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Beware! Nightmare Theater Has Returned!


Pop some popcorn and turn out the lights because Nightmare Theater returns Saturday night. Hosted by Baron Mondo Von Doren, the show will showcase a classic horror film every week, along with a bit of a twisted sense of humor.

The good baron is played by the show’s co-creator and writer Mike Ensley, best known these days as the man who founded Pensacon. He says they have been producing the show on and off since 2001. "We put (the show) together with gum and shoe laces and things like that. It was all shot on a Sony Handycam in an abandoned fishing cottage that my wife's family owned. We had a cheap tri-pod and a Handycam, no microphone to speak of, we just used the external mic on the camera and shot our stuff. Our segments. And then (we) edited them in iMovie, the first version of iMovie."

The movies themselves were all in the public domain so there was no cost there. Ensley says some of those public domain films were pretty good. "Night of the Living Dead is in the public domain. I actually talked to George Romero, the director about that and he said 'You show it as much as you want, you can do as much as you want with it. I can't get any money for it but go ahead, it's out there in the world now.' And there are a lot of movies like that. Roger Corman was notorious for not putting a copyright on his films or renewing the copyrights. So a lot of his stuff from the 50s and 60s (has) fallen into public domain."

Where you could see the show has moved around a bit since the beginning. It started on a local cable leased access channel where they bought the time and sold their own ads. Later the show moved to WUWF-TV until 2014 when Ensley started Pensacon and didn’t have time for new episodes. Now, the show has moved again. It will premier Saturday at 10 p.m. on WSRE-TV. "Our first episode for this new season of Nightmare Theater will be 'It Came From Beyond Space,' which is a British horror/sci fi, kind of a riff on 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' about aliens taking over the bodies of people to 'rule the world', and how that goes for them."

Credit WSRE
From left to right: Chip Chism as El Sapo de Tempesto, Mike Ensley as the Baron Mondo Von Doren, and Lemmie Crews as Mittens the Werewolf.

Chip Chism, another co-creator and writer said "The second (episode) will be 'Bucket of Blood' by Roger Corman. It's a Dick Miller movie and it's (about) beatniks gone wild." On the show, Chism plays El Sapo de Tempesto, a crazed, masked wrestler. There’s also Mittens the werewolf, but he was unavailable for comment on this story. 

The new episodes will also include a segment showcasing movie props from the collection of some local restaurateurs. "The Merrill brothers, Bernie Merrill in particular (are big) collectors of movie props, screen used movie props. For instance, he's got a signed call sheet from the movie Lifeboat signed by Alfred Hitchcock. So he just buys props from auctions and private collectors over the years, and he's got a huge collection."

Ensley says a new character called The Curator will bring a prop from the collection each week and they will talk about its history and the making of props and movies in general. The Curator will be played by Julio Diaz, who actually is the curator of the Merrill brothers’ collection. "That's the education portion of the program. It's to show what goes into making movie via the props and some of the other items that we have in the collection. And we will also do a prop display at the kickoff event at WSRE on November 9."

That event will be a live episode of the show featuring a free screening of the classic, some would say classically bad movie "Plan 9 from Outer Space" at the Amos Studio at WSRE. The evening will include that exhibit of movie props and a costume contest. The Baron says that episode will not be on TV, so if you plan to see "Plan 9," plan on being at the Amos Studio on November 9. Nightmare Theater premieres on WSRE Saturday, October 27 at 10 p.m.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.