Horror Host Icon: Gorgon The Gruesome

How many of you readers and friends have a great memory of staying up late watching your local Horror Host on TV as the movie scared you and the host segments delighted you with humor or creepy flare? Here in Dayton, Ohio I grew up with the likes of Dr. Creep on Channel 22, A. Ghastlee Ghoul on DATV and The Creeper on MVCC, all local icons of Horror Hosting who have all been covered here on Horror Host Icon updates and all three are in the Official Horror Host Hall Of Fame! And for the people of Fort Worth, Texas during the 50’s-70’s the Host that was must watch TV was Gorgon The Gruesome and his show Nightmare. He was a true icon of local television and spread his horrors for generations of monster movie lovers. Texas has had a long history of great Hosts that include names like Professor Cerberus, Professor Anton Griffin, J.R. Ghul, Miss Jami Deadly, Peter Lorre Jr. and Dr. Zekow, to name a few, and while they are all fantastic, none are as iconic as Gorgon with the only Texas based host that is his equal being Joe Bob Briggs. So sit back, turn off all the lights as it’s with great honor that I bring to you Horror Host Icon: Gorgon The Gruesome!

Gorgon is a ghoul who lives in a massive creepy castle that is complete with cobwebs and spooky storms outside. And with no humor and no laughs (besides his own) Gorgon loved bringing viewers his shows over the decades, as he truly loved to scare the wits out of them and educate them not only about the film being shown but mostly in fright. Gorgon was a well-dressed ghoul who wore a white button up shirt as well as a long black cape. He had black circles around his eye and a mole under his left eye. Gorgon was well spoken and would make the viewers hang onto every word as he would speak of the spooky stuff that chilled their blood and sent shivers down their spines. Gorgon would also famously be holding his candelabra to light the darkness of his castle as well as add to the eerie mood of the show. Gorgon would make his first appearance 1957 hosting the Shock Package on his show “Nightmare” and became a true icon of late night viewing. While Gorgon is no longer on the airwaves of Texas, his memories still haunt all those in the Lone Star State who watched his Nightmares! He is also very powerful and has supernatural powers that can both amaze and as well as kill you stone dead!

Bill Camfield was the man behind Gorgon The Gruesome, and he was a beloved TV personality in the Fort Worth area and beyond. William Joseph Camfield was born on June 27, 1929 in Mineral Wells, Texas to parents Joseph and Nina Camfield and lived in the area where he was born until 1935 as he and his mother moved to Fort Worth after the passing of his father who was a coal miner. He graduated from High School in 1947 and got a job working as a writer for Leonard’s Department Store doing ads, and later worked on writing and starring on a show called “Hometown Harmony” that was produced by Leonard’s who would go on to promote Bill to the job of Radio-TV Director for the store and would go on to develop many shows over those years including “Man About Music”, “Meet The Candidate”, “Let’s Go Shopping” and “Billboard”. But it was in 1954 that his career really started when he took a job at KFJZ-TV Channel 11 as a jack of all trades as he not only created original programming he also wrote advertising copy as well as commercials and he would star in many of them. His first most loved role was the voice of Hoover The Hound, a dog puppet that was the costar of the show “Million Dollar Matinee” hosted by I believe Ann Harper. He then would become Gorgon The Gruesome for the show Nightmare in 1957 and would play the character off and on for many decades. And his most popular character and show he created was “Slam Bang Theater,” a kids show that started in 1959 that would aired Three Stooges shorts as well as cartoons and he played the lovable host Icky Twerp that would become a true icon for kids of the time as the show would run until 1972 and would even go on to influence such actors and comedians as Mike White, Gary Panter and Bill Paxton! Playing Icky would also lead him into starring as Wyatt Earp in the film “The Outlaws Is Coming” along side the Three Stooges in 1965. In 1972 Bill would leave the Fort Worth area for awhile and take a job in Denver Colorado for a short time only to return of Fort Worth and work for KDAF-TV Channel 33, and in 1985 he even brought back the iconic Icky Twerp on a show called “Icky Twerp’s Summer Reunion” that had him and his real son performing skits and hosting summer themed films. But sadly Bill Camfield passed away in 1991 after battling brain cancer, and while gone, his legacy of entertainment lives on forever with those who grew up watching him and for those who discover him thanks to things like YouTube and The Horror Host Hall Of Fame.

