Saturday, June 9, 2012

WARNING! Monsters Run Loose! Sit in Your Lap! Can You Take It! :: On the Midnight Spook Show Road with Joe Karston.

Dr. Evil and His Terrors of the Unknown, Ray Mond's Voodoo Show, and Dr. Draculas Den of Living Nightmares, these were just a few of the traveling Midnight Spook Shows that barnstormed around the country in the 1920's, '30s '40s, '50s and '60s, until this type of roadshow and spectacle withered and died along with the Drive-In in the 1970's. (Thank you, Home Video and cable. Feh...)

Whether featuring wild magic-acts, where mad doctors or their nubile assistants were often transformed into horrible creatures, or showcasing onstage dismemberment and other macabre acts of torture, or maybe the threat of "Real Live Monsters" running loose in the aisles, abducting beautiful women for some nefarious purpose or other -- and sometimes they featured all of the above! -- before the lights went out and the feature began, these things always drew a crowd and were huge moneymakers for those who booked them since theater owners didn't have to send the usual disproportional amount of ticket money made on these things back to the studios and pocketed everything after splitting the take with presenter.

e of the more successful Spook Show entrepreneurs was Joe Karston. Probably best known these days for his Monsters Crash the Pajama Party campaign (-- thanks to Something Weird Video's wonderful DVD), Karston also backed Dr. Macabre's Frightmare of Movie Monsters and Dr. Jekyll and His Weird Show. Karston would also later team up with Ray Dennis Steckler, tweaking a live-act element into both The Incredibly Strange Creatures who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies and The Thrill-Killers, and took them out on tour as Teenage Psycho meets Bloody Mary and The Maniacs are Loose, respectively.

And it wasn't just one show, there'd be several different road companies touring assigned territories with each
campaign, and sometimes the same show would run for years. And it was right after Dr. Macabre hit big that Karston dreamed up The First Living Creature from Outer Space. Featuring a custom headpiece built by Don Post, the alien sported a clear plastic head with a rubber-brain suspended in a reddish liquid, a pair of black tights, and rubber-boots spray-painted silver.

The show opened in Wichita, Kansas, with Richard Cuhna's Giant from the Unknown as the feature. Alas, though touted as being unlike anything you'd ever seen before, The First Living Creature from Outer Space was a rare flop for Karston, who quickly pulled the plug -- luckily, not before it played in my hometown. But! Turns out the Creature wasn't quite dead yet, as it would go on to fill the title roll in Space Monster, one of American International's cheapest efforts in their brief foray into television production. And Karston would recycle the creature yet again for his own feature film, and perhaps one of the strangest adaptations of L. Frank Baum's Oz books, The Wizard of Mars -- a/k/a Horrors of the Red Planet. So, without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boils and Ghouls, I present to you ...The First Living Creature from Outer Space!


No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...