elvira more airtime to deliver her trademark one-liners with varying degrees of taste. Despite the criticism, the show appeared to do well enough against the World Series that night, and WPIX for the first time has begun marketing Chiller Theatre memorabilia at its website.

In 2010, WPIX Channel 11 announced that Chiller Theatre would return to the station on Halloween weekend with four frightening films: White Zombie, Bride of the Monster, Dolls and Child’s Play.

In 2011, WPIX announced that they would air Chiller Theatre again on October 29, 2011. The two movies featured for 2011 were the 1960 version of The Little Shop of Horrors followed by Night of the Living Dead. 2011's presentation was hosted by several personalities from WPIX's morning newscast. While the 2011 presentation did include very brief showings of the Six Figure Clamation Hand, there were no showings of the Classic Black and White Original Opening.

Since 2012, WPIX has chosen NOT to air any Chiller Theatre Halloween Special.

Since 1990, New Jersey has been the host of the Chiller Theater Convention, which has become one of the largest horror conventions in the eastern United States.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]