September 28, 2012
Beginning in 1966 and appearing on three different stations over a span of 15 years, Wilkins logged over 1200 shows, screening some 1800 movies. No ghoul makeup here, no undertaker costumes, no Lugosi accent, Wilkins came on as himself, in a suit and tie, sitting in a rocking chair, wielding a cigar. Sometimes, with deadpan humor, he’d open with a list of what was playing on competing stations, urging viewers to switch over and spare themselves the grade-Z shocker he’d booked that evening. Ratings showed that fans stuck with Wilkins, abiding by the show’s motto: “Watch Horror Films… Keep America Strong!”
Strephon Taylor’s The Complete Bob Wilkins Creature Features is a scrapbook film, a rapid-fire smorgasbord of clips, intros and interviews from the shows, movie trailers and vintage commercials. The format makes for a very busy picture, split-screened throughout, clips competing for attention with a continuous supply of classic posters, and there’s even a crawl at the bottom listing every movie shown on Creature Features. The barrage of images can be a little overwhelming but, still, Wilkins’ personality, his easy charm and humor shine through.
For all the visual razzle-dazzle, clips of Wilkins’ guests will make you sit up and focus. There’s an encounter with John Belushi, a conversation with the irrepressible John Carradine, an interview with Blacula star William Marshall, and a fascinating exchange with Christopher Lee at a time when the actor had very publicly walked away from his Dracula and gothic horror parts and upgraded to a new Hollywood career. Best of all, there’s a wonderful 20-second clip of Boris Karloff doing a good-humored promotion for the show. The elderly Boris looks fit but, sadly, this may have been his last public appearance. He would pass away within a few short weeks.
The Complete Bob Wilkins Creature Feature is a rare and welcome glimpse at early TV, live and off the cuff, and a revealing portrait of a truly unique and engaging Horror Host. It’s pretty much essential fare for Monster Kids. Nicely packaged, the DVD is available — and only $15 — from November Fire.