Satellite of Trash: Ted Nicolaou’s horror-comedy “TerrorVision” dishes up much-needed laughs

By on October 31, 2018

For you horror fans out there who don’t take your horror too seriously (and we can all use a laugh these days, amiright?), Night Flight’s “Take Off to Rock and Horror” — which originally aired on October 25, 1986 — gave us a quick peek at TerrorVision, Ted Nicolaou‘s goofy sci-fi horror-comedy from that same year.

Watch this haunting Halloween-themed “Take Off” episode now on Night Flight Plus!

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Nicolaou’s screenplay poked a little fun at sci-fi themed stories like Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and other movies about aliens coming to Earth and making themselves at home.

TerrorVision follows the story of a monster named “Hungry Beast Alien,” a gross big-toothed, long-tongued blob-like monster (designed by John Carl Beuchler).

The Monster is actually a garbage collector on his own planet, Pluton, who ends up getting jettisoned into outer space because he’s considered expendable trash.

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Of course, this being Earth, we have for our protagonists a typical American family of four, the Puttermans, if by typical you’ve already imagined that every middle-aged couple in the ’80s were swingers.

“Stanley Putterman,” played by Gerrit Graham, and his wife “Raquel,” played by the always great Mary Woronov (who first stole our hearts in Eating Raoul) are the proud parents of a hot teenage Valley Girl-ish daughter “Suzy Putterman” (Diane Franklin, dressed like she raids her outfits from Cyndi Lauper‘s closets) and her trusty little brother “Sherman Putterman” (Chad Allen), our story’s real hero.

“Grampa” (Bert Remsen) also stops by occasionally to relate his flashbacks of the war whilst constantly preparing for the next missile attack like any good Midwestern survivalist nut.

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The action truly begins when Stanley goes outside to adjust his family’s satellite dish — we’re told their newly-acquired “Do-It-Yourself 100″ “picks up things from… everywhere” — and just then the Monster (voiced by prolific voice actor Frank Welker) ends up being broadcast directly into the Putterman’s home the way that most garbage arrived in the 1980s, through their TV set.

The Monster then goes on a hungry and deadly rampage in the Putterman house, while the Putterman kids try figure out how to prevent it from doing so.

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Suzy’s boyfriend “O.D.” — played by the great Jonathan Gries — and the Puttermans put their heads together and decide the best thing to do is to contact the only expert they can think of: “Medusa,” the buxom Elvira look-a-like host of the local monster movie marathon TV show, played by Jennifer Richards.

Along the way, they discover that the Monster digs O.D.’s heavy metal paraphernalia, which he finds appealing because it reminds him of his caretaker’s gloves.

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Everything here is played for much-needed goofy laughs, and there’s more than a few gross-out moments.

We have to say how surprised we were to see just how beautifully TerrorVision was shot by Italian cinematographer Romano Albani, who lensed Inferno (now streaming in our new Blue Underground section on Night Flight Plus!) and Phenomena for Dario Argento.

There’s also a totally ’80s soundtrack full of songs by L.A. new wave art-rock band The Fibonaccis (a CD soundtrack was released on Restless Records).

Read more about Ted Nicolaou below.

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Writer-director Ted Nicolaou grew up in Dallas, Texas, later moving to Austin, where he was the lead singer of party band Ramon & Ramon and the FourDaddyOs, described as a “hippie” band by those who probably would know better than we would.

He attended film school classes at the University of Texas, writing and directing a Student Academy Award-winning apocalyptic comedy called Southern Hospitality.

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After graduation, and because he had previous experience as a boom operator, Nicolaou worked on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) as a sound recordist. That film’s incredibly long hours working in 100-plus degree heat apparently prepared him for just about anything.

Nicolaou’s experience as an editor working on commercials, PSA’s and short films eventually led to his moving to L.A. , where he joined many of his film school pals.

It was through them that he ended up working as an assistant editor on ROAR, starring Tippi Hedren, later becoming the editor on ROAR due to the film’s chaotic and dangerous environment causing a lot of crew turnover.

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Nicolaou worked on a a dozen or more low-budget films, including Tourist Trap (editor/co-producer Larry Carroll and production designer Robert A. Burns had both worked on Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

Through other connections he’d made in UT’s film program (namely David Schmoeller), he ended up editing features for Charles Band‘s Empire International Pictures (Band would go on to found Full Moon Entertainment in 1988).

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Nicolaou edited several of Band’s films — including Ghoulies (1985) — and eventually got to direct his debut film, The Dungeonmaster, in 1985.

Nicolaou followed up a year later with the cult comedy sci-fi satire TerrorVision, which arrived in theaters on February 14, 1986, making it the perfect Valentine’s Day date movie.

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Apart from his feature film projects, like his popular vampire-themed SubSpecies series, Nicolaou also works in television.

He’s also created innovative documentaries and bonus content for Walt Disney Home Entertainment, including Dalí & Disney: A Date with Destino, a documentary about Walt Disney and surrealist painter Salvador Dalí’s unlikely friendship, which we told you about here.

Watch Night Flight’s Halloween-themed “Take Off to Rock and Horror” — which features videos by the Ramones, the J. Geils Band, Rockwell and Cabaret Voltaire (read about their “I Want You” video here) and it also features Dan Carbone’s surreal sci-fi short Dot too — which you’ll find streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.