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Just keep telling yourself: "It's only a logo! It's only a logo! It's only a logo!"
January 27, 2010 6:05 PM   Subscribe

The S From Hell is a new documentary/horror film about the 1964 Screen Gems logo, a company ID that struck terror in the heart of a generation. The film's premiere at Sundance sheds some light on the fascinating and bizarre subculture of Logophobics [previously | via]
posted by pxe2000 (75 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was unnerved by the abstract-W Warner logo, which looked like a faceless bear to me when I was a child. I actually enjoyed logos, on the whole, then and now, for the weird abstract quality that probably makes them specially terrifying to unformed young minds.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:10 PM on January 27, 2010


The old HBO intro always unnerved me. The music in particular really got my heart racing. Still does, a bit.
posted by jedicus at 6:12 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think I was probably 14-16 before I realized the old USPS logo wasn't a left-facing guy with a blue and white collar and really, really pointy nose.
posted by DU at 6:17 PM on January 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


Wait, no actual link to the movie, just a link to a movie promo website?

Logo Blue, if you ask me.
posted by hippybear at 6:21 PM on January 27, 2010


When UPS came out with their redesigned logo a few years back, somebody noted that it looked kind of like a stylized Hitler, with the swept bangs and the mustache and the brown.

Haven't really been able to see it without thinking of that since then.
posted by Alt F4 at 6:22 PM on January 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wait, no actual link to the movie

The second link is the whole movie. It's just under 9 minutes long in its entirety.
posted by jedicus at 6:24 PM on January 27, 2010


The "S" logo looks like "69" to me.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 6:24 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


A few years back I noticed that the GLSEN logo is an upside-down penis and balls.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:29 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not a logo but sort of falls into the same category:

The bumper/promo for the old "4:30 Movie" on WABC was kind of freaky and scary to my young mind, not least because it heralded the imminent arrival of Godzilla, Rodan, Gamera, and so on...
posted by Mister_A at 6:31 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Actually I don't remember if they used it as a bumper or if it was just the open. Anyway, it was the silhouette of the guy cranking the old-school camera with the big reels up top...
posted by Mister_A at 6:34 PM on January 27, 2010


Found it! As I recall now this was the open for the movie. Gawd I love the internet.
posted by Mister_A at 6:35 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. I was scared by some pretty strange things as a kid, but never by a logo. Cool little film though.
posted by marxchivist at 6:37 PM on January 27, 2010


What's funniest/creepiest about this to me right now is that reading the description of the movie, it reminded me of how much the Doctor Who credits (or at least the version from Tom Baker's first six seasons) used to scare the bejeezus out of my brother and sister. And then this happened at 1:56.

Get out of my brain.

I think this movie is the demonic one. Or maybe it's Metafilter.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:40 PM on January 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Mister_A: Freeze that video at 12 seconds. Now, compare to the Hypnotoad. Coincidence? I think not!
posted by jedicus at 6:41 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


ВИD
posted by tellurian at 6:47 PM on January 27, 2010


I think I was probably 14-16 before I realized the old USPS logo wasn't a left-facing guy with a blue and white collar and really, really pointy nose.
posted by DU


I was 28...
posted by stifford at 6:57 PM on January 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


To me, at 9 years old, it symbolized the difference between television and the movies, since by then, pretty much all of Screen Gems production output was TV shows (it later became Columbia Pictures Television, while the Screen Gems name was given to one of Sony Corporation's 'boutique' studios). Think about it, THE MOVIES got a real live woman in a kinda-majestic-not-sexy pose, TV got a three-part geometric thingy that 9-year-old-me could draw.

And at the time, I saw the Big S at the end of sitcoms like "Bewitched" and HannaBarbera cartoons.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:08 PM on January 27, 2010


The old MGM logo sequence had an actual lion. Roaring.

A roaring lion. Scary. If animated graphic letter shapes stylized to the point of abstraction, accompanied by some bloopy bassoony cheerful little fanfare frightens you, that lion should turn your hair white.
posted by longsleeves at 7:09 PM on January 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's no Chiller.
posted by cazoo at 7:11 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fascinating topic that I totally identify with, but man is that film poorly made. Twice as long as the content it carries dictates it should be and it's only 8 minutes long.

It would have been far more interesting with fewer overlong phone interviews with nobodies and some more meat about how it came to be. Maybe face to face interviews with industry people to give it some context.

I understand it's just a short but this thing gets by on its brilliant topic when the content inside doesn't quite merit it.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 7:12 PM on January 27, 2010


The old HBO intro always unnerved me. The music in particular really got my heart racing. Still does, a bit.