Nightmare started in September 1957 on Channel 11 in Fort Worth, Texas when they got the “Shock” Movie package from Screen Gems that featured many of Universals classic Horror and Thriller films from the 1930’s and 1940’s. And with this they hired Bill Camfield to play the shows host Gorgon The Gruesome, and the show would run until 1959 as a weekly Saturday late evening show that started at 8:00pm and would show a double feature of films. And starting in 1959 over the years Nightmare would return for Halloween specials that would have Gorgon hosting single and sometimes triple features of fright and became something that viewers of Fort Worth would look forward to every season. And every time the show aired it was must see TV and Monster Kids young and old were glued to the horrors of the small screen and wanted to see what Gorgon had in store for them in his castle. But like all good things, Gorgon and Nightmare would come to a full end in 1976 with the last of the Halloween Specials. And while Nightmares ongoing show only lasted about three years and the Halloween Specials were not an every year thing, the impact Nightmare made on viewers is long lasting and it as well as it’s host Gorgon are a true part of Texas TV History and will forever be a show that is chatted about by fans of the past and those who newly discover it.

Gorgon The Gruesome is a classic Horror Host that I first learned about thanks to the Internet and sites like E-Gor’s Chamber Of TV Horror Hosts and his look always caught my attention not to even mention when reading memories from his past viewers hyped me up as he was a none jokey host and had a spooky edge to him, and this made me want to see footage of his show! And sometime later, thanks to YouTube and Compilation DVDs, I was able to see some of his work, and I must say he is really good at what he did and delivered some good chilling creepy moments as he brought the fears of the night film into your living room. It’s crazy to me that Gorgon The Gruesome is not talked about as often as he should be when the topic of the true icons of Horror Hosting is brought up as I feel he is that good and should be considered a true icon of the genre. It’s a shame that not more footage has been uncovered of Gorgon and his show Nightmare as the world needs to see it and remember just how amazing his style was. And man his laugh is great and reminds me of classic horror from the 60’s!

Horror Hound Weekend on March 23, 2013 in Cincinnati at 10am that Horror Host Hall Of Fame began to induct the 2013 class that included the one and only Gorgon The Gruesome! The turnout for the Hall Of Fame seemed to be very happy to see him take his place among the icons that came before him in the Hall Of Fame. In his class he was joined by the likes of Sivad, Commander USA, Shock Armstrong, Chuck Acri, Svengoolie and I, Zombi to name a few. And as you can see, he is joined by some amazing hosts and it was fantastic to be there to not only watch Commander USA and Sivad get inducted but also Gorgon.

So as you can see, Gorgon The Gruesome really is a truly iconic Horror Host who had a great style of hosting the spooky films of the night. I think what made him so amazing is that he did not go for the cheap laughs nor did he relay on repeated gimmicks. So let’s get ready to talk about the two fan reproduction episodes I have in my collection. I would like to thank a Horror Host Tape Trader for having these episodes and trading them to me. I also would like to remind you that I will not be giving these episodes a star rating and I will be writing about the host segments and the film’s plot is taken from our friends at IMDB. So if you are ready lets see what this Nightmares has in store for us!

