Horror Host Icon : Commander USA

Growing up a strange kid was a very fun way to live life. I was able to be me and not worry about what others thought of me, and I must say all my fellow classmates in Waynesville were all very cool kids and no one thought it was weird that I drew pictures of Satan, demons and monsters all the time. In fact, I can only remember one teacher ever really being an ass, and his name didn’t even stick with me because he was a piss poor teacher who was younger than the rest and walked around like he was the man when really he was a dud.  He was a computer teacher and he gave me crap for writing about Jason Voorhees (Friday The 13th) and The Toxic Avenger.

Waynesville was a good time and was way better than the second time I had to go to Kettering Schools who had many teachers who targeted me for being “satanic” in their eyes. Many things helped make me the person I am today and have lead to all the cool creative things I do from no budget films with companies like Independent B Movie and Bloodline Video, to the TV show Terrifying Tales Of The Macabre, to music concerts at local venue Gilly’s to even my early made comics of Benny The Squirrel and Robo-Racoon that were drawn with colored pencils. Of course my Mom and Dad played a big part in it, as they never discouraged me from being myself and even my brother Bryan played a big part of just helping my mind work with all his fake wrestling leagues and such. But of course entertainment also played a big part in warping me.  Things like pro wrestling with all the amazing characters like Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, video games on the NES with all the high adventure, Universal Monster movies with all the classic scares and horror hosts that brought me doses of comedy mixed in with my horror. The hometown Dayton area host was Dr. Creep, a lovable character who hosted Shock Theatre and later Saturday Night Dead.  While he played a part in my life at the time but more so later on, it was one horror host that aired on cable TV on USA Network that truly was an icon to me and a guy me and my brother tried never to miss.  You long time readers know who I am talking about..that’s right, the one and only Commander USA who hosted his Groovie Movies Saturdays and later on Sundays.

Commander USA 1Commander USA 2Commander USA 3 Commander USA’s Groovie Movies started airing in 1985 and would show two horror or cult type films on the USA Network. Commander USA is a retired super hero whose secret headquarters (The Video Vault) is located in the basement of a shopping mall in New Jersey and with his Heat And Radiation Screen That Protected Tel-Psychotronic Screen he would watch the film alongside us as well as his best friend and sidekick Lefty (his hand with cigar ash on it) or some other guest. Commander was part of the Legion of Decency and is a fan of all the cheesy goodness he shows and took pride in presenting the movie along side showing us how to make a mid-movie snack that was some gross mix of food that should not go together.

Groovie Movies would come on Saturday at noon and was the perfect follow up to the major networks’ cartoon blocks.  This was the perfect thing for Monster Kids of the 80’s like myself as later that night USA Network would have Saturday Nightmares that consisted of a horror film and shows like The Hitchhiker and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  Then after that, USA Up All Night would come on with host Gilbert Gottfried, making this the perfect station to watch on Saturdays. Commander USA would switch to showing one film and later even moved to Sundays before sadly going off the air in 1989. Commander USA was the first host that drew me 100% in and really helped spark my interest in slasher films and low budget horror flicks.  His style of hosting is what I would consider the best as he would have a storyline that would run through out the episode, and you would feel as if he was watching the film with you, the sign of a good solid host. Commander USA made the odd little kid me feel as if I was normal and that many of people out in the world liked the same things as I did. I know my brother and I have a lot in common, and I would almost guarantee that he would also say that Commander USA had an impact of his young life. Something about sitting down and eating lunch or a snack and watching Commander USA host films like Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell, Friday The 13th Part III and Aztec Mummy are magical moments that some day I hope future kids of mine will share with their favorite horror host.

commander usa 4Commander USA 5commander usa 6

Jim Hendricks was the actor who played Commander USA, and he was a former radio DJ and theater performer. His other acting gigs include bit parts in Law And Order: Special Victims Unit, Brutal Fury and a cameos as Commander USA in the Christmas film classic Scrooged and pool shark film The Color Of Money. While not a household name, Jim Hendricks will always be one of my favorite actors of all time for his role of being the Commander. I should also note that Jim Hendricks is talked to in the horror host documentary American Scary, a film every fan of hosting should watch.

Jim Hendricks

Commander USA is a character who has a very blue collar super hero look.  Commander wears a tight red body suit with USA logo on his chest, star suspenders, blue baggy shorts and a polka dotted cape. He also always has a cigar, and his mask is blue grease paint painted around his eyes. As I stated back in my “Top 10 Should Have Been Star Comics,” Commander USA should have been made into a comic book series because I would have been a buyer of every issue. In fact I would love to see a comic series made even now about the adventures of Commander, and I know of a few comic artist that would be perfect for that job! Below is some artwork done by two of my friends, Eric Shonborn and Bruce O’Hughes, as well as an art piece I found online.  All are different in style, and all are amazing in their own way. So make sure to take a look at these amazing drawings.

Eric Commander USA ArtBruce Commander USA artCommander USA Art 1 Commander USA was joined by all types of guests from vampires to mall shoppers, but only really had two co-hosts/sidekicks that appeared in almost every episode. The most popular was Lefty, his right hand with a smiley face drawn on with cigar ash.  Lefty was a strong willed hand puppet who had a mind of his own. Lefty was his righthand man and was always around to help out the Commander in whatever silly thing that was going on. The second sidekick was Monroe, a mounted stuffed deer head who made weird noises and would always hold the Commanders coat, and sometimes he would have some ideas for The Commander to try. So I had to give both of these great sidekicks a shout out, and I can remember loving Monroe when I was a young lad. So this update is not only for Commander USA, the fans but it’s for Lefty and Monroe as well!

