If you were a child of the 70s, with a hankering for horror creatures and comedy sketches (and lucky enough to live in just the right part of the country), there was a special treat for you on syndicated television – The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. Created by and starring Billy Van, this Canadian-produced, low-budget horror spoof offered 60-minute episodes that were equal parts Gothic horror, comedic hi jinks, and even a little education programming.
Each episode began with an introduction voiced by none other than horror movie icon, Vincent Price. From there, Billy Van provided the opening sketch as Count Frightenstein, a green-tinted vampire who resided at Castle Frightenstein alongside his also-green accomplice, Igor. The pair yearned to return to their home in Transylvania. To do so, they had to bring their monster to life, the bolt-necked creature known as Brucie J. Monster. Unfortunately, no matter what scheme they concocted to get the monster moving, Brucie wouldn’t budge.
That was only one of the recurring gags on the show. There was also The Librarian who recited a story each week that she was sure would chill viewers to the bones. Unfortunately, the silliness of the stories always outweighed the scariness. The librarian’s sinister voice did little to raise the fright factor of nursery rhymes such as “Humpty Dumpty” no matter how hard the Librarian tried.
Offering some musical entertainment, courtesy of EECH radio, was an overly hairy disc jockey named (you guessed it) The Wolfman. Spinning rock numbers from the 60s and 70s, with cohort Igor looking on, the character was a perfect parody of iconic DJ Wolfman Jack.
Creepy culinary lessons were provided on each show, courtesy of Grizelda, The Ghastly Gourmet. If you happened to have some buzzard beaks or other gruesome ingredients handy, she could teach you how to concoct some might tasty treats. When she wasn’t teaching cooking skills, she was offering etiquette tips alongside a puppet named Harvey Wallbanger, the resident postmaster of Castle Frightenstein.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg for The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. A pratfalling gorilla, The Singing Soldier, a pair of psychics named The Oracle and The Maharishi, puppets Gronk and Superhippy and other assorted characters all lent their comic stylings to the show that had more than a hint of psychedelic 60s charm.
On the educational side, things were no less bizarre. The Professor, a mad scientist, offered physics lessons, complete with wacky experiments to prove them. Issues with poor grammar were handled not-so-indiscreetly by Grammar Slammer and his formidable assistant, Grammar Slammer Bammer. The pair would conduct a “grammar raid” each time Igor got a little messy with his verbiage. While the off-screen voice of the former patiently corrected Igor, the latter had to be regularly restrained from taking a more violent teaching approach. And finally, Dr Pet Vet made regular appearances, introducing kids to a variety of live animals that he brought into the studio. Each would win the heart of Igor, who wanted to keep them all. His “other pet” the sinister and unseen three-toed sloth would get jealous though and thwart Igor’s plans.
The Hilarious House of Frightenstein was a non-stop onslaught of comic sketches, witty scene transitions ala Laugh-In, and just enough traditional horror to delight any monster fan. It was quirky, bizarre and a heck of a lot of fun. The only problem was, unless you lived near Ontario, Canada, or Northeastern states like New York, you likely never got the chance to witness this one-of-a-kind tour de force in ghoulish kiddie programming. If you want to see what you missed, you will be happy to know that many of the episodes (at least the ones that were able to obtain the necessary musical licensing) are now available on DVD.
If you remember The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, we do hope you’ll take a moment to share your memories in our comments section.