Saturday mornings meant two things when I was a kid: Cartoons, and a good size bowl of sugar cereal. Nothing went better together than Peanut Butter Crunch and the Superfriends, except maybe Lucky Charms and Looney Tunes. No, Peanut Butter Crunch trumps all. And there were lots of good cartoons back then as well, seeing as how the big three networks each filled the morning with them. So there I’d sit, surrounded by whatever toys held my interest that day, splitting my attention between that whopping 19” television and whatever fantasy world my toys were leading me in to. But that was Saturday morning, and VHF. Things changed with a thunk! around noon.
I say thunk though that doesn’t accurately describe the sound the tuning knobs made when they turned to each channel, the remote control being my fingers which were wirelessly transmitted across the room by my feet. But the mechanics of the thing isn’t important, suffice it to say that bottom knob brought the horrors to the screen. They came by UHF.
In my town channel’s 50 and 20 served up the creature feature, chiller, thriller double feature films. Those independently owned underdog’s of the airwaves brought the best of the B movies! Hammer, Amicus, American International, Universal, all the horror heavyweights had a home on my TV each Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The unholy triumvirate of Corman, Price, and Poe always welcome and well represented, as were the other usual suspects like Cushing and Lee. Gothic horrors, monsters, and uncounted gallons of a blood substitute that never really looked too much like the real thing, too thick and too red, accompanied me those days. When I was older those same stations played Tales From The Darkside, and Monsters later in the evening, though they just didn’t compare to the movies.
I’m not sure when those television stations stopped our Saturday ritual. They were bought up by larger broadcasters in the mid 1980’s (I think) and the horror movies were traded in for low budget sit-com’s. Now those great old horror/creature features are kept locked in the casket until Halloween, or maybe a few days before if we’re lucky.
Though the Sci-Fi channel plays a new generation of B movies, I guess we call them straight to video now, they just aren’t the same as their predecessors. Digital creatures on digital screens. Give me the warmth and vibrancy of Technicolor! Who’s your Cushing 2009? Where is your Vincent Price?
Of course I have a greater fondness for these movies as they are tied to my youth. And yes I could go out and buy DVD copies to watch whenever I want. But don’t you remember tuning in to that local channel, adjusting the antenna to the best picture possible, and hoping that next movie was something you really wanted to see? Maybe that anticipation was part of the pleasure.