MonsterVision Christmas 20th Anniversary

James / January 9th, 2014

I’m late, but here’s some nerdy trivia. Being sort of a TNT MonsterVision historian, (you can see my video tribute to MonsterVision here) I feel the need to update some information that I got wrong before. I’ve always been saying the Christmas marathon of stinkers happened in 1994. Somehow I remembered it being the last MonsterVision before Joe Bob Briggs came on board, but this is one of those cases where my memory had somehow been distorted all these years. The Christmas marathon actually happened in 1993, well before MonsterVision fizzled out by the end of 1994, only to be resurrected by Joe Bob. I confirmed this by an old TV guide, not to mention, MonsterVision always happened on a Saturday. Christmas was a Saturday in 1993, but not in 1994. This is one of those marathons where I distinctly remember trying to stay up all night to record all the movies on my VCR. I was planning to make some kind of tribute in time for the 20th anniversary, but I was thinking a year behind. I just missed it!

Check out my MonsterVision history page, which lists all the marathons that I can remember.

Anyway, about the Christmas marathon. Here’s the commercial. 12/25/1993

Every Sunday morning, I would run out onto the lawn to grab the sunday newspaper. I’d pull out the TV guide and flip straight to the end, hoping that there was a MonsterVision that coming Saturday. That year, there were lots of them! Maybe the movies would be good, or maybe they’d be crap. There was no internet, nothing to clue you in, except for a title and a vague description. Of course there’d be a star rating as well, but I never cared about that. Even if it was “one star” (according to whoever rates the movies in the TV guide), you knew the movie at least had to have a monster. How could you resist a movie called “Creature with the Atom Brain”?

TNT started winding down with MonsterVision. It seemed like they were coming less often all the time. Everytime I’d flip to Saturday and see no MonsterVision, I’d be really disappointed. That meant I had to wait another week to try again. And even then, I would still have to wait another week after that for the next Saturday to come. When Halloween came around, I was sure there had to be a MonsterVision, but nope. If memory serves me right, it didn’t come back until Christmas, of all nights!

There were 7 movies that night, none of which I had ever seen before. The Giant Claw was always on my wish list. I’d see clips from it in other MonsterVision commercials, and always remembered that goofy looking bird. One time, it came on while I was at school, so I programmed the VCR to record it. Unfortunately, my dad turned it off, and I only got the first 10 minutes or so of the movie. He always had a habit of doing that, and I would always yell at him and throw a fit! This time, The Giant Claw was first on the lineup, so I didn’t miss it.

Recording a whole marathon of movies on TV was a complicated ordeal. I knew I would have to sleep at some point, so there was always some kind of game plan to switch out the VHS tapes. After midnight, in the late hours of the night, I would start fighting to hold my eyelids open, and begin slipping in and out of sleep. I would catch bits and pieces of the movies. Sometimes, it was almost like the different movies were being edited together into one single movie in my brain, so I could never tell which movie I was watching. In my dreams, it was all the monsters of the night combined.

VHS tapes were reusable, so I would never have enough tapes to record the whole thing. My family would rarely buy new tapes. Either it was because of money, or not wanting to make a trip to the store, I don’t know. Thinking back, I wonder why I didn’t  just switch the tape when I went to bed, and put it on SLP (“super long play”) or EP (“extended play” as it’s sometimes called). I could have probably gotten most of the marathon, if not the whole thing, that way, assuming I already got the first half on the first tape. But I didn’t like stretching the tape out. Back then, having a movie you recorded on VHS, was the equivalent of owning a Blu-ray today. But it was even better, because you did the work. You stayed up. You hit record. It was like a project. There was something special about it. So I didn’t want to ruin that experience by tampering with the quality of the tape. So I planned to record as much in SP (“standard play” or “short play”) as possible. The only thing holding me back was that I didn’t have that many tapes to work with. I had to try to predict which movies I was going to want to keep. The others, I would use the extended record modes, and eventually record over, when there was another marathon.

