the Great Dismal Swamp and Virginia
Beach, Virginia, lies the sleepy little burg known as Pungo,
famous to locals as the home of the popular horror host Dr. Madblood.
The good doctor's address is 13 Idle Hour Road, where he resides
in the majestic Madblood Manor. Life at the manor is far from
idle, however, as Dr. Madblood conducts his medical practice
and his occasional experiments. The rejects from the latter occupy the
basement and are affectionately dubbed the monsters, even though some
of them, like Ernie and Waldo, have names.
The doctor also has lots of friends and neighbors who drop in, such
as the wisecracking Brain, who strongly resembles a car-washing
sponge. Some of the doctor's other friends are equally unusual, like
the boxer Kid Exorcist, the Widow Bacon, the sinister
Grinfield, the vampire Count Lucudra, and Dusty
the crop duster.
Viewers haven't seen too much of Dr. Madblood in the last decade
as his weekly show went off the air in 1983 and didn't return until
the spring of 1989. But to many locals, just mention Pungo, and
they'll think Madblood. And while Pungo does exist, Idle
Hour Road, Madblood Manor, and all the rest are simply the
brainchildren of the doctor, better known in real life as Jerry Harrell.
Harrell, a former Bozo who was once an interpreter in
the Air Force, thought up the character when he was the creative services
director for WAVY-TV 10 in Portsmouth, Virginia. Also a professional
magician, he left Channel 10 in the early eighties to start his
own firm, Harrell Productions, which produces many local
TV commercials, such as the ones that feature Harrell as Rusty,
the cheerful delivery man from Rent to Own. A few years before, he could
also be seen performing magic tricks as Gandalf, the AMC Wizard
of Latenight, to promote midnight movies at local AMC theaters.
And recently he produced a documentary about the John Walker spy case.
He also hosted Club 33, a kid's show. Most longtime Tidewater
residents think of him as Dr. Max Madblood.
Harrell's original inspiration for the Madblood show occurred
when he started working at Channel 10 in 1974. He realized that
there was no local TV of genuine creativity, and he hoped to remedy
the situation. It wasn't until Halloween 1975, however, that Dr.
Madblood's Movie debuted as a one-time holiday special. The show
was set in a TV studio so that viewers could see what one looked like,
and a trivia question was asked. They had only one receptionist to answer
the phones. To everyone's surprise, the studio was swamped with calls.
After this initial success, the show went weekly, which was convenient
since there was a late-night horror movie on Saturday nights anyway.
Harrell put a great deal of thought into the creation of Dr.
Madblood, who was originally a very different character. Tired of
the traditional vampire horror host, something Harrell felt had
been done too often and lacked versatility, the original character was
to be a Jekyll and Hyde personality. The catch was that he would
be played by two actors. Harrell would play the mad-doctor side,
Jekyll, and his partner, Mark Young,
would play Mr. Hyde---as a game-show host! Eventually
it was decided that having the doctor turn into a game-show host would
get old fast and become a one-joke show. So they settled on just a regular
mad doctor and his assistant. Mark played the assistant, Volley,
until he left the station a few years later to be a weatherman in Miami.
Volley was a charming character. What made him special was that
he never spoke, and he wore a little monk's robe with the hood over
much of his face. Young also played the role on his knees, giving Volley
the stature of a dwarf. About all one could see of him were his hands.
Nevertheless, he was a lovable little guy. In the third year of the
show he was frozen. The character was later sent off to medical school.
Many characters have passed through the corridors of Madblood Manor
in the years the doctor has been on the air. In an effort to make the
show technically well done, characters were developed and refined over
the years. This is most true of the fuzzy gray-haired and bearded Madblood,
who orginally spoke in a German accent. The accent gradually disappeared
as more and more Madblood became the normal father figure around
who the others revolved. Harrell, who wrote most of the show,
often introduced new characters to fit cast members or plot needs or
even to tie in with the week's movie. One example of the latter is the
vampire Count Lacudra, played by local radio personality Mike
Arlo. The character made his debut during the showing of Son
of Dracula, in which Lon Chaney, Jr., portrays Dracula,
but he calls himself Count Alucard (Dracula spelled backward).
Lacudra was supposed to be Dracula spelled sideways. Likewise,
Queen Mum (Donna Stam) was introduced during the showing
of a mummy movie.
Dr. Madblood almost made his appearance in a different place.
Instead of being a resident of the very real Pungo,
the doctor was to live in the fictional Shadow Wood. But somehow
the name Pungo intrigued Harrell. After seeing that it
was a very real place, and just the sort that would have an Idle
Hour Road, it became the home of Madblood Manor.
