Welcome back to Rotten Ink. Today’s update will be about that wonderful Saturday night block of horror known as USA Saturday Nightmares! I know many of you are saying how can this be about a Horror Host when the films and TV shows were aired with no host? Well simple, while no host was shown, the iconic voice of Alan Kalter would welcome us to the night’s fears and even give an introduction to the nights film making the show feel like a horror host program. So it’s truly my honor to present to you my readers and friends Horror Host Icon: USA Saturday Nightmares.
Saturdays when I was a kid were a fantastic time for TV. Not only was the day packed with classic cartoons all morning but it also was swamped with some great horror host programs like Commander USA’s Groovie Movies, Super Scary Saturday with Grandpa Munster and USA Up All Night. But one horror themed program that my brother and I looked forward to every Saturday night was Saturday Nightmares on USA. It was like clock work as we would beg our parents to let us watch the night’s horror film and as an extra bonus they would show such TV shows as The Hitchhiker, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Werewolf and Ray Bradbury Theater making for one spooky themed night. This is the place I first saw many great b-movie horror films like The Video Dead, Zombie Nightmare and Forever Evil and is also the place I got to see such classics as Friday The 13th and Prom Night. My brother and I would plant ourselves in front of the living room TV with a bowl of popcorn or potato chips as our parents would go watch TV in their room, and we would be sucked into the eerie terror glowing from the TV screen as most the times we would turn off the lights to add to the atmosphere and mood of the night’s feature movie. The block of programs was very simply formatted and would start at 8 pm with the intro to the show that would act as a way to show you the plot of the film as well as the two shows with a amazing voice over. The most famous intro consisted of a haunted house with the camera going down a hallway where the pictures on the wall would morph from say Dracula to Frankenstein and the next from Freddy Kruger to Jason Voorhees. During breaks they would have a title card with the show’s logo and the voice intro-ing us in or out of a commercial break. Sometimes if the movie was running a little short on run time, they would fill in with a short horror film, the most popular being The Dummy that was also shown many times on HBO. Saturday Nightmares began in 1986 and would run till 1994 before USA would pull the plug on their horror block on Saturday nights. This was a sad day indeed because by 1989 Commander USA was off the air and Up All Night only lasted 4 years more when it went off the air in 1998. Nowadays USA is a shell of what it used to be and now mainly focuses on Law and Order and C.S.I. reruns making for some boring and over played viewing. I will say that USA does still air WWE Raw as well as makes their own shows, but they are far from “America’s Favorite Cable Network” like they use to be.
That’s something TV nowadays is really lacking, the horror program blocks that were so popular in the 80’s and 90’s, and when USA dropped the ball, TNT picked it up when they introduced Monstervison in 1993, but that series will be held for another Icon update. DATV in 2013 tried to make a great horror themed line up called Saturday Night Nightmares that showcased Baron Von Porkchop’s Terrifying Tales of The Macabre as well as Andy Copp’s cult movie review show Neon Madness and his “mix tape” style show called Psychotic Feed. But sadly the program block was too hard for them and myself to keep up on a weekly bases with new and fresh “cult” style shows so as quickly as it started it ended. I really wish USA Network would bring back Saturday Nightmares as well as Commander USA and Up All Night; I think it would surprise them on just how many people really do miss and want these shows back on the air. Shows like Saturday Nightmares was a great place for kids to watch and learn about horror films that were not in the mainstream as well as those were. While many would say that they can learn about these films via the internet, nothing could take the place of sitting in front of the TV with your favorite snack and watching horrors unfold before your eyes on your TV screen. In fact when I was a kid, I can remember kids talking about some of the films we all had watched on USA Saturday Nightmares and comparing what part we got chills from and what deaths shocked us. It’s a shame that this kind of enjoyment is taken away from the youth of today.
So below are some USA Saturday Nightmares I own on DVD-R, and while no host segments are present, I still will take the film descriptions from IMDB so you can see what types of horrors as I kid I got to witness. And as an added bonus I will also include the horror films from the 80’s and early 90’s that I have that were taped from USA Network. So sit back and relax and welcome to my Saturday Nightmares!
Saturday Nightmares: The Curse Of The Cat People
Starring – Simone Simon & Kent Smith Not Rated 1944
Movie: This mostly unrelated sequel to Cat People (1942) has Amy, the young daughter of Oliver and Alice Reed. Amy is a very imaginative child who has trouble differentiating fantasy from reality, and has no friends her own age as a result. She makes an imaginary friend though, her father’s dead first wife Irena. At about the same time, she befriends Julia Farren, an aging reclusive actress who is alienated from her own daughter Barbara.
Saturday Nightmares: Friday The 13th
Starring – Betsy Palmer & Adrienne King Rated R 1980
Movie: One summer at Camp Crystal Lake, a group of young counselors begin to get ready to lead campers. Unfortunately for the former, someone isn’t happy about what’s going on in the camp and enjoys playing kill the counselor. As bodies fall to the ground in the camp, no one is safe.
Saturday Nightmares: Spookies
Starring – Felix Ward & Dan Scott Rated R 1986
Movie: Taking a wrong turn, travelers find themselves trapped in a mysterious house. One horror after another threatens them as the sorcerer who lives within needs sacrifices to give eternal life to his beautiful bride.
Saturday Nightmares: Tourist Trap
Starring – Chuck Connors & Tanya Roberts Rated PG 1979
Movie: A group of young friends stranded at a secluded roadside museum are stalked by the owner of the place, who has the power to control his collection of mannequins.
