Apr 14, 2012

The Late Night Files #1: Cult of UHF

In 2008, when I was preparing the "Tribute to Late Night Television" issue for ESR, I had intended to include a midsection devoted to people past and present, who would introduce movies on the late late show. At the eleventh hour of preparing for the issue, I scrapped the idea for complex reasons.  While this midsection could hardly be comprehensive, it however would give a sampling of various personalities who kept the spirit of the late night movie alive throughout the decades. Even then, I felt that this sampling became quite monotonous. Although there were other factors involved in losing the section, this action proved to be a good thing, as it resulted in an issue that was more lean and less repetitious.

It makes more sense to have these pieces serialized on our blog, especially since as time continues, more information becomes available on additional celebrities worthy of note, one is not inhibited by the permanence of print to do a more thorough job.

(By the way, if you don't have the "Late night TV" issue, we still have them for sale on our website.)

Colloquially, we refer to these personalities as horror movie hosts, as they dress up in vampire or werewolf costumes to present the midnight movies. However, not everyone put on a Dracula cape. In our premier column on late-night hosts, we proudly present the right honourable Reverend Chumley, host of Cult of UHF, who kept the spirit of the late-night movie alive on a completely different medium... the iPod! Broadcasting from the Holy Static "somewhere in deep space" Rev. Chumley, in his bishops' regalia, would have his viewers testify over many public domain staples in the horror and science-fiction genres, resulting in several dozen infectious podcasts.  Additionally, there was a sister podcast, Cult of Kung Fu, in which some PD martial arts films were introduced by Chumley's cousin, in a white Fu Manchu mustache!

This interview was conducted via e-mail in the summer of 2008 with the intention of being published in that issue, but only now sees the public eye. Enjoy!

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What was your inspiration to start doing the Cult of UHF show? What made you decide to start introducing these flicks and broadcasting them online?

I started the Cult back in Nov. of 05 after I purchased the (then) brand new 5th generation iPod with video! I thought it was the coolest thing since ammonia compression heat removal theory, but there was a problem, there was almost no content video wise in the podcasting world.  There were a few tech shows and some great short form comedy such as TikiBarTV and Rocketboom, but as far as movies and any long form content to take up time standing in lines and lunch time there wasn't much around among many other reasons, so I decided to make my own show to fill the void.  Using public domain movies and shooting short wrap segments a la the old 70s and 80s hosted late night horror/scifi shows I could make a lot of content with little to no cost.  

Most people who host sci-fi / horror movies usually dress up as Count Dracula-- what was the inspiration for Rev. Chumley?  

I originally was going to go with a mad scientist theme, but honestly I had the bishop outfit already so came up with a crazy cult leader theme to go with it as I'm also ordained in both the Church of the Sub-Genius and the Universal Life Church, again the moral of todays story, kids, is cheap.  

Are you doing the shooting at school, via green screen in the studio?

The first 2 episodes were filmed at a local college where I work using a projector screen with a green slide projected onto it, but it was clear that something more convenient was needed so I built a green screen studio in my bedroom using flourescent green poster board and have used that to this day.

If we watch the podcasts chronologically, as I did, it's also kind of a journey through your life as well, with some apologia here and there for not appearing live because you're too busy with exams and so on...   But originally were you intending to try to be podcasting on a regular basis, get into a regular "broadcasting schedule"?

When I started The Cult I wasn't in school and set the schedule for releasing twice a month and kept up with it for quite a while, then I returned to school for my Masters in early 06 and a bit after that I started releasing once a month and my intro skits started to become more erratic unfortunately, but when your doing your podcast as a hobby and aren't getting a dime for it, school and job wins out.  

And now with the addition of Cult of Kung Fu, is it your intention to move more into that show, and less with Cult of UHF?

I introduced Cult of Kung Fu on a whim one day when I was bored as I had recieved a few emails saying that they didn't think Kung Fu should be in the show, I still don't know what I'm going to do with it. Currently it is in limbo, but if it continues I'll make it a no edit type of show, where I merely put up a new movie twice a month with no intro or anything.  

Were there any kind of late night shows in your broadcasting area that influenced what you do?  Is there now currently anything like it on the air where you live?  

I grew up watching a locally owned station called WEMT which later became a FOX affiliate and then an offical FOX station unfortunately, but back in the day they had all manner of independent programing and the late late show on Sat night was Dungeon Doug and Mohamarr Cadaver. It was a hilarious local host who dressed as a ratty prisoner in a makeshift dungeon and his talking sidekick Mohamarr Cadaver who was a skeleton chained to the wall next to Doug and his large bail of hay he sat on while introducing some seriously bad movies. I loved it. On Sunday afternoon we had Kung Fu Theater to enjoy. Years after this show disappeared we got treated to a show out of New Orleans called Dr. Morgus the Magnificent, in which the mad scientist and his trusty companion/creation Chopsley introduced movies and did great experiments.  Unfortunately nothing like that exists anymore around my area and all the local stations are gone. This was one of the many reasons I started up the Cult. I missed them.

...and finally, how far do you plan to take Cult of UHF-Kung Fu? Have you thought of doing it on television, such as public access or anything?  

Well I've been doing the Cult for going on 3 years now. I'm at a crossroads now, I love the Cult but I really feel I should move on and produce a new show with what little free time I have. The Cult may end all together or live on unhosted and deliver movies straight from the Holy Static to your appropriate player without the need for the Rev, I haven't made up my mind yet.


Addendum:

Sadly, Rev. Chumley retired the Holy Static in December of 2010. Since this interview, many of his shows premiered infrequently, and often without a host (no doubt a result of an increasingly busy schedule)- his final transmission was with a short animated video eulogizing the late actor Leslie Nielsen, who had then just passed. We would like to thank Reverend Chumley for his time and generosity, not just for a short interview, but especially for his efforts in keeping the time-honoured tradition of the late night movie alive, and especially for a brand new generation in a contemporary medium.

All 66 episodes of Cult of UHF are still available for streaming or download at his website. Enjoy!







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