…at the castle of Frightenstein.
If you grew up in southern Ontario in the ’70s you may have caught a quirky sketch comedy series called The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.
I loved it.
Last night, radio listeners on 97.7 the Beach heard my Halloween edition of Johnny Maraca’s Rock and Roll Riot, and I closed the episode with a clip of Vincent Price’s weekly farewell.
“The castle lights are growing dim. There’s no one left but me, and him (the Frankestein/Frightenstein monster)…
When next we meet in Frankestone…don’t come alone.”
The series was produced at CHCH-TV in Hamilton and ran for 130 episodes, starting in 1971. So I would have been 9 or 10 when I met the man who portrayed Count Frightenstein and many other characters on that show.
I was at the Canadian National Exhibition with my parents when my Mother exclaimed, “Look who it is!”
She grabbed me by the arm, rushed me towards Billy Van and told him I was a big fan of Frightenstein. I’m surprised Mom recognized Van because the actor was usually wearing makeup and ghoulish costumes on the show.
And he did play just about every role.
Count Frightenstein. The DJ known as the Wolfman, Doctor Pet Vet, Bwana Clyde Batty, Grizelda the Ghastly Gourmet. Van had a gift for impressions and that’s what elevated HHOF above the usual low budget local TV fare.
Horror film icon Vincent Price filmed 400 segments over a 4-day period for a fee of $13,000. His presence made the series even cooler. I mean, House of Wax, The Fly, and all those ’60s adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe stories!
Producer John Bradford had this to say about Price’s days on the set:
“He would read the script to himself, put his head down for a few seconds and do a single take read on-camera. Next! At one point the crew was exausted by his pace and he suddenly disappeared. Everyone thought he MUST have gone to collapse somewhere. He had hailed a cab, gone to the local beer store and brought a couple of two-fours into the station. We all sat cross-legged in the studio and listened to his stories of Hollywood and Cecil B. DeMille.”
Price said he signed on because he wanted to do something that appealed to kids.
It sure did, especially to fans of monsters and ghosts like yours truly. I was always Dracula on Halloween, and Mom never understood my vampire fixation.
Billy Van was a regular on another CHCH production, Party Game. Basically a TV version of charades. He was also a sketch performer on variety shows hosted by Sonny & Cher, Bobby Vinton and the Hudson Brothers. He died from cancer in 2003 at the age of 68.
Thank you, Mister Van! I will always fondly remember the Hilarious House of Frightenstein and your incredible versatility in creating that weird and wonderful cast of characters.
Happy Halloween to all…may your home be visited by dozens of little monsters, witches and vampires (I live in a condo. We never get trick or treaters but I buy chocolate bars just in case).