Leftymonroe

1989 was a dark year as it marked the end of the Groovie Movies and was a sad time to be had by all.  While we still had USA Up All Night and USA Saturday Nightmares, the Video Vault was closed for good and and reruns were not in the cards. For the following years, I was able to get my cheesy horror flicks fix via other horror host shows, cable TV like HBO and renting VHS tapes from the library and video stores.  While they were all fun ways to discover and relive the horrors of the movies, they were all still lacking Commander USA. I kicked myself for never recording the episodes on Beta or VHS, but the younger me was to busy taping Godzilla films and cartoons. Over the years my brother was able to track down some copies of Groovie Movies on VHS and burned them onto DVD-R’s, and we were both able to relive our youth and be reunited with Commanders wisecracks and silly jokes. We both spent time tracking down episodes and trading them to each other, and now I own a large amount of these episodes and even still to this day am inspired by Commander USA who is my favorite horror host of all time. One episode that I have been looking for is the one where he hosted the 1973 Hammer Horror film “Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell.” This was the only episode that for the first few times he showed it, my Mom would not allow us to watch cause it had the word “hell” in it! So if you have a copy of this episode or any episode of the Commander, please get in contact with me because I would love to get a copy!

So on this update I am going to take a look at some of the episodes I own of Commander USA, and I am going to tell you what the film is and what he does in each of these episodes.  So be ready to go back to the past when the USA Network was the top cable station to me and my brother.

Commander USA 7

Before I get into these episodes I should explain a few things, like first what is a Groovie Movie?  After growing up watching this show, I can give you a run down: it’s the following type of films, classic horror, cheesy horror, Mexican horror, fantasy, low budget action, slashers, goofy comedy, low budget horror, sci-fi and kung fu films. Now on each episode that I review, I will break down the host segments as well as give a brief write up for each film he is hosting.  The film write ups I will get off IMDB, and the hosts ones I will write myself. I will also give the names of two actors in the film as well as its rating and year of release. I will not be doing my comic 1-4 star ratings for these episodes because I have such a soft spot for all these episodes that the ratings would all be high! I will also review them in alphabetical order to make it easier. I want to also credit Stumpy Disk for the cover design idea. But now that I gave you a little more info, let’s get ready to enter the Video Vault.

Commander USA abominable snowman dvd

Groovie Movies: Abominable Snowman
Starring – Peter Cushing & Forrest Tucker   Not Rated   1957

Host: It’s a heat wave in New Jersey, and Commander is happy to be in the Video Vault and wants to do summer activities indoors! He makes boats out of snack food and sails them in a bowl of water.  He butchers “fresh” fish and plays a game of fish ball where you play bad mitten with fish heads, makes a slime zoo, opens his own cloths fashions and just enjoys the cool air in the Vault.

Movie: A kindly English botanist and a gruff American scientist lead an expedition to the Himalayas in search of the legendary Yeti.

commander usa alligator people dvd

Groovie Movies: The Alligator People
Starring – Beverly Garland & Lon Chaney Jr.   Not Rated   1959

Host: It’s Halloween time, and the Video Vault is set up for the first ever Groovie Movie Halloween Party and guests include Lefty and Angela The Alligator. He also gets a visit from a zombie who brings him a voodoo doll that looks just like Commander.  He helps Dorothy escape a evil witch, makes some snacks, gets a visit from a vampire and just has a blast at his party as other ghouls and goblins come to party.

Movie: A newlywed couple sit in a train. The husband receives a frantic telegram. He gets off at a station to make a phone call, the train pulls away without him on it, and that’s the last his wife sees of him. Years later after a long search she finally tracks him down on his family’s southern estate where she discovers that a failed medical treatment has turned him into an alligator mutant.

Commander USA an american werewolf in london dvd

Groovie Movies: An American Werewolf In London
Starring – David Naughton & Jenny Agutter  Rated R   1981

Host: It’s New Years Eve, and Commander USA is going to have a pub party in The Video Vault and has some guest to help that come all the way from England in honor of the days film. In the end of course, he spends the party just with the help as no one else comes, but he has a blast with his new friends.

Movie: Two American college students are on a walking tour of Britain and are attacked by a werewolf. One is killed, the other is mauled. The werewolf is killed but reverts to its human form, and the local townspeople are unwilling to acknowledge its existence. The surviving student begins to have nightmares of hunting on four feet at first but then finds that his friend and other recent victims appear to him, demanding that he commit suicide to release them from their curse, being trapped between worlds because of their unnatural deaths.

Commander USA Beast From 20000 DVD

Groovie Movies: Beast From 20,000 Fathoms
Starring – Lee Van Cleef & Paul Hubschmid    Not Rated    1953

Host: The nights film is one of Lefty’s favorite films and for the showing Lefty makes a reptile dude ranch play set! Tourists pour in to see the ranch and Commander orders and receives his very own Dinosaur who just so happens to be way to large for the miniature ranch as Monroe opens up a souvenir shop to help out at the attraction. Commander gets a little hungry and makes his own weird ice cream thats made with cheese in a can, cake frosting, avocado and ketchup, and when that don’t work he makes yet another gross snack. The Dinosaur escapes into the mall and Commander and Lefty must travel above to stop it’s rampage.

Movie: As a result of an arctic nuclear test, a carnivorous dinosaur thaws out and starts making its way down the east coast of North America. Professor Tom Nesbitt, only witness to the beast’s existence, is not believed, even when he identifies it as a “rhedosaurus” to paleontologist Thurgood Elson. All doubts disappear, however, when Elson is swallowed whole during an oceanic bathysphere excursion to search for the creature. Soon thereafter the rhedosaurus emerges from the sea and lays waste to Manhattan Island until Nesbitt comes up with a plan to try to stop the seemingly indestructible beast.

Commander USA Beginning Of The End dvd

Groovie Movies: Beginning Of The End
Starring – Peter Graves & Peggie Castle   Not Rated   1957

Host: Some one has entered the Video Vault has has stolen Commander USA’s Headcheese Tarts, and now Commander and Lefty break out a Sherlock Holmes dress up kit and are on the case to find his missing snacks. His prime suspect is Rose Rosewood whom has teamed with one of his rouges gallery before, but is she the snack thief and will ge get his tarts back in time to enter the malls headcheese bake off?

