Rich Koz as Svengoolie
|Also known as||
|Genre||Horror / Science-fiction / Comedy|
|Directed by||Chris M. Faulkner|
|Presented by||Rich Koz|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||31|
|No. of episodes||680|
|Executive producer(s)||Rich Koz|
|Producer(s)||Chris M. Faulkner|
|Editor(s)||Chris M. Faulkner|
|Location(s)||Chicago, Illinois, USA|
|Camera setup||Malcom Conyers|
|Running time||120 minutes|
|Production company(s)||U-City Productions|
|Original release||September 18, 1970– present|
|Official Svengoolie website|
Svengoolie is a hosted horror movie show. The show's title is taken from the name of the character host. The show is a long-running local program in the Chicago area and in recent years expanded nationally, airing Saturday nights on Me-TV.
The show generally airs low-budget, horror and science-fiction movies, with host "Svengoolie" – a telescoping of Svengali + ghoul – played by Rich Koz, who wears thick makeup around his eyes, moustache and goatee, fright wig, and top hat, all black, along with a tuxedo jacket over a bright red open-collared button-down shirt.
Just before and after commercial breaks, Svengoolie presents sketches, tells corny jokes, and performs song parodies spoofs of the film being aired. Some shows were presented in what was later dubbed "Sven-surround" – a pun on "Sensurround", a brand name theater audio system – in which Svengoolie would joke as the film aired, similar to Mystery Science Theatre 3000, but with sound effects as well. This stunt was discontinued for a short time, then brought back due to viewer request, although as a clip segment aired outside the film.
In August 2006, it was announced that WCIU obtained broadcast rights to classic Universal Monsters films of the 1930s and 1940s. These films had been requested since Svengoolie aired in the 1980s. By December 2006, the show featured four episodes of the Abbott and Costello "Meet" series, with Universal Studio Monsters and several Hammer Film Productions that were distributed by Universal-International. On May 5, 2007, Svengoolie presented Bela Lugosi's Dracula (1931) that he claimed was the first time the movie had been shown on local television in more than a decade.
The show opens with a reference to early radio broadcasting: "Calling all stations, clear the air lanes, clear all air lanes for the big broadcast." This is a sound clip from the preview "trailer" of one of the four "Big Broadcast Of .... (1932 '36 '37 '38)" movies. A running gag throughout the series is reference to "Berwyn", a Chicago suburb. (a nod to the way "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" and Johnny Carson referred to "Beautiful Downtown Burbank.") Another recurring gag involves rubber chickens thrown at Svengoolie after a weak joke, usually at the end of an episode's closing sketch. Visitors assist the crew in throwing rubber chickens during taping. Sound clips from Warner Brother's Cartoons ("We are the boys in the Chorus....etc.") and The Stan Freberg (radio) Show ("Thank You for all those cards and letters, you folks in television LANT....." from "Wun'erful, Wun'erful" and "ow! Ow!! OW!!!" from "The HoneyEarthers") are used every week.
- "Svengoolie", the titular character of the show and host, introduces the film, tells jokes and relates trivia about the movie. The character was originally portrayed by former WCFL-AM personality Jerry G. Bishop (1936–2013), from 1970 to 1973. When the show returned in 1979, Rich Koz took on the role of "Son of Svengoolie", which he portrayed until 1986, when the show was cancelled. In 1995, Koz was set to bring the show back and Bishop told him he was "all grown up" and could drop the "Son of" from his character name. Koz has been playing "Svengoolie" ever since.
- "Doug Graves" plays the piano for Svengoolie's songs. The part of Graves is played by musician and crew member Doug Scharf.
- "Zallman T. Tombstone" is a disembodied skull that performs a funny skit during each episode.
- "Kerwyn" is a smart-alec rubber chicken who helps Svengoolie to read viewer mail.
- "Durwood the Dummy" is a wooden ventriloquist's dummy from the original 1970 show.
These three characters and many other incidental characters throughout the show's run were voiced by Rich Koz.
Rich Koz did most of the artwork for the show when he revived it as Son of Svengoolie at WFLD. For every episode, Koz researches the film to find interesting facts, then writes each episode, spending about four hours writing.
The camera shots and audio effects are handled by director Chris Faulkner and Kevin Reisberg, assistant director.
In 2014 the original casket prop used by both Bishop and Koz on camera was retired and donated to the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago. Segments showcasing the original casket continued to be rebroadcast on the Me-TV schedule.
