Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Shock Influence on Shock!

The Shock! phenomenon currently holds several mysteries as to who thought up the idea of the film package at Screen Gems, who developed the marketing plan for it and the choices made during that time regarding catalog design and even the name of the package of Universal films the company was preparing for television sale. I believe I may have accidentally stumbled upon a couple of answers. The genius or geniuses behind Shock! are still unknown, but it appears that the 1946 film SHOCK, with Vincent Price and Lynn Bari, may have generated the idea for the title of the package AND a significant part of the design of the Shock! catalog.

Take a look at the cover of the Screen Gems catalog:

And then a poster for the SHOCK film:

Clearly, the font selection for the Screen Gems' catalog mimics to a substantial degree the font and color of font that had been designed for the film's poster, as well as the prominent placement of the upper face of a person above the "Shock" title. It is not a long stretch to deduce that Screen Gems also borrowed the film's title as an effective, bold pronouncement for their own catalog of Universal horror and mystery films.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Published recently, Michael Monahan's SHOCK IT TO ME: GOLDEN GHOULS OF THE GOLDEN GATE is an important document on the SHOCK! phenomenon in San Francisco's Bay Area and its aftereffects. Even though I wasn't raised in that part of the country, I could feel the same excitement as one felt on the East Coast as I went through the book's 135 pages, reading about the horror show programming of the time and viewing the many TV ad mats, horror host photos, and copies of pertinent TV guide pages that illustrate this handsome paperbound volume.

In the Bay Area the first SHOCK! programming arrived with NIGHTMARE and the premiere of the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN on October 3, 1957. As in other parts of the country, this classic horror programming became a huge success among the younger crowd, in the Bay Area's case even causing wild monster-inspired disturbances at the UC Berkeley campus. NIGHTMARE lasted until October 1961, and it's interesting seeing the evolution of its programming through the years, from the original Screen Gems' SHOCK! package to films like THE BLACK SLEEP and PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

Complete listings are given not only for NIGHTMARE, but the other horror film packages in the San Francisco area through the years, which were very similar to the types of programming that would run in varied areas of the country. So, for instance, we see the emergence of foreign horror films and Germany's krimis (mystery-crime films) into the viewing habits of growing monster kids, which for many such kids were the first, and very impressionable, samples of a cinema that was more askew, more deviant, than the type of classic horror cinema crafted by such studios as Universal.

Of course, a good portion of Monahan's book is taken up with the horror hosts of San Francisco, to include by-now such legendary figures as Asmodeus and Bob Wilkins.

If you have any interest in the SHOCK! phenomenon and its programming and horror hosts, you need to acquire and delight in Michael Monahan's book, which can be purchased here.