The other thing that bugged me was the commercials. I didn’t want them! If I was going to cherish this tape for years to come, I wanted just the movie, without interruptions. The only exception was if it was a MonsterVision commercial. I especially loved the long montage of clips with the narrator saying “Are you afraid of the dark? TNT thinks so! And we have the monsters to prove it!” Whenever that would come on, I’d get real excited. It was hard to predict when it would show up, so when it did, I’d hit the record button as fast I can, but the VCR takes it’s sweet old time to get going, so you’d lose the first 5 seconds or so. It took a while before I was able to get the whole thing, and when it did happen, it was by accident. Sometimes, using two VCR’s, I re-recorded the movies onto another tape, to edit out the commercials. Sure the picture quality would suffer, but at least you’d get rid of those commercials. Funny how nowadays, if you have any old VHS tapes, the commercials would be the most valuable part!

Anyway, cutting out the commercials LIVE on the fly, was a lot of work. You had to sit there, hit STOP, then wait for the commercials to end, and hit RECORD. You had to be fast on the draw or else you’d miss a few precious seconds of the movie, not to mention, those awesome MonsterVision bumpers. The worst thing that could ever happen was if you forgot to hit record. Whenever that happened, I hated myself for it! Sometimes I would never realize it until the next commercial break. I’d hit stop, only to realize it was already stopped. Nooooo!!! You had to be like an eagle. You had to be eyeing those commercials, waiting for that bumper, like a predator waiting for its prey. If you had to go to the bathroom, you had to be quick. That’s what made these tapes so special. You did the work. Nowadays, you can just order any movie, and you could have it commercial-free on DVD or even Blu-ray, but back then, it was a survival of the fittest hunt through a black & white grid of vague blurbs on a thin fragile sheet of paper.

By the next morning, looking over everything I managed to record, I realized there was not one good movie in the bunch. It left me with a bad hangover feeling. What did I do last night?! These movies are all TERRIBLE!

Lineup: (Confirmed by TV Guide)

 

The Giant Claw (1957) (8:00pm)
giant-claw
A bird “as big as a battleship” from an antimatter galaxy comes to Earth to next. 20 years after seeing it, I’m still fascinated with this movie to this very day.
SEE THE CINEMASSACRE REVIEW.

 

The Cyclops (1957) (9:30pm)
cyclops
A search party looking for a missing man in a radioactive terrain, encounter giant beasts and a one eyed giant who just might be who they’re looking for. No classic, but you can’t go wrong with the monster-maker Bert I. Gordon, actor Lon Chaney Jr and lots of cheesy effects.
SEE THE CINEMASSACRE REVIEW

 

The Wasp Woman (1958) (11:00pm)
wasp
If you’re a woman who uses cosmetic serum to get rid of your wrinkles, make sure that honey isn’t in the ingredients, or you might turn into a bee. This stinker from Roger Corman is the one that put me to sleep. You barely see the wasp woman at all, but once you do, she is kind of creepy and memorable. This was before I realized Roger Corman also made great classics like Fall of the House of Usher, and all the rest of the Vincent Price Poe movies.

 

Creature with the Atom Brain (1955) (12:30am)
Atom-Brain
Creature? Atom Brain? Not so much. It’s just zombies. Resurrected by science. An early example of the genre. Pre-Night of the Living Dead.

 

From Hell It Came (1957) (2am)
hell-it-came
A research team on an island encounters a killer tree harboring a condemned man’s spirit out for revenge. I can’t help but love that tree monster.
SEE THE CINEMASSACRE REVIEW

 

Valley of the Dragons (1961) (3am)
valley
On a comet, there’s a bunch of stuff happening from other movies. That’s almost exactly what the TV Guide says, because this movie is notorious for its use of stock footage. Even Rodan makes an appearance! There’s TONS of footage of live reptiles, which gets tiring, but those cave guys are really cool! I wish you see them more often.

 

The Werewolf (1956) (5:15am)
werewolf
Yes. THE werewolf. NOT the Wolfman, NOT the Werewolf of London, NOT the Teenage Werewolf. Just another generic run-of-the-mill werewolf. But this one’s created by science!

 

Here’s the listings. I couldn’t scan the whole marathon, because it’s one of those stupid TV Guide magazines, where they only have a couple pages of the grid for Saturday evening. The rest is a mess of text that you have to sort through. I hate those! At least I got the information I needed.

TV-guide-1993-christmas

I couldn’t help but notice TNT’s batch licensing of these movies. Many of them conveniently belonged to the same companies.

