A WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE
In 1970/71 Mitch was involved in
conceiving and then acting in the capacity of associate producer/head
writer on the iconic, Hilarious
House of Frightenstein.
This wildly successful
children's television program was produced in Hamilton,
Ontario's independently owned and operated CHCH studios. The Markowitz
team announced their coup in signing internationally famous horror
legend, Vincent Price as the
program's host/segment interlocutor making headlines in
the media and guaranteeing the shows sale to Channel 11 and future
syndication. Mr. Price was, and still
is known internationally as one of, if not the most
famous movie stars in the world associated with the horror genre.
This multi faceted program included key segments with
educational values featuring another internationally famous
personality/educator, Professor Julius Sumner Miller and
Grammar Slammer a 'super-sized' well educated puppets.
Animal related segments featuring videos of wild
animals hosted by B'wana Clyde Batty, story time with the very
scary Librarian, rock & roll DJ The Wolfman, an
introduction to various potential house pets by Dr. Pet Vet with
insights into astrology by The Oracle were also very popular
segments on the daily hour long program as well as various other puppets
characters, cameo appearances and of course the 'stars' of the show,
Count Frightenstein, his oversized assistant Igor (both painted green)
and their Frankenstein like, monster Brucie who albeit they
tried on a daily basis utilizing all types of potions, electrical
equipment, pep talks etc etc never did come to life. One of the
program's most popular characters was Grizelda The Witch with her
smoking oversized cauldron, vast array of weird and disgusting
ingredients and hanging utensils which she inevitably banged
her head on every day. Grizelda was an 'homage' to Julia Child
and a precursor to today's endless array of cooking/food shows
prepared a horrible meal daily finishing the segment by doing a taste
test. Mitch co- produced 130 hour long episodes
of The Hilarious House of Frightenstein in record
time by shooting multiple segments of each individual
character's 'piece of the pie' and then editing the
show(s) together in 'post production' once all of the material
had been taped.
This program incorporated many
state of the art production values maximizing the use of chroma-key, today
referred to as green screen or CGI (computer generated information).
Mitch also appeared a
number of times in each episode in a 'cameo' as a
character called, Super Hippy dressed in a Superman costume
sporting a long blonde afro wig. Super Hippy
appeared through the miracle of modern technology (CGI)
flying in the sky, sitting on hydro lines or on
the rooftop of neighbouring hi-rise buildings
reciting one liner profundities.
Due to his 'slight' stature at
the time, this (skinny Superman) image alone created an instant
'sight gag' in addition to the comedic audio
Frightenstein endured the
'test of time' running in syndication on various television stations
across Canada and the United States from 1971 through
2011. The Hilarious House of Frightenstein has the honour
of being the longest running kids' TV show in Canadian history.
The program was further
immortalized with Canadian indie rock band, The Sadies
including a tribute to Frightenstein's, The Wolfman
video component on their latest album and at least
one other rock band in western Canada calling themselves,
Frightenstein also inspired the
likes of Hollywood superstar and Canada's 2003 Walk of fame inductee
Mike Myers who incorporated Maxi Me & Mini me into his Austin Powers
blockbuster films crediting The Hilarious House of Frightenstein's Count
Frightenstein and the Mini Count. Myers grew up watching
religiously every day after school. As did
Canada's contemporary acerbic television puppet /
long time TV host, Ed the Sock and children's
entertainer Academy Award winner, Sir Jerry (Levitan)
of, I Met The Walrus best selling hardcover book and an animated short
film of the same name.
I met The Walrus detailed Jerry meeting and interviewing John
Lennon and Yoko Ono when he was fourteen years old.
I met The Walrus detailed Jerry meeting and interviewing John Lennon and Yoko Ono when he was fourteen years old.
Sir Jerry a long time fan of The
Hilarious House Of Frightenstein also incorporated a 'super sized'
sidekick accompanied by a mini associate crediting his fond
memories of Frightenstein as the inspiration .
Production of the show lasted approximately 9 to 12 months. It was shot completely out of sequence, and all segments were shot together. So, Billy spent a few weeks as Grizelda, a few weeks as the Librarian, even a few days as the ape getting hit in the head with tennis balls. The tennis balls in these segments were thrown by Mitch's younger brother Cary. This explains why there are no running themes throughout any of the episodes. The shows were then assembled from the bits and pieces and all follow the same basic pattern of sketches. Vincent Price’s involvement was the same as everybody else — a few intense days recording mountains of material. "Vincent Price will always be my favourite, as a result of this show. We shot about four hundred bits with him over a four day session. He accepted the gig because he loved kids and saw the innovation in this vehicle". He allegedly worked for around $13,000 in total when that was commonly his daily appearance rate. He would read the script to himself, put his head down for a few seconds and do a single take read on-camera. Next! At one point the crew was exausted by his pace and he suddenly disappeared. Everyone thought he MUST have gone to collapse somewhere. He had hailed a cab, gone to the local beer store and brought a couple of two-fours into the station. We all sat cross-legged in the studio and listened to his stories of Hollywood and Cecil B. DeMille. The next break we took, he had his picture taken with each crew member in the make-up room. One of the guys blew them up to 8x10’s that night and he wrote a personal note to each of us on it.
To this day 42 years after the first episode
aired locally the program has an ongoing tribute page on the
internet, Frightenstein conventions held by long time
fans where most of them attend in costume mimicking their favourite
Frightenstein characters, Frightenstein promo material available
for sale on line with complete shows readily available on
DVD as well as a huge fan club lovingly referred to
as, 'The Hilarious House of Frightenstein Fiend club'.
With Vincent Price (the
host/segment interlocutor), Professor Julius Sumner Miller (the
Professor), Fishka Rais (Igor), Guy Big
( Mini Count), Joseph Torbay (puppeteer) and Billy
Van (Count Frightenstein & all the other characters on the
show not previously mentioned) having passed on, Mitch Markowitz is
the last remaining cast member of The Hilarious House of
Frightenstein, sometimes referred to as, "a gem in the crown
of Canadian television history."
a second career spanning almost 40 years in the new home
industry focusing on the sales and marketing of affordable housing
utilizing and applying his show business background to his marketing
campaigns, as well as personally recording numerous voice over and
on camera commercials for his own new home projects, Mitch again
found himself drawn back into the, Frightenstein/Horror TV genre
been invited to make a 'special appearance' at the 2011 Festival of Fear
at the Toronto Convention Centre to help celebrate, The Hilarious House
of Frightenstein's 40th anniversary and had he lived, Vincent
Price's 100th birthday, Mitch appeared with Mr. Price's daughter
Victoria meeting, greeting and signing autographs for a huge segment of
the nearly 60,000 people attending the show over the course of the 3 day