Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Retro Nerd Alert No. 3: Bob Wilkins Talks Hardware Wars & More on Creature Features

Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2012 at 1:15 PM

click to enlarge SC_72_CreatureFeatures.jpg

We've talked before about the Bob Wilkins' special The Star Trek Dream and his kiddie show Captain Cosmic, but most people in the Bay Area remember him from his horror host gig Creature Features, from 1971 to 1979. I don't personally remember it, since I didn't move to San Francisco until 1994, but I wish I was around to watch him live.

While most horror hosts tended to wear costumes and generally act weird, Bob Wilkins was just a bespectacled, cigar-smoking guy who hosted from his favorite rocking chair. But he also looked good in a coffin, hence this famous commercial.

By 1975, the opening theme to Creature Features was a piece of original funk by Beauregarde & The Poppers. This replaced the original, Neal Hefti's "Gotham City Municipal Swing Band," which was retained for the closing credits.


In this episode from January 17, 1976, Bob Wilkins reads a letter from tourists from Des Moines who find themselves confused by the show. He also discusses the recently released Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man comic book.

On glorious 16mm film, Bob interviews DC Comics' Carmine Infantino, who discusses the upcoming Superman movie. Some of the names bandied around to play Supes long before the unknown Christopher Reeve was cast: Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty, and Infantino's personal choice, Burt Reynolds. I'd like to think that in Fringe's parallel universe, Burt Reynolds got the role.

From the February 24, 1976 episode, Bob shows a picture sent in by Judith from Bolinas of a sweater she knitted for King Kong. Of course she's from Bolinas.

By the way, I know the exact dates of these clips by cross-referencing the movies Bob mentions -- in this case, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes and Monster from the Ocean Floor -- with the complete listings of the show featured in Michael Monahan's indispensable Shock it to Me: Golden Ghouls of the Golden Gate. Seriously, the book lists every movie played on every episode of Creature Features, which is the kind of thing people like myself read for pleasure.

That said, I'm not entirely sure when this next clip is from. It's obviously post-Star Wars, and Bob references the upcoming "Sounds of Space" concerts, which this guy on Yahoo! says happened in April 1978. The concerts aren't listed at all in the Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle, a Lucasfilm-approved book which devotes an entire page to The Star Wars Holiday Special, so I can't imagine why they'd try to sweep the concerts under the rug. Whatever. All that matters is, Jawa!

For better or worse, the release of Star Wars in May of 1977 changed the world. (Many people who are still angry about the fact have made Facebook pages expressing their hatred, because that's just a good way to spend your time.) By January 7, 1978, it had definitely changed the footage used in the Creature Features intro, which was now more sci-fi heavy than it used to be. But it also now started with The Phantom of the Paradise, so you'll hear no complaints from me.


Bob's guest for that episode was one Ernie Fosselius, a local filmmaker who, less than nine months after Star Wars was released, had already created the definitive spoof: Hardware Wars. And he's not just taking on the movie, but the merchandise, which was already plentiful by then.

Right before they went on air, Bob famously told Ernie that Bob was going to disregard Ernie's carefully rehearsed material, instead introducing Ernie as a "Video Laugh Specialist." A "Video Laugh Specialist" was no more a thing then than it is now, and Ernie has said it forced him to improvise and be much funnier than he might have been otherwise. It shows, too, as Bob is clearly cracking up at the end. Ernie FTW!

For further Wilkins goodness, check out Michael Monahan's aforementioned Shock it to Me: Golden Ghouls of the Golden Gate, as well as the horror host documentary American Scary and Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong!, which is all about Bob.

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Sherilyn Connelly is a San Francisco-based writer. She also curates and hosts Bad Movie Night at The Dark Room, every Sunday at 8pm.

Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF (follow Sherilyn Connelly on Twitter at @sherilyn) and like us on Facebook.

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