The show's original title was Screaming Yellow Theater with host Svengoolie. The title was derived from Screaming Yellow Zonkers, a yellow, sugary glazed popcorn snack, first produced in the 1960s. It wasn't until the revival that the show title and host's name were one and the same. It debuted on September 18, 1970 on WFLD (Channel 32) and ran until late summer 1973. Svengoolie was played then by Jerry G. Bishop. In later seasons, Rich Koz – a fan who sent in sketch ideas – became a show writer. In 1973, Kaiser Broadcasting took over WFLD from Field Communications and Screaming Yellow Theater was cancelled and replaced with The Ghoul from Cleveland. The Ghoul lasted until 1974 when it was taken off the air. Field Communications took WFLD back from Kaiser Broadcasting in 1978, which led Jerry Bishop and Rich Koz to discuss the show's resurrection.
On June 16, 1979, Son of Svengoolie debuted on WFLD, with Koz in the title role. The show aired briefly on Field Communications-controlled stations in Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, and Detroit. The series ran until WFLD, then owned by Metromedia, was sold to Rupert Murdoch's Fox Television Stations Group in 1986 as part of the newly created Fox network. New management canceled the show, deciding that it did not fit the new programming direction. After 334 shows, the final episode aired January 25, 1986. Koz returned to WFLD in various capacities, mainly as the host of Fox Kids Club and The Koz Zone weekday afternoon children's programming, and appearing as an announcer on the Fox network's 1988 New Year's Eve broadcast.
Neal Sabin, executive vice president of Weigel Broadcasting, brought the show back on December 31, 1994 on WCIU (Channel 26), using "Svengoolie" as the name; Koz took the role of Svengoolie when Bishop told Koz that he "believed he was grown up enough now to no longer be just the Son." Koz hosts a weekly Three Stooges Stooge-a-palooza show on WCIU.
The series airs on Chicago's WWME-CD ("ME-TV"), Milwaukee stations WBME-CD and WMLW-TV, and occasionally on WMYS-LD in South Bend, Indiana. These stations are owned by Weigel Broadcasting. Beginning on April 2, 2011, Svengoolie's show became available nationally on the Me-TV network through the efforts of Neal Sabin.
Between 1979 and 1986, Son of Svengoolie won three Chicago Emmys at station WFLD. For its 25th anniversary in 2004, Svengoolie was presented with the Silver Circle Award by the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for "outstanding contributions to Chicago television."
In popular culture
Svengoolie is visible as an easter egg in the Justice League graphic novel JLA: Liberty and Justice, shown on a security monitor in Arkham Asylum as a patient alongside The Joker, Two-Face and the Riddler.
- Serrano, Elliott (December 31, 2008). "Fun for all the boys and 'gools', 'Svengoolie' a staple for B-Grade horror movie fans". Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois, USA: Tony W. Hunter). ISSN 1085-6706. OCLC 60639020. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
- Johnson, Steve (February 1, 1997). ""Sventennial": Before there was Joe Bob Briggs, before...". Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois, USA: Tony W. Hunter). ISSN 1085-6706. OCLC 60639020. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
- Hageman, William (April 1, 2011). "Svengoolie scares up a national show". Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois, USA: Tony W. Hunter). ISSN 1085-6706. OCLC 60639020. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
- Watson, Elena M. (November 1, 2000). Television Horror Movie Hosts: 68 Vampires, Mad Scientists and Other Denizens of the Late-Night Airwaves Examined and Interviewed (reprint, illustrated ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina, USA: McFarland & Company. ISBN 9780786409402. OCLC 44693959. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
- Darnall, Steve (June 18, 2004). "25 years of Svengoolie's humor, Television academy honors Rich Koz with Silver Circle Award". Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois, USA: Tony W. Hunter). ISSN 1085-6706. OCLC 60639020. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
- Herguth, Bob (December 5, 1994). "Rich Koz". Chicago Sun-Times (Chicago, Illinois, USA: Tim Knight). p. 26. ISSN 1553-8478. OCLC 51500916. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
- Stach, Chris (October 30, 2007). "Horror story, Love of classic flicks and comedy result in soon-to-be-published book about horror shows on Chicago TV". Riverside Brookfield Landmark (Oak Park, Illinois, USA: Wednesday Journal). OCLC 40109363. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
- Okuda, Ted; Yurkiw, Mark (December 4, 2007). Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows: From Shock Theatre to Svengoolie (illustrated ed.). Chicago, Illinois, USA: Lake Claremont Press. ISBN 9781893121133. OCLC 123378830. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
- Glut, Donald F. (July 24, 2012). Shock Theatre Chicago Style: WBKB-TV's Late Night Horror Showcase, 1957-1959. Jefferson, North Carolina, USA: McFarland & Company. p. 170. ISBN 9780786468058. OCLC 757462047. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
- Official website
- Svengoolie at the Internet Movie Database
- Svengoolie at HorrorHosts.com
- Svengoolie Nation website