Saturday Nightmares: Werewolf
Starring – Chuck Connors & John J. York Not Rated 1987
Movie: Young Eric has been bitten by a werewolf. However, he’s not particularly thrilled by this turn of affairs and wishes to escape his curse.
Saturday Nightmares: The Dummy & Living Dolls
Starring – Carrie Vickrey & Park Dougherty Not Rated 1982/1980
Movies: The Dummy – A woman is trapped in her apartment alone with a murderous ventriloquist dummy. Living Dolls – Melvin is a henpecked worker in a Bridal shop. To get way from the nagging women, he retreats to a storage room filled with mannequins where he vents his frustration. The only problem is, the mannequins upstairs offer something more horrifying than Melvin expected.
So while your blood is still chilled from all these nightmares, I should also take a moment to highlight some great horror films that aired on USA during the 80’s and early 90’s that I happen to own on DVD-R and VHS, cause I would never get the chance to speak about them any other time that would be as fitting as this update! The main regular none Nightmare or Groovie Movie USA Network airing of a horror film I remember has to be the George Romero zombie epic Day of The Dead. They did a great job of promoting the premiere, and my brother and I were so hyped to watch it and were not let down after seeing it. I happened to get a copy of an 80’s USA Network airing of Day of the Dead from my pal Jason Young who taped it off TV when he was a kid. He edited out the commercials but left the amazing intro that showed clips of Night of the Living Dead. So a big thanks goes to Jason for letting me watch the USA Network TV print of my favorite Romero Dead film again. So here are a few of those films that also scared the young viewers at the time of airing.
USA Movie: Day Of The Dead
Starring – Lori Cardille & Joseph Pilato Rated R 1985
Movie: Zombies rule the world, except for a small group of scientists and military personnel who reside in an underground bunker in Florida. The scientists are using the undead in gruesome experiments, much to the chagrin of the military. Finally the military finds that their men have been used in the scientists’ experiments, and banish the scientists to the caves that house the Living Dead. Unfortunately, the zombies from above ground have made their way into the bunker.
USA Movie: Child’s Play 3
Starring – Brad Dourif & Justin Whalin Rated R 1991
Movie: Chucky, the doll possessed by a serial killer, returns for revenge against Andy, the young boy that defeated him and has since become adult.
USA Movie: Psycho III
Starring – Anthony Perkins & Jeff Fahey Rated R 1986
Movie: Norman Bates is still running his little motel, and he has kept the dressed skeleton he calls mother. One of his guests is a young girl who has left the convent where she lived. To get some help he employs a young man. One day a nosy journalist comes to see him to ask questions about his past.
Note From Matt: I was lucky to get this 1995 USA Network Broadcast of Psycho III thanks to my friend Mike Ritchie who taped it off TV during the cool marathon they were having called “Psycho Saturday”. The film is complete with commercials that is highlighted by advertisements for WWF Monday Night Raw, Duckman and Tekwar. I found another tape at his house that had only a small part of Psycho IV taken from the same marathon but it was taped over with WCW Monday Nitro…yeah he has a lot of wrestling tapes.
While we are on the subject of USA Network, I should also take a brief moment to talk about a syndicated show they used to air called “Kung-Fu Theatre” because otherwise I never will be able to. The show would feature some really cool martial arts films, many made by The Shaw Brothers exposing viewers to the vast world of Kung-Fu films. The show aired in the early 80’s and disappeared by the mid 80’s and made room for Commander USA as well as all the other movie themed broadcast that followed. One thing I remember that USA did one summer in the early 90’s was called Kung-Fu June where they would play some really cool martial arts films one being called Chinese Super Ninjas, a film I still love to this day. I can remember thinking that this June long fun event would happen every year and was let down when it did not. But as you can see USA Network back then did not just cater to the horror fans they also were delivering action to the Martial Arts fans…those were the days. Below are some screen grabs from Kung-Fu Theatre, so check em out and enjoy.
I happen to have two episodes of Kung-Fu Theatre from the USA Network thanks to my horror host pal Dr. Pureblood, so why not showcase them a little as well while I have the chance.
Kung-Fu Theatre: Ninja Exterminators
Starring – Lung Chan & Lung Ching Not Rated 1980
Movie: A ruthless rapist and jewel thief and his gang are brought to justice by a cop and a young avenger.
Kung-Fu Theatre: Showdown At The Equator
Starring – Lieh Lo & Nora Miao Rated R 1978
Movie: An undercover detective uses a restaurant targeted by harassment by a criminal gang to infiltrate the gang and arrest its members.
USA Saturday Nightmares meant a lot to me growing up, and spending Saturday night watching a cheesy horror film as well as horror related TV shows with my family was what I called a perfect weekend night. Looking back at USA Network as a whole, back then the whole station was iconic to me as I would watch Commander USA’s Groovie Movies, USA Cartoon Express, WWF Monday Night Raw and so many other great programs that all entertained me. If you grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and had cable I am sure you also watched many of these shows, and if you were into horror I am sure you watched Saturday Nightmares and know what I mean about how awesome it was to watch. I should also note that I am looking for more taped off TV Saturday Nightmares movies and if you have some please contact me as I would love to watch them! So as this Horror Host Icon update comes to an end, I think our next update will be based around the world of pro wrestling’s most dominate tag teams and the mini comic series based around them and of course I am talking about The Legion of Doom! So until then make sure to support your local horror host and watch a horror film or two, cause you never know maybe you’ll have your own nightmare.