Then Is Now – Creature Double Feature Edition – By Roger Froilan

With the second Roundup headed our way on September 24, 2011, lots of interest has been generated by people who fondly remember Creature Double Feature.  I don’t think the producers at WLVI Channel 56 in Boston realized when they were making the show back in the 1970s that it would have such a profound and lasting impact on a whole generation of viewers.  In fact, according to Aaron Chauncey who is co-creator of the Roundup, they didn’t think anyone was actually watching it!  What is it about Creature Double Feature that had such an effect on the viewers and why does that still hang on today?

While to younger viewers who don’t remember the days of UHF/VHF, having only 5 TV Channels, and constant monster movie programming on regular channels, our love for CDF may seem absurd.  But when you lived it, when you were there, it was a good time in our lives and not just those of us in Boston, but across the country in all the major markets that received horror movie programming.  When there weren’t 500 channels (with still nothing to watch), there were the big three networks, ABC, NBC and CBS, and the rest were locally operated, independent broadcasters.  These independent stations had full TV Studio setups, and therefore had to create original content to fill their airtime.

The best thing about a lot of this programming was that it was centered on the local market.  Channel 38, for example, had a show called “Ask The Manager” in which viewers’ letters and concerns were addressed right on TV!  Movies were shown quite a bit on these stations also, considering the fact that there were no pay channels like HBO or Starz.   You got your movies by surfing the TV Guide, and making sure you were in front of the TV on whichever date and time you had chosen.  There was no recording or DVRs, so if you missed it, you missed it, and chances are you would never see whatever program you wanted to see again!  If you reference the local Boston Horror listings at Horror Haven’s Boston Horror Memories Page, you’ll see that horror flicks played around the dial on every channel!  What a treat for monster kids!

When you check out episodes 3 & 4 of  Then Is Now where we Interview Matt Sanborn and Aaron Chauncey from the Roundup, as well as our CDF round table discussion, you will see the great passion that people have for the program.  It was one of those things that were just magic at the right moment in time.  Even for those of us who didn’t have perfect childhoods, or who even had downright horrible ones, the one time (very often) when the family would pause their dysfunction and come together would be a CDF or Horror Host-type show.  This kind of magic you can’t buy!

My fondest memories of the show are when almost every Saturday we would visit my grandparents in East Boston.  I’d have my back of toys and drawing materials and would sit in the kitchen to watch CDF.  Usually, I’d only have to be in the kitchen if it were baseball season because everyone else would be in the living room watching the Red Sox.  Not me!  I was in my glory with my monster flicks and bag of things to keep me occupied!

I was one of those kids that got scared by movies or shows very easily, so it was always a blessing when CDF was airing a Kaiju film.  In fact, the “I Love NY” commercial with Dracula caused me to run out of the room!  After “Jaws”, I couldn’t swim or take a bath for two years!!!  I remember watching Chiller with the folks on a Sunday afternoon on Channel 5, and they were showing “Bride of Frankenstein”.  Of course, the parents fell asleep and I was left awake, too terrified to change the channel!

But Creature Double Feature somehow kept me coming back for more.  While the “Manster” and “The Brain that Wouldn’t Die” did bother me and give me nightmares, I don’t ever remember being too scared to watch CDF.  In fact, at Saugus Community Television, in the first episode of my ‘homage to CDF’ program called Monster Movie Matinee, we aired both the “Manster” and “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die”!!  My little tribute to CDF that has gotten quite a bit of praise from around town about how it reminds people of their childhood!  We air it on The Fright Channel on Sundays, as well as Creature TRIPLE Feature on Saturday Afternoons!  (okay, shameless self-promotion part is over now!).

Because of CDF, my friend Peter and I became experts in all things Godzilla and Hammer!  We would take monster related books out of the library and study up on them.  I remember Daniel Cohen being a prolific author on the subject.  One great book that I felt was sort of a companion to CDF was called “Monsters Who’s Who”.  It’s a fabulous book with concise information about every kind of monster from film and myth that you could imagine!  It even has monsters from comic books!  I managed to pick one up on Ebay a few years ago, and while it’s a little more childish than I remember, it’s a great starter book to read with the kids while you wait for the next commercial to end and the scares to begin again!

So I guess my conclusion is that because we had limited choices, and because horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films challenge our brains so well, we gobbled up a steady diet of creature features and that created an appetite for more that can never be fully satiated.  CDF, and it’s counterparts across the country, created a generation of Monster Kids that have fond memories of a simpler time, and who hope to pass those kinds of experiences and great memories on to their children.

And don’t forget to visit the Creature Double Feature Roundup 2 on Saturday, September 24, 2011!!!  It’s at the Sheraton Four Points, Norwood, MA, and tickets are only $10!!!  You’ll be treated to a vendor room, cool contests, and a recreation of Creature Double Feature!!!  Check ’em out at www.creaturedoublefeature.org!!

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