Nightmare: Pit and the Pendulum
Starring – Vincent Price & Barbara Steele     Not Rated     1961

Host: Gorgon comes walking down stone stairs and sends away his hunchback helper as he claims he can pick up the fear of the viewers! He then takes us on a tour of where they damned once stood and then takes us inside a cell and a woman is chained to a table with a blade hanging above her, he tells us this use to be so normal back in time for those who have done bad as this is justice. We join Gorgon again as he talks about the night’s film and the pendulum blade starts to swing as the woman tries to escape her chains and save her life. When we join Gorgon next he is speaking to us about the fear that is building in us as the blade is getting closer to the woman he takes us to a commercial break. Once we join Gorgon again as he watches the blade get closer to the young woman, and he is loving her fear and sends us back to the movie. Gorgon and his hunchback friend are watching as the blade is so close now and Gorgon talks very poetic about her upcoming death before sending us to the movie with a sinister laugh. The last segment has Gorgon talking about the blade and we hear a scream and then see it covered with blood as he laughs and the episode ends.

Movie: Francis Barnard goes to Spain, when he hears his sister Elizabeth has died. Her husband Nicholas Medina, the son of the most brutal torturer of the Spanish Inquisition, tells him she has died of a blood disease, but Francis finds this hard to believe. After some investigating he finds out that it was extreme fear that was fatal to his sister and that she may have been buried alive! Strange things then start to happen in the Medina castle.

Note From Matt: This is one of the better Fan Reproductions I have ever seen as the print of the movie fits the age of the footage and the cuts in and out look really good! So in other words great work to who ever did this episode, as well I should note Gorgon’s segments are in color!

Nightmare: Spooks Run Wild
Starring – East Side Kids & Bela Lugosi     Not Rated     1941

Host: We join Gorgon in his as he enters his dungeon lab and a man with a knife sneaks up on him and stabs him in the back and as his body hits the floor another Gorgon appears and as well gets stabbed and then another appears and with the clap of his hands the man disappears and dies in pain as Gorgon talks about his powers and says tonight they will show a more funny look at horror and sends us to the film. We then get a few Nightmare logo we will be back before we finally see Gorgan again who this time gives us a tour of monsters trophy room as they are his what’s dear to him! He shows us Mad Ghoul, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula’s Daughter and Wolfman’s Coffin, Rou Morgue torture items, The Mummy and the park bench that where Werewolf of London killed a man on…he is filled with joy as he sends us back to the movie. The final time we see Gorgon he wishes us well and says he will be ending Nightmare for awhile and gives a few secrets away that his monsters are not real, that is until Frankenstein’s Monster goes on a rampage on set and Gorgon ends his first TV run with a evil laugh!

Movie: The boys are sent to a mountain camp. Stranded in a small rural town, they hear about a “monster killer” roaming the countryside. At night, they sneak out. Peewee is shot by a grave-digger, and they are forced to seek aid at an old mansion. The owner of the mansion insists that the boys spend the night. After seeing PeeWee walk around the house in a trance, the boys decide that the man turned him into a zombie. They gang up on him and tie him up. The nurse at the boy’s camp sets out to find the missing boys with Von Grosch, who has come to rid the town of the killer- or has he?

Note From Matt: this is a pretty good fan reproduction and showcases classic black and white footage and is cut together pretty well.

Gorgon The Gruesome is Texas’s most ionic and important Horror Host of all time in my opinion and is truly one of the all time greats in the art of hosting. Not many Horror Hosts play it frightful and that’s really what sets Gorgon apart from others. One day I hope more footage of Gorgon is found as I would love to see more of his work and style! Well let’s leave Nightmare behind and with our next update let’s go back to the world of Marvel Horror and take a look at The Living Mummy! So until next time, read a comic or three, watch a Horror Movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host. See you next update for our first in our countdown to Halloween updates that shows Marvel used to know how to do Horror!

