Rich Koz keeps monster movie legacy alive with ‘Svengoolie’

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Rich Koz’s “Svengoolie” comedy and horror programming block airs Saturday nights. Photo courtesy of MeTV

NEW YORK, Sept. 29 (UPI) — Rich Koz says he is flattered and even a bit overwhelmed at times by the size of the multigenerational fandom dedicated to Svengoolie, the weekly horror and comedy programming block he has hosted for more than four decades.

“It’s something I never would have expected to happen in my life,” Koz told UPI in a phone interview Wednesday. “But it’s really very flattering and very gratifying. The fact that people like what we do all over the country is something that means a lot to me.”

Koz started providing comedy and commentary before, after and between classic horror movies and low-budget cult films on local TV in Chicago in 1979. But Svengoolie‘s audience expanded when it premiered on MeTV across the United States in 2011.

Several Svengoolie Facebook groups invite fans to bond over the show, champion their favorite scary movies and what they’re munching on during Svengoolie.

“It’s become kind of a national event every Saturday,” the 70-year-old entertainer laughed.

“The whole thing with people picking appropriate snacks to match the movie, that’s something I’d never would have thought of — that’s for sure, but it’s great to see the comments coming through [social media], reminds me a lot of times of radio where you’d get more direct feedback from the people listening via the telephone.”

While the program is first and foremost intended to entertain, Koz said it also helps keep alive the spirit of early cinematic treasures from a historical aspect.

“It shows what could be done back then. Some of the special effects from that time period were really groundbreaking and amazing,” he said.

Koz noted the use of shadow in black-and-white movies to create suspense, and the elaborate, practical sets filmmakers built and used before green screen and computer technology, as other reasons to study old movies.

“If you are into horror, you need to know about the basis from which all of these movies came – the whole Universal original movies [library] that started the whole horror trend,” he said, referring to the studio famous for releasing iconic creepy tales about Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and the Mummy.

“Before we started airing these Universal movies, a lot of them hadn’t even aired on free TV in 20 years or so. There’s a whole audience that never really saw them unless they went online or rented them or bought the DVDs. We made them more readily available to people.”

Most of the movies shown on Svengoolie aren’t as graphically gruesome as those released in recent years, meaning family members of all ages can enjoy them together.

“I’ve had people come up to me when we do [public] appearances and say, ‘I used to watch you when I was a kid and now I watch you with my kids.’ And it’s really flattering to me that this is a show that whole families will watch together,” Koz said. “I don’t think there are too many shows like that.”

Svengoolie’s Halloween BOOnanza kicks off with the primetime special, Svengoolie Uncrypted, followed by a screening of the 1975 anthology horror flick, Trilogy of Terror, on Saturday night.

“There’s some stuff in there that is a little more violent and adult situations,” Koz said, explaining there will be a warning about that before it starts so parents can get the kiddies out of the room if they deem it inappropriate.

“That’s one of the reasons I’m there, too, because I am kind of a safety valve. When it gets real tense, you have the scary stuff and then it comes to me and we kind of lighten the whole mood.”

Saturday’s Svengoolie Uncrypted is Koz’s first prime-time special.

“It’s kind of an adventure, along with being somewhat biographical. It’s like a documentary, but there are some similarities to the regular show throughout the whole thing,” he said.

“You’ll learn about my career from the past, but also there is a plot of me going around, trying to collect a couple of artifacts from my career in various places around the Chicago area and we end up at the big Svengoolie Day being held in the suburb we always mention — Berwyn, Ill. It’s very cool.”

Koz teased that there will be a big announcement at the end of the special, but promises it won’t be that he is retiring.

“I’ve always said that as long as my health holds out and as long as I am having a good time doing the show — granted it is work, but it’s also fun — I’ll keep doing it,” he said.

“I became an overnight success after about 43 years, so I can attribute that to MeTV and it’s pretty nice. At this point, I’d be foolish to retire.”

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