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Here on the Lost Coast of California I'm fortunate enough to have two fine specialty movie houses for my entertainment. The most established is the Arcata Theater Lounge in Arcata, one town north of my crypt in Eureka. It shows second run and special films along with concerts and other events; one of its most popular attractions is the weekly “Sci-Fi Night”, which shows low-budget Horror and SF films (with the occasional classic).

In Eureka itself is the Eureka Theater, a wonderful old structure from the glory days of the movie houses. There has been a community project in place for the past several years to restore the theater to its former glory, and although the final completion date is far in the future (depending on the inflow of funds being raised) it is in full use now as a specialty house, showing all manner of movies for special monthly events. Two years ago I had the pleasure to see JAWS again on its enormous screen for its summer schedule, and among the many films shown since are included GOLDFINGER, A HARD DAYS NIGHT, VIVA LAS VEGA, WHITE CHRISTMAS, GREASE (the sing-along version), GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ and many others.

(With the passing of Leonard Nimoy in February, the Theater hosted a “Spock Day” memorial event, with a double feature of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN and the J. J. Abrams STAR TREK feature, along with episodes from the original series that featured Spock. Audience members were encouraged to dress for the showing, and there were a number of Klingons, Vulcans and Starfleet officers in attendance.)

 


The evening's main event.
Getting ready for the evening's festivities .

 

But one of the most successful uses of the Theater has come from a revival of a 1970s – 80s HorrorHosted TV series named HORROR THEATER . Produced and broadcast locally on Saturday evenings at 11:00 pm on Channel 23 in the Eureka area, the series featured low-budget Horror films presented by a mysterious personality known as “The Great Razooly” , a top-hatted, formally dressed gentleman who, as with other HorrorHost past and current, would introduce the films and create comic segments between commercial breaks.

The Great Razooly was actually a local actor/artist named Tom Razooly; I quote from a web article written about him last May by Mark Otnes of the webblog “The Joe Report”:

 


A publicity photo of The Great Razooly from his 1970s incarnation...

(Photo courtesy of The Great Razooly Facebook Page)

...and the ageless impressario with his Beautfiul Assistant at the presentation of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL.

 

“During the 1970s-'80s, a multi-talented, self-reliant and creative young actor named Tom Razooly was making an unusual (yet eminently enjoyable) living in northern California portraying a mysterious, top-hatted host of a schlocky late-night television program called, “Horror Theatre.” Tom's character, dubbed “The Great Razooly,” was a sort of macabre master-of-ceremonies who would ominously introduce each B-movie, provide sarcastic segue patter leading into and out of commercial breaks, and act in a variety of short comedic sketches produced on the cheapest of budgets.

Horror Theatre was a ratings success, and Razooly's natural flair for dramatic and creative performing helped revive TV's on-air hosting tradition…

…After his tenure on television, Razooly reinvented himself as the founder and operator of an adult-oriented business on the outskirts of Eureka, CA known as the Tip Top Club. As the years went by, Tom became a well-known (although somewhat controversial) figure among the local citizenry of Eureka, which encouraged him to run for Mayor (at least two times, both unsuccessfully).

Eventually, Tom sold the Tip Top and retired from business altogether. Now, years later, he is reinventing himself once again, focusing on the more laid-back pursuits of art, travel, costumed ‘cosplay,'…”

 

(This article just scratches the surface of this amazing individual nd his fascinating life. He is indeed a very talented artist, and even contributed a rather famous mask to the classic Don Post line. The mask, named “Razooly” after its creator, was featured on HORROR THEATER as well as an episode of the television series KNIGHT RIDER . Mr. Razooly himself supplies an interesting footnote to this character:

“On the Horror Theater set, the role of ‘The Gargoyle' was reluctantly played by Razooly's 11 year old daughter, Tonde Razooly. Tonde was paid for her acting role in pizza.” )

 

The infamous "Razooly" mask and the offical Don Post listing.

(Photo courtesy of The Great Razooly Facebook Page)

 

The Great Razooly is an iconic presence on the Lost Coast, remembered and beloved by many, and when he began performing again for special film screenings, the public reacted with enthusiasm and excitement. His first screening was last October Season, presenting the legendary film EQUINOX at the Theater along with his live spook show. (And how disappointed I was that I was away that weekend at my own performance and missed it!)

But I was delighted to be able to attend his latest presentation: on Friday, April 10, the Great Razooly (accompanied by his beautiful assistant named, naturally enough, Beautiful Assistant) returned to the Eureka Theater to host a showing of the classic William Castle film, the original HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL from 1959, starring Vincent Price, Richard Long, Elisha Cook Jr. and Carol Ohmart. I'd received notices about the event from several of my human companions and was looking forward to it immensely.

 


The Great Razooly and his Beautiful Assistant at the viewing of the cult classic EQUINOX in October.

 

When I arrived at the Theater, I was quite surprised to see the sidewalks empty; I thought there'd be a much bigger crowd outside. As it happened, and the crowd was already inside, seated in the theater buzzing with anticipation or wandering the lobby in conversation or gathering their popcorn and snacks at the Refreshment Counter. I was welcomed warmly by those in charge, and I was delighted to see how many had turned out for this special night.

