When I was growing up in El Paso, my family had cable TV. The best part of cable TV was that our basic package included some Los Angeles stations that I watched regularly. I think we had four LA station - KTTV (Channel 11), KTLA (Channel 5), KHJ (Channel 9) and some other station I can't recall now. It was through KTLA and KHJ that I learned to love old movies (and despise Cal Worthington and his dog Spot).
Tom Hatten hosted about 10 hours of KTLA programming every weekend. On Saturday & Sunday mornings, Hatten would host The Popeye Show. Hatten would show 1930's vintage Popeye cartoons. I became familiar with the Fleischer Brothers from Hatten's encyclopedic knowledge of Popeye. Hatten, seemed to an adolescent, to be an accomplished sketch artists as he would free-hand various Popeye themed drawings during the commercial breaks.
Hatten's program introduced me to the old Popeye cartoons (Bluto vs. Brutus), Betty Boop, Bimbo and other cartoons that I never see anymore.
Later, I would learn that Hatten had hosted a weekday, after school, children's program on KTLA since the 1950's. By the time I found him on weekend mornings, he was winding down his career at KTLA.
More influential on me was The Family Film Festival that Hatten hosted on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The concept was similar except Hatten didn't doodle and the studio & wardrobe were not nautical themed. Hatten would share tidbits on classic films during commercial breaks. It was this series that introduced me to the films of the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, and many others. A quarter century later, I can still remember Brian Donlevy positioning corpses on the ramparts at the end of Beau Geste, a infectious little ditty titled "Everyone Says I Love You" that all four Marx Brothers sang in Horse Feathers, seeing Hope and Crosby in all seven Road movies and thinking Dottie Lamour was one hot little number (former Miss New Orleans). I haven't seen any of those films since then but I can still remember certain scenes vividly.
Over on KHJ (Channel 9), they had a movie host that couldn't have been more different than Tom Hatten. I am of course referring to Cassandra Peterson; better known by her stage name - Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Before she became a national phenomenon, Elvira hosted a horror movie program called Movie Macabre on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. During the commercial breaks, Elvira would perform comedy skits and lampoon the movie. I recall her black gown plunged all the way to her waist and her two rather impressive talents. It wasn't just Elvira that caught my attention, the movies stuck in my mind. At the time, they were probably known as grind house films although I was not familiar with that term at the time. She also spoke with a Valley Girl accent that I didn't pick up on until the song came out a year or two later.
I recall seeing Count Yorga, Vampire, Willard, one with Bill Shatner and Ernest Borgnine where they had black eyes like the victims in The X-Files many years later, I think I saw one with Clint Eastwood set during the Civil War where some women amputate his leg against his will, and a English gothic picture with strong hints of incest. These films I don't recall quite as vividly as Hatten's films.
They don't show films like that anymore. Maybe AMC shows some of the films The Family Film Festival showed but I don't see them often. When was the last time you saw Paleface on TV?
Last year at Hole in the Head, they screened a documentary called American Scary. It turns out every major city had a local horror movie show on Friday & Saturday night...every major city except El Paso! Until I moved to the Bay Area and heard about Creature Feature, I thought Elvira and Los Angeles were the whole enchilada. It's a bittersweet realization that Hatten and Elvira probably couldn't exist in today's world of corporate ownership, focus groups, and PC groupthink.
Now that I think about it, I think one of those LA stations showed Our Gang shorts by Hal Roach. I can't remember the last time I saw Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla and the rest of the gang.
1 day ago