To just about anyone who called New Orleans home over the past several decades knows Dr. Morgus (aka Morgus the Magnificent), the mad scientist host of late night science fiction and horror movies on local stations.
On January 3rd, 1959, his first show, The House of Shock premiered and a New Orleans icon was instantly born. House of Shock introduced Dr. Momus Alexander Morgus, a whacked-out nut-job of a scientist toiling away in his lab atop the Old City Icehouse (with a fire escape exit into Pirate’s Alley) in the French Quarter.
With his caveman brow, nasty teeth, and soiled labcoat, Morgus was both horrific and hilarious. Each week, he would unveil a clever new invention destined to make the world a better place and each week, said invention would promptly blow up in his face.
As the creation of talented New Orleans radio and TV personality, Sid Noel, the character of Morgus evolved, over many years, from diabolical mad scientist to Quixote-inspired “secret scientist” working to bring about a “Higher Order” of humanity.
Assisting Dr. Morgus for over three decades and through several incarnations was the silent, hulking Chopsley – a towering masked man in executioner-style hood. Also on hand was a talking skull named Eric (all that remained of a previous assistant).
The House of Shock eventually became Morgus Presents and even spawned a motion picture, The Wacky World of Doctor Morgus (1962), a little-seen example of independent New Orleans filmmaking that influenced both the original Nutty Professor (with Jerry Lewis) and the big screen version of the Batman television series (with Adam West).
Dr. Morgus invents an “Instant People Machine” that could transform people into sand and then back again to their original form. When the Eastern bloc country of “Microvania” steals it in order to sneak its foreign agents into the U.S., Morgus must make sure his invention doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Check the vintage trailer for the movie in the VIDEO box on the left side of the article.
Not long after the film, the cameras within the Old City Icehouse fell dormant. That is until Morgus Presents returned to television in the form of 52 slickly-produced full-color episodes which aired on WGNO between 1986-89, most of which re-aired on late night local television several times through the next two decades.
Sadly, little from the early years of Morgus has survived. A five minute snippet of The House of Shock is all that remains along with this HD transfer of The Wacky World of Doctor Morgus, which was obtained from the Library of Congress after all other prints were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Chalmette Movies has booked The Wacky World of Doctor Morgus for a special limited Halloween engagement, a new annual event for the theatre begun last year, which was the movie’s first appearance on the big screen in over twenty years. The movie will play Friday, October 28th – Monday, October 31st at 7:00 pm nightly.
So please come out and enjoy this uniquely New Orleans film during the Halloween week and support Chalmette Movies (8700 W. Judge Perez Dr. just 6 miles from The French Quarter) by catching this exciting local film, so that the theater can continue bringing interesting films like these to the New Orleans-area. Visit the theater’s website for more information, directions, showtimes, and ticket prices.
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