HORROR HOST SPOTLIGHT: Morgus the Magnificent
Growing up, Rhode Island really didn’t have a horror host of its own. Though I was aware of such hosts as Vampira, Elvira, Zacherley and the Son of Svengoolie, it wasn’t until the 1980s that I actually got to experience them. When cable television was finally available in my area, one of the stations we got in 1987 was WPIX out of New York that had a horror host show every Saturday. The host? Morgus the Magnificent. The show? Morgus Presents.
At the same time, over on TBS, was Super Scary Saturday, hosted by Grampa Monster. Though I enjoyed both shows, I did gravitate towards Morgus more with his wacky experiments. Though Morgus would show decent monster movies, it was truly his scenes during the commercial breaks that drew me in. With E.R.I.C (Eon Research Infinity Computer) the talking skull and Morgus’ sidekick Chopsley, they would create bizarre experiments and present them in a comical but at times, believable way. As was always the case, these experiments, which would progress during the movie, would always go horribly wrong with hysterical results.
I do not remember how long Morgus Presents stayed on PIX and to be honest, I wish I had a better memory of the time (and had recorded the episodes that were available). Because I would go back and forth between Morgus and Super Scary Saturday, at the time it was impossible to tape one show while watching another (or better yet, recording both shows). According to the book “Television Horror Movie Hosts” by Elena M. Watson, January 17, 1987 marked the return of Morgus to New Orleans television on station WGNO-TV, Channel 26. This was also when his syndication on WPIX began. I do not recall at what time of the year I started watching.
One thing that always impressed me about this show was that most of the Morgus scenes were filmed with one camera and no edits. This meant that Sid’s monologues were done in one continuous take and the results were always so natural and fluid. Another thing was that despite the experiments seeming silly, they were all pulled off with a serious tone and Morgus always made you feel like you were witnessing something special.
Morgus the Magnificent, also known as Momus Alexander Morgus, is a fictional character created and portrayed by actor Sidney Noel Rideau (aka Sid Noel). From the late 1950s into the 1980s Morgus was a “horror host” of late-night science fiction and horror movies and television shows that originated in the New Orleans, Louisiana market.
Morgus first appeared on late night television on January 3, 1959, in the House of Shock, hosting science fiction and horror movies “in between experiments”. The set was styled to look like an upstairs garret supposedly located over the old city ice house, with a fire escape exit into Pirate’s Alley in the old French Quarter.
In 1964, Rideau moved to Detroit, Michigan and produced and starred in Morgus Presents on WJBK-TV. In 1965, Rideau and Morgus Presents (aka ‘’Morgus The Magnificent’’) returned to New Orleans on WWL-TV and remained on the air for two years. Morgus Presents reappeared as an afternoon show in 1970 on WDSU-TV, but was discontinued in 1971. After another long hiatus, Morgus Presents returned in January 1987, on WGNO-TV. Long-time New Orleans television director and Morgus collaborator, Paul Yacich, directed all fifty-two episodes. By 2005, Morgus Presents had gone into syndication and aired on various stations, such as Cox Cable channel 10, and WVUE Fox 8 in New Orleans.
In 1959, Mississippi-based Vin Records released a 7-inch single entitled “Morgus The Magnificent” by Frankie Ford and Mac Rebennack performing as “Morgus and The Ghouls” (aka “Morgus & The 3 Ghouls”). The record made the local New Orleans radio top ten record chart. In 1964, the Detroit-based Fulton record label released another single, “Werewolf”, featuring Morgus and The Daringers, with an instrumental track (“The Morgus Creep”) on its B side.
Morgus’ first and only appearance in film was in The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus (1962), which introduced his “Instant People Machine” that could transform people into sand and back to their original form. In the film, Morgus was investigated by a stereotypical reporter known as “Pencils” and foreign agents from Microvania who sought to enter the United States by using the device. Instead of an invasion, its contents ended up as concrete, which was poured at a dedication ceremony for a new highway called “People’s Highway.”
Though Morgus may be gone (Sid Noel died on August 27, 2020), his memory lives on with the MORGUS PRESENTS website. Here you will find all things Morgus. He will always be one of my favorite horror hosts and my only regret is not getting to see more of his show.
There are a couple of DVDs available, one called MORGUS PRESENTS VOLUME 1. This features four of his classic experiments that can be watched by themselves or inserted into a movie. The other is of his movie, The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus. I believe these are in limited supply so order now. There is also a CD called Dr. Morgus Hearse-ry Rhymes that is also highly recommended. If you would like a copy of the song mentioned above, it can be found on the CD called Monster Rock ‘N Roll Show. To order any of these, just click on the links or the images below.
Also, make sure you check out the MORGUS-O-MANIA Facebook page! It is the largest page of its type on Facebook!
Don’t forget to read the other entries in my HORROR HOST SPOTLIGHT series.