Blah Blah True Blood Comics Blah

Greetings, Inkers! Juliet here, with a look at a show and one of its comics that combines several of my favorite things. Zombies have dominated horror-centric pop culture for the past decade, and while fans’ appetites were already primed for the arrival of the Walking Dead television show in 2010, the years prior to that were devoted to another undead creature: the vampire. The bloodsuckers had already enjoyed quite the pop culture run in the mid to late 1990s with the film versions of Interview With a Vampire and Queen of the Damned and TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among fan favorites. But after Buffy ended in 2003 and spin-off show Angel in 2004, it seemed that the vampire’s time in the film and television limelight was done.  But several series of books were already waiting for readers and waiting to be adapted by Hollywood, and 2008 and 2009 brought viewers the first film in the Twilight saga, the Vampire Diaries TV show, and the focus of today’s update, True Blood.  So warm up a bottle of your favorite blood type, and get ready to travel to Bon Temps, Louisiana as we talk about the TV show and its prequel comic.

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In 2001, author Charlaine Harris began her Southern Vampire Mysteries series (also called The Sookie Stackhouse Novels) with the book Dead Until Dark.  The series, which would go on to have 12 novels total, was narrated by Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress in the small Louisiana town of Bon Temps who has telepathic abilities and falls in love with a vampire.  The series was set around the same time each book was published, but in this near-reality world, a synthetic blood beverage called Tru Blood made it possible for vampires to become part of mainstream society.  As the books progressed, werewolves, shapeshifters, faeries, and even a maenad also emerged, among other supernatural creatures.  

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The series had been optioned for television twice before 2005, when producer Alan Ball, fresh off Six Feet Under (another of my favorite HBO shows), was embarking on a new deal with HBO to develop new content. Having read the series thus far, the Southern Vampire Mysteries was his first project under the deal, and production on the television show True Blood began.  

Like the novels, True Blood takes place by and large, in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana and begins by focusing on telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse, played Anna Paquin, who falls in love with vampire Bill Compton in a world where vampires are “out of the coffin,” and many other supernatural beings emerge.  That’s the simplest possible description I can give for the kickoff of a show that gets very complicated very quickly and stretches for seven (HBO-length) seasons.  As in the books, we meet werewolves, shapeshifters, faeries, a vampire hating mega-church-esque cult, witches, and yes, a maenad. The show is, however, a loose adaptation of the books with some big changes at the start and, like many books turned shows, True Blood’s plot definitely veers completely away from the plot of the book series at a certain point. 

In contrast to its teenage contemporary Twilight, True Blood is overtly sexy and puts sexuality in all of its forms at the forefront.  (Funny enough though, just as Twilight had Team Edward and Team Jacob, True Blood had Team Bill, Team Eric, and eventually Team Alcide.) Some people have chosen to interpret the vampires’ struggle for equality throughout the show as an allegory for the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights, though Alan Ball, who is gay himself, disputes that interpretation as being reductive.

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When True Blood premiered in 2008, a service like HBO Go was merely a dream for fans like myself who had been hooked by the premium network’s still relatively new slate of dramas that came to prominence with The Sopranos and the aforementioned Six Feet Under. So that meant that viewers either had to have both cable and HBO to watch a show or wait for each season to come out on DVD. And so it was on DVD that I first saw True Blood.  Admittedly, I was a little uncertain about whether I was even interested; as a lifelong Anne Rice fan, I wasn’t sure anyone could do a Louisiana vampire story to my satisfaction other than her.  It took a combination of Matt buying me the first season on DVD as a gift, and the endorsement of several of my fellow Six Feet Under devotee friends for me to take the plunge.  And of course, it was love at first bite.

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I was initially drawn in by the fictional world of Bon Temps, along with the idea of vampires and the world adjusting to each other.  But what kept me coming back season after season was in Shreveport: Eric Northman, Pamela Swynford De Beaufort, and their vampire bar Fangtasia.  I was honestly more invested in them than the main Sookie Stackhouse story, especially after the reveal about Sookie’s origin, which remains for me one of the weakest plot points in the show, and to that end, I should clarify that I was not at all interested in (translation = pretty adamantly against) Eric and Sookie’s romantic storyline.  While at first I loved the slightly kitschy atmosphere of Fangtasia and Pam and Eric’s delightfully snarky banter, it was their unique relationship as century long companions that kept me watching until the very end. 

