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HOLIDAY FILM FESTIVAL... By Joe Cascio

Thanksgiving Day. What images does that name conjure up? Turkey, stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes, healthy doses of apple and pumpkin pies, sitting with family and friends after watching the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For many, it was (and still is) a television marathon of professional football games, but for many die hard monster movie fans in the New York City/Long Island area during the years 1976 through 1985, Thanksgiving Day featured two more "extra special" guests and their friends. By now, most of you probably remember WOR-TV's (Channel 9) annual Thanksgiving Day and day after Thanksgiving airings of several giant monster classics. These fun flicks provided a great escapism after gorging several pounds of holiday goodies.

For several of these nine-year broadcasts, the two main sponsors were CRAZY EDDIE ("CRAZY EDDIE, HIS PRICES ARE...INSANE!!!!!!"-remember that slogan fellow New Yorkers?) and every kid's dream store, PLAY WORLD (BOTH of which are now defunct). In fact, the good folks at PLAY WORLD had a very clever promotional campaign to usher in the Christmas season that they pushed during these monster films. During the commercial breaks, a series of kid oriented trivia questions would be asked and once the player completed the question form (which was in the advertisement section of all the local Sunday newspapers prior to Thanksgiving), you mailed the responses in and the lucky winner would get a five minutes at a local PLAY WORLD to fill a shopping cart with as much merchandise as the five minutes would allow. Well...just for the record, I NEVER won, but I did have some great monster memories in trying!!!

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These WOR-TV Thanksgiving bashes started on Thanksgiving Day 1976. On this occasion, Channel 9 broadcast...MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (at 1:00 p.m.), KING KONG VS.GODZILLA (at 3:00 p.m.), and SON OF KONG (at 5:00 p.m.). At this point, it was a one-day deal because the day after Thanksgiving did not feature any monster films.

Apparently, the ratings of the 1976 Thanksgiving marathon were encouraging enough for WOR-TV to include the day after Thanksgiving into the monster movie line up. In November 1977, there was a schedule consisting of...

THANKSGIVING DAY
MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1:00 p.m.)
KING KONG (3:00 p.m.)
SON OF KONG (5:00 p.m.)

THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING
KING KONG ESCAPES (1:00 p.m.)
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (3:00 p.m.)
GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER (5:00 p.m.)

In November 1978, the holiday line up had a few additions to the Friday Godzilla films while the Thanksgiving Day schedule remained unchanged (with the exception of a few time changes).

THANKSGIVING DAY
MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (12:30 p.m.)
KING KONG (2:30 p.m.)
SON OF KONG (4:30 p.m.)

THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING
SON OF GODZILLA (12:30 p.m.)
GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER (1:30 p.m.)
GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER (3:00 p.m.)
GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (4:30 p.m.)

In November 1979, the Thanksgiving marathon line up included...
THANKSGIVING DAY
MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (12:30 p.m.)
KING KONG (2:30 p.m.)
SON OF KONG (4:30 p.m.)

THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING
GODZILLA VS. THE COSMIC MONSTER (12:30 p.m.)
GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (2:15 p.m.)
GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER (4:00 p.m.)

The Thanksgiving line up for November 1980 and November 1981 was the exact line up as it was for November 1979.

In November 1982, there was a slight change in the marathon.

THANKSGIVING DAY
KING KONG (1:00 p.m.)
SON OF KONG (3:00 p.m.)
MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (4:15 p.m.)

THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1:00 p.m.)
GODZILLA VS. MEGALON (2:40 p.m.)
GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER (4:20 p.m.)

In 1983 and 1984, the marathon of films was the same as it was in November 1982.

In November 1985, the FINAL chapter of the WOR-TV Thanksgiving King Kong and Godzilla marathons came to a close.

THANKSGIVING DAY
KING KONG (1:00 p.m.)
MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (3:00 p.m.)

THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING
KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1:00 p.m.)
KING KONG ESCAPES (3:00 p.m.)

Yes, as all good things must, these monster holiday marathons came to an end. By the end of 1985, WOR-TV lost the broadcast rights to the RKO library and KING KONG, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG and SON OF KONG fell put of the local New York City televsion markets. All three films subsequently appeared on cable television's popular American Movie Classics while the broadcast rights to the Godzilla films were also lost by WOR-TV and began appearing on other local New York stations (for example GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER turned up on WNEW-TV (Channel 5) in September 1986 while Channel 5 also began airing GODZILLA VS. THE COSMIC MONSTER and GODZILLA VS. MEGALON in 1987). As for KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and KING KONG ESCAPES, they turned up a couple of more times on WOR-TV until 1989. Since then, they have not aired in the local New York City market, but have become staples on cable television's SCI.-Fl. Channel since the mid 1990s.

As what happened with so many New York City movie stations, the advent of VHS completely revolutionized how people saw films. Many television stations no longer saw good profits and adequate ratings because too many people could now tape movies and watch them at their leisure and not necessarily wait for local stations to broadcast them. Also, many independent New York stations were bought by large corporations in the mid to late 1980s (i.e. WNEW-TV-Channel 5 became FOX 5; WOR-TV--Channel 9 became UPN 9; and WPIX-TV-Channel 11 became WB 11). This brought about a significant change in programming in which more emphasis was put on "trash television" talk shows, more news, and original programming and less emphasis was put on broadcasting older films. Well, at least we genre fans have great memories of the glory days of monster movies attacking New York City. To this day whenever I get the aroma of a turkey cooking on Thanksgiving Day, I cannot help but think about King Kong carrying a screaming Fay Wray up the Empire State Building or King Kong ramming a tree down Godzilla's throat or CRAZY EDDIE and PLAY WORLD or my mom coming home from work each and every year on the day after Thanksgiving and heating up the leftovers from the day before for my sister and me while GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER was screaming from the television set in my den. The food was always ready each year at the same spot in the film in which Godzilla and Hedorah have their second battle in Tokyo. Thanks for the monster memories, Channel 9!!!!!

 

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