This is a repost from the MySpace blog that I wrote on March 24’th 2006. Sadly, since then, Mr Wilkins has passed on from Altzheimer’s.
This post is dedicated to his memory.
This one I gotta tell you.
When I was just a wee boy, still in elementary school, I was crazy about anything sci-fi and horror. (Although my definition of horror was monsters like Frankenstein and the Wolf Man. Not slasher flicks.) And most of the stuff I saw was courtesy of a man named Bob Wilkins.
Wilkins hosted a show called “Creature Features” out of KTVU in San Francisco. Now this was about the early to mid seventies and most TV stations in the major markets had a show like this on their schedule. You know, the guy on the haunted house set complete with cobwebs made of spun sugar and a coffin and funky colored lighting. The guy dressed up like some bad Halloween version of Dracula. (If you’ve ever seen Joe Flaharty’s “Count Floyd” character on “SCTV”, you know what I’m talking about.)
What was different about Wilkins is that he never went in for the camp theatrics. Yeah, he was on a haunted house set but he always wore a well cut gray suit and smoked cigars. And he never screamed or howled. He always sat and talked in a sane (albeit dryly sardonic) about the movies he showed.
And damn, he was funny. He was the type of guy who’d tell us that he was about to show us the scariest piece of film ever made and then play Nixon’s “Checkers” speech.
And he was also a great interviewer who was able to pull in some terrific guests. He had on Christopher Lee and asked how he found himself trapped in such a lousy flick called “End of the World” and Lee would tell him the story without an ounce of anger. He had on George Hearn when he was in town, touring with “Sweeny Todd” and asked him how they got the prop razors to squirt blood. One time, he had on horror writer Robert Bloch who said he was surprised that people were scared to meet him. “I have the heart of an eight year old boy” and then he’d prove it by showing Wilkins the heart, lovingly preserved in a glass jar. Fun times.
And then there were the movies, my favorites were the old Universal horror films with Frankenstein and Dracula and the rest. Or they were the Japanese horror flicks where men dressed in monster suits would knock the crap out of each other or lovingly constructed models of Downtown Tokyo.
Wilkins also hosted for KTVU an afternoon show called “Captain Cosmic and his Robot 2T2”. This time he had the silly costume. A superhero number in red and black, complete with cape and helmet and mask. And, my God, the stuff he pulled out for us. He started with the original Buster Crabbe version of “Flash Gordon” and went from there. He showed Japanese shows like “Ultraman” and “The Space Giants”. He showed for the first time in North America the classic Anime series, “Star Blazers”. Christ, he even showed the old Gerry Anderson series “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterions”. How cool was this show? They didn’t have decoder rings but they had decoder cards. (That’s right. I belong to the last generation of kids who got a decoder anything!)
But alas, all things end. Wilkins was also doing a show in Sacramento at the time and the strain of doing three shows took a toll on him. And he finally gave up both the San Francisco shows.
I got reminded of Wilkins some time back when I got a DVD of “Hardware Wars” from Greencine. And it included a short segment of the old “Creature Features” show. After that, I was able to find a web page devoted to Wilkins on the web. (See kids, it ain’t all porn.)
CLICK HERE FOR A PROUSTIAN REMINDER OF DAYS PAST!
You know what rankles me? That with the advent of cable, shows like this don’t exist anymore. Call me an old fart but I miss having my cheesy horror flicks served up with dry wit by a man in a gray suit.