Monday, October 31, 2016
As far as Halloween's go, I've seen a bunch of them. The one's where I dressed up and went trick or treating were, of course, the most memorable. I had a prized skeleton costume that I wore until I grew out of it.
The picture above is me in my Dracula outfit in either 1964 or 1965. This is me as a full-fledged Monster Kid. My mom made the cape and my dad made the pendant. I even willingly gave him a bat from my Dracula model to put on it. Like all good parents, they did what they could to make us happy. And, boy, I couldn't have been happier in this outfit! Looking more David Peel than Bela Lugosi with my blond hair, I nevertheless did my best at the Lugosi "hypnotic hand" gesture.
I even put one of these photos in my homemade monster magazine, called simply MONSTERS MAGAZINE. It was accompanied by a quiz that asked what were the three mistakes that are shown. Can you tell what they are?
I hope that all of you who stop by and read my blog, MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD, a very spooky Halloween. Don't forget to brush your teeth!
Sunday, October 30, 2016
After word got around about the SHOCK! movie package, it didn't take long for your fiendly neighborhood censor to come knocking at the TV network's collective studio door.
Now, one must remember that this was also the time when the Comics Code Authority (headed by John Goldwater, the publisher of Archie Comics) held a first amendment chokehold over the comic book industry, forbidding the use of such terms as "horror" and "terror" for comic titles and disemboweling the contents of these selfsame books, prohibiting a laundry list of no-no's when it came to monsters, criminals, blood-letting, gore, and other dastardly deeds.
The warning for TV came from the humorless National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters Code Review Board during a three-day conference in November, 1957, just a month after SHOCK! debuted. The kindly inquisitors, influenced not surprisingly by a Catholic papal encyclical, declared that TV executives needed to be reminded that the code called for the elimination of "the use of horror for its own sake" in TV programming, to which I would ask, how else could it be presented?
Putting the SHOCK! phenomenon into context, it is difficult to imagine in today's on-demand, fast-forward culture that there was a time when visual home entertainment was derived solely from network television, and us Monster Kids had to wait --- pray for a rerun of our favorite monster movie. Sometimes our wishes would be granted, but it could have taken weeks or months when we got another chance to see Frankenstein, Dracula or The Wolf Man again. Surely, this must have been one of the reasons that the mystique of SHOCK! grew into an obsession, and finally, a full-on monster mania. I am reminded by a certain actor who came out from behind a theater curtain to introduce Universal's FRANKENSTEIN: "Well, we warned you!"
NOTE: If you enjoyed this weekend series of posts, be on the lookout for MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD'S special 60th anniversary commemorative print edition of SHOCK! THEATER, coming in 2017!
Saturday, October 29, 2016
As with any other enterprise, promotion played an essential part in the success of the Screen Gems SHOCK! monster movie package acquired from the Universal Studios film library in 1957. First and foremost, of course, was the instant "cool factor" among viewers who had the thrill of watching what were already becoming iconic films depicting the timeless images that had been forged in Universals crucible of imagination (with a big help from genius makeup man, Jack P. Pierce). The tropes would form the psychological imprint of the entire horror film oeuvre for years to come. Watch any horror film today and you can still see the monster lurking just outside of the hero's watchful eye, and you still want to shout, "Watch out!", to the hapless heroine.
The SHOCK! sensation caught on like wildfire and TV stations began lining up to rent the 52-film package offered by SG. Photos in trade magazines showed campy scenes of station execs signing the SHOCK! contract under "duress" from the glare of an actor in a Don Post Frankenstein monster mask or a menacing, knife-wielding psycho that looked like he was saying: "Sign up ... or else!" TV stations didn't have to be threatened -- the buzz was SHOCK! was a sure winner.
Friday, October 28, 2016
"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.