To me, it meant one thing: I'm seeing boobs tonight.
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:14 PM on January 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


this intro always creeped me out
posted by inqb8tr at 7:15 PM on January 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


ВИD logo

If there is a way to violently attack and/or punish the viewer for what they are about to watch, or have just watched, this was it.
posted by chambers at 7:23 PM on January 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does Richard Lewis get royalties for the title?
posted by rokusan at 7:28 PM on January 27, 2010


Did someone mention horrific logos?
posted by Pronoiac at 7:42 PM on January 27, 2010


How about the old PBS logo?
posted by JHarris at 7:47 PM on January 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


So it's a bit of tape running across a roller, right?
posted by fleacircus at 7:47 PM on January 27, 2010


Is this a thing I would need to be Cayce Pollard to be afraid of?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:53 PM on January 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


You know how Old People who were Alive Back Then like to talk about how Easy You Young Punks Have It These Days Dammit?

Yeah, well they were scared of a side-ways S and a synth tone. Up-hill in the snow both ways, I imagine.

Psh.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:53 PM on January 27, 2010


The emperor has no clothes.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:57 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


That logo meant that I'd just watched Mickey Dolenz sing "Zor And Zam" and that it was probably Saturday morning and I was going to do nothing but eat a whole bunch of Twix bars and hang out and not think about Social Studies, so thank you Screen Gems S for being COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY AWESOME.
posted by mintcake! at 8:06 PM on January 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


On the lighter side, a friend of mine who shall remain nameless derived endless mirth as a small child from the DIC logo.
posted by No-sword at 8:18 PM on January 27, 2010


Eventually, the S from Hell retired to Philadelphia, where it currently scares riders on that city's public transit system.
posted by adamg at 8:25 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The second link is the whole movie. It's just under 9 minutes long in its entirety.

HA! Okay, then. I thought that was just another promo piece. Oops!
posted by hippybear at 8:34 PM on January 27, 2010


For some reason, this stupid waste of effort reminds me of Look At This Fucking Hipster.
posted by intermod at 8:37 PM on January 27, 2010


I was terrified of the spinning blades of DOOM that followed every episode of The Muppet Show.

And while where at it, searching Youtube for "tv logo history" brings up some cool videos.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:39 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I could be discussing the State of the Union address, or the loss of Howard Zinn, or the Apple Tablet, or anything else that actually has a bearing on modern thought -- but no, I'm going to discuss closing logos from the 70s and early 80s.

The film doesn't seem to do a good job of explaining why certain closing logos creeped out a good many kids way back when, and why people are still discussing the logos today. The imagery in the short film is mostly about death and tangible danger -- devils, hell, some kid is a pumpkin mask keeling over, being chased -- but I can't imagine many people actually thinking that the logo itself was going to cause them to die or directly cause them any sort of physical harm.

Instead, the logos were "scary" in the same way as those Internet prank sites -- you know, the ones where they get you to really concentrate on an image, and then they switch out the image with a vaguely scary picture and a loud, discordant noise. As an 8 or 9 year old, it was a completely jarring experience to enjoy a full half hour of good natured sitcom fun and then suddenly be interrupted by 5 seconds of discordant synthesizer noise or really aggressive horn stings, only to be plunged afterward into another show or commercials.

Put another way, it was a syndicated end credits version of a cat scare. Few people are really afraid of cats, but watching a horror film in a dark theater, a majority of the theater will jump when, at a moment of tension, a cat jumps out at the screen and meows.

But, you might ask, why was the young television viewer so on edge that 5 seconds of ridiculous synthesizer bloops would send them out of their seat? For a couple of reasons.

First, television production was a lot less professional or reliable then it is now. The gaps between shows and ads -- or even between the credits and these logos -- were often awkward and unexpected. You might be watching a show at a normal volume, see the screen fade to black for a curious period of many seconds as the commercials weren't completely queued up, and then have the commercial appear (already in progress) at blaring volume. Transitions just weren't smooth, creating a sort of anxiety when it came to these segue ways.

The second is that daytime afternoon shows that kids would commonly watch would be suddenly interrupted by tests of the Emergency Broadcast System. These tests were often even more jarring than the closing logos -- not only did they suddenly interrupt programming in the middle of a broadcast with an especially atonal and attention-getting noise, but they'd also invoke thought about the possibility that one day there would be a scenario where it was not a test, and there'd be a genuine emergency. You'd think about how you'd be sitting around in your PJs watching What's Happenin', only to be interrupted by this horrible tone and the message that missiles had been launched, and in just a few hours, after detonation, your life would never be the same again. The movie alludes to this with a few images of mushroom clouds, but it doesn't match the intensity of the "what if" scenarios of the emergency warnings. Or maybe you worried about tornados, or flash flooding. While these days you can watch Nick Jr. or whatever and have 16 straight hours of bright, cheery, uninterrupted entertainment, that didn't use to be the case.

