Fritz the Nite Owl to help inspire spooky chills in the CAPA series
From 1974 to 1991, Fritz Peerenboom – better known as Fritz the Nite Owl – entertained insomniacs and moviegoers with his wry, witty and knowledgeable presence as host of “Nite Owl Theater” on WBNS-TV (Channel 10).
More recently, Peerenboom relaunched the “Nite Owl Theater” format for live screenings in central Ohio, most notably during the CAPA Summer Movie Series at the Ohio Theater.
During the pandemic, however, Peerenboom spent much of his time at home – the Nite Owl’s wings were temporarily cut off. So what did he do?
“Listening to a lot of jazz, doing a lot of proofreading and a little painting,” said Peerenboom, 86.
Citing both the rise of the Delta variant and some recent health issues that have affected his ability to move around, Peerenboom continues to decline appearances in person.
“I’m just a dash under the weather,” said Peerenboom, who calls his challenges “inconvenience and trouble.”
“Problems that are not going to put me in a conversation with Schoedinger,” he added.
Peerenboom hopes to be back in action sooner rather than later, but the “Fright Nite Friday with Fritz!” at the CAPA Summer Movie Series will take place in his absence: the classic 1980 horror film “Friday the 13th” will be screened at the Ohio Theater on – what else? – Friday August 13.
“I look forward to when this pandemic begins to subside, and a few of these physical difficulties are resolving on their own or giving me another way to deal with them,” he said.
Although Peerenboom will not be present in the flesh on Friday, he will still have a major role to play in, finally, making the audience crawl: “Friday the 13th” will be screened in the style of the “Nite Owl Theater”, with pre-recorded comments and interjections throughout the film.
Directed by Sean S. Cunningham, “Friday the 13th” revolves around a series of mysterious murders that take place one summer at Camp Crystal Lake. Spoiler alert: The murders have something to do with the plight of a certain young camper from decades past named Jason.
“It was the first of the new horror movies that didn’t have rubber monsters or stuff sticking out of people’s chests,” Peerenboom said. “Still, it was a very, very scary and suspenseful film.”
In fact, the low-budget film was so popular with audiences that it resulted in a deluge of sequels and spinoffs, though its creators’ initial intentions were modest.
“Sean Cunningham set out to make some quick money,” said producer Mike McGraner, who is responsible for the cover of the latest incarnation of the “Nite Owl Theater”.
“There was never any question of making this fantastic film; it was about scamming ‘Halloween’.
McGraner added, “The fact that this movie has become the biggest horror franchise to date is quite interesting.”
Some in audience Friday, however, will likely be as interested in Peerenboom’s pre-recorded commentary as they are in the movie itself.
“These are families taking their children, but also students accompanying their dad who watched (‘Nite Owl Theater’),” McGraner said.
Peerenboom – who always speaks with a distinctive purr which he says is in part inspired by WBNS AM radio personality Irwin Johnson, known as “the Early Worm” – doesn’t take his enduring popularity for granted. .
“The fans have treated me incredibly well,” he said. “It’s such a blow when someone who was 13 or 14 looks at me as a kid, and they show up to the theater with their kid, and they explain to the kid who I am.”
“Friday the 13th” isn’t the only horror film to hit the region’s screens this Friday.
As part of its month-long “Horrors of Hammer” series, featuring horror films from Hammer Studios in England, the Gateway Film Center will present two recent films from the studio’s catalog on Friday: “Let Me In” ( 2010), with Chloe Grace Moretz as a vampire; and “The Lodge” (2019), revolving around a woman (Riley Keough) abandoned in a winter lodge in the company of creepy children.
The screenings aim to remind audiences that Hammer’s production goes beyond his famous 50s and 60s monster movies.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize that (Hammer) is releasing horror movies,” said Columbus film critic Hope Madden, who co-hosted the series.
Madden recommends both films, noting that “The Lodge” wears its horror lineage on its sleeve.
“You kind of know what you’re getting yourself into, and what I love about the movie is that it really embraces that,” Madden said. “(The characters) watch the movie ‘The Thing’ and they make reference to ‘The Shining’ – like all those movies where you get trapped in the snow.”
Whether you’re spending your Friday the 13th in the company of hapless campers, a vampire, or trapped tenants, the Nite Owl has a few goodbye words.
Peerenboom said: “All I’m going to tell you before I say goodbye is, ‘Wear a mask and keep your distance. “”
In one look
“Fright Nite Friday with Fritz! : Friday 13 “
Or: Ohio Theater, 39 E. State St.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $ 6, or $ 5 for seniors (cash only at the Ohio Theater box office)
‘Let me enter’; ‘The cottage’
Or: Gateway Film Center, 1550 N. High St.
When: “Let me in”: Friday at 7 pm; “La Loge”: 9.45 p.m. on Friday
Tickets: $ 12 each