Friday, October 28, 2016

SCREEN GEMS' 'SHOCK!' PACKAGE: THE SWEETEST HALLOWEEN TREAT (PART 1)


"SHOCK! brings your television audience what they have never had before -- night after night of thrills and more thrills with the screen's titans of terror" - SHOCK! Program Guide

This is it, monster lovers. This here is the real deal. It's the genius loci, the ne plus ultra, the holy grail of modern monster movie history. These films were originally released during the 1930s and 1940s and scarcely a dozen years later they were resurrected to be enjoyed (and obsessed over) by a new generation. What followed was a major pop culture phenomenon. To paraphrase a certain Dr. Henry Frankenstein, "They were just resting, waiting for a new life to live."

While there was chatter from other movie studios, it was Universal that first offered a catalogue of 550 films for lease to be shown on this relatively new fangled gizmo called a television. Screen Gems, the TV Division of Columbia Pictures, snapped them up in a $20 million deal.

You had to hand it to "SG" as it was known in the trades -- they were taking a huge chance, but they were banking on success. You see, 52 of the films that SG now owned were from deep inside the Universal castle vaults where lurked their classic horror, thriller and mystery films. After all, they had already made a mint for "U", including saving the entire studio from bankruptcy more than once. SG would not be disappointed as the Screen Gems SHOCK! horror package not only sold well, but was the cause behind the explosion of the biggest monster craze in horror history. Popular culture would never be the same.


Billboard June 17, 1957.

It all happened in in June, 1957. A 10-year lease was struck between U and SG for 550 feature films at the aforementioned $20 million. It was the largest deal so far in television's relatively short history. TV stations around the country jumped on the bandwagon, renting the 52-picture parcel aptly labeled SHOCK! In October of that year, kids from coast to coast were treated to the best Halloween they'd ever had in their young lives when they turned on their TV to watch the most famous monsters ever made.


Inspired by the suggestions promoted by SG, many stations added a "horror host" to their "Shock Theater" broadcast, who, in various ghoulish (or not) makeup and attire would introduce the film and provide creepy comic relief between commercial breaks. Speaking of commercials, an automobile dealership bought a slot of time to advertise their cars. Instead of hearing from interested adults, they receive nothing but numerous calls from kids wondering when the next "Shock Theater" would air!


Presented here is the first part of the original Screen Gems SHOCK! Program Guide, complete with the pop-up Frankenstein monster cut-out page and sales and audience promotional gimmicks. Each movie is given it's own page and includes a photo from the film, a plot synopsis, the film credits, on-air promotions, a TV news release snippet, and a bio of a star from the movie.

The impact of this huge entertainment event is inestimable. SHOCK! launched a monster mania that reached every nook and cranny of popular culture for decades.





















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