Contributed by Mike Curtis (aka COUNT BASIL)
Recently, while going through some papers, I found a plastic folder with my SIVAD memorabilia.
In 1971 I was 18 years old, and still enoying Fantastic Features on WHBQ TV late Saturday nights.
Back when Sivad made his first appearance on TV, I was visiting my grandmother in Memphis,
and I remember watching The Giant Behemoth on that first Saturday night.
The movie was scary to a 9-year-old, but the man in the top hat driving a horse-drawn hearse through the foggy woods was really spooky!
Then he would stop, and unload a coffin, then open it to billows of smoke, as the Fantastic Features logo came up.
The next week, back home in Jackson Tennessee, there was an added thrill to watching Sivad.
At 6 pm every Saturday night in Jackson, the air raid drills were tested.
Oddly enough, the end notes of the siren were the same as the opening notes of the Fantastic Features theme!
Make no mistake, Sivad was huge all over the Mid-South!
I saw Sivad in his first (and for many years, his LAST) appearance in Jackson, Tennessee.
This was around the second year of the show, and since Watson Davis worked for
Malco, he made a lot of theater appearances.
When the Paramount theater in Jackson booked a horror double-feature, they advertised that Sivad would be there in person!
This massive theater normally held around 800, but I'm sure every fire law was broken that night.
You couldn't stir kids with a stick! Every seat in the floor and balcony was full, and kids were three-deep sitting on the floor!
Then after the last movie ended, the stage was lit, and HE emerged, with long cape, top hat and cane.
The microphone picked up his trademark "GOOD EEEEVENING!"
Then almost every kid in the place got the same thought (not me though, I had too much respect and awe for Sivad) —
"Let's throw a Coke at him!"
I was three feet from the stage and I felt so sorry for Sivad as Cokes in cups sailed through the air.
At one point they were so thick, he was swinging his cane and batting them out of the air three at a time.
Give Sivad credit, he did his song, with a rain of Coke cascading off his cape.
Then he left and didn't return to Jackson for ten years!
Who could blame him?
On a better note, he made numerous theater appearances in Memphis through the years,
and I still have the newspaper ads for them.
Sivad had a fan club (see my club card at the top of this page
see main SIVAD entry for a picture of him from the other side) and one Halloween, there was even a Fantastic Features Monster Kit! This bagged item had things like vampire teeth, plastic claws, etc. But the prize was the cut out Sivad Mask (pictured at right; click the image for a larger view)!
Sivad ruled the 6:00 pm Saturday night spot for years.
Later on, he went to Friday night single movies and Saturday night double-features, three movies each weekend, starting at 10:30 pm.
Many times visiting my relatives in Mississippi, we would stay up on Saturday nights and watch Fantastic Features,
sometimes doing early MST3K versions of the films.
One movie, Maniac, had a heel with a blowtorch.
We dubbed him Captain Blowtorch, and we were thrilled when the good Captain made an appearance in another movie.
I remember when Sivad got a new package of the classic films,
and I finally got to see Frankenstein, Dracula, and other movies I had read about in Famous Monsters.
My wife Carole also watched Fantastic Features when she was growing up,
and she was so traumatized by Attack of the Crab Monsters that she was scared of what might be under the bed to grab her feet. Attack of the Giant Leeches was probably the only film on the show that gave me the shivers —
though I do remember one Saturday show when Sivad had a particulatly short movie, and he
showed about six previews for coming movies with Frankenstein and other creatures.
That night I had a nightmare about the monsters coming after me, and I pulled all the pictures
off the wall by my bed trying to get away from them in my sleep.
All good things must end, and Fantastic Features was slowing down in the 1970's.
Oddly enough, I took a renewed interest in the show,
and started my own Fantastic Features Movie Rating Guide, listing all the films shown on FF, along with years and ratings.
To my little home-made magazine, I added bits of Fantastic Features trivia.
- Watson Davis and station manager Lance Russell (the voice of Studio Wrestling, seen in several Andy Kaufman Wrestling films) wrote the sketches.
- The theme for Fantastic Features comes from the film Phantom Planet.
- The Sivad segments were filmed every Wednesday.
- The opening sequence was shot in Overton Park, home of the Memphis Zoo.
- Sivad's 969th birthday was celebrated on the September 4, 1971 show.
- Music was always a big part of Sivad's escapades.
He appeared with a group called the King Lears in later appearances,
and even cut a 45 record early in his career.
- The last few years of the show, apparently Davis decided to have regular musical numbers on the show.
After one attempt with a group called the WHBKooks, he enlisted staff employee Bill Phillips to
perform with him on the show as the Highland Street Duo (WHBQ was located on Highland Street)
When Phillips and Sivad started to jam, I was right in the middle of my "record keeping" on Fantastic Features, and I logged each appearance:
- FIRST APPEARANCE: July 18, 1970, halfway thru Black Sabbath. Sivad on "Skeletone" and Phillips on buckets.
- August 9, 1970. Sivad on piano. Film Time Travelers.
- September 6 1970, singing "Waiting on the Robert E. Lee."
Film Dr. Satan's Robot.
- September 12, 1970.
Phillips on piano and Sivad singing "Gypsy."
Film Triumph of Hercules.
- September 19 1970.
"It's hot so leave it alone" with filmed versions of two Sivads and Phillips playing and dancing.
Film Battle in Outer Space.
- November 14, 1970.
Film The Black Castle.
- November 21, 1970.
"What made Wyatt Earp?"
Creature from the Black Lagoon.
- December 12, 1970.
Film The Strange Door.
- December 19, 1970.
"Red Wing," possibly the best song by the Duo.
Film Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.
- March 6, 1971.
Film The Black Sleep.
- April 17, 1971.
Sivad actually sings this one, with WHBCuties dancing.
Film Year 2899.
- April 24, 1971.
"Charge of the Eulogs."
- November 27, 1971.
"Learning" by Sivad with Rusty on Piano.
Film Horror of Dracula.
In my log, I had space for several more movies and song appearances, but that was the end of Fantastic Features.
With no announcement, the next weekend WHBQ had Roller Derby on.
That put an end to my late Saturday nights and an era with the Mid-South's "Monster of Ceremonies," Sivad.