was the name of at least three
Saturday night science fiction
programs. Two programs began broadcast in the early 1960s and ended
their runs in the early 1980s. The third still airs on WGBA every
Saturday at midnight in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Chiller Theatre was a
late-night horror and science fiction movie program on WIIC/WPXI, Channel 11,
It aired from 1963 to December 31, 1983. It
was hosted by Bill Cardille
, known to
fans as "Chilly Billy
". It was a
Saturday night tradition for two generations of Pittsburghers. Two
films were shown, one starting at 11:30 p.m. and the second
starting at about 1:00 a.m. In between films, and at random times
during the films, breaks were taken for skits such as reports from
the "PSS"; in these skits, Bill Cardille would go into another part
of the WIIC studios and pretend he was broadcasting from the
(nonexistent) Pittsburgh Subway System. Other characters (portrayed
by Cardille) included Captain Bad, Maurice the Matchmaker, and Mr.
Magnificent. Cardille and WIIC publicist Robert Willis wrote the
skits and sometimes Channel 11 staffers were enlisted to play bit
parts. At the end of the show, Cardille would sit on a stool and
banter with the studio crew.
Chiller Theatre was so popular in Pittsburgh that it kept Saturday Night Live
off of its NBC
affiliate WIIC in Pittsburgh for four years. Finally
giving in to pressure from NBC, Chiller Theater was forced to
follow SNL at 1:00 a.m. where it was reduced to a single feature
The show was remembered for several unique features, one being its
theme song, "Experiment In Terror" performed by Al Caiola
, written by Henry Mancini
. The original set was meant to
be a laboratory. It was changed to a castle motif when a cast of
supporting characters was added in later years. That cast included
Terminal Stare (Donna Rae), Georgette the Fudgemaker (Bonnie
Barney), Norman (Norman Elder), and Stefan the Castle Prankster
(Steve Luncinski). During breaks in the movie, Cardille would
perform several sketches, like reciting horoscopes, trivia, and
telling a series of corny jokes to a giggling skull.
However, Chiller Theatre's successful run ended at the end of 1983.
Precipitating its demise was a decision by WPXI management to air
the hour-long weekend edition of Entertainment Tonight
after Saturday Night Live, pushing Chiller Theatre's start time to
2:00 a.m. -- too late for even the most devoted fans to fight off
sleep. The show ended December 31, 1983.
Chiller Theater was replaced by a new program called "The Saturday
Late Show", which still featured the horror and sci-fi movies, but
without the local element that made Chiller Theater what it was.
The show was canceled less than a year later.
Despite the cancellation of Chiller Theater, Cardille did not
disappear from WPXI-TV. He continued his duties as chief booth
announcer and did the weather reports during the noon newscasts for
many years until his retirement. Since then, Cardille has returned
to his radio roots.
Cardille, Rae, and Luncinski continued to make annual Halloween
appearances though 2005, including an annual Chiller Cruise on the
Gateway Clipper. Luncinski has been on Cardille's daily radio show
on Pittsburgh's WJAS
at various times over the
years plus was a regular every year on the local part of the Jerry
Lewis Annual Telethon broadcast from Monroeville Mall. He also had
his own auto repair business in Pittsburgh, Pinnacle Auto Repair.
He died on Jan 8th, 2009. Rae lives in the Pittsburgh area and
still does some acting. Barney married a golf pro and moved to
Florida. Elder, who was an independent filmmaker from
Ohio, died several years ago.
The show continues to be popular thanks in part to Bill Cardille's
official website Chiller Theater Memories.
Chiller Theatre was also a Saturday
night show on Channel 11 WPIX in New York City that showed classic horror movies.
Theater" actually began on WPIX during 1961 and in 1963 included
("The Cool Ghoul") as the
on-air host. However, by 1965, Zacherley left the show and a new
opening was created using a montage of clips from various 1950s
sci-fi films. This montage of clips started with the classic scene
from Plan 9 from Outer
of the woods. Then, the clip from The
, showing Actress Gloria
just inside a cave looking at the Cyclops. Various other
clips continued throughout the montage, concluding with the classic
"goof" from The Attack
of the 50ft Woman
, with the giant alien from outer space,
picking up one brand of car and then shown throwing a completely
different brand of car into a ditch. The entire montage was
permeated by a frightening library music track ("Horror Upon
Horror" by veteran British composer, Wilfred Josephs
). Many "Baby Boomers" from
this era growing up in the Tri-State Area, have said that this
opening provided many nightmares and sleepless nights, forcing some
to change the channel when this opening began.
