A Demon and a Gentleman: Dr Walpurgis and BBCs The Vault of Horror

‘Those busybodies from the National Viewers and Listeners Association have long ago given up waiting for any blasphemous bestiality. They’ve gone to bed with their cocoa.’ – Dr Walpurgis

Halloween night 1992 and the venerable British Broadcasting Corporation opened up its two main terrestrial channels and went all out in a manner of which had never been seen before. BBC1 presented the (staged) documentary Ghostwatch, which later caused a significant furore due to a massive amount of complains and a suicide case, for which the show was blamed in triggering. BBC2, its sister channel, held an extravagant and hitherto unparalleled horror all-nighter entitled The Vault of Horror.

The scheduling for the night delved into the world of contemporary genre in a manner of which mainstream television in the UK had never done before. The Horror Bites segments included interviews and mini documentaries about famous horror authors, the world of special effects, EC Comics, horror icons; such as Pinhead, Freddy and Jason, indie genre studios, sex and horror, Dario Argento and even a section focusing on Fangoria magazine, and the legacy which it had created. As the screen cast its luminescent hue across the living rooms of the unsuspecting British public, an early insight was given into the complexity, range and passion which existed within the industry at that time; all of which was presented by the most debonair, and striking demon ever to grace the airwaves. Interviews with Tom Savini, Anthony Timpone, Mary Lambert, Wes Craven, Sean Cunningham, Charles Band, Lloyd Kauffman, Richard Stanley and Jack Kamen were certainly not what people were used to seeing on British TV in the early ‘90s. It was, however, the continuity announcer who bound them all together, which struck a chord; paving the way for three subsequent seasons, which allowed Dr. Walpurgis (V for Vendetta / Harry Potter actor Guy Henry)  to become the UK’s only true horror host.

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