A Retro Slasher Salute to USA Network 1985-1995

These days USA Network is known for wrasslin’, Law & Order marathons, and hip original shows like Burn Notice.  Back in the 1980s and early 1990s USA featured some really wild and crazy shows, the kind of shows that stay with impressionable young children long after they’ve turned old and gray.  So here’s a fond look back at some of the programs on USA Network that corrupted my youth.

Night Flight:  This late night program featured New Wave videos, bizarre comedies, commercial spoofs, and cutting edge adult animation.  The animated opening soared over a futuristic city of lights while narrator Pat Prescott described the evenings line up.  Thanks to Youtube I can rewatch the opening sequence and listen to Prescott’s soothing voice whenever I want.  My most vivid memory of  Night Flight is watching Fantastic Planet and Rock N Rule, two post-apocalyptic animated films that aren’t intended for children.

Commander USA’s Groovie Movies: Commander USA looked like Superman three shots of whiskey away from rehab but he played host to an interesting variety of horror films.  With his trusty sidekick Lefty always close at hand, the good Commander took to the air on Saturday afternoons from his secret hideout, the basement of a mall.  Some of the films he showed included Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, the Frankie Avalon slasher Blood Song,The Brainiac, and the monster in the sewer classic Scared to Death.  After a format change the Commander hosted Kung-Fu Theater but switched back to horror shortly before the show was cancelled.

USA Saturday Nightmares:  This weekend horror staple featured movies, short films, and creepy television shows.  The films I can remember watching during this show include Deadly Eyes, Zombie Nightmare, and The Video Dead.  Sometimes the short films were scarier than the full length features.  The Contraption starring Richard O’Brien as a man who commits suicide by giant mouse trap was a standout.  The other two shorts that spring to mind involved a sinister old lady looking to hitch a ride and a take off on the Zuni Fetish Doll segment from Trilogy of Terror.  Adding to the macabre merriment were episodes of The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Ray Bradbury Theater (The Banshee episode is a creepy classic), and The Hitchhiker (Nightshift featuring a Darren McGavin as a vampire is great).

USA Up All Night: Rhonda Shear wasn’t this show’s first host but she’s the only one who matters.  Her charm, wit, and sensuality brought the UP to Up All Night.  Most of the flicks she hosted featured beach bunnies frolicking by the shore or featured Bikini somewhere in the title (Bikini Car Wash, Bikini Drive-In).  Rhonda Shear will always be one of my favorite movie hosts because she wrote back after I sent her a fan letter in 1994.  My jealous girlfriend almost killed me when she read Rhonda’s nice little note and saw the photo Rhonda sent but it was worth it.  I’m amazed the photo and note survived.  As for Rhonda, these days she can be seen on infomercials for her line of bras and lingerie designed for voluptuous ladies.  It would be nice to see her return to hosting bad movies someday.

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9 Responses to “ A Retro Slasher Salute to USA Network 1985-1995 ”

  1. Thank you very much for posting this article. I’m a child of the 80′s, having grown up on these awesome shows. I watched “Rabid” and “Toxic Zombies” for the very first time courtesy of Saturday Nightmares. At least there’s Youtube if I ever want to relieve these moments again.

  2. I loved USA Up All Night when that I was a wee boy. I remember Rhonda Shear – who could forget? – but wasn’t Gilbert Gottfried in there somewhere, too?

  3. Man, that “Hairy-Handed Hitchhiker” short still gets under my skin. Before USA televised it, one of the big name cable movie channels used at as filler one afternoon when I was probably eight or nine. Brrrr.

  4. I loved the great memories that you spoke about your salute to the old USA Network! Man those were the good old days and I remember watching a lot of those programs too! I have been fighting to get USA UP ALL NIGHT back on the air for the past 3 1/2 years now and it will be the 4th anniversary this August. I call it a Rebellution because I am so sick of the same crap that USA Network shows now which is pretty much on every network anymore!

    Ever since NBC bought out USA Network they have taken that network to the dumps I hate to say it! They can give us fans who remember the old USA Network some of that back by removing some of the shows that they currently show or marathons I mean.

    I am looking for new members at the website because we need everyone to speak out against NBC and their programming to put on what we all love and want to see not what they want to cram down our throats. All you have to do is Google usaupallnight or go to Wikipedia and there is a link to the website that I created that is dedicated to USA UP ALL NIGHT and the fans of the show!

    I cannot take all of the credit for this because I allow the members to speak their opinions about things in a discussion board, there are links to a lot of cool websites to check out from members and including myself, photos of all the hosts, video clips of programming of when USA Network was better than what they are now, and of our favorite show USA UP ALL NIGHT!

    Please come and check it out! Take the time and look it over and if you want to become a member I will take you in!

    Thanks again!

    Rob

  5. I don’t even watch the USA Network now (infomercials, cop shows, gag!), but in the 80′s it was essential to watch! Something was just so entertaining about b-movies and b-movie hosts and I have fond memories watching them. I remember right at dusk it would never fail to remind me that Saturday Nightmares was coming with the approaching darkness and I would anticipate yet another chilling movie at 8. Ah, then came Up All Night at 11 – movies til dawn! Life was good.
    I sincerely hope they do revive this era when TV was fun to watch because I miss it sorely!

  6. J-Men Forever is the movie people must seek out and watch from USA up all night

  7. Don’t forget SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA !! One of the best Up All NIght movies ever. Full Moon put it out on DVD and it rocks ! These late night shows gave me alot to look forward too on weekends before girls and beer lol.

  8. I been trying for so many years to get some copies of this or even USA Up all night. Does anyone have any recordings of this show? All I can find is bumpers on YT.

  9. Wow, nice article. I remember when USA and even TNT used to be great stations for horror. Loved MONSTERFEST on that latter channel. I was mostly in high school during the height of USA and it’s horrors. Good times, indeed.

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