Finally, watching TV was one of the only times when as a young kid I was alone, and I suspect this was the case for many folks of my generation. So when there was the shock of the closing logo or an EBS test, there wasn't anyone or anything else in the room to buffer that eeriness. The hollowness of the synthesizer tones, or the strange, automated glitchiness of the television station switching equipment only exacerbated this sense of loneliness.

The jarring shock, the thoughts of unspecific dangers, the unnaturalness or intensity of the sound and a feeling of loneliness invoked a really peculiar sort of modern dread and existential horror.

That being said, I always enjoyed that HBO Feature Presentation opening. Far from existential horror, it was a rousing herald of two hours of fine movie entertainment. Someone should do a documentary on that. Oh wait, they did -- back in 1983!
posted by eschatfische at 8:48 PM on January 27, 2010 [34 favorites]


The one that always weirded me out was the Mark VII logo at the end of The FBI. I always imagined this guy coming into my house and pounding that thing into my skull. The FBI ran on Sunday night, and it wasn't a great way to end the weekend.
posted by hawkeye at 9:13 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


...5 seconds of discordant synthesizer noise...

I'd hardly call that cute little major-key bassoon melody "discordant noise".

I'm still stymied.
posted by Xezlec at 9:17 PM on January 27, 2010


As soon as I read 'scary logo', I immediately thought of the United Artists bit by Jerry Fielding (included in logophobics link) - about one million X scarier than the S from Hell.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:38 PM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I remember LOVING that HBO intro with the model city, even remember when the "documentary" on the production of the intro aired way back in the day. God, HBO used to be so cool back then. I guess it still is, in its own way. But… that song!

Duh duh NUH!
duh NUH!
duh NUH NUH NUH!
Duh na naaaah! (Duh na na, duh na naaah!)
DUH DUH DUH (Nuh na, Nuh naah!)

Goosebumps, I tells ya. Goosebumps.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:45 PM on January 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm surprised no one's mentioned Viacom's old Flying V of Doom. Both the music and the appearance remind me of the Ingsoc logo/anthem from the film version of 1984.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:50 PM on January 27, 2010


When I read the FPP I blinked, shook my head and had to re-read it. Then I read this thread and confirmed it. Seriously? People are freaked out by letters and logos? I learn something new everyday.

And yeah, that HBO intro is awesome, way better than any Hollywood studio opening reel.
posted by zardoz at 9:54 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now I know why, when I saw Threads, the little synth jingle thing at the end of the "Protect and Survive" clip sounded familiar. It's not exactly like the Screen Gems jingle, but it's kind of similar in a creepy way. See around 4:00 here.

I was never scared of the Screen Gems logo, though. I do remember thinking it looked like two rolls of toilet paper.
posted by litlnemo at 12:09 AM on January 28, 2010


CBS "IN THE NEWS GLOBE" IS COMING TO GET YOU ALL
posted by crapmatic at 12:47 AM on January 28, 2010 [7 favorites]


Aaaggh! Yes, that one's creepy too!
posted by litlnemo at 1:14 AM on January 28, 2010


crapmatic: CBS "IN THE NEWS GLOBE" IS COMING TO GET YOU ALL

Oh, if only it was. That was excellent! If only the networks still did bits helpful explanatory little pieces like that!
posted by JHarris at 1:50 AM on January 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


By the time I made it to the end of a Sid & Marty Kroftt production, this child had seen things that couldn't be unseen. That horrific rainbowy signature simply reinforced the names of the Makers of Nightmares.
posted by prinado at 1:56 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this the thread where we talk about the THX logo, and how the sound still makes me want to piss my pants at 25?
posted by sarahsynonymous at 2:34 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mister_A: The bumper/promo for the old "4:30 Movie" on WABC was kind of freaky and scary to my young mind, not least because it heralded the imminent arrival of Godzilla, Rodan, Gamera, and so on...


Ahh, beat me to it Mister_A. It was the afterschool snack and a movie intro to all manner of bad sci-fi for kids in the NYC area. It's still fun to watch.

This intro, for the Million Dollar Movie, is really old 70s NYC and brings back a ton of memories. Back when WOR wasn't rebranded into the CK and part of Fox.