Movie: Audrey Ames, an enterprising journalist, tries to get the scoop on giant grasshoppers accidentally created at the Illinois State experimental farm. She endeavors to save Chicago, despite a military cover-up.

Commander USA Blade Master dvd

Groovie Movies: The Blade Master
Starring – Miles O’Keeffe & Lisa Foster   Rated PG   1984

Host: Commander USA brings his two prehistoric friends Fred and Wilma Fieldstone to the Video Vault to watch the days film. During this time Fred and Wilma dance around, eat a meal made of hearts, give buckets of blood to the blood drive and Wilma tries to help Commander sale a book based on the wise words given by one of the films characters. Commander also gets his mail delivered by a Wizard who he thinks looks like the wizard from the movie!

Movie: In this sequel, the Fighting Eagle returns. This time he must save a former mentor from the evil Zor. Ator battles cavemen, invisible swordsmen, and barbarians with his new sidekick Thong to finally have the ultimate showdown with Zor.

Commander USA blood beast Terror dvd

Groovie Movies: The Blood Beast Terror
Starring – Peter Cushing & Robert Flemyng   Rated G   1968

Host: In this episode Commander USA tells of a monster concert in Japan and the crazy shopping sales going on in the mall above as he is joined by a strange man who is a entomologist (studies bugs) who is trying to capture a very large butterfly, the man is annoying and keeps walking around with his net and being an over all pain and even with the help of Lefty he seems to not be able to run this unwanted guest off. The Commander is also visited by weird bug girls who flap around the video vault and once the entomologist uses his net on one of them, he pushes the Commander to far who frees the bug girl and drops a net on the entomologist!

Movie: A scientist, working with genetics, creates a creature that is capable of transforming back and forth between a giant Death Head moth and a beautiful woman. The creature masquerades as his daughter when she is in her human incarnation and feeds on the blood of her victims when she is in the moth form.

Commander USA Blood Song dvd

Groovie Movies: Blood Song
Starring – Frankie Avalon & Donna Wilkes    Not Rated     1982

Host: Commander USA is gearing up for St. Patricks Day and is making all kinds of green colored food from roast beef to mashed potatoes as well as costumes like the Map of Ireland hockey mask. Commander also changes up his look with a green mask and shamrock suspenders in honor of the holiday. He also cleans up around the Video Vault and Monroe is also dressed up all in green gearing up for the Holiday. Commander shows us a Irish Game called Potato Toss where he throws a potato into the air and shoots it with a machine gun as well gives us silly none true facts about Saint Patrick!

Movie: A psychopath escapes from a mental institution and starts a murder spree, which ends in the pursuing of a young handicapped girl, who once got a blood transfusion from him.

Commander USA Brood DVD

Groovie Movies:  The Brood
Starring – Oliver Reed & Samantha Eggar   Rated R   1979

Host: Commander USA in honor the the movie brings a crazy psychiatrist to the Video Vault named Fraud who comes complete with a straight jacket. The man is a quack and gets a crush on Monroe and speaks gibberish to Commander who seems to be in on the joke that this man is nuts. And in the end the Nut House comes looking for him. 

Movie:A man tries to uncover an unconventional psychologist’s therapy techniques on his institutionalized wife, while a series of brutal attacks committed by a brood of mutant children coincides with the husband’s investigation.

Commander USA CHUD DVD

Groovie Movies:  C.H.U.D.
Starring – John Heard & Daniel Stern    Rated R     1984

Host: Monroe has won the lottery, and Lefty is writing a bunch of short stories with Commander helping with the proof reading and typing of the stories. Lefty then decides to become an investigative reporter!

Movie: A rash of bizarre murders in New York City seems to point to a group of grotesquely deformed vagrants living in the sewers. A courageous policeman, a photo journalist and his girlfriend, and a nutty bum, who seems to know a lot about the creatures, band together to try and determine what the creatures are and how to stop them.

Commander USA death of bruce dvd

Groovie Movies:  Death Of Bruce Lee
Starring – Ron Van Clief & Phillip Ko   Rated R   1975

Host: Ralph Headwards shows up to the Video Vault and is doing a “This Is Your Life” for Commander USA! But the big issue is that the Commander does know some of the people from his “past” or they are stand ins for people he knows and some he just doesn’t want to remember!

Movie: Three rival gangs embark on a search for Bruce Lee’s handwritten “finger gifting” manual.

Commander USA Deathquake dvd

Groovie Movies: Deathquake
Starring – Hiroshi Katsuno & Eiji Okada   Not Rated   1980

Host: The Commander is pretty excited to be showing Deathquake and due to all the fright and sub plots of the film, he invites a woman named Sheare Fryte who is an expert in these things and wrote a book called The Fryte Report.  However while he was thinking she was a sweet woman, he soon finds out the she is a very mean diva who hates men!

Movie: Seismologist Hoichi loses touch with his family when he predicts that there will be an earthquake in Tokyo of greater magnitude than the one in 1923, which his father predicted. Because of this, he starts seeing another woman, who already has a boyfriend. Hoichi’s wife wants to meet her before she will grant a divorce. Eventually, the earthquake he predicted does come, which changes all relationships and exemplifies the character of the Japanese.

Commander USA Def Con 4 DVD

Groovie Movies:  Def-Con 4
Starring – John Walsch & Lenore Zann     Rated R     1985

Host: In honor of the day’s film and its scenes of space, Commander USA signs up to go to Space Camp that also acts as a Trailer Park! The camp sends a spaced out female councilor to help him get ready by the name of Astral Plane.  Can she help prepare Commander and will Space Camp even happen after a meteor shower?

Movie: Two men and a woman circle the globe in a satellite armed with a nuclear device. The third world war breaks out, and a few months later the satellite crashes. They survive the crash but one man gets killed by survivors and the other man gets caught. The woman stays by the remains of the the satellite but is soon caught by evil punks who have taken power.

