KEMO-TV 20, San Francisco
8:30 pm, Saturday
1968 (?) - 1971
Asmodeus, played by Frank Sheridan on Shock-It-To-Me Theater, preceded Bob Wilkins as a Bay Area horror host by a couple of years. The show was not part of the schedule at KEMO-TV's launch in 1968. The earliest listing I have is the the July 19, 1969 airing of WHAT!, aka Mario Bava's THE WHIP AND THE BODY seen at left. I recall seeing Asmodeus for the first time in 1969.
"Shock-it-to-me" was a play on "Sock it to me," a catchphrase used - sometimes as a setup, sometimes as a punchline - on NBC's manic blackout comedy series, Laugh-In.
Asmodeus was not manic. He wore a tux or smoking jacket and sunglasses. He also smoked cigarettes, if memory serves. The overall image was sort of an overdressed beatnik Satanist. I thought he was terrifically funny at the time, and while I can't remember any of his bits, the lingering impression I have is that his humor was more viciously sarcastic than Bob Wilkins. But it's been a very long time, and I might be remembering it all wrong.
In the early 80s, an acquaintance of mine told me that his mother had dated "the guy who was Asmodeus" for a time while the show was on, but they'd long since broken up, and I never got to meet him - I didn't even know his name until finding E-gor's Chamber of TV Horror Hosts.
The film package included the Universal classics, because I remember seeing THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE INVISIBLE MAN, and the Lugosi DRACULA on the show. He also showed more obscure stuff, including European horror films.
E-gor's Chamber of TV Horror Hosts has a few entries about Asmodeus. Their correspondants recall the show being named Double-Headed Theater, which I don't remember at all, but which may have been the case when they began showing double features.
I had originally wondered here whether or not Asmodeus was the Bay Area's first horror host, a mystery partially solved, but also confused when Doktor Goulfinger pointed me to the E-gor's entry for KRON-TV's Terrence. Informants there identify Russ Coghlin as Terrence, but also say he only announced the show, and never actually appeared on camera. I've since matched Terrence up with the listing for Nightmare in the 1957 local TV Guide recently added to the site.
Doktor Goulfinger has some vivid memories of seeing Asmodeus for the first time:
The evening after UHF changed our lives, [See KEMO-TV main page] my mom wanted to settle down with some TV and we begged to let us check Ch 20. As it happened, Shock-It-To-Me Theater was just coming on, or immediately followed the progarm we had initially tuned into. I was mesmerized. Asmodeus was the first TV horror movie host I ever saw, and as it turned out, proved to be a significant inspiration.
I'm pretty sure the film film we saw on Shock It To Me was BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES. I also remember EYES WITHOUT A FACE, THE BRAIN EATERS, ZOMBIES OF MARA TAU and (especially) CARNIVAL OF SOULS. This is all purely from memory, but it seems to me the Universal movie package came a bit later, and that really turned me into a life-long horror movie fan.
Because of the movies I saw on Shock-It-To-Me, I picked up Carlos Claren's Illustrated History of the Horror Film from the public library. This was the first thing I'd ever read that treated a genre both in critically and in historic terms. This led me to a larger study of film in all genres, film criticism and biographical research.
And that was all because of Asmodeus.
When I decided to have some fun doing my own hosted horror show, the first thing I did was grow my beard again (it had been some years) because that's how Asmodeus looked. Last November, I was involved with the Godzilla Fest at the Castro theater, and two people, seperately and unrelated, said I looked liked Asmodeus.
In my book, that's as good as things get.
More Shock-It-To-Me Theatre...
THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE INVISIBLE MAN, the Lugosi DRACULA and it's sequel DRACULA'S DAUGHTER are all available from Universal in their respective Legacy Collection multi-movie box sets. THE HORROR CHAMBER OF DR. FAUSTUS is the American release title of the Georges Franju's EYES WITHOUT A FACE. This hauntingly beautiful horror film - a personal favorite - is available from The Criterion Collection, as is Herk Harvey's equally spooky CARNIVAL OF SOULS. WHAT! is the cut American version of Mario Bava's gothic S&M romance THE WHIP AND THE BODY, available uncut from VCI.