Acchh...oh boy my hemorrhoids!! Oy!

and get the hell off my lawn!

posted by Skygazer at 2:46 AM on January 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's no Chiller.
posted by cazoo


Horrible....utterly horrible and scary. All the Chiller movies were about devil possession of some sort, seemed like.

I liked the Screen Gems it short sweet and tidy, and that little musical fragment was a nice endstop.
posted by Skygazer at 2:53 AM on January 28, 2010


You want penis and balls?

Dodge of Burnsville, MN logo...as seen shamelessly on the back of every car they've sold.
posted by AugieAugustus at 3:48 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


My logo experiences were mostly good ones, from the soul-vibrating thrill of anticipation I got from the crazy percussion and spinniness of the CBS Special Presentation logo, which meant something great was about to happen, to the catchy strains of the General Cinema intro, which hailed the long-awaited beginning of a movie in Columbia, Maryland.

The whole "this logo scared the crap out of me" thing, on the other hand, is one of those idiotic self-effacing nostalgia fetishes that our generation has fixated on as another way of finding some shred of excitement in the sad, empty stories of excruciating suburban emptiness we experienced sitting in front of a television. A few synthesizer "bing, bong, bim, BUMMMM" notes and a cartoon will only scare you if you've completely surrendered to the stupid box, for pete's sake.

This increasingly reminds me of people who breathlessly confess, in the post-James Frey universe of confessional atrocities, that they're still afraid of clowns, mimes, AMC Pacers, snails, the theme song from In Search Of, the feathered wings in Farah's hair, and whatever other non-threatening imagery currently "scares" grown-up This American Life fanatics. It's just so vogue to dwell on the quirks and fetishes we had as kids, but really.

Yeah, we get it. Strange things scared you as a child. You're distinctive and unique.

Now you're 37, you've got kids, a 401K, a Toyota, and a mortgage payment. Are you really still scared that a clown will eat you, Von Daniken's aliens will kidnap you, or that a logo will reach through the glass of your Trinitron and destroy your soul?

Really?

I wonder if it's possible that all these things were scary because TV itself is scary, as an disembodied, disjointed central train station of stacked, shifting, unrelated imagery, flashing one thing after another at us with the logic of a post-human committee intelligence running the show. Real life doesn't suddenly interrupt you with a big yellow screen and loud noises, unless you ride your bike into the side of a school bus, but even that's something drawn in a simple progression of events. When something does land on you, hit you in the face, cause you to step out of a cab and suddenly fall down an open manhole, it's jarring because it's a drastic sudden change in what you think was supposed to happen. With TV, you've got no control at all, and your caveman brain doesn't expect disjointed imagery because it has a million years of evidence that one thing generally follows another in a reasonable way, and reflects a chain of things that actually happened. TV subverts that assumption.

Having the same logo appear in the same way at the end of another half hour of Stretch Armstrong commercials and prehistoric spousal abuse shouldn't invoke the same spirit of fear and anxiety, except in my own neurosis-riddled generation, but here we are. What ocean-spanning Titans we humans have become, after millions of years of evolution and progress.

Yeesh.
posted by sonascope at 4:09 AM on January 28, 2010 [4 favorites]


Somebody make this into a ring tone STAT!
posted by mattholomew at 4:26 AM on January 28, 2010


from the soul-vibrating thrill of anticipation I got from the crazy percussion and spinniness of the CBS Special Presentation logo, which meant something great was about to happen...

I have it as my ringtone, so now it means that my boss is calling me, telling me he can't find the file that is right on top of my desk, where I told him it would be.

Maybe I should change it to something else.
posted by Lucinda at 4:51 AM on January 28, 2010


Are you really still scaredhoping that...Von Daniken's aliens will kidnap you..

FTFY
posted by DU at 4:53 AM on January 28, 2010


The whole "this logo scared the crap out of me" thing, on the other hand, is one of those idiotic self-effacing nostalgia fetishes that our generation has fixated on as another way of finding some shred of excitement in the sad, empty stories of excruciating suburban emptiness we experienced sitting in front of a television.

Yes, and calling it logophobia is further evidence of this. Sure, maybe some people were a little freaked out or unsettled for a few seconds at the end of their favorite show every week, but at least from the links I saw it doesn't seem like anyone developed a full-blown, honest-to-god phobia of logos whereby they were forced to end meaningful relationships or make disastrous changes in their lives in order to avoid the possibility of encountering logos. Kinda cheapens the word for people who have real problems.
posted by ekroh at 5:14 AM on January 28, 2010


That was just silly!

