I wrote this for FilmInk, and it was published a couple of months ago. Seems like a good idea to post it here for Halloween.
Jeron Criswell King started as a newspaper writer, but slipped into the role of a Hollywood prognosticator. In tinsel town he was the personal psychic for Mae West, who periodically chauffered home cooked meals to him which he would share with his friends. On one occasion the actress sold him her old Cadillac for a dollar.
With his silver hair, aristocratic manner and slightly sing-song exaggerated thespian voice he was a natural for movies. It was the master of visionary cinema Edward D Wood Jr who recognized Criswell’s cinematic talent and cast him in the legendary Plan 9 From Outer Space (1956). At the film’s opening Criswell appears – as himself - sitting behind what appears to be a card table. The camera pulls in and he starts speaking: “We are all interested in the future because that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives, and remember my friends future events such as these will affect you in the future.“ As an opening spiel to a b-movie there are few stranger, or more enigmatically compelling. There are many elements in Plan 9 worth celebrating - from the wild plot concepts to the wonky props and the b-movie acting - but Criswell’s cameo is perhaps one of the strangest.
A close friend of Ed Wood, Criswell also appeared in Wood’s movie Night of The Ghouls (1958). Once again offering an opening monologue, this time delivered from a coffin: “I am Criswell, for many years I have told you the almost unbelievable, related the unreal and showed it to be more than fact. Now I tell you a tale of the Threshold People…” Criswell even appeared in the Wood scripted 1965 sexploitation movie Orgy of the Dead, here he provided an intro to the movie and appeared in the role of The Emperor.
Criswell’s most accurate prophesy occurred in 1963 on The Jack Paar Program - a popular variety show, when he stated “I predict that President Kennedy will not run for re-election in 1964 because of something that will happen to him in November 1963”. But he is best known and remembered for his astonishingly inaccurate yet fantastically imagined predictions which including Mae West being elected president and floating icebergs in the atmosphere prohibiting air travel.
In the ‘50s had his own television show on KCOP in Los Angeles: Criswell Predicts. Something of socialite he would invite friends to the Brown Derby every Friday after shooting his show, where they would drink cocktails. As his fame grew Criswell appeared on The Tonight Show, often as the source of mirth to Johnny Carson and his studio audience. Legend has it that he slept in a coffin, which may not be true, but makes good copy.
Criswell wrote three books: Criswell Predicts: From Now To The Year 2000!, Criswell Predicts Your Next Ten Years and Criswell’s Forbidden Predictions and recorded an album The Legendary Criswell Predicts (available on CD if you search for it) which included such nuggets as “I predict embalming by radar, where the body is turned to indestructible stone!“ and “I predict that flying saucers will land on the lawn of the White House… mark this date on your calendar: May 6th 1991".
Criswell; a true star of bizarre Hollywood.