Commander USA Devils Nightmare DVD

Groovie Movies:  The Devil’s Nightmare
Starring – Erika Blanc & Daniel Emilfork    Rated R    1971

Host: Commander USA decides that in this episode he is going to analyze dreams and nightmares and spends time watching the movie along with you, giving his thoughts during his breaks.

Movie: Six of seven tourists in a east European castle overnight are victims of a helper of the devil. Is Satan willing to spare their souls?

Commander USA duel of ultimate weapons dvd

Groovie Movies: Duel Of Ultimate Weapons
Starring – So-Jeon Yu & Hwang Jang Lee    Not Rated   1983

Host: Commander USA hangs around the Video Vault with his friend Debbie who is dressed as if she is from Japan, and together they watch the movie and eat and make a lot of snacks!

Movie: The evil Dong Won has unbeatable kicking legs and proudly travels the land proving his expertise. But when a young man loses his foster parent to Won’s deadly kick, he seeks out an old drunken master to learn a way to defeat the Master of the Leg.

Commander USA FINAL TERROR dvd

Groovie Movies: The Final Terror
Starring – Daryl Hannah & Adrian Zmed   Rated R   1983

Host: As part of a super hero group he has joined, Commander USA is allowing one lucky camper to spend the day camping inside inside the Video Vault! That lucky camper is a rich fun loving woman named Pearl who seems to be hyped to be camping in the Video Vault.

Movie: A group of forest rangers go camping in the woods, and trespass into an area where a backwoods mama likes to kill people who come onto her turf.

Commander USA Friday 13th 2 DVD

Groovie Movies: Friday The 13th Part 2
Starring – Amy Steel & John Furey    Rated R    1981

Host: In the Video Vault, Commander USA gives some camp safety tips like the buddy system and plans a trip to Washington D.C.! He also practices his acting skills that has him dancing with a fake bird and gives a silly daily joke.

Movie: After killing Mrs. Voorhees, who was avenging her son Jason’s death, Alice Hardy can finally sigh with relief. But there is just one problem; Jason never drowned at Camp Crystal Lake and lived in the nearby woods as a hermit all this time. The day that Alice beheaded his mother, Jason saw everything, and his heart filled with thirst for revenge. Two months later, Alice gets stabbed by an ice pick in the temple and disappears. Is Jason behind this? Five years later, a camp next do to Camp Crystal Lake is built and the counselors start snooping around the old, abandoned camp ruins. This makes Jason very upset, since his shack is next to the remains of Camp Crystal Lake and what is inside the shack shall be kept secret forever, even if it means killing nine people!

Commander USA Friday 13th 3 DVD

Groovie Movies: Friday The 13th Part 3
Starring – Tracie Savage & Dana Kimmell   Rated R   1982

Host: Commander USA is hyped to be showing Friday The 13th Part 3 and shows the viewers his new barber chair as well as the Merry Go-Around Wall and even does a recap of parts 1 and 2.  This is an epic showing for him as Friday The 13th Part 3 was new to cable and aired only once before on USA Saturday Nightmares. The Commander has thrown out his back and is waiting for his friend who can fix it by having him lay on a bed of snails, and Commander just sits around the Video Vault reading mail and eating a snack and gets a visit from vampire Count Phantom. 

Movie: Jason Voorhees, having barely survived a wound to his shoulder from his own machete, is back to revenge on all that visit “his” woods. A new group of friends come over to party at an area close to the campsite. This time, Jason will be stronger than ever, and gets a hockey mask from one of those friends.

Commander USA Gamera Vs Barugon dvd

Groovie Movies: Gamera vs. Barugon
Starring – Kojiro Hongo & Yuka Konno    Not Rated   1966 

Host: Commander USA comes face to face with his second planet doppelganger, The Evil Commander, who does bad things and they decide to watch, the film together. The two fight over the film with Commander being on the side of Gamera and the film and Evil Commander just trashing it all and more siding with Barugon. In the end Commander USA uses a spray and rids himself of the Evil Doppelganger.

Movie: After a treacherous expedition to retrieve a giant opal, disaster strikes as the opal reveals itself to be an egg which spawns Barugon, demon dog from Hell! Armed with a deadly tongue and cold beams, Barugon wreaks havoc on Japan. Gamera comes to save the day.

Commander USA The Hand dvd

Groovie Movies:  The Hand
Starring – Michael Cain & Charles Fleische   Rated R   1981

Host: Lefty feels like Commander USA is holding him back from movies and we learn that Lefty went to school with Michael Cain’s hand who is the star of this movie. So to make him feel better, Commander lets Lefty show his talents.  From stunts to music he does it all to catch an eye of a movie producer so that he can go work in Hollywood.

Movie: Jon Lansdale is a comic book artist who loses his right hand in a car accident. The hand was not found at the scene of the accident, but it soon returns by itself to follow Jon around, and murder those who anger him.

Commander USA The Hearse dvd

Groovie Movies: The Hearse
Starring – Trish Van Devere & Joseph Cotten    Rated PG    1980

Host: Commander USA has built a casket box car for the annual Dirt Box Derby and has asked for the help of a lazy mechanic named Backwrench to make sure it looks good and is built to win.  In between naps, Backwrench places all types of stuff the Commander doesn’t need on the coffin car and in the end his high bill might just keep the Commander from entering the race.

Movie: Jane Hardy decides to stay the summer in the house her aunt left her when she died, to try and recoup from a bad divorce. Little does she know, her aunt practiced witchcraft and is still thought of very badly by the town’s citizens. As soon as she moves in, she is haunted by a old black hearse and it’s creepy driver. Is she going insane or is she truly being menaced? She meets a friendly young man and becomes involved with him, but is he and the creepy driver one and the same?

