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Happy Halloween!

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
October 31, 2017
Posted in: Satire

In what's become a Halloween tradition at Tube City Online since 2006, more or less, we present the story of the blood-sucking monkeys who were raised in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania ... which is really scary territory, kids!

Then the monkeys got too big for West Mifflin, so they hopped on a freight train and went to Sewickley! And then ... well, Count Floyd will tell you the rest.

Just a little blast from the past courtesy of Pittsburgh's own Joe Flaherty and the Canadian sketch-comedy show SCTV. Remember, this film won the Western Pennsylvania Fright Award in 1978.

If you want to feel old, I'll remind you that this clip is from 35 years ago. And that is really scary.

It's no secret that "Count Floyd" was based in part on the late "Chilly Billy" Cardille, longtime host of "Chiller Theater" on Channel 11 in Pittsburgh. (Then WIIC-TV, now WPXI-TV.) Flaherty has been quoted as saying that "Chiller Theater" was one of his inspirations.

One of Flaherty's colleagues on SCTV said that his ideas for TV parodies were born when he was growing up in Pittsburgh, watching self-important "show-business frauds" make fools of themselves.

Well, I don't think anyone considered Cardille a "show-business fraud" --- he had a reputation as a being a pretty nice guy --- and the keys to the popularity of "Chiller Theater" were that no one was taking it seriously, least of all Cardille, so that the audience was always in on the joke.

But on SCTV, Count Floyd's "Monster Chiller Horror Theater" was deadly serious business, no pun intended. For one thing, Floyd deeply resented hosting a kiddie show --- under the bad vampire makeup, he was Floyd Robertson, co-anchor of the SCTV News.

For another, the station invariably booked either terrible films ("Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Stewardesses") or the wrong films (at one point, Floyd was stuck introducing an Ingmar Bergman film, in Swedish with English subtitles).

Floyd inevitably found out about the mistakes after the film was on the air, leaving him to first try to convince the viewers at home that the movie was better than it appeared, and then apologizing profusely, practically begging the audience to tune in again.

One of the greatest things about "SCTV" was its ability to layer comedy on comedy on comedy. In later episodes, Floyd, frustrated with being stuck at this low-budget, bottom-feeding TV station, became a raging alcoholic, finally appearing on the evening news bombed out of his mind.

He wound up in rehab, reduced to making on-camera public-service announcements for the alcoholism treatment clinic where he was drying out. ("They don't beat you or anything," said a glassy-eyed, dissipated Floyd.)

I was a bit young to have watched "Chiller Theater" in its prime, but I have it on good authority that Cardille once had a film so bad that he spent all of the station breaks apologizing for it. At one point, he showed the audience the preview reel the station had received: "See? From the trailer it didn't look this bad."

Count Floyd would have been proud.

Originally published October 31, 2017.

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