 

Three of these movies, The Giant Claw, Creature with the Atom Brain and The Werewolf, are on the same DVD set from Sony. The Sam Katzman “Icons of Horror” set.
DVD-SamKatzman

 

 

Both The Cyclops and From Hell it Came are on those weird Warner Bros “Archive” collections (separately) where they are overpriced and poorly manufactured DVD-R’s.
DVD-cyclopsDVD-HellItCame

 

 

The Wasp Woman is public domain, so you can find it by itself or on one of those cheap 50-movie packs.
DVD-waspDVD-50

 

 

Valley of the Dragons is another one from Sony, but only available as a cheaply packaged, but overpriced DVD-R.
dvd-valley

Comments

  • January 9, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Mike, I envy you in this case – we never had this kind of marathon over here in Europe (not to my knowledge)… unless it was a special occasion. VCR recording? How long has it been? Certainly a curious and fascinating piece of history. Keep up the good work, sir. 🙂

    • y2j420

      January 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      James posted this…not Mike…

    • Lukas Sprehn

      January 9, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      Well, actually, that is not true. We did have some horror movie marathons on Turner Classsic Movies, also known as TCM. I think TCM and its airing schedule is the same in the whole world, meaning they show the exact same thing in each country, and at the same time. I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure this is the case. TCM is an odd channel haha. Anyway, last Halloween (2013) James posted a horror marathon lineup with a date and time for TCM. And he said something about the people not living in the U.S. adjusting for the time differences, I think. But thats pretty much the only thing horror marathon-ish we’ve had. I wish we have had those awesome horror host things… 🙁

  • January 9, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Since I live in Canada and we didn’t have tv (Mom and Dad didn’t like the concept), I had to wait until I went to visit Grandma in New York to watch television. I loved TNT, and think I might have caught one of those movies. TNT had some great (and some not-so-great) stuff when I was a kid. Thanks for the trip down memory lane James!

  • Uncle Sporkums

    January 9, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks so much for the nostalgia trip, James! Yeah, I have fond memories of staying up late to record something rare, and that overwhelmingly terrible feeling I’d get when I realized something had gone wrong! VCR generation forever!

  • GameCom

    January 9, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Wow nostalgia, thanks for the trip down memory James, some of my fondest memories.

  • grimnebulin

    January 9, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    I’ve still got a few large boxes of VHS tapes in my garage. I taped pretty much all of my favorite shows from the early 90’s (Ren and Stimpy) until the early 00’s (Adult Swim). MST3K accounts for a huge chunk.

    I pretty quickly gave up on trying to edit out the commercials as I watched and just taped everything.

  • Joker83

    January 9, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    This was a fun read, I can totally relate to you James. Awesome –

  • lartrak

    January 9, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Man oh man. Avoiding the commercials. I remember doing that myself with some shows. My dad it with every episode of Star Trek and a few other shows. He was really good at it too – he’d even pause and rewind frame by frame to get it EXACTLY, and he usually knew the exact final commercial the show would end on.

    One hiccup is most VCRs were slow to begin recording – it’d take a second or two to actually start. So what we did is we hit PAUSE while it was recording, which would have it freeze with the tape still in the record position. It would being recording almost instantly.

    Good memories.

  • January 9, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    This was a fantastic read. More of these long-form 80’s/90’s anecdotes, please!

  • ToadRoad

    January 9, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    This was a good read.

    I just gave up editing out the commercials when I taped stuff. It was way more work to sit in front of the VCR and “eagle eye” it. Even if you watched the tape 10 times, it was still way less total work to just fast forward. Takes you out of the movie, but so does 5 seconds of a commercial, which you’d often end up with if you didn’t stop on time.

    I had to cut the 3-hour concert film Woodstock down to just 15 minutes in high school and used 2 VCRS and that was one of the most frustrating things to “edit”.

  • tylerdurden389

    January 9, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    This was me in the early 90’s as well except instead of TNT it was Vh1 and MTV trying to tape every Michael Jackson music video. Of course neither channel ever played the full videos. Some I never saw in their entirety until finding them on youtube.

  • culwin

    January 9, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    These punk kids today have it too easy!!

  • January 9, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    [b]We never got SAT til like the end of the 90s so I missed out on all this stuff[/b]

  • MetalHorrorNES

    January 10, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    I liked Monster Vision/Joe Bob Briggs, good for a laugh but to be honest I never cared for anything on straight cable tv. They censor/edit shit for tv and it pisses me off. Even back then I went to my collection or checked out HBO, Showtime, etc.