Commander USA hercules 2 dvd

Groovie Movies: Hercules II
Starring – Lou Ferrigno & Milly Carlucci   Rated PG   1985

Host: Commander USA is at Mel’s Mount Olympus Diner for this episode in honor of the day’s film. The worker Feta is a goofy joke telling girl and takes a break to watch the Groovie Movie along side the Commander. The diner sits on top of the mountain, and the clouds are all around as The Commander gets some of the worse service from the greek workers, but he still is having a blast! And then at some point during the episode Commander is working at the diner and helping out. In the end the diner is closed down by the Health Inspector. 

Movie: Hercules searches for the Seven Thunderbolts of Zeus, which have been stolen by renegade gods.

Commander USA hills have eyes  dvd

Groovie Movies: The Hills Have Eyes 2
Starring – Michael Berryman & John Bloom   Rated R   1984

Host: Commander USA has won a collage degree from Publishers Clearing House but must pass a test given to him by some very bored board of education members. Can Commander’s super quick wit and charm get him his degree? Of course it can, but the important question is what is he going to do with it when he gets it?

Movie: A group of bikers, which includes some of the survivors from the original film, embark on a journey by bus to a biker race near the desert of the infamous incidents. However, because of a mistake they are late and decide to take a shortcut through the desert. Halfway through the desert the bus breaks down. While trying to repair the bus, some of the group wander off, and wind up in the traps of the survivors of the mutant family of the first. Then the mutants go after the rest.

Commander USA Horror Werwolf DVD

Groovie Movies:  Horror Of The Werewolf
Starring – Paul Naschy & Mercedes Molina    Rated R    1975

Host: When entering the Video Vault, Commander USA gets a “pentagram” message that asks if he would watch over his friend Lon’s pet named Chuck, but when the pet arrives he finds out that Chuck isn’t a dog or cat but a werewolf who is as rude as rude can be. Commander puts up with his friends rude guest for as long as the day’s movie and just as he is about to send word that Lon needs to pick up his annoying pet, Chuck turns back into human and is a pretty woman who ends up getting dinner with the Commander!

Movie: Waldemar, the renowned adventurer, joins an expedition to find the Yeti in the Himalayas. While hiking the mountains, he’s captured by two cannibalistic demon nymphets guarding a remote Buddhist temple and becomes their sex-slave. They transform him into a werewolf setting him loose to roam the mountain where he encounters a sadistic bandit.

Commander USA Horror Of The Zombies dvd

Groovie Movies: Horror Of The Zombies
Starring – Maria Perschy & Jack Taylor    Rated R   1974

Host: Commander USA decides to have a zombie super model named Savannah Bright visit the Video Vault in the spirit of the day’s film, and she is able to give him modeling tips and show that zombies aren’t very bright!

Movie: The model Noemi questions her employer Lillian about her roommate Kathy that is missing after receiving a call from Lillian, and she tells that she will go to the police. Lilian explains that Kathy is in an afloat boat in the Atlantic with another model participating of a publicity stunt, and she brings Noemi to meet Howard Tucker and his henchman Sergio that have idealized the advertising campaign. Kathy uses the radio to report that a ghost galleon without crew has arrived and Tucker sends a helicopter to bring the models back; however the pilot does not find them at the location. Tucker contacts Professor Grüber that studies the Sixteen Century galleon and they use a boat to reach the ghost vessel with Sergio, Lillian and Noemi. Soon Professor Gruber learns that the damned galleon is stranded in another dimension and the crew is composed of excommunicated Templar zombies. Now they try to leave the galleon and return to their own dimension. Will they succeed in their intent?

Note from Matt: This film that is also known as “The Ghost Galleon” and is the third film in the Blind Dead series. When shown on Groovie Movies it goes under the title “Ship of Zombies”.

Commander USA i married a monster from outer space dvd

Groovie Movies: I Married A Monster From Outer Space
Starring – Tom Tryon & Gloria Talbott    Not Rated   1958

Host: A wedding consultant named Sally McBride shows up to the Video Vault and thinks that Commander USA is getting married because of the day’s Groovie Movie! Sally, like most of his guests tries to sell the viewers her books she wrote, and Commander makes some gross snack and has some random guests pop in! Sally then starts doing home improvements around the Vault and while she is annoying, the Commander lets her go crazy with repairs!

Movie: Aliens from outer space are slowly switching places with real humans — one of the first being a young man about to get married. Slowly, his new wife realizes something is wrong, and her suspicions are confirmed when her husband’s odd behavior begins to show up in other townspeople.

Commander USA I Walked With A Zombie dvd

Groovie Movies: I Walked With A Zombie
Starring – James Ellison & Frances Dee     Not Rated    1943

Host: Monroe turns the Video Vault into a video watching night club, and as the guests pour in they are treated to the film of the day as well as other entertainment like a singing mermaid and a terrible stand up comic. The club is a hit, and all have fun in the Video Vault making Monroe’s idea a great one.

Movie: A young Canadian nurse named Betsy comes to the West Indies to care for Jessica, the wife of a plantation manager named Paul. Jessica seems to be suffering from a kind of mental paralysis as a result of fever. When she falls in love with Paul, Betsy determines to cure Jessica even if she needs to use a voodoo ceremony, to give Paul what she thinks he wants.

Commander USA Infra Man dvd

Groovie Movies: Infra-Man
Starring – Danny Lee & Terry Liu     Rated PG    1975

Host: Commander USA has just gotten back from a Super Hero Convention and has gotten himself a SHERA Machine (Sanitary Household Experimental Robot Assistant) to help him do all types of stuff including make more great headcheese snacks! The Video Vault also gets attacked by a Couch Potato who blows himself up turning into potato chips, and Lefty gets a girlfriend who only has one eye. In the end Commander puts $10.00 into the SHERA Machine, and poof! a woman appears who doesn’t wanna go on a date with him.

Movie: The ten million year-old Princess Dragon Mom attempts to conquer the earth with her legion of mutant monsters. In response, Professor Chang creates Infra-man, turning a young volunteer into a bionic superhero to save the world. However, the Princess kidnaps Chang’s daughter. Can Infra-man save her and the planet before it’s too late?