Besides, everyone knows that the theme music from Perry Mason was the sound of evil escaping from hell.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:22 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Screen Gems? Really? ROFLMAO!

Please. This was a world that had "The Outer Limits" in it. What's a little logo and some synth sound, up against glowing men, sliding down beams of light to wander around town? Oh, wait. Must have been too young/sheltered to have seen that.

Nothing on TV before or since has ever scared me as much as The Outer Limits. An amazing piece of crap, unfortunately, but it sure stuck in my mind forever. (well, to be fair, the Galaxy Being episode was pretty decent). Can't seem to ever remember to look at it, to work my way through. The only other specific I remember from the original airing was one where some guy gets eyes that looked like fried eggs, all bugging out and giant. Probably my dad shouldn't have let me watch it with him. Oh well, it was thrilling.
posted by Goofyy at 6:30 AM on January 28, 2010


I don't think any two people see the old USPS logo the same way. Me, I always saw a bird with a freakishly large head standing on little baby feet. It was high school before I realised otherwise.
posted by spamguy at 7:06 AM on January 28, 2010


Wanna see something really scary?
posted by Splunge at 7:10 AM on January 28, 2010


Late to the game, I suppose, but I always found the 1971-77 PBS bumper particularly grating.

I'd be watching something quiet and talky late at night when everyone else was asleep, and that thing would come on and. . . it's just too piercing, man, ahmo take my bongos and go.
posted by Herodios at 8:10 AM on January 28, 2010


Actually spamguy, I'm afraid the second sentence in your own post allows me to refute the first.

I also saw the USPS logo as a bird with a huge head and little feet -- it made sense to me because I thought it was an eagle.

Speaking of, when did you guys start seeing the arrow in the FedEx sign? (Sorry that's a joke/rhetorical question; I just have to always mention it when talk goes to logo...especially since I didn't start seeing it until a few months ago.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:13 AM on January 28, 2010


hawkeye: The one that always weirded me out was the Mark VII logo at the end of The FBI. I always imagined this guy coming into my house and pounding that thing into my skull. The FBI ran on Sunday night, and it wasn't a great way to end the weekend.

And now I know where the sound for the Williams Street logo (Adult Swim) comes from. Thanks!
posted by schleppo at 8:16 AM on January 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


As a wee Bentrazor, nothing startled me from my calm like the 'diddlydillyBWONGGG' flying pyramid from "A Current Affair."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:05 AM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


The United Artists logo bit did used to scare the heck out of me when I was little. so foreboding.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:31 AM on January 28, 2010


Speaking of the childhood fears of Gen X'ers, I think Patrick Farley's webcomic take, Terrors of the Night, really nails 'em. Production company logos? Not so scary. Freaking doll with a knife chasing Karen Black around? Hell, yeah.
posted by sonascope at 10:20 AM on January 28, 2010


"the soul-vibrating thrill of anticipation I got from the crazy percussion and spinniness of the CBS Special Presentation logo, which meant something great was about to happen"

Yes, yes, and yes! Usually a Peanuts special, IIRC.
posted by davidmsc at 11:44 AM on January 28, 2010


I remember being weirded out by this intro for the PBS show, Inside/Out, but there was another intro for Self Incorporated that had disembodied heads that really freaked me out.
posted by jonp72 at 4:21 PM on January 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's a few mentioned here that bugged me as a kid. A couple of others I didn't like much because of their horrific music: Universal, Paramount

Also, bonus points for a show with several logos stacked up at the end.
posted by evilcolonel at 5:21 PM on January 28, 2010


A pictorial quiz: Missouri Baptist University logo or Imperial stormtrooper helmet? http://lil.b27.org/rydib
posted by limeonaire at 6:38 PM on January 28, 2010


@sonascope : Yeah, at 2 or 3 years old the screen gems logo and sounds creeped me out. I didn't know I was choosing to be neurotic at the time. This explains a lot.
posted by tcv at 7:06 PM on January 28, 2010


Please. This was a world that had "The Outer Limits" in it.

The Outer Limits ain't got nothin' on the Tales from the Darkside intro.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:27 PM on January 28, 2010


Was anyone else terrified of the old "Tums" commercials? The "tum tum tum tum TUUUUUUUMS" part at the end used to send me sprinting from the room, howling in fright. Every. Damn. Time.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 9:57 PM on January 28, 2010


Oooh, what about Magic Shadows?
posted by stinkycheese at 2:48 AM on February 9, 2010


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