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A Holy Grail of "Morgus Presents" Has Been Found!

A legend no longer lost.
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The Wacky World of Doctor Morgus, the 1962 feature based on the very real horror movie host Morgus the Magnificent, shot and set in New Orleans, was at the top of my movies to find. Thankfully, through many a Facebook Messenger chat, I tracked down the owners, living in the metro area, more than willing to let this little streaming app of ours press play on such an obscure title. Of course, I had tried to get some episodes of the 1980s revival of the horror host’s show, Morgus Presents, but that proved a bit trickier, and, after all, that was TV. We were after films.

That portion of Morgus history fascinated me, as it ended just before my time, but it was exactly the kind of presentation that would’ve hooked me: Goofy mad science antics in between cheesy sci-fi and spooky movies. Perfect Halloween fare? Perfect Saturday night fare! And it was a homegrown local staple too, like a series of furniture commercials or weathermen on the morning news stations.

This fascination peaked in the mid-2010s when, during an appearance at a New Orleans Book Fair for the now-defunct publication Propaganda NOLA, I was informed of a television special - one that tickled me thrilled just by hearing of it.

The producers of the first DVD volume of Morgus Presents and of the now OOP (out of print) home release of Wacky World came to the table where I had been greeting passers-by, with free DVDs to offer, and whispers of the show in question: An episode where Morgus and his faithful assistant Chopsley presented Wacky World from inside the lovely Prytania Theater Uptown, adding a semi-meta and almost Mystery Science Theater 3000 (the classic comedy show that made fun of silly movies) element to the lore of these lovable characters.

Stunned, jaw-dropped, and gobsmacked, I listened intensely.

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By the end of the episode, Morgus is arrested for his Wacky World crimes by the NOPD (New Orleans Police Department) and is rushed out of the theatre under arrest. How amazing. How maddening.

The DVD producers felt that the footage might have been lost during Hurricane Katrina (many an archive was indeed harmed or lost by the storm and its aftermath), but that a copy could exist in a special vault that the Prytania supposedly had.

As a film critic & writer, the story of lost Morgus the Magnificent media was a story that became most important to me over the years. As a lover of New Orleans history and of moviegoing in general, the media itself was like a holy grail of sorts.

Why?

The crisscross of real and reel worlds, where fantasy clashes with reality. Two local histories with equally vibrant and memorable collective experiences, held within a single caricature of a TV special. Wonderful stuff.

The footage rested in my imagination, where I had interpreted the tale - possibly told to me second-hand - as being shot around the time of the original Morgus show House of Shock when Wacky World came out. Perfect timing for a promotional piece, but also unfortunate as footage that old must be long since gone. Still, I asked around. Through contacts and various tips, I mostly went in circles, stuck at the beginning. A legend and only that.

At Louisiana Film Channel, the talks with the owners of Wacky World stalled multiple times, so I moved on to other films to obtain and other projects to work on. But, do fish have dreams, as was asked in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans? Do dreams come true? 

Yes.

Thanks to tape collector Charles Becker and a Facebook post from the incredible archivist and technician Lewis D'Aubin, a VCR recording had been found, and in pretty good condition too!

I calmly but shakily asked Lewis for a preview, but he did me one better: He’d send it to me whole. The video amounted to an introduction and an ending, laying out what I had been told about years prior, only instead of being performed in the 1960s, it was special from the early 1990s. Perfect nonetheless. From my understanding, the video will be cleaned up and placed on a future DVD release, but for now, I've been given permission to make it available immediately here on Moviegoing with Bill.

Absolutely, does the footage live up to my own hype. Absolutely, is it cute and charming - as Sid Noel always did for Morgus. Absolutely, it's fun and delightful.

Believe it or not, the legends we make up in our minds, the ones we maybe over-celebrate, the ones we maybe obsess a little about, sometimes are true. And sometimes, these legends give us something more than a tall tale to believe in: They give us fellows and friends to follow and to thank.

Enjoy.

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Sincerely Yours in Moviegoing,

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Bill Arceneaux