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Eric and Pam are also the reason I chose not to read the Southern Vampire Mystery books.  After watching the few seasons of True Blood, I strongly considered reading the books, but in doing a little research and finding out that their characters and storylines, among others I enjoyed, were very different than those portrayed on the show, I decided, to stick with the TV versions.  I typically don’t have this luxury as I usually end up watching shows based on books I already love and sometimes being disappointed at the translation.  Funny enough, as I was working on this update, AMC announced that they had acquired the TV rights to both the Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Mayfair Witches properties.  So I’ll end up having the book to TV experience with a different set of vampires at some point.  

But back to Eric and Pam, or more specifically, back to Pam.  I mentioned before that there became different camps of viewers, and while I suppose I could be Team Eric, I am most definitely Team Pam.  When I start watching a show I really enjoy, there’s usually one character that from their first appearance I can instantly claim as my favorite, and Pamela Swynford De Beaufort is most definitely that character on True Blood.  It’s not a huge surprise as I have a “type” when it comes to favorite characters: sassy, in charge, but still complex and exploring their place in the world.  For me, Pam was also often a sounding board for the viewer (okay, maybe just this viewer), dryly commenting on some of the more ridiculous aspects of the story. And she’s got some of the most memorable lines (and outfits) from the show.  

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Before we move on, I should note that while Eric and Pam are my favorite characters/progeny-maker pair/otp/imaginary vampire best friends, in contrast Matt is firmly on Team Bill Compton and Jessica Hamby.  I actually really like Jessica too, but the Bill vs. Eric debate raged on hilariously in our house through the entire run of the show.  

Another memorable thing about True Blood was the show’s use of music.  In addition to the sexy, swampy theme song “Bad Things” performed by Jace Everett, the show is beautifully scored by Nathan Barr.  Also, notably, each episode is named for a song that describes something about the story and appears as part of it, usually as punctuation right as the end credits roll.  These are often classic and new classic songs from the likes of Dr. John, Neko Case and the Talking Heads. Some of these, along with notable other songs from within the episodes appear on 4 soundtrack albums that are still available on CD.

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During the height of its popularity, True Blood was known for a ton of merch and some really great marketing, and sometimes those two would go hand in hand.  Shortly after the show began, HBO began marketing bottles of actual, drinkable Tru Blood.  Okay, so it was blood orange soda, but the look and feel of the packaging was authentic to the show making it great for watch parties and collectors.  On the more traditional marketing front, the billboard and print ads for the show were always super distinctive and clever, opting for an attention grabbing image or phrase with the show’s signature red, black and white color scheme.  In the online/tv realm, there were several runs of “minisodes” used to bridge gaps between seasons.  The first was called A Drop of Blood and took place between seasons 2 and 3.  These 3 to 5 minute videos helped give viewers a look at smaller moments between the seasons.  In Eric and Pam’s, which was the first one released, we see them audition new dancers for Fangtastia and land on Yvetta, who we’d meet in season 3.  There was also an ongoing series of short videos that began in 2010 after season 3 and lasted until 2014 featuring Jessica.  These were vlog style videos in which our favorite redhead learned more about life as a vampire with Pam, Tara, Bill, and Ginger among her guests.

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Along with the soundtrack albums, the soda and of course DVDs of the seasons, fans of True Blood could take their pick from a slew of official and unofficial merchandise including more shirt designs than I can count, drinking and shots glasses, coffee mugs, a cookbook (which I own), a makeup line from Tarte cosmetics (which I wish I owned), and a line of Funko Pops.  Fun fact: I held off buying Pop figures for quite a long time until they made Eric and Pam, and then the floodgates opened up and I now have entirely too many. 

