Swami Drana Badour -- Is He TV's First Horror Film Host?
It appears that Vampira was NOT the first horror film host on television. Swami Drana Badour was the host of MURDER BEFORE MIDNIGHT, a show that debuted on Chicago's WBKB on January 23, 1950, ending its run in 1952. The following information about Swami Drana Badour is chiefly taken from a discussion on the Classic Horror Film Board and the posts of Don Glut.
TV announcer Allen Harvey played the Swami, and the show ran from Monday to Saturday, showing films in serial-like form, as the program was only half an hour. Art Hern later replaced Harvey as the Swami.
Glut: "Accompanied by spooky music, the camera would slowly push in towards the Swami and his crystal ball, which is where the movie would begin. Then the shot would dissolve to the movie itself. The movies were not run in their entirety, but 'serialized' over three days. After the movie segment was over, the Swami would do an over-the-air quiz, phoning people at home and asking questions relating to the movie. Winners got a jackpot prize offered by sponsor Allied Motors."
Glut lists some of the films shown on MURDER BEFORE MIDNIGHT:
THE CORPSE VANISHES WHITE ZOMBIE PANTHER'S CLAW A SHOT IN THE DARK THE FACE OF MARBLE BELOW THE DEADLINE REVENGE OF THE ZOMBIES DARK ALIBI (Charlie Chan) RED DRAGON (Charlie Chan) SALUTE THE TOFF HAMMER THE TOFF RETURN OF THE APE MAN SHADOW OVER CHINATOWN (Charlie Chan) THE APE MAN PHANTOM SHOT NIGHT COMES TOO SOON THE ACCUSED THE NIGHT HAS EYES IMPORTANT WITNESS THE INTRUDER MEET SEXTON BLAKE THE CASE OF CHARLES PEARCE THERE GOES KELLY TANGLED EVIDENCE LORD EDGWARE DIES SOMEONE AT THE DOOR THREE WITNESSES ACE OF SPACES PAUL TEMPLE'S TRIUMPH WOMEN IN THE SHADOW
It's an eclectic brew, but certainly such a mixture of horror and mystery films was part of the Vampira show and, later, the SHOCK! and SON OF SHOCK! programming.
My suspicions are that a rigorous search through newspaper TV programing guides in other cities will uncover other horror hosts that predated Vampira and possibly the Swami himself. Our work has just begun!