Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The 'S from Hell'

We now interrupt our regular programming to revisit a television character that frightened untold millions of small children during the 1960s, the 1970s, and beyond. Yes, I'm talking about the "S from Hell," which I first detailed on this blog in June 2003 and now can show you, thanks to the wonders of YouTube.

As I wrote in 2003, the S from Hell is the animated closing-credits logo for Screen Gems, which was used from 1965 through 1974 (and reportedly still appears on some syndicated versions of those shows) and shown at the end of such programs as "The Monkees," "Bewitched," and "The Partridge Family." Its reputation for frightening children apparently stems from its creepy music, though, as S from Hell expert John S. Flack Jr. notes in his hilarious exposition on the subject, the enigmatic animation itself was a factor as well. As Flack notes, "Maybe the whole thing was planned to be a way to get us kids to watch less TV."

Here, posted by YouTube user "BobGaret," is the black-and-white S from Hell, from the end of a first-season "Bewitched" episode in 1965. BobGaret writes, "WARNING: Enjoy at your own RISK!!!"

Here's a color version:

A YouTube user with the delightful name of Vulgate does his postmodern St. Jerome thing on the S from Hell — adding a sort of verbal commentary. In his (or her) words, his version is "[a] mock-up of how the Screen Gems "S From Hell" logo should have been, complete with satanic voice in the background." He adds, "It's not like the real thing was any less evil."

Indeed. I had forgotten how frightening the S from Hell was until I saw the Vulgate version:

But to truly understand how frightening the S from Hell was, you have to see it in context. For example, watch how it appears after the end credits for "The Ugliest Girl in Town." What, you don't remember "The Ugliest Girl in Town"? Here's a description from YouTube user "raymondo1960": "There's bad TV and then there's legendarily bad TV. We're talking 'My Mother The Car' or 'Pink Lady' bad. That's how bad 'The Ugliest Girl In Town' was. Maybe worse. The premise was a guy in drag mistaken for a very ugly woman, so photographably ugly he becomes a high paid London fashion model. GAAAAAH! BUT it had a very catchy theme (in the mold of 'Georgy Girl')."

Raymondo1960's right about the song; its bouncy abandon makes the interrupting S from Hell seem even more ominous than it is. See for yourself — providing there are no small children in the room:

MORE: Mark Shea brilliantly unveils the connections between "The Ugliest Girl in Town," "Titanic," and Strong Bad.