On a table in the lobby were some memorabilia that the Great Razooly was planning to give out as prizes to the audience. Among them were copies of William Castle's wonderful biography “Step Right Up! I'm Going To Scare The Pants Off You!” , and a framed copy of the original poster designed for the event. I posed for a few pictures then sat with a friend in the rear of the Theater (because of the size of the screen there are no bad seats!) and waited for the show to start.

It got underway wonderfully, with several trailers from the original theatrical run of the film, along with a new one created just for the event, which was a parody of a local realtor's ads promoting houses for sale in the area (“Looking for a good sized family unit with a unique history? Have we got a house for you!”) Then, to the strains of Bach's “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” , the Great Razooly appeared, resplendent in tuxedo, velvet cape and top hat. He introduced the movie along with Beautiful Assistant, gave some background about Mr. Castle and the film, and then we were off with a flash of the projector.

 


Yours Truly with my human companion Robert, one of the Eureka Theater volunteers.

The special poster designed by Jeff Jackson and Cat Fredriks for the night's event!

 

The movie itself was splendid, an old-fashioned classic ghost story with some contemporary twists thanks to Mr. Castle's directing and Robb White's script. There were some genuine scares along with the fun, with a refreshing lack of graphic violence. Everybody was having a terrific time, when something truly special occurred.

Let me give a little background for those who may not be aware. William Castle was a very theatrical person; in addition to his filmmaking he directed several stage productions, many of them thrillers, and enjoyed bringing the jumps and scares right out into the audience. (When he was much younger and starting on his career he was also a stage manager and assistant to Bela Lugosi during a tour of the play “Dracula” .) He was very much a showman as much as a filmmaker, and most of his movies had an extra bit of salesmanship to make the experience more enjoyable. (The Joe Dante film MATINEE is based on Mr. Castle's lifestyle and is a tribute to him.)

In his first independent film MACABRE he handed out life insurance policies from Lloyds of London for $1000 in case anyone died of fright during the movie. (He also had a nurse in the lobby taking people's blood pressure.) For one of his most famous films THE TINGLER , he arranged for theaters across the country to install shock devices under all the seats, so that, during the movie when the Tingler has entered a movie theater and is supposed to be among them, the audience would actually feel small shocks! (All the while Vincent Price would be speaking from the film: “The Tingler has broken loose and is in this movie theater! The only thing that can stop him is to scream! So scream! SCREAM FOR YOUR VERY LIVES! ” And the audience was happy to oblige.)

 

Preparing the "Emergo" effect for the evening's show.

 

All his gimmicks became legendary, from the “Ghost Viewer Glasses” for 13 GHOSTS to the “Fright Break” for HOMICIDAL to the “Punishment Poll” for MR. SARDONICUS . And for HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL he had a gimmick too; named “Emergo” , there was a moment in the film where a skeleton appears on screen rising from a vat of acid, and at that same time, a plastic life-sized skeleton would emerge from a box beside the movie screen and float on a wire out over the heads of the audience. When, during the movie, the skeleton is pulled back into the hands of its operator, the skeleton would float again over the crowd back to the screen and disappear inside the box.

The Eureka Theater arranged for the same stunt, and at the climactic scene the skeleton floated slowly over our heads up to the balcony. Then right on time it returned to the screen, and we all clapped and cheered both times with all our might! It was delightful, and to the credit of all the creative personnel at the Theater. Well done, my Friends, very well done indeed!

 


The skeleton makes its appearance right on schedule!

 

When it was over the Great Razooly emerged again, and he and the Beautiful Assistant handed out the raffle prizes based upon the numbers on everyone's ticket. And though I coveted the full-sized HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL poster for my crypt, all the prizes went to my well-deserving human friends. All were overjoyed, and the evening was a tremendous success.

I stayed afterwards to introduce myself to the Great Razooly (a truly gracious gentleman!). Among the audience were several families, including a group of children who stared in wonder at my presence, not believing their eyes. They were a delight as well, and I enjoyed meeting them and adding them to my list of companions.

T
he final treat was a last souvenir handed out to all attendees: a certificate, stating that we survived the showing of HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL . Mine sits proudly on a shelf in my crypt. (Although some of my more comical human associates wondered if it was indeed accurate that I did survive! Very funny, all of you…)

 

My official certificate attesting to my survival status, signed by the Great Razooly himself.

 

My thanks to everyone at the Eureka Theater, all their creative staff of volunteers, for putting together such a splendid evening. I especially want to thank the Great Razooly and his Beautiful Assistant for their performances and graciousness.

In talking to the Beautiful Assistant afterwards, I learned that a Halloween screening of THE TINGLER is planned next, complete with seat buzzers! I'm greatly looking forward to that as well! To all my friends, human or otherwise, planning to attend, you'll want to choose your seats carefully. And remember to scream!

 

NOTE: I received the following information from Robert Hindman regarding the photos above and the presentation of the evening's events:

"...Just for point of clarification the photos from the page on the Horror Theater Page,
The Humboldt Horror Hosts Page and on The Eureka Theater Facebook were taken by
Cat Fredriks. All of the production work on the event was done by Cat Fredriks
and myself. The Emergo mechanism was built by Steve and Michael at the theater
and controlled by myself...Cat ran the green spot on Emergo as well. "

Thank you all so very much!

 


© 2015 Patient Creatures Ltd.