Commander USA Its ALive DVD

Groovie Movies: It’s Alive
Starring – John P. Ryan & Sharon Farrell     Rated PG    1974

Host: Commander USA gets a good idea after walking through the mall.  It’s inspired by the day’s movie as he turns the Video Vault into “It’s Alive Nursery” where busy Mall shoppers can drop of their kids and have Commander USA watch them as they continue to shop. He gets a client who drops off her two monster kids who during the movie eat the Milk Man and rip the arm off of a baby expert! In the end, he must wait for his payment of $14.95 via check.

Movie: Heavily pregnant Lenore Davis tells her husband, Frank, that she is in labor. They leave their eleven year-old son Chris with their friend Charley and they head to the Community Hospital. Lenore feels that something is wrong and delivers a monster that kills the team in the delivery room and escapes through a skylight. Lieutenant Perkins comes to the hospital to investigate the murder and the press divulges the identity of the parents. Frank discovers a dark secret about Lenore and the baby.

Commander USA jaws of satan DVD

Groovie Movies:  Jaws Of Satan
Starring – Fritz Weaver & Christina Applegate     Rated R     1981

Host: Commander USA and Lefty get a make-your-own-radio-drama kit and decide to break into broadcasting and make their own old time radio show. Lefty writes a western drama called “Pa and Son” that is just plain bad, but Commander and him keep trying with many of attempts to make the show good.

Movie: A preacher whose ancestors were cursed by Druids battles Satan, who has taken the form of a huge snake.

Commander USA Kingdom Of The Spiders dvd

Groovie Movies: Kingdom Of The Spiders
Starring – William Shatner & Tiffany Bolling     Rated PG    1977

Host: Commander USA’s plant has a fungus so he calls on Dr. Root for help, and decides to have her stay in the Video Vault and watch the film of the day. Dr. Root gives plant advice as well as tries to sell the viewers things that she made like books and even a board game, making her whole appearance nothing more than a way for her to sell her goods at the Commander’s expense.

Movie: Investigating the mysterious deaths of a number of farm animals, vet Rack Hansen discovers that his town lies in the path of hoards of migrating tarantulas. Before he can take action, the streets are overrun by killer spiders, trapping a small group of towns folk in a remote hotel.

Commander USA land of the minotaur dvd

Groovie Movies: Land Of The Minotaur
Starring – Donald Pleasence & Peter Cushing   Rated PG   1976

Host: Outside the Video Vault is a raging blizzard, and Commander USA decides to turn the Video Vault into an inn for shoppers who are stuck in the mall and gets the help of Tiffany, a crazy woman who has worked for many inns in the past! He also hires a dim witted handy man, George, and finds that during this time of extreme snow people just don’t wanna stay in The Video Vault!

Movie: A satanic cult that worships a stone Minotaur kidnaps 3 young people and Priest Father Corofax and Milo Kaye must save them from the hands of this evil!

Commander USA Mako dvd

Groovie Movies: Mako The Jaws Of Death
Starring – Richard Jaeckel & Jennifer Bishop   Rated PG   1976

Host: Commander USA is having a tribute to Richard Jaeckel the star of the day’s film.  He even sets up a camera in the mall and has shoppers give their opinions of Jaeckel and his work. He also has Dr. Moist Brothers come in, and she talks about Jaeckel and the relationship with fish, and of course tries to promote her new book on the subject. Everything in the episode is in honor of Jaeckel!

Movie: A man accidentally learns that he has a mystical connection with sharks, and is given a strange medallion by a shaman. Becoming more and more alienated from normal society, he develops an ability to communicate with sharks telepathically, setting out to destroy anybody who harms sharks. People enter into his strange world to exploit his weird passion, and he uses the animals to gain revenge on anybody who double crosses him.

Commander USA mausoleum dvd

Groovie Movies: Mausoleum
Starring – Bobbie Bresee & Marjoe Gortner   Rated R   1983

Host: A worker at the mall’s morgue comes down and asks to store some dead bodies at the Video Vault, and the Commander allows it. Some of the morgue workers and other odd balls come down to work on the bodies or try and sell something as Commander is creeped out by the day’s movie. But once the bodies begin to stink, it’s time for Commander to want them out of the Vault.

Movie: Traumatized by her mother’s death, young Susan is becoming possessed by the same demon that possessed her mother before she died. More and more her husband and psychiatrist are noticing the strange changes.

Commander USA Motel Hell dvd

Groovie Movies: Motel Hell
Starring – Rory Calhoun & Paul Linke     Rated R    1980

Host: The Video Vault is now being used as a set for a Hollywood film called “Attack of the 50 Foot Cheesecake Girl,” and Commander USA will be the star and Mr. Grill is the director! During the movie Commander is reading his lines and meeting the crew, and he gets a shock when he finds out his co-star is Elizabeth Trailer famous z-movie star! In the end, Commander finds out he is not the star of the film likes he thinks and his big kiss scene with Trailer is scrapped, making the Commander see that he should not trust Hollywood.

Movie: Farmer Vincent kidnaps unsuspecting travelers and is burying them in his garden. Unfortunately for his victims, they are not dead. He feeds his victims to prepare them for his roadside stand. His motto is: It takes all kinds of critters…to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters. The movie is gory, but is also a parody of slasher movies like Last House on the Left.

Commander USA Night of Creeps DVD

Groovie Movies: Night Of The Creeps
Starring – Jason Lively & Tom Atkins   Rated R   1986

Host: Commander USA has allowed a sorority house on a tight budget to hold their prom in the Video Vault for only $14.95 for the night. Commander USA watches the film with the decorating crew and helps decorate along the way. In the end only one of the girls’ dates show up to prom, and he is just a brain in a glass bowl so Commander takes all the ladies out for an all you can eat dinner.