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True Blood also inspired several comic series. In both 2010 and 2012 IDW published comic series simply called True Blood, which were six and 14 issues respectively.  In 2011, there were two miniseries, also from IDW, True Blood: French Quarter and True Blood: Tainted Love, all of which spun off the TV show and used familiar characters.  But before all of that, there was True Blood: The Great Revelation.  This Top Cow comic was released in 2008 at ComicCon as a part of the pre-promotion for the show.  It’s a prequel to the show, and it’s the comic we’re going to look at here on Rotten Ink.

As a reminder, we comics on a scale of 1 to 4 and are looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So get a refill on your Tru Blood (or maybe some New Blood), and get ready to do some bad things.

True Blood The Great Revelation Comic 0

True Blood: The Great Revelation # 1 ***
Released in 2008     Cover Price: Free    Top Cow     # 1 of 1

A centuries old vampire named Lamar is flying through the night sky on an airplane.  As his journey begins, he reflects on how strange it is for vampires to be out in the open and how Tru Blood is making that happen.  Lamar arrives in the Shinjuku District of Tokyo, recalling his first visit to Japan ages ago as he makes his way to his hotel. There he tells us more about the emergence of Tru Blood that led to the Great Revelation: when a group of Japanese vampires found out that human scientists were close to developing synthetic blood, they bought up the patents, invested in the company, and began to spread the word to vampires around the world.  Even now, however, Lamar isn’t sure that humanity is ready for vampires, and he recalls that his friend Samson was eager for integration between vampires and humans and paid for it with a stake through his heart.  Lamar finally arrives at the headquarters for the Yakonomo Corporation where he’s eager to show them a secret of his own.

The first thing I should tell you about this comic is that the story ends on a cliffhanger that was continued digitally as pre-promotion for the show.  Comic Con attendees in 2008 got the first read, and eventually these pages and the rest of the story were released weekly on HBO’s website to gear up for the show’s premiere.  Unfortunately, after lots of searching and several Wayback Machine fails, I was unable to find the rest of the pages beyond what’s in the physical comic, which is disappointing, but is also worth noting because some of the questions I have about the story may have been answered in those extra pages.  That said, I thought this was a really nice introduction to the larger mythos of True Blood.  I thought it was really smart to create a character that exists outside of the world of the show and to make the setting someplace other than Bon Temps because it didn’t fall into the clumsy trap of some prequel promo comics where the comic and show aren’t being written in sync so the characters feel off.  Lamar is a compelling character and the little glimpses of his backstory we got made me want to spend more time with him, and I definitely want to know more about the weapon he revealed in the last panel.  The backstory about the Great Revelation and origin of Tru Blood also felt really well in line with the show, albeit with a few elements missing – the vampire Kings and Queens are mentioned but the authority isn’t mentioned by name, likewise we only see vampires at the Yakonomo Corporation with no sign of Mr. Gus (or perhaps his father).  It is interesting that we get the name Yakonomo this early in the show’s history, however, as it’s only referred to as “a Japanese Corporation” onscreen until season six. 

The story is primarily told in “voiceover” style, which works nicely for this shorter story, especially since the whole point is to give a lot of background in only a few pages.  Jason Badower’s art is great, and the colors by Blond were particularly great because they captured the mood of the show and all of the early marketing materials ahead of the premiere.  Speaking of, there are several bonus pages that include a two-page interview with Alan Ball and several “ads” that tie into entities in the show and had accompanying web buildouts (some of which you can find on the Wayback Machine – yay!) like the American Vampire League and the Fellowship of the Sun. All told, this is a really great addition to the True Blood story, and fans of the show should have this in their collection.

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It’s almost dawn, when, unless you’re Billith, all vampires need to find a place to hide from the sun.  And it’s about time that I hand Rotten Ink back to Matt.  For his next update, he’ll be revisiting the world of horror fan films with another batch of movies to tell you about.  In the meantime, read a comic or two, support your local comic shop and bank blood, and avoid any and all vampire emergencies.