No. of seasons 1
Original network CHCH-TV
Number of seasons 1
Country of origin Canada
First episode date 1971
Number of episodes 130
|Created by Ted Barris, Ross Perigoe|
Starring Billy Van Fishka Rais Guy Big Mitch Markowitz Vincent Price Julius Sumner Miller
Theme music composer Harry Breuer, Gary Carol and Pat Prilly
Opening theme "March of the Martians"
Cast Vincent Price, Billy Van, Mitch Markowitz, Julius Sumner Miller, Guy Big
Similar Rocket Robin Hood, Caitlin's Way, Frankenstein Jr and The Impossibles, Aaron Stone, You Can't Do That on Television
The Hilarious House of Frightenstein is a Canadian children's television series, which was produced by Hamilton, Ontario's independent station CHCH-TV in 1971. It was syndicated both in Canada and internationally, and occasionally still appears in some television markets. In Canada, the series has not aired for several years.
- Theme song
- Minor or interstitial characters
- DVD releases
- Memorable quotes
A quirky sketch comedy series that included some educational content amid its zany humour, the show's cast included Billy Van, Fishka Rais, Guy Big, Mitch Markowitz, Vincent Price, and Julius Sumner Miller. Van played most of the characters on the show.
All 130 episodes were made in a nine-month span starting in 1971; the scenes with Price and Miller were all filmed within one summer.
The production started with Riff Markowitz envisioning the concept and then inviting a room full of creative friends to a spaghetti and champagne 'brainstorming' dinner party in his double suite at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto. Markowitz directed the brainstorming session while his assistant Roger John Greco made notes of everything said.
CHCH had broadcast two other Markowitz shows: The Randy Dandy Show for children, starring Rafael Markowitz as Randy Dandy; and The Ed Allen Show, an exercise program. CHCH approved the production of Frightenstein to take advantage of the station's new ability to reach into the Toronto market for advertising money.
Randy Dandy's soda pop venture was later taken up by the Count when he promoted Dracola from the castle to raise money for his Brucie project.
Sid Biby led the station at this time. The Hilarious House of Frightenstein was one of the most ambitious shows attempted by Canadian producers during this era.
Markowitz later began production of an animated cartoon version of the show with animator Al Guest that never got to air.
Horror icon Vincent Price starred in introductions for the show's various segments. Price, who was attracted to the project because he wanted to do something for kids, filmed all of his nearly 400 segments in four days for a fee of $13,000.
On Canadian television stations, the show generally aired as a children's show in an after-school or weekend morning time slot. In the United States, however, many stations aired it in a late night slot aimed primarily at college students. In an interview with film critic Richard Crouse on CFRB in the 2010s, Markowitz's brother Mitch Markowitz — also an associate producer and bit-part performer on the show — acknowledged that while he and his brother always recognized the show had kid appeal because of the zany monster characters and lowbrow humour, it was always intended to also appeal to a young adult audience of alternative comedy fans. In some American markets, the show drew higher ratings than The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson among that demographic.
The opening and closing credits were accompanied by a musical composition played entirely on a Moog synthesizer and written by Harry Breuer, Gary Carol, Jean Jacques Perrey and Pat Prilly. Its title is "March of the Martians". The original recording can be found on an out-of-print Pickwick vinyl album called The Happy Moog.
Although each episode was nominally structured around the basic narrative premise of Count Frightenstein's efforts to revive Brucie J. Monster, a Frankenstein-like monster, only some sketches (including the first sketch of each episode) directly addressed the premise itself, while most sketches depicted unrelated goings-on around the castle. Only the two main characters appeared in the "plot" sketches, although they could also appear in other sketches as well, while the supplementary characters generally only appeared in their own standalone sketches and were not part of the core "plot" sketches.
Supporting characters were played by Billy Van, except where specified.
Puppet characters were performed by puppeteer Joe Torbay.
Minor or interstitial characters
On October 18, 2005, Empire pictures released a single DVD featuring a handful of half-hour US-syndicated episodes. The most significant change for these episodes as broadcast (apart from the length) was the addition of a laugh track.
On October 17, 2006, Alliance Atlantis Home Video in Canada released a three-disc box set of 13 full-length episodes, with restored Wolfman segments. The shows are not in chronological order, as only episodes that had thus far obtained music clearances for the Wolfman dance segments were included. The Wolfman theme, Sly & the Family Stone's "I Want to Take You Higher," had not yet been cleared, so the opening was altered with new music by the Tijuana Bibles from Toronto, and Van's voice was redubbed by another Toronto voice actor, as Van himself had died in 2003. For recent airings in Canada on the cable networks Drive-In Classics and Space, the main Frightenstein theme is also a re-recording, because of licensing restrictions by Morning Music, Ltd.
Critical Mass Releasing Inc. of Toronto released the series in 2006 for broadcast on CHUM Television stations.
A second set of nine episodes was released by Critical Mass in late 2008.
The Hilarious House of Frightenstein was referenced in the first episode of the Ed the Sock program This Movie Sucks!, which is another program produced and broadcast by CHCH. In the episode the hosts refer to them being in a studio that has produced many classic television shows, and Ed comments that they have the coffee maker from The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, along with the original coffee.
Comedian Mike Myers acknowledged the show as an important formative influence on his comedy in his 2016 book Mike Myers' Canada.