Then Is Now – #1 by Roger Froilan Jr.

As I sit down to write this, I am reminded of why exactly I came up with the concept for The Fright Channel way back in 1999: almost everyone has a happy place that helps get them through the rough times or brings back fond memories.  I have some great memories as a Monster Kid growing up, and I know that there are many, many people out there with similar experiences.  Whether it’s watching those afternoon creature features, reading monster magazines, getting cool monster books from the library, drawing monster pictures on a rainy day, or staying up late on Fridays and Saturdays with your parents to watch scary films… and many many more similar experiences.  Those happy memories are what fuel my efforts on The Fright Channel, and I have been trying to bottle those feelings and mass market them.  Thus, The Fright Channel was born.

It is my hope to not only remind older readers of some great stuff we used to have and do, but also introduce the younger readers to a whole world that they missed.  When my son was born, I felt the need to bring him up to speed on everything he missed out on.  I raised him on cool stuff like Lost in Space, Sanford and Son, and Universal Monsters (just to name a scant few) and now he gets many of the references in modern kid shows that go over most kids’ heads.

I could go on and on about a multitude of concepts, but one great memory comes to mind.  My son, who is nine years old, was chatting on the phone with a friend and it reminded me of how I used to talk to my friend Peter on the phone at that age for hours at a time.  We talked about everything from Doctor Who to the Terminator.  I remember when the first Terminator came out; Peter called me at 10pm on a Saturday night after seeing it, and for a solid hour explained the entire movie to me from beginning to end.  I was totally enthralled and he could barely get a breath in!

But I digress… the actual memory I was referring to was this:

Back in the day before everyone had cable (and satellite was something only people in rural areas got), Peter had cable before I did.  Oh, we had the Star Channel box, but that’s a story for another column.  Anyway, Peter had one of those cool slider remotes in which there was a box with a long wire that went to the TV and a row of numbers on it with an A/B switch.  You selected A or B, and slid the little pointer to the number of the channel that you wanted.

It was a dreary Sunday afternoon, and Peter’s parents and brother had gone out, leaving him home alone.  Bored, he turned on the TV and started watching The Million Dollar Movie on WOR – one of two New York Stations along with PIX that we used to get in Boston, until the advent of 4th, 5th and 6th networks put the kybosh on those independent stations.  At the time, he didn’t know the name of the film, but was terrified.  So, he called me up to keep him company while he watched the film.  Wishing I was there, and understanding his plight, I couldn’t very well NOT talk to him while he watched a movie that I could only barely hear.  He described many incredulous scenes to me about a Dracula-type character that was menacing the heroes who didn’t seem to be very brave by any stretch.  Toward the end of the film, he started to scream “Oh my God!  Igor just jumped into a coffin and is now sledding down the hill in it!!” His fear turned somewhat to joy at the ridiculous sight.  For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine what the heck the movie he was watching was called, and I knew my monster flicks!

I learned later that it was Roman Polanski’s classic, ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers or Pardon Me but Your Teeth are in My Neck’!  Even though I wasn’t there in person to watch the film with him, we had some good laughs and scares during that experience.  One other similar memory popped to mind when he was watching The Devil’s Rain with Ernest Borgnine and William Shatner.  Peter kept shouting at the climax that devil worshippers were dragging Captain Kirk up a hill and Ernest Borgnine had turned into the Devil and was going to kill him.  The poor kid!  I don’t know how he got through childhood scary movie experiences without me!

I was there in spirit for him and I think it gave us both great comfort that we were able to connect without having to be in the same room together.  Monster movies have that way of connecting us…strange and inexplicable ways.  Sort of like going through a harrowing experience together without any actual danger posed to us.

So that’s all I got this week, but they are such strong memories that I’ll carry them with me for the rest of my life.  I hope that today’s viewers get to have similar experiences watching The Fright Channel, and if even one person in the whole world does, then I’ve done my job.

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