One couldn't find a more fitting spot for a mad doctor to live than
the sleepy little crossroads of Pungo. It's located between Virginia
Beach and the Great Dismal Swamp. Idle Hour Road most
likely runs along the swamp, as Madblood Manor is surrounded
by swampland. A few years ago it was reported on the local news that
campers had seen Bigfoot-Yeti creatures near the swamp. Madblood
viewers, however, most likely assumed that perhaps one of the monsters
from the basement was on the loose again.
Another Madblood trademark dear to fans is the Madblood theme
music, which is really "Green-Eyed Lady" by Sugarloaf.
Many people fail to recognize it though, because none of the vocals
are heard. Originally it was meant to be used on the show only as incidental
music, but Harrell realized it was too powerful. It offically
became the theme in 1977.
Originally, each Madblood episode opened in the doctor's lab,
with him greeting the viewers and introducing the movie. Since Harrell
has long been a fan of fantasy films, his introductions were usually
informative. Unless, of course, the movie was particularly bad, like
Shriek of the Mutilated or Frankenstein's Daughter.
Such movies were labeled "schtinkers." Often
the Madblood episodes, which always told a story, would echo
the plot of the movie. For example, during The Incredible Shrinking
Man, Madblood found himself the incredible shrinking
horror host as the result of a potion.
The shows also contained various comedy bits that weren't connected
with the plot, like comic newscasts and parodies of current movies.
Two such movies that were effectively spoofed were Star Wars (1977)
and Star Trek---The Motion Picture (1979). Another one
was the Star Wars sequel, which became The Umpire Strikes
Back and featured the puppet alien Yokel from the Bogg
But sometimes the Madblood shows were just as scary or even scarier
than the movies. These were the four or five episodes that dealt with
the Madblood curse. The curse began as a locked room in which
Madblood discovered a mirror. In the mirror was the mirror image
and evil side of Madblood, know as Doolbdam. This doppelganger
takes Madblood's place, and the curse is eventually traced back
to ancient Egypt. Other serious episodes, which led to the character
development of Dr. Madblood, included one that dealt with his
past as a doctor in Vienna whose family was killed by his nemesis,
Dr. Raider. A romantic and poignant story was the one based on
a local legend---that of accused witch Grace
Sherwood. She was sentenced to be dunked to prove her innocence
or guilt. Unfortunately her survival of the test left her branded a
witch. The event is marked by a road in Virginia Beach known
as Witchduck Road. In the episode inspired by Grace, a
young woman of that name knocks on the lonely doctor's door one night.
They pass the rainy evening together and find comfort from each other.
But later it seems that she was only the ghost of Grace
For most of its run, Dr. Madblood's Movie was on after Saturday
Night Live, which meant starting at 1:00 AM. Then, in 1979, the
show moved to Saturday afternoons for a time. In January 1982, the doctor
changed channels to appear on the local PBS station, WHRO,
Channel 15, with his new show, Dr. Madblood's Night Visions.
The new time slot was Sunday evenings at 11:00 PM. He showed many fascinating
movies like The Lost World (1925), White Zombie
(1932), and the awful Devil Bat (1941). It was also
on PBS that he showed the positively dreadful Monster a-Go-Go
(1961), which is not only one of the worst movies of all time but
also the most boring. Madblood and company did manage to liven
it up a bit though, through the use of humorous captions superimposed
on the screen. These captions were also used with some success in Devil
Bat. During a scene showing mad doctor Bela Lugosi with
his killer bat, which hung off a metal apparatus, one read, "What,
you hung a forty dollar bat on a wire hanger?" Sort of a tribute
to Mommie Dearest.
Unfortunately, even though Night Visions was seen on other
PBS stations in the state, and on cable in Massachusetts
and Connecticut, the ratings were low. It was a far cry from the doctor's
heyday on WAVY-TV 10 when
the ratings peaked at 52,000. Night Visions lasted
for only a year on PBS. Harrell also tried self-syndication,
but it proved quite difficult, so Dr. Madblood went into retirement
for a while.
Then, on Halloween 1984, Dr. Madblood returned to WAVY
with Dr. Madblood's Halloween Howl. The whole Madblood gang
was back at Madblood Manor, festively getting ready for the doctor's
annual party. The story was completely integrated into the movie Brides
of Dracula (1960), and for the first time Madblood characters
appeared in the film. The premise was that Count Lacudra's coffin
had been discovered by vampire hunters and he had disintegrated in the
sunlight. Dr. Madblood was trying to find a way to restore Lacudra
so he could attend the party. This was all cleverly interwoven so that
it appeared that Madblood's friends were skulking around the
movie sets. And each time a large bat was seen in the movie, a cutaway
would show that it was really Ernie and Waldo with their
"bat on a rope." This bat was actually a teddy bear
with wings for arms.
