August 14, 2013

Shock Theater, Part One
Hard Sell Frankenstein

San Francisco TV execs look on as Screen Gems’ Jerry Hyams and his towering silent partner, the Frankenstein Monster, set a macabre mood for this contract signing.

The gag shot, from the September 7, 1957 issue of Sponsor — a trade publication for radio and TV advertisers — celebrated KRON-TV’s buying up the Shock! syndication package that would bring classic horror films to television. Shock! offered a whopping 52 films — including Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Dracula, The Mummy, The Invisible Man and The Wolf Man — a treasure trove of mystery and monster movies that would find a whole new generation of fans.

Station managers did not have to be coerced with knives or stand-ins in Don Post Frankenstein masks. They were well aware of the teenage demographic packing drive-ins for AIP horror films, and Hammer Films of England had recently entered the field with a bang. Sponsor magazine contributing editor Joe Csida reported, “The overwhelming success at the box office of the New York Paramount Theater of the English-made ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ is a fairly good sign that the ‘Shock’ package will be a rating success.”

By the time the series aired in October ’57, twenty-seven stations were aboard, including all the major TV markets. Flagship stations in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco geared up for “National Weird Week”, an October coordinated launch that would, according to Sponsor, “telepremiere the Shock films, most likely with the original Boris Karloff Frankenstein.”

The Monster was a key player, with the 1931 Frankenstein spearheading the Shock! package and rubber mask ‘Frankensteins’ putting in personal appearances across the continent. And if it wasn’t already obvious that The Monster was your go-to guy, station managers who flipped opened the handsome, spiral-bound Shock! promotional catalog were treated to a pop-up cardboard cutout of The Monster.

It’s Shock Theater Frankenstein Week on Frankensteinia.
Coming up next: Frankenstein hits New York, and the ratings are in!

1 comment:

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