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Hilarious House of Frightenstein, The

Canada



Original Air Date:
1971
Channel:
Syndication
Prod. Co.:
CHCH-TV, Ontario
Genre:
Live Action
 

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Characters & Voices
Bwana Clyde Batty - Billy Van
Count Frightenstein - Billy Van
Dr. Pet Vet - Billy Van
The Gorilla - Billy Van
Grammar Slammer Bammer (voice) - Joe Torbay
Grizelda, the Ghastly Gourmet - Billy Van
Gronk (voice) - Joe Torbay
Harvey Wallbanger (voice) - Joe Torbay
Igor - Fishka Rais
The Librarian - Billy Van
Little Count - Guy Big
The Maharishi - Billy Van
The Mosquito - Mitch Markowitz
Narrator - Vincent Price
The Oracle - Billy Van
The Professor - Julius Sumner Miller
The Singing Soldier - Billy Van
Superhippy - Mitch Markowitz
The Wolfman - Billy Van
 
“Another lovely day begins,
For ghosts and ghouls with greenish skin,
So close your eyes and you will find,
That you’ve arrived in Frightenstein…”

What do you get when you mix Gothic horror, 60’s psychedelia and educational kids’ programming? If you happened to live in the right place at the right time, you got a daily dose of The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, a comedy/horror spoof produced in Ontario, Canada. This 60-minute, low-budget program was filled with quick comedy bits and a large cast of supporting characters (most of them played by Billy Van).

Horror icon Vincent Price gave a touch of creepy authenticity to the program, delivering macabre rhymed introductions to the show and its individual segments. From there, Billy Van took over, getting the comedy started with an opening sketch as Count Frightenstein himself. The green-skinned vampire was the head resident of Castle Frightenstein, where he and his large green assistant Igor had been living in a sort of exile for who knows how long. The only way the pair could return to their Translvanian homeland was by animating the Frankenstein-like Brucie J. Monster. Unfortunately, the two Transylvanian natives weren’t exactly the brightest bulbs in chandelier. Each week they tried a new scheme (some practical, some psychological), but that big bolt-necked monster just wouldn’t budge.

The schemes to bring Brucie to life were just one of the many recurring gags on The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. Another favorite was The Wolfman, a disc jockey for EECH radio (clearly patterned after DJ legend Wolfman Jack, but with sharper fangs and more body hair). Once The Wolfman got the wax spinning, he and Igor grooved to favorite 60’s and 70’s rock tunes while brightly colored graphics swirled in the background.

Elsewhere in the castle, The Librarian read chilling tales to his viewers, hoping to frighten them silly. Unfortunately, the stories were more silly than frightening. Despite The Librarian’s spooky voice, nursery rhymes like “Humpty Dumpty” just didn’t raise the goosebumps like The Librarian hoped.

On another segment, Grizelda, the Ghastly Gourmet hosted her own cooking show, teaching the kiddies how to make a variety of treats (if they happened to have buzzards’ beaks and other outlandish ingredients handy). Grizelda also co-hosted a short segment on etiquette, answering viewers’ mailed-in questions with the help of a puppet named Harvey Wallbanger. Harvey was Frightenstein’s official postmaster, answering mail not only with Grizelda, but with the Count as well.

Frightenstein’s loony parade of characters continued with such notables as the two mystics-The Oracle and The Maharishi, a pint-sized jokester version of the Count, The Singing Soldier, comic bloodsucker The Mosquito, a pratfalling gorilla, puppet Gronk and Superhippy, a brain-fried, blond-afroed superhero who appeared in very quick bumper gags.

The show’s educational content was as bizarre and diverse as the rest of the program. Physics lessons were handled by The Professor, a mad scientist type who posed scientific questions, then performed neat experiments to find out the answers. English lessons fell under the domain of the Grammar Slammer and his enormous, angry assistant, the Grammar Slammer Bammer. When Igor’s language got sloppy, a police siren announced another “Grammar Raid.” The Grammar Slammer (an off-screen voice) corrected Igor’s poor habits, while the Grammar Slammer Bammer begged his off-screen boss to let him pound a few grammar lessons into Igor’s skull.

Two other segments taught kids about the animal kingdom, both the wild and the tamed. Dr. Pet Vet brought live animals onto the show, introducing Igor to a variety of dogs, birds, cats and so on. The soft-hearted Igor fell in love with each, but his other pet, an unseen (but very mean) three-toed sloth always forbade him from keeping the little critters. Bwana Clyde Batty, host of “Zany Zoo,” handled the more exotic creatures. The intrepid British explorer showed the kids slides of animals seen on his many safaris.

With so many different sketches making up each episode, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein zipped along at a speedy pace. Transitions were made a la Laugh In, throwing in quick jokes, sound effects, etc. Somehow, the show managed to mingle this contemporary influence with its more “old school” horror background, creating a bizarre, unforgettable fusion of the two. The Hilarious House of Frightenstein ran for years on Canadian television and was syndicated across the globe, bringing laughs and learning to budding ghouls and goblins everywhere.

“So welcome where the sun won’t shine,
To the castle of Count Frightenstein…”
 
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In 2000, 100 years of age, Jack Liebowitz, one of the founders of DC Comics, died.