by Jerry Harrell

THE 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 Swamp.

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 trap.

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.)

(The original 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.)

Brain and 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.

Madblood 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.)

Season Four 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. Thanks Bill.)

Season Six 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 channel three.)

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.

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 movie titles.

(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 disaster.)

The Halloween Specials 1984, 1986

In 1984, 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!



In 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.