It’s Comin’ to Gitcha

The stuff you can learn on the Internet never ceases to amaze. There is, for example, an entire Internet subculture of people who were—and are—freaked out by the short musical logo used by Screen Gems studios to identify its TV productions from the mid 60s to the mid 1970s. It appeared at the end of shows such as The Flintstones, Bewitched, The Monkees, and The Partridge Family, just after the closing credits. You know the one I mean:

Fear of the Screen Gems logo and theme has apparently been satirized by The Simpsons and Family Guy (unless those YouTube clips I found are homemade parodies), and now somebody’s actually made a short film about the fear called The S From Hell, which was shown at Sundance last month. I can’t tell if it’s intended to be a parody or a true documentary of an actual phenomenon, but that may be a distinction without a difference in this case.

I vividly remember the Screen Gems logo from my own childhood, although I found it more cool than scary. (Perhaps that’s how teenage synthesizer geeks are made.) But I know well how we can seize on little things when we’re kids, and how they stay with us for years thereafter. I’ve written before about the episode of the 1998-2000 TV series Sports Night in which a character perceives Three Dog Night’s “Eli’s Coming” as the harbinger of bad news. In high school, I knew a kid who abhorred the Emerson Lake and Palmer song “Tank” because of the nightmares it caused, thanks to an older sibling who played it all the time. (Listening to it again for the first time in a while, I’m not surprised that kid found it scary. I’m a little bit disturbed by the last couple of minutes myself, and I’m almost 50.)

How do we function every day, anyhow, what with our heads a roiling stew of everything we’ve ever seen, heard, and felt, an endless fugue of audio and video playing every waking hour? It’s no wonder some psychologists believe that consciousness, contrary to being a mechanism that opens the world to us, is actually a filter that shuts a lot of the world out. If we could perceive everything there is to perceive—the sound of every insect, the sight of every detail in the carpet—we’d be so overloaded that everyday life would be unbearable. It’s tough enough living with our memories.

Audience participation time: What are the little things that scared you—and maybe still disturb you now? Places, songs, bits of cultural ephemera or other oddments of life that your head has collected? Show ’em if you’ve got ’em, in the comments.

(Tip of the baseball cap to Matt at Scrubbles.net, who mentioned The S From Hell earlier this week.)

12 thoughts on “It’s Comin’ to Gitcha

  1. Re: The Screen Gems short film — I think maybe these people need to put on some pants and go outside! (Love the bizarre images, though — and the fact that I can’t quite tell if the whole thing is supposed to be a joke!)

  2. Yah Shure

    I’d read some time ago about how some folks thought the Screen Gems logo was so scary, and I immediately began to wonder what planet they were from. It has always been my *favorite* show closing logo, firmly cemented along with the Yardley ads in the Monkees memories. Man, was I pissed when they replaced the “S” logo with the Colex one for the MTV reruns. No “S” on the Monkees DVDs, either.

    The various Revue logos after ‘Leave It To Beaver’ were great, too.

    The only thing I ever saw on TV that spooked me was NBC’s Saturday Night At The Movies showing of ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still.’ The Screen Gems “S” was child’s play compared to the tension in that picture.

  3. I don’t remember that one at all but I always got mesmerized by the spiraling special logo they use to have on cbs. It was awesome and they need to bring it back!

    The only pop culture thing I have been scared of was new zoo revue (I was like 3 when this was on). It wasn’t so much the show as my mom’s reaction to the show. She was recoiling at it’s sheer stupidity. Good thing she never had to deal with Barney or Teletubbies, or she would have keeled over.

  4. Nothing scary about the Screen Gems logo but when I was a kid the talking, apple throwing, apple trees in The Wizard of Oz scared the crap out of me. They still make a me a bit uncomfortable. Why, I don’t know.

  5. Shark

    I always felt a little uneasy if I was all alone in a radio control room at night and playing the beginning of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”

  6. scranton

    I remember the Screen Gems ending – about half of my favorite shows had it – but, to be truthful, I was indifferent. Didn’t really make a difference to me one way or the other.

    But I’ll tell you something that probably disturbs me now more than it did then: some of the weird psychedelic cartoons on SESAME STREET (ca. early seventies). Can’t deal. I know I put up with those segments when I was really young, but I found them harder to look at, the older I got. And I don’t think I’ve actually seen any of them since age 10. I’d just as soon keep it that way. Something about those shaky, surreal illustrations freaks me out right up to this minute.

  7. Jay Young

    I’m mildly autistic and I have always been fascinated by television and film logos. I always thought the Screen Gems logo was classy. It was the CBS Eye that used to scare the crap out of me when I was real little. I had nightmares. It didn’t stop me from watching CBS — you had very little choice in those days, and anyway Walter Cronkite, Bob Keeshan, and “Camera Three” were worth putting up with the damn eye.

    Ten years later I read The Lord of the Rings. and figured that the Eye of Sauron looked like that. There’s a scene in the film version (the encounter on Weathertop) that pretty much echoes my early nightmares.

    Curiously enough, a single floating eye in other kinds of designs, like the “Eye of God” in religious art or the dollar bill, is okay and does not bother me at all. Today’s modern CBS eye doesn’t upset me. Perhaps it was the writing in the center. I have no fear reaction to any other logos.

  8. Chuck

    The Screen Gems logo never scared me … but Mr. Yuck did! I had never seen this anti-poison promotion in the Chicago market where I grew up, but it was popular in the Baltimore market, which my grandparents picked up on TV in southern Pennsylvania. “Mr. Yuck is mean … Mr. Yuck is green!” Freaky for a little kid, which I guess was the point if you didn’t want kids to get near poison!

    Actually, what frightened me as a young teenager was the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” I first heard it overnight on an FM station in the mid-’70s while I was staying up way past bedtime and everyone was asleep. That orchestral crescendo to the final note had me convinced some evil Manson type was going to break in any minute. Even today, it can give me the shivers…

  9. The talking apple trees and the flying monkeys in “The Wizard of Oz” freaked me out as a little kid. And one night in early autumn of 1969 I left my radio on when I went to sleep and woke up to the spookiest record I’d ever heard. It took a lot of daytime listening before the Beatles’ “Come Together” didn’t give me at least a small case of the creeps.

  10. I blogged about this at my own site so’s not to clog up your comments.
    I’ll repeat one point I made over there, though:
    The Stones were supposed to be the evil band, the ones who walked on the dark side … and yet, the friendly lads from Liverpool made a lot more music that was genuinely chilling.
    I found “A Day In The Life” spooky as a kid; same with “Revolution 9;” and if I’d heard “Cry Baby Cry” as a young kid, that probably would have scared me too.

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