  • horrorfan2324

    January 12, 2014 at 12:34 am

    I have an idea for some videos you should release. You should research and let us know about the best version a movies release to buy. Like say a certain movie has been released multiple times, which version is the one a person should buy and why, in your opinion. Maybe the movie has a blu-ray release, but the quality looks worse than a certain DVD version of the film, and the DVD version has better special features. You seem like the perfect person to make videos like this. Making a couple on some of your favorite movies, or on really good but hard to find movies would be cool. You already bring this up during some of your discussions anyway.

  • ford3517

    January 12, 2014 at 10:10 am

    I remember recording the tv with a VCR as well. Funny how back then nobody thought of this as pirating and still don’t. I never heard of companies going after people for this, heck I used to record music from the radio on cassette. I guess people weren’t so greedy back then.

  • January 12, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I think my favorite part of this post is seeing the old TV listings. I had to chuckle when I saw the channel listing for PRISM (PSM). Such a great channel back in the day: Sports! Movies! Wrestling! And soft-core porn late at night…everything a growing boy needs! Was that scanned from the Sunday Inquirer insert magazine or the “proper” TV Guide, James?

  • Xen11

    January 13, 2014 at 5:33 am

    I did the same thing. Would either go to my grandparents for the newspaper TV Guide or rely on that short period where we actually got the legit TV Guide booklet through the mail.

    I would always plan to stay up on Friday and Saturday nights to watch all sort of movies, especially Monstervision. I would almost always fall asleep and miss the movie I would look most forward to that started around 2am.

    I remember they would show the ones I wanted to see so damn sparingly. I knew they would show A Nightmare On Elm Street film(s) maybe one night out of the year. So when I saw they had Part 5: The Dream Child playing (the only one I hadn’t seen yet) I was elated. I waited all week (really all year) for that special Saturday night so I could tape it. I was so ready and then I fell asleep early in the night. I was devastated and defeated. It’s something that only played once a year and that’s if you’re lucky.

    Ah, so many wonderful memories and so many glorious discoveries. My family was poor and we did not rent movies. It took forever just to convince my mother to get basic cable. I remember many times, when they’d go up on the price, how I would just fight her and try to convince her to keep it.

    James you did the exact same stuff I did.

    I learned a neat trick from my mother’s boyfriend at the time: Pause when recording to have an immediate cut for commercials and unpause right when the film returned and there would be no delay. Only when the commercial time was way too long would that ‘pause while recording’ feature automatically shut off. Then I’d try to hurry and pause while recording again so I’d get a smooth transitional cut before the movie came back on.

  • Griff

    January 13, 2014 at 6:14 am

    this is a really cool story James, I’m about a decade older than you, so I was the age you were in 1993 in 2003 and for me the equivalent of TNT Monstervision was Adult Swim

  • Oncogene

    January 15, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Eureka’s Castle on at 8PM on a Saturday night. There’s something you don’t (didn’t) see every day.

  • LicaWolf

    January 17, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    I relate so much to this. I was a VCR obsessed child too. Though, I was more the type to record shows instead of movies.

    I totally relate to your descriptions of how you had to be paying attention during the commercials to hit record just at the right moment. I remember it was difficult to calculate the right moment exactly because the VCR took a second or two after you hit the button to start recording. If you did it too fast, you ended up with a glimpse of the last commercial in your tape (annoying!), if you did it too late you losed precious seconds of the show. Everytime I got it just right, I felt like a total pro 😛 Also, you mentioned the horror of forgetting to hit record and then realizing it until after the next commercial break, that was the worst thing!

    I usually recorded almost everything in SP, unless it was a special or something, but it happened to me sometimes that I accidentally recorded in SLP, and I was taken by surprise when I ran out of tape, sometimes mid-episode. If I didn’t have a new VHS at hand when that happened, I had to decide really fast which tape of my entire collection I cared for the less and record over it. I remember many regrets :´D

    I still have many of those tapes. Maybe I should just throw them away, most of the stuff I recorded back then can be found easily on the internet nowadays, but aah… nostalgia, I guess?

  • Freddie Phillips

    January 19, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    I remember the MonsterVisions airing, I’ve seen some of your other posts on MV as well. As always, thank you for the trip down memory road.

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