This is long overdue – today is Sci-Friday’s tribute to the creature feature. Where would science fiction be without the Creature Feature? Let’s take a deep-dive into this whimsical, ironic aspect of science fiction.
Creature Features started out in the 1950s. In October 1957, Screen Gems released a bundle of old Universal horror movies to syndicated television, naming the collection “Shock!”. They encouraged the use of hosts for the broadcasts. This is why many of the early programs were called “Shock Theater”. Viewers loved the package, as well as the concept, and ratings soared. A “Son of Shock!” package was released in 1958.
Suddenly, all of these low-budget sci-fi films that would otherwise never see the light of day were in our faces. Weird characters, unusual storylines, out-of-this-world gadgets – a subversive shot across the bow to all the family-friendly cultural boosterism and agitprop coming out of network television (Looking at you, ABC’s TGIF …) blasted at us during the 80s and 90s. Take a look below to see some of the ‘Creature Feature’ TV promos and learn a little more about Creature Feature history:
Creature Features was another film package that was released in the early 1960s and added to in the 1970s. The films in this package ranged from horror and science-fiction films of the 1950s, British horror films of the 1960s, and the Japanese “giant monster” movies of the 1960s, and 1970s. This package also included an uncut print of Night of the Living Dead.
Creature Features usually aired on Friday or Saturday night, around eight or nine o’clock. In some cities it aired on Saturday afternoons alternating with Kung Fu Theater and/or Bikini Theater. Because it aired after the traditional Saturday morning cartoon time block, it introduced many teenagers to classic monster movies.
It’s difficult to quantify the direct cultural impact of ‘creature features’ on science fiction, but we all grew up watching the local ‘creature feature’ programs on television. Moms would go out on Saturday night. The older kids watched the younger kids playing play spoons, monopoly and watching the Creature Feature before falling asleep in front of the television.
Creature Features created an environment of whimsical irony. It’s not serious folks, Creature Features seemed to say, we’re having fun, too. Their tongue-in-cheek approach struck a chord with us zit-faced scapegraces and Creature Features stuck around for over forty years. Those obscure, yet ubiquitous experiences defined us giving us a lingua franca that we all understood even if we had no idea who else would be listening.
So let’s take this Sci-Friday to say ‘thank you’ to all those Creature Features, those labors of love, that made us into the goofy, warm-hearted cultural subversives that we are today. Hope you enjoyed this discussion, please feel welcomed to dive down the rabbit hole of every other Sci-Friday I’ve published in the past couple years. Have a great weekend! 🙂