by Jerry Harrell
WAVY YEARS (November 75 to January 82 in various timeslots. Mostly we
were on latenight Saturdays, one a.m. right after a new show that started
three weeks before we did: Saturday Night Live.)
IN THE BEGINNING
there were two characters: Doctor Maximillian Madblood, a mad
scientist from Vienna who had retired and moved to the wilds of Princess
Anne County, Virginia, and his mute lab assistant, named Wally,
(pronounced by the doctor as "Volly.") They lived in
a rundown old manor house that sat perched on the edge of the Pungo
In the first episode,
broadcast on WAVY-TV on November 1, 1975 (and supposed to
be a one-time-only Halloween special), the old doctor was visited
by beloved local magician Earl Edwards, selling beartraps in
a classic vaudeville routine that paid off with Earl's hand in a slamming
Madblood also got
a package he had been expecting, containing a brain purchased with trading
stamps. He was disappointed when he discovered it was the brain of a
nightclub comedian, but vowed to do the best he could with it.
(Mark Young created
BRAIN, using two car sponges, some waterproof glue, red and black
magic markers and an X-acto blade. Twenty two years later, I'm on the
third fright wig, the seventh lab coat, the three hundred and fifty
fifth T-shirt, but its still the same BRAIN. This is in large part thanks
to Craig T., his current "keeper.")
Two weeks after
the Halloween Special aired, the program became a weekly series.
Before the first season ended, "Volly" left (when co-creator
Mark Young became the station weatherman).
For awhile, Madblood
and Brain carried on, and then in the summer of 1976 Count
Lacudra made his first appearance. Lacudra got a girlfriend named
Princess Lygia, and Brain got a girlfriend too, a two-timing
wolf named Freida.
Our first serious
show was not the Madblood Curse (1977), but a first
season effort in which Madblood was visited late one stormy night
by the ghost of The Witch of Pungo, Grace Sherwood
(played by the lady I was married to at the time.)
house was actually a condemned apartment building. It was scheduled
to be torn down, so we photographed it and put it in the middle of the
swamp. A year later we drove past where the house had been sitting,
on the corner of Court and North Streets in Old Towne Portsmouth, and
were stunned to find it STILL THERE, completely renovated. The people
who were renting apartments referred to the place as Madblood's. It
stands there still.)
In Season Two
the Doctor's next door neighbor, a cropduster named Dusty, began
to show up regularly. (Dusty's biplane is named "Lucille,"
after BB King's famous guitar. In Dusty's early incarnation, we made
a lot of sly references to the fact that he NEVER dusted any crops,
but was constantly making delivery trips back from North Carolina. It
was 1977, you figure it out.)
Freida got married, after The Hounds of the Basketcase
tore Frieda to bits, and the doctor could only save her brain.
Another new character was Father Beeribelli, a boxer who fought
under the name Kid Exorcist.
We did our first
movie spoof, Kinga Konga (because we knew somebody who had
a gorilla costume and wanted to see the big monkey atop Scope, using
a primitave version of chroma key).
It was during Season
Two that we got our first permanent set ("The Big Window
Set" had been a background element of Rhonda Glenn's
noon talk show, but we slapped a little paint on it and called it our
own. The lab table had been part of the Bowling For Dollars show
that had been produced years before in WAVY's basement.)
In Season Three
the show exploded with new characters including Elmo Hummer,
Dr Rader, the detective Celery Queen, The Audio Shadow
(which Jim Stanley was already doing on WNOR Radio)
Betsy Von Basketcase, Promisorry Highnote, Wonder
Person, and the very popular Queen Mumenkara.
also discovered his evil self, Dr Doolbdam, in an episode called
The Madblood Curse. We spoofed Close Encounters, and made
one great episode called Endgame.
(I was horrified
when I later re-read a favorite childhood SF novel, only to discover
that part of our plot for Endgame was very similar to Robert
A. Heinlien's in Have Spacesuit Will Travel. Always steal from
the best.) We also did our first show from the legendary March of
Dimes Haunted House. (We carried over the lab table and other set
elements, and for several years set up shop right inside the house,
one of which was really haunted, by the way.)
brought more changes with the addition of new assistant Velma Von
Basketcase and scheming farmer Luther McCoy. We spoofed movies
ranging from Superman (Wonderman) to The Seventh Seal
(A Visit from Mr. D.). The 4th Anniversary Special let the
actors be themselves and introduced the Doctor's car, a 1933 Morgan
MX-3 three wheeler.