Movie: In 1959, an alien experiment crashes to earth and infects a fraternity member. They freeze the body, but in the modern day, two geeks pledging a fraternity accidentally thaw the corpse, which proceeds to infect the campus with parasites that transform their hosts into killer zombies.

Commander USA pandemonium dvd

Groovie Movies: Pandemonium
Starring – Tom Smothers & Judge Reinhold    Rated PG   1982

Host: Commander USA is being visited by Leo and Cleo, a pair of paparazzi junkies who take pictures of celebrities and Lefty! The pair is also on the run from someone in the mall and use the Video Vault to hideout in.

Movie: Tom Smothers stars as the brave mountie, who along with his trusty horse and bitter deputy Paul Reubens must track down a killer who is stalking coeds at a nearby cheerleader camp.

Note from Matt: This episode is missing the opening skit.

Commander USA Polish Vampire In Burbank dvd

Groovie Movies:  A Polish Vampire in Burbank
Starring – Mark Pirro & Eddie Deezen   Not Rated   1985

Host: Commander USA is hyped to see the day’s film because it’s his first time watching it and he wants all the viewers at home to join him on the watch.  But he also gets a guest to come watch it as he finds a 13 year old vampire kid who says this film is a must see for vampires his age!

Movie: A somewhat reluctant vampire is taken out by his sexpot sister for his first “night out on the town.”

Note from Matt : The version of this episode I own is sadly a very poor put together fan reproduction that cuts out many of the Commander’s skits and replaces them with segments from other episodes that deal with contests and poems. 

Commander USA Princess Of Nile dvd

Groovie Movies: Princess Of The Nile
Starring – Debra Paget & Jeffrey Hunter   Not Rated   1954

Host: Commander USA is getting bored with the look of The Video Vault and invites a team of decorating sisters over called the Little Designing Woman to spice up the look of the place. But the sisters can’t get along and argue the whole time and even during the free Christmas play that comes with their services. In the end, the Video Vault gets a minor change but pretty much stays the same, and Commander USA feels better about it.

Movie: Time: A.D. 1249. Shalimar, an Egyptian princess, striving to rid her country of its Bedouin conquerors, forms an alliance with Prince Haidi, son of the Caliph of Bagdad. She practices her intrigues both at the court and, disguised as a dancing girl, in the market place.

Commander USA Psychotronic Man DVD

Groovie Movies: The Psycho-Tronic Man
Starring – Peter Spelson & Chris Carbis    Rated PG   1979

Host: Commander USA turns the Video Vault into a place to help people with their fears and acts as a doctor to “save” them from what spooks them. He has some clients come in and tries to help them with fears of things like white paint and furniture and even gets accused by the news for taken bribes to show the day’s film from the director! In the end Commander gets a fear of other people’s fears and has to close up shop.

Movie: Just as Rocky thinks the world is proceeding along quite well, he dashes out of his barber shop in a kind of trance, as though possessed. Once outside he is driven to hunt for a victim and after he has found someone, he kills them with whatever forces are latent in his subconscious.

Commander USA Swamp Of Lost Monsters dvd

Groovie Movies: Swamp Of The Lost Monsters
Starring – Gaston Santos & Sara Cabrera  Not Rated   1957

Host: Commander USA gets a visit from a visit from a “Cowboy” who owns a store in the mall above that offers tacos, facials and boots! Commander does a lot of other things that all have a western feel to them, and he has fun with his Cowboy friend.

Movie: A disappearing body leads a detective and his sidekick into an encounter with a gill man.

Note from Matt: This episode is missing its opening skit. 

Commander USA They Still Call Me Bruce DVD

Groovie Movies: They Still Call Me Bruce
Starring – Johnny Yune & Victor Brook   Rated PG   1987

Host: Commander USA invites his friend Sue who knows secrets of the oriental massage and more to come to the Video Vault and watch the day’s movie with him. Commander is trained in the art of pressure points and even Kung Fu and is really trying to learn all he can from his guests who also includes Sue’s sushi chef and student.

Movie: Bruce Won arrives in America in search of an American G.I. who saved his life in the Korean War. He meets an orphan boy and together they land themselves in a string of outrageous situations. This high-strung farce culminates when a case of mistaken identity leads a gang of thugs to think Bruce is a karate master. They arrange a nationally-televised match which pits our hero against a monstrous brute, and Bruce is beaten to a bloody pulp.

Commander USA Toxic Zombies dvd

Groovie Movies: Toxic Zombies
Starring – Charles McCrann & Beverly Shapiro   Rated R  1980

Host: Commander USA and Lefty are all set in the Video Vault and are ready to watch the day’s film when all through it random people show up and do random things.  Even the Commander starts doing odd and random things, well more odd than usual. Over all the Commander just seems to be having fun watching the day’s zombie movie.

Movie: After drug crops are sprayed with a chemical by a passing airplane, the growers of the crop are poisoned by the chemical and turn into zombie-like mutants.

Commander USA trick or treats dvd

Groovie Movies: Trick Or Treats
Starring – David Carradine & Steve Railsback   Rated R   1982

Host: It’s a week before Christmas, and the mall above is filled with shoppers and Commander USA decides to show a movie more suitable for Halloween and has a guest named Nurse Nancy who has showed up to tell him his new gift idea (The Home Autopsy Kit) was foul. While Nancy seems negative she is also very flirty with the Commander who as always makes some snacks and even tries to sell the viewer paper plates with Lefty and his image on them.

Movie: A baby sitter is stuck watching over a young brat on Halloween night who keeps playing vicious pranks on her. To add to her trouble the boy’s deranged father has escaped from an asylum and is planning on making a visit.

