DRACULA MEETS THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Sadly, it’s a Universal Monsters team-up that never took place on the big screen, but it will happen tonight on COZI TV.
COZI, a nostalgia-themed broadcast network available as a digital sub-channel on NBC owned television stations (and part-time on DISH Network and AT&T’s U-Verse), will celebrate Halloween with two of the most iconic classic horror films, as