(The car belonged
to John Sheally III, a talented photographer and collector of
Morgans. The last time we got to shoot with it was in 1984 for Halloween
Howl. Since then the car has become so valuable, John can't afford
to let it hit the street. But I have fond (?) memories of going over
a hundred miles an hour in that little car, with John at the wheel.
Before it "retired" John drove it across the country and back
for a national magazine article.)
In Season Five,
the cheerful and treacherous Widow Paine appeared and we spoofed
Star Trek The Motion Picture. Same year we introduced Oleo
the Alien and Bill Rhuelmann realized a dream by writing
a script for the show that included Madblood getting hit with
a dozen cream pies. (That's why there have been three wigs.
brought our most elaborate movie spoof ever, The Umpire Strikes Back,
and a new nemesis for Madblood, the Reverend Fernwald.
We did mateial outside with remote video cameras, and our adventures
included footage shot in the Botanical Gardens, in Manteo and
Nags Head, where Brain visited the Wright Bros museum.
(When shooting Umpire, we nearly got thrown out of Seashore
State Park until we identified ourselves as a news crew from
In our Seventh
and final season on WAVY, the show became a half hour program
followed by the movie, and contained several movie spoofs and a multi-part
adventure called The Creature from the Bleech Lagoon. Our final
weekly episode on WAVY aired in January 1982.
IS PUBLIC TELEVISION READY FOR THIS?
The WHRO Years. (1982-1983)
Beginning in the
fall of that 1982, the show moved to WHRO-TV, where it was syndicated
to 17 PBS stations around Virginia as Doctor Madblood's Nightvisions.
It was during this series that the Doctor's time-traveling Uncle
Felonious first appeared. This series also began using a re-fitted
dollhouse as Madblood Manor. (The house was created by Curtis
Eaves, who had earlier built The Creature From the Bleech Lagoon).
The show ran two seasons, and was canceled for lack of public domain
(Things got off
to a rocky start with the public tv folks when we delivered the first
reel of our two hour premiere episode an hour before airtime, and promised
the second reel was "on the way." That show featured our only
attempt to comment on the movie in progress, with subtitles. What a
The Halloween Specials 1984, 1986
the gang got back together and produced Doctor Madblood's Halloween
Howl for WAVY, a holiday special that featured the Hammer
film Brides of Dracula, with the Madblood gang for the first
time integrated into the action of the picture. We spent about six weeks
working on this special, and it showed.
The gang returned
again in 1986 with another Halloween special on WAVY.
This time it was an all night movie festival, featuring The Omen,
Omen II, and The Fury.
Back to Weekly Televison on Fox 33 1989-93, 1995-2002
A return to weekly
television came in 1989 when we began appearing on WTVZ-TV.
New and special to the show was the Doctor's nurse, Patience Dream,
and the bug expert Doctor Roach. In the first season of this
new series, Madblood ventured to Southern California and visited Forry
Ackerman, The Star Trek Adventure and the Universal Tour.
(It was fun to
walk down Hollywood boulevard in full make-up, past Mann's
Chinese Theatre, with somebody videotaping me, and have nobody even
look twice at us. We found out later they bust you in L.A. for that
kind of behavior. But nobody looks twice.)
This third series
of shows lasted three seasons and included visits to Beach Trek
and movie spoofs like Strange Investors. We had what was undoubtably
the best looking set in the history of the show, a wonderful new member
of the cast, new friends behind the scenes, and we collected a whole
new audience of viewers by airing for awhile on Saturday afternoons.
Then in 1995
we celebrated our 20th Anniversary with another holiday special,
again leading to a return to weekly television. On Halloween
the following year, the program moved to a monthly late-night time slot,
and opened this web site. In 2001 we completed our 25th year
with a silver anniversary special that included guest apperances by
Volly (from Vollywood, California) as well as local celebrities Joel
Rubin, Dick Lamb, Kathy Lewis
and all the members of States. We concluded the WTVZ
chapter of the Madblood saga with a restropective final episode, "Thanks
for All The Fish," on August 3, 2002. And now we'll take
to the SKY!
FRIDAY NIGHT FRIGHTS on WSKY-TV4 (2002-present)
August 2002, Craig T. began designing and constructing
a new set and I began working with WSKY-TV4, an independent
station based in Kitty Hawk, NC, to fashion the format for a radically
new Madblood vehicle, to be called “Doctor Madblood Presents
The Friday Night Frights.” This new format would be quite
a change from what had come before. First, and certainly foremost, we
would appear in prime-time for three hours every week, from 8:00 p.m.
to 11:00 p.m. on Friday evenings.
