It lives again -- Creature Features rises from the grave

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Seemingly rising from the grave like so many of the monsters and ghouls that it showcased over a 14-year run on local television, the beloved Bay Area show Creature Features is being resurrected once again to satiate fans’ undying thirst for the creepy, kooky and campy.

On Thursday night, John Stanley (who took over hosting the program from the late Bob Wilkins in 1979) will be on hand at the Balboa Theater for a recreation of what an original “Creature Features” episode would have been like circa the early 1980s, including a full feature film, interview segments, mini-movie, and even the vintage commercials that ran during the breaks. This particular show is a rare treat, as many of the original tapings were simply recorded over once they aired, as was the common practice by television stations in those days to save money.

Several of the interviews and segments have survived over the years, however, thanks to Stanley asking for certain tapes to be saved, and also in part to now-official Creature Features archivist Tom Wyrsch collecting tapes and reels during the show’s initial run from 1971 to 1984.

“You have to remember, the show started when there was no VCR, so no one was really thinking in terms of ‘we can get these on tape some day,’” says Stanley. “I was just thinking ‘maybe someday I’ll want to replay that interview,’ if it was with an important actor like Christopher Lee or something.”

One such interview that Stanley is particularly fond of, and will be shown at the event, is an entertaining multi-part chat with Frank Gorshin, perhaps best known for his work playing “The Riddler” in the 1960s “Batman” TV show. “He seemed to just be totally relaxed," says Stanley. "I think he was quite surprised when he saw I had all these photographs of him, and the amount of preparation that we had put into the interview.”

The main feature will be Horror Express, a 1972 flick starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas, featuring a monster terrorizing a continent-crossing train, and the evening will also feature one of Stanley’s mini-movies, The Demon Strikes Back, a short not seen since 1980. Fans attending the event can also pick up a new series of DVDs that Stanley and Wyrsch have put together, to take home and relive the experience in their own living rooms on a late Saturday night.

Though it’s been more than 25 years since the show left the air, the people behind it still find a faithful following at event after event throughout the Bay Area.

“It's amazing to me that Creature Features lives as never before,” says Stanley. “But when those who used to watch the show see it now, they are suddenly transported back through time—it’s like looking through an old photo album or reliving happy moments of one’s adolescence.”

CREATURE FEATURES
Thu/25, 7 p.m., $6.50-$9
Balboa Theater
3630 Balboa, SF
(415) 221-8184
www.balboamovies.com
www.stanleybooks.net

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