Sunday, July 14, 2013

Commander USA the Grooviest Superhero.

The Commander USA Logo that was shown at the start of the show.

The popularity of superheroes has risen over the last couple of years through movies, TV shows, and merchandise. Before there were movies such as “The Man of Steel” or “Avengers” that helped to push superheroes into become household names, there was a retired superhero by name of Commander USA. He was the host of show called “Commander USA’s Groovies Movies”. The show first aired on the USA network on January 5, 1985. The Commander would show his groovie movies from his video vault located somewhere under a mall in New Jersey. What is he doing in New Jersey of all places instead of fighting crime? Well sadly, from all his years of crime fighting, he got bad knees and he had to retire from crime fighting and League of Decency. The show was nationally syndicated same as Elvira was in the 80’s. Also the show was shown every Saturday from 12:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. The show would consist of a double feature and a serial chapter. The time and the format of how many movies and serial chapters would be shown would change throughout the series run. The commander would not just show horror movies and science fiction movies. He would also show comedy movies and Mexican wrestling superhero El Santo. The show ended in the fall of 1989.

Commander USA and his disguise saluting his fans.   
Commander USA and his deer head Monroe. In this episode Monroe was dressed nice because he won the lottery. The Commander joked that Monroe came into a little doe after winning the lottery.

The format of the show was like most horror host show he would introduce the movie and between commercial breaks. He would also do a skit or talk about the movie and after the movie ended, he would do a closing to the show. Here is a more depth look of what he did during his show. The show would start out when the commander would walk into his video vault wearing his disguise, which consists of a trench coat and glasses. He would always turn around and jump in freight and yelling, “Holy cats” as he starred at the camera. He would introduce himself and tell you about what movie or movies he would be showing that week. He would then hang his coat on his deer head name Monroe. In later seasons he would dress up Monroe and Monroe would grunt back to him and Commander would have conversation with it. And of course you can’t forget his hand puppet named Lefty, which he would draw on his right hand with his unlit cigar he always had on him. He would joke that he met lefty while he was vacationing at the finger lake. He would then sit in his comfy chair and using his slide whistle to open the heat and radiation screen that protected tel-psychotronic screen that he would view the weekly movie or movies on.  He would do a preview of the movie or movies and during the preview he would make over dramatic noise to make the viewer’s laugh and make them want to watch the movie. He would then start the movie the movie and pop back between commercial breaks to comment on the film. After the movie ended, he would end his show by saying “Keep your nose in the air and your tail to yourself.”

Commander USA and Lefty.
Commander USA in his comfy chair with tel-psychotronic screen.

Now that you have some background on the show, let’s gain some information on the man behind the mask. The man who portrayed Commander USA was Jim Hendricks. Before Jim became the grooviest superhero on T.V., he was an actor trying to become a big time actor that  had to also be cab driver on the side to survive. He heard about USA doing auditions for new show, so he went to the audition as a character he used when he was on the radio in Junction City, Kansas called Uncle Willie. The producer of the show didn’t like the character but worked with Jim to come up with commander USA.  After the show ended Jim went on to do some Broadway shows and some movie and T.V. appearances as a regular actor. In 1993 he played in a movie called “Brutal Fury” and in 2009 he played in a movie called, “The Hungry Ghost”. And in 2005 he had an appearance on “Law and Order: Special Unit”. He also showed up in the 2006 “American Scary” a great documentary about horror hosts. In the documentary he talked about his show and his character.  And that is the story of grooviest Superhero and the man who played him. 

A screen shot from "American Scary", 2006 of Jim Hendrick aka Commander USA.
Commander USA fan club card.

The only issue of Commander USA's magazine that was canceled after the first issue.
 HOLY CATS it’s the end. 
Keep your nose in the air and your tail to yourself.


Shelterd Life said...

I'm not a big fan of horror fiction (too much of a scared cat!) but I do really want to see Carrie again. Poor timid Carrie didn’t stand a chance against all the mean girls at her high school who mocked her beliefs.

Kluger said...

I played The Commander's agent Bernie on a few episodes

Christopher Waldrop said...

I missed an opportunity to meet Mr. Hendricks without realizing it. As Commander USA he was manning a booth at City Lights, a downtown revival festival held in the summer in Nashville. It was 1986 or '87 and I didn't go but my parents did. They brought me a fan club card, but I was so disappointed I didn't get to meet the man himself.
I'm glad his memory is preserved here, but I'd love to know when his birthday is. I'd like to do something special to mark the occasion.

Anonymous said...

I was a huge Commander USA fan when I was a kid. I spent a whole lot of Saturday afternoons with him. My fan club membership card is still packed up somewhere. I recently started looking for info about him so this was very cool to read. Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

I miss the old USA network of the 1980's now TV is so boring blah. I was 12 years old when Commander USA, Night Flight, UP ALL NIGHT, and Saturday Nightmares were on. Thank goodness for YOUTUBE otherwise there would be nothing to watch. There's only adultswim and EL REY channel worth watching on tv.

Unknown said...

I have several episodes of Commander USA that I recorder on VHS tapes back in the day. Just watched The monster from 20,000 fathoms, where the monster wrecks havok on a rollercoaster in NJ I think. The Commander's dinosaur trashed the mall. This was TV worth watching.

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