Dr. Madblood didn't return to television until two years later,
this time with Doctor Madblood's Halloween Film Festival.
The three films shown were The Omen, Damien, The Omen, Part II,
and The Fury. Dr. Madblood hosted not from Pungo
but the Videorama Monster Store, which sponsored the show.
The show began at 12:30 AM and was cohosted by deejay Mike Arlo,
who did most of the Videorama ads. Madblood tried to keep viewers
awake with clips from his old show. The Brain also made an appearance,
along with three of the monsters. Since it was a monster store, Brain
tried to sell the monsters. Even Ernie and Waldo got carried
away with video fever and tried to buy VCRs with their Monster Charge
cards. There were also celebrity interviews from recent local science-fiction
Then the residents of Madblood Manor once again slipped away
into the realm of memories. Mike Arlo could still be heard on
WNOR-FM 99. In fact, he even became the legendary "old
man" of the station, old being over 35. Jerry Harrell still
runs Harrell Productions. During 1987 he even taught a course
for the local "Fun U," which features short one-night
instruction in things like wine tasting and meeting people. Area experts
serve as teachers. Harrell's classes were about how to buy and
use a VCR. He also occasionally appeared as Dr. Madblood at science-fiction
conventions to judge the traditional costume contests.
The character lived on. Pungo, Green-Eyed Lady, the swamp---all
served as gentle reminders of late, bleary-eyed nights long before,
nights spent before the ghostly glow of the cathoid ray tube, nights
enduring the dreadful Twiggy's Jukebox show. All to spend
a few hours alone with a friendly fellow called Madblood. For
two hours each week we were a part of his gang. Late nights were not
the same without him.
Then it happened. Dr. Madblood returned to TV in early April
1989. This time it was on WTVZ,
Channel 33, part of the Fox Network. Airtime,
11:00 PM. The place, Madblood Manor, Pungo. All the gang was
there: Brain, the monsters, Audio Shadow, and the irrepressible
Mike Arlo as Dusty the crop duster, Kid Exorcist,
and Count Lacudra. New to the cast was the lovely Nurse Patience
Dream. Madblood even started the new show out with a bang
by taking a trip to Hollywood. Brain snuck along for the
ride while we viewers got to see the highlights, such as the Universal
Studios tour and Forrest J. Ackerman's memorabilia, housed
in his home, the Ackermanion. Dr. Madblood and Forry
even let us eavesdrop as they chatted.
And things are still quite lively at Madblood Manor. Brain
has long since upgraded from his fishbowl to a 10-gallon aquarium,
but he remains as sassy as ever. Audio Shadow still checks in
occasionally, expecially "to see the stars go slumming,"
as Tony Curtis does in the ridiculous film The Manitou
(1978). Dr. Madblood had a lot of fun with that one,
which concerns an ancient Native-American medicine man reincarnating
himself by growing in Susan Strasberg's neck.
And of course there is the usual endless supply of wacky visitors. Among
them, Dr. Roach, a Percy Dovetonsils-like insect specialist;
Salman Rushdie's cousin, Rusty Rushdie, author of The Catatonic
Verses; and dueling Renfield-alikes. The latter were competing
for the job of servant to vampire Lacudra, and they sang a song,
"Identical Servants," to the tune of the old Patty
Duke show theme song. And even Perry Mason (Craig Adams)
showed up during the showing of Godzilla 1985, claiming to represent
the "scaly behemoth," Mr. G. himself.
As for Jerry Harrell, he seems quite pleased with the return
to late-night television, especially after "having recently moved
back into the number one position in the ratings." And he hopes
to add more classic horror films to his show by using fan-mail requests
as "ammo for our efforts."
Dr. Madblood also continues to remain a part of the local science-fiction
convention scene by sponsoring conventions, appearing at them, and taping
them for his show. Not only does he show the highlights of the costume
contests on the air, but he also features interviews with the guest
stars. These have included both Denise Crosby and Michael
Dorn from Star Trek---The Next Generation.
Harrell himself muses that "television has changed dramatically
since the late seventies when our particular brand of foolishness first
aired." And it is true that the advent of the VCR and the availability
of cable TV have certainly given the viewer more options. But it has
not destroyed the appeal of the horror host.
And while Dr. Madblood may have a new show at a new time on a
new station, not everything has changed. When the episode ends for the
night, old Max still glances up casually and says, "Thanks
for turning us on."
Doctor Madblood, the feeling is mutual. Welcome back.
by Elena M. Watson Television Horror Movie
Hosts: 68 Vampires, Mad Scientists and Other Denizens of the
Late-Night Airwaves Examined and Interviewed; McFarland & Company
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers
Jefferson NC 28640
Phone: (910) 246-4460
FAX: (910) 246-5018