Commander USA Vampires Coffin DVD

Groovie Movies: The Vampire’s Coffin
Starring – Abel Salazar & Aradna Welter   Not Rated   1958

Host: Rent is going up at The Video Vault so Commander USA and Monroe decide to open up a fast food restaurant mixed with a sock emporium to help pay the rent. Commander even hires a young woman named Wendy to help wait on the customers. Commander becomes the place’s chef and makes all kinds of gross dishes for his customers.  Of course by the end of the show the restaurant goes belly up and Commander has bankrupt yet another one of his odd business ideas.

Movie: Graverobbers stumble upon the tomb of a vampire, who turns them into zombies to do his bidding, which is to stalk and capture beautiful women.

Commander USA Witchmaker DVD

Groovie Movies: The Witchmaker
Starring – Anthony Eisley & Thordis Brandt   Not Rated   1969

Host: Commander USA has built his own Frankenstein Monster named FrankenSchtick and it’s a terrible stand up comic! At one point Commander summons the spirit of Jesse James with a can of tomato juice and spends a lot of the episode hearing the terrible comedy of his created monster and talking about the film they are watching.

Movie: A psychic researcher and his assistants investigate a series of murders of beautiful young women.

And with that this marks all the single feature episodes I own, and be warned at some point we will get into the double features!! 

commander usa autoAs you can see I have been collecting and trying to get as many old Commander USA episodes as I can get.  It’s been great reliving those days of watching Commander on my TV screen though nothing can take away those Saturday afternoons of eating lunch or some sort of junk food and spending two hours (four when he showed the double features) hanging out with my brother and watching Commander USA during his time of broadcast. I can remember the excitement of waiting for him to come on, and Groovie Movies became the true highlight of my weekends. Commander USA’s Groovie Movies was the first place I saw horror films like Friday The 13th 1-3, Final Terror and Motel Hell.  It’s the place where I became a super fan of films like Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell and Horror of the Zombies.  Plus Commander USA is one of the main people that made me the creative person I am today, and for that I want to truly say THANK YOU. If not for the Commander, I would have not seen half the horror films I saw at a young age because of where I lived, and seeing these films on his show as well as USA Saturday Nightmares and Super Scary Saturday helped spark the interest in wanting to make my own shot on video horror films. One regret I have is never writing to the Commander and becoming a member of his fan club.  In fact I am not really sure why my brother or I never did do this. I should also take this time to thank some people that over the years have helped me on my quest of collecting and re-living the Groovie Movies experience: Bryan Brassfield, Stumpy Disks and my pal Darren Young.  

commander usa card

In 2013 at Horrorhound Weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio Commander USA got one of the highest honors a host can receive as he was inducted as one of the thirteen hosts of that year into the Horror Host Hall Of Fame. When I heard that he was going in, I asked if Baron Von Porkchop, the host I direct could induct him as I would feel that it would be the highest honor I could give back to him for being such a major influence in my life, but it was not to be as New Jersey Horror Host and all around great guy Halloween Jack was asked to do so. While I would have loved to have had the Baron do it, Jack was a great pick and did the speech with lots of class and respect. Baron Von Porkchop did get to induct Florida’s own Shock Armstrong, the 1964 host of Shock Theatre, and that as well was an honor as he meant a lot to many kids of the 60’s and was a great host who looked like Frankenstein’s Monster in a football jersey. 

Horror Host Hall Of Fame 2013 Commander USA

Commander USA was the logical pick for me when doing the first Horror Host Icon update as he was the host that was the first to mean something to me as does the next host on my list, but you all will have to wait and see who it is! This update is in honor of Jim Hendricks, the man who played Commander USA, and it’s also for all the fans of Groovie Movies who were glued to their TV’s and watched a spooky cheesy film and laughed alongside the Commander and his sidekicks. I have had a lot of fun doing this update, and while I could say a lot more, I think this will do for now as I can not express in words the wonderful impact this host and his show have had on my life.  If and when I get more episodes at some point, I would love to do an update blog and tell you a little more about the episodes I own…but that will be a while aways because we have lots of comics to read and other hosts to celebrate! Our next update takes us from a Commander to a Capn’ as we take a look at a free comic give away from Quaker Oats that allows us to set sail with the one and only Capn’ Crunch! So till next time, support and watch you local horror host and make sure to read a comic or two!

capn crunch logo

13 thoughts on “Horror Host Icon : Commander USA

  1. Commander USA was definitely emblematic of the USA Channel’s peak, IMO. From the mid-80’s up through the mid-90’s, it seems there was almost always something good on USA. It’s a shame the Commander didn’t run into the 90’s, but I agree, he was terrific.

    • Agreed, it would be great to see what Commander would have hosted through the 90’s, USA Network has lost a lot of its charm over the years when it use to be on of my favorite stations to watch. What Horror hosts did you grow up watching?

      • I grew up watching Big Chuck & Lil’ John, The Ghoul, Son Of Ghoul. Big, BIG influences on me. I don’t consider it a ‘typical’ horror hosted show, but Mystery Science Theater 3000 but that was another HUGE one for me.

      • Big Chuck and Lil’ John are a lot of fun as is Son of Ghoul! Sadly I have not seen an episode of The Ghoul and I know I really need to. Mystery Science is great stuff and is another show I wish was still on the air!!

      • With the high interest in the Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic projects, as well as “riffing” in general, I really wouldn’t be surprised if MST3K came back legitimately at some point; even if they stuck with only public domain films that weren’t done the first time around, they’d still be able to do a good number of episodes.

    • Fore Sure, I hope Sci-Fi or however they spell their name now and days will pick them up, they also have enough original movies that alongside the PD stuff that station could get a good run out of a new season

  2. For me USA Network = Groovie Movies, Night Flight, Saturday Nightmares, Kung Fu Theatre, and later Up All Night (the Gilbert years). These summaries are awesome; thanks for your work.

    Have you ever considered liberating all your episodes by making torrents for them? It would earn you sainthood in the eyes of a great many people.

  3. This has been my first exposure to Commander USA, I just youtube binged a handful of his intro, and have queued a dozen more for later. Superb gift you have thusly imparted to my well of joyful discoveries. Thankx!

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