The montage opening served until the late 1960s when another
introduction was produced, featuring the word "Chiller" rendered in
white paint on a black board, then lifted up, the gooey white paint
slowly running down the board like blood while creepy chamber music
played in the background. The bumper to this version simply showed
the painted "Chiller" as a title card. To get an idea of what this
might have looked like, one can view the logo The Chiller Theatre
Convention created for its shows that are shown bi-annually in New
Jersey. It is not known if this opening was the original dating
from the show's inception or if it was created out of necessity; it
has been suggested that the montage opening was dropped in favor of
this version since by the late 1960s film studios began to charge
television stations royalties for film clips. For some reason, few
fans of the show recall this opening, and it is hoped someone can
provide more description here.
By 1971, the painted title card sequence was gone and replaced by
the popular claymation six-fingered hand introduction. This is the
famous intro that most viewers remember: A solitary swamp sporting
a pool of blood in the foreground, a dead tree in the background,
and suddenly a six-fingered humanoid hand rises from the froth
while it moans, "Hoo ..." As the hand rises, the word "Chiller"
simultaneously grows from the mud as if weeds and the hand passes
over each growing letter approvingly, then snatches them one by one
before returning to the swamp, groaning "Chillllller ..." deeply in
a very creepy voice, all while a reverb-heavy electronic track
plays, presumably created with synthesizers. The combination of the
surreal imagery and early electronica was unusual enough to cause a
fright greater than the movies WPiX chose to air. This opening was
used throughout the remainder of the show's run. This was an
equally memorable opening as the mid-1960s montage among various
"Chiller Theatre" fans. The creators of this introduction remain
anonymous and it is hoped more information on the creation of this
animation is forthcoming.
The program usually aired at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday nights, but for
a time in 1974 it was aired at 11:30 p.m. It went off the air at
the end of 1978 and returned in early 1980 at 2:00 a.m. Sunday
mornings. It was finally cancelled in 1982. The WPiX program showed
very much the same classic horror and science fiction movies as the
Pittsburgh station did.
After a 26 year absence on WPiX, "Chiller Theatre" returned on
Saturday, October 25th, 2008 at 8pm for one night, with Tarantula
as the movie of choice. The fans
and new converts greatly anticipate a groundswell of support for
more revivals of this show, if not a permanent place on WPiX's
Saturday night roster.
On August 13, 2009, WPiX officially announced a return of the
annual Halloween special. It was revealed in October that "Chiller
Theatre" would air the Hammer chestnut "The Evil of Frankenstein"
with Elvira, Mistress of the
as hostess, replacing Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul. The fan
response was positive, and WPiX allowed Elvira more airtime to
deliver her trademark one-liners with varying degrees of taste.
Despite the criticism, the show appeared to do well enough against
the World Series that night, and WPiX for the first time has begun
marketing "Chiller Theatre" memorabilia at its website.
Jersey has been the host of the Chiller Theater Convention, which
has become one of the largest horror
conventions in the eastern United States.
aired on various local television
stations in the Green Bay market from 1984 until early 2009.
aired Saturday nights on WGBA - Channel
26 in Green Bay, Wisconsin following Saturday Night Live, and then Saturdays
on WACY 32 at
The show is hosted by Ned the Dead and his sidekick
Doc Moreau. The program features classic horror movies and other
cult films. On March 28, 2009, The Ned
the Dead Show
premièred with a new format and new movies.
However, the show still takes place at the Chiller Theater. New
cast members have joined Ned the Dead and Doc Moreau, including
Vicki Vixen, and Small Town Steve. The Ned the Dead show also
features independent films and videos in a segment called
Chiller Theatre was used as the title, title track and inspiration
for 2001 album of musician John
. Inspiration was derived from his childhood love of
monsters and horror movies and the show itself, which was broadcast
in his general area. The song contains lyrics which pertains to
many vintage monster films and utilizes certain sound effects from
them that plays along with the music to give an interactive