Mike Ensley, Chip Chism and Lemmie Crews have been presenting horror genre films for Pensacola audiences and beyond for 17 years. Their “Nightmare Theatre” television show first found a home on Cox Media Channel 39 in 2001. Since then, there have been film festivals, other cable access broadcasts and even a national appearance on SpikeTV’s “Ghouls Gone Wild” in 2006. Starting Oct. 27, new episodes will be part of WSRE’s Saturday late-night program lineup, airing at 10 p.m. before “Doctor Who.”
Ensley, Chism and Crews have gained renown beyond the local viewing area as “Nightmare Theatre” hosts: the Baron Mondo Von Doren, El Sapo de Tempesto and Mittens the Werewolf. They are part of the Horror Host Underground Network and were inducted into the Horror Host Hall of Fame at the HorrorHound Weekend convention and film festival in Cincinnati, Ohio in March.
In the series plot, the Baron is a minor demon assigned to the physical plane to inflict misery upon mankind by way of “bad” movies. With his sidekicks—the masked wrestler El Sapo and pet werewolf Mittens—the Baron introduces old horror films in a humorous manner with little respect and a side of intriguing film history.
Production of 13 episodes is scheduled to begin on Aug. 6. The following films will be featured in this inaugural season produced by WSRE: “The Killer Shrews,” “A Bucket of Blood,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Mesa of Lost Women,” “The Long Hair of Death,” “Moon of the Wolf,” “Horror Express,” “The Wasp Woman,” “Warning from Space,” “They Came from Beyond Space,” “Track of the Moon Beast,” “The House on Haunted Hill” and “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.”
“We’ve come to think of Saturday as ‘PBS Nerd Night’ on WSRE since first airing the late-night combo of ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ in 2016. ‘Nightmare Theatre’ will now fill the void left by ‘Mystery Science Theater’ when that program became unavailable,” said WSRE General Manager Bob Culkeen. “We see ‘Nightmare Theatre’ as a unique opportunity to localize ‘PBS Nerd Night’ by connecting great talent, committed community supporters and the production resources of WSRE with classic films that are fun to watch and revisit.”
“As a Pensacola native, I grew up watching programs like ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Doctor Who’ as a child on WSRE, so it’s very exciting to be a part of their programming,” Ensley said. “We can’t wait to bring ‘Nightmare Theatre’ to a larger audience and hopefully entertain and enlighten the Gulf Coast with these classic B movies.”
WSRE and the Great Southern Restaurant Group will host a launch event, including a free film screening, movie memorabilia exhibit and costume contest, on Friday, Nov. 9 at the WSRE Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio.
The Merrill Movie Museum is providing movie props, memorabilia and behind-the-scenes material for both the launch event and the production. On air each week, a key item will be showcased by Collection Manager Julio Diaz, who says the museum’s collection is one of the greatest of its kind in the U.S.
“My brothers and I are proud to be able to share some of our favorite movie treasures from our decades of collecting with the ‘Nightmare Theatre’ audience,” said Burney Merrill. “Based on the reactions of the crowds who visit our displays at The Fish House complex during Pensacon, I believe viewers will be thrilled when they see what we have to offer.”
“The Merrill brothers have invested substantial resources in collecting and preserving props, costumes, prosthetics and makeup pieces, concept art, storyboards, production documents, movie posters, marketing materials, animation art, business documents and more from throughout the history of cinema and pop culture,” said Diaz.
Event admission is free. Register online at wsre.org/nightmaretheatre.