Second, instead of wrapping around a movie, our bits and stories would
be interwoven among television programs. The station had purchased classic
episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the half-hour
series that aired on network television from 1957-66 and Thriller, the
hour-long anthology hosted by Boris Karloff which aired
for two seasons in 1961-62.
These changes presented us with some unique challenges and opportunities.
After seven years of being on in the middle of the night, I was excited
about the prospect of having access to a prime-time audience.
At the same time, the three-hour length of the new program would nearly
double the amount of material required, and with the return to a weekly
format after so many years of doing the show once a month, I wondered
if we were all up to the challenge. I also wondered how Doctor
Madblood was going to host an evening of television programs
that already had very famous hosts.
Craig worked long hours to get the new set ready in time for our launch,
and I began to tweak the format. I brought back a character that had
appeared in the early days of the first series, PJ The Invisible
DJ., as the show’s announcer. I called upon my old friend
Bernie Melton to play this role. Bernie is one of the
most well-known voices in Hampton Roads, who had retired after a long
career at WTKR-TV.
Another important consideration was Madblood Manor
itself. The real house in Portsmouth had passed into the hands of someone
who was willing to let us film the actual building to use on the show,
so we took a camera crew and cast members over to Court Street
one evening and got stills and video of that magnificent mansion. The
stills were sent to Gary Eckstein, our graphics wizard
in Houston, Texas, so he could work his Photoshop magic
on them and place the house out on the middle of the Pungo Swamp.
Once this was done, I moved those images into After-Effects and began
to add camera movement for the establishing shots.
In the final days of August we began production of the premiere
episode. That first show dealt with the doctor’s efforts
to get his Ethermorphic Receiver working, to pull in
the classic Hitchcocks and Thriller. At the same time, familiar characters
such as Brain, Patience, and Dusty
all had subplots to deal with. The ensuing effort to make the receiver
work managed to kill Ernie again, and the new series inspired Dusty
to pursue his own job at the television station as the “SkyGuy,”
delivering traffic reports over Pungo from his antiquated bi-plane.
Trouble was, Dusty could not keep the old girl aloft long enough to
report anything. Brain was determined to cash in on the new show by
opening a gift shop in the basement, and Patience tried to maintain
calm amid the chaos. We were off and running.
Subsequent episodes spoofed the movie Signs and introduced us to Madblood’s
new neighbor Ozzy Ozzboing, (played by a visiting Brit
friend of ours, Geoff Kennedy.) Mike Arlo returned
Count Lacudra and Toulous Latrine
to the fold, and we brought on several alien visitors.
The Halloween special was set in the amazing display that Craig
and Debra had mounted in the Chesapeake Museum.
It was strange and wonderful to stand amid all of the years of memorabilia
they had gathered together and be doing another Halloween show.
This was followed by a field trip to the big Brain Exhibit
taking place at Nauticus in downtown Norfolk.
In February 2003 we took our best shots at Lord of The Rings
and Harry Potter, launching into a continuing story
with the Potter episode that saw Uncle Felonious get
trapped in an evil spell that put him in a pickle. Literally. The spell
was cast by Voldemorph, played by another old friend,
Ron Newman. Max spent the next several episodes trying
to undo this dilemma, enlisting the aid of The Sybil of the
Swamp (Jewell Willis) and traveling to Salem and Beverly, Mass.
to find the answer from another friend, Marco the Magi
of the legendary Le Grand David Magic Company.
Things appeared to settle back to normal, with a visit from Raoul
(Craig T.) and the cloning clowns who were filling the news outlets.
Then the doctor had to set out on a trip to the Superstition
Mountains of Arizona to retrieve a lost monster, when Ernie
(Carter Perry) accidentally slipped through a hole in the space-time
continuum. His trip offered a solution (?) to the mystery of the Lost
Dutchman Gold Mine and gave us the opportunity to run three
Hitchcock episodes set in the old west.
For the spring shows, we revealed that the Pungo handyman Tinker
Grant (Craig again) was actually a vacationing alien living
among us, and Sybil moved into the old Von
Basketcase house next door to open a home shopping channel
for witches. The final episode of the first season of Friday
Night Frights brought a visit from the CSI:
Pungo crime lab investigators to sort out murder most foul. In that
final first season episode, the doctor found his receiver on the fritz
again, and Ernie once again dead. We had come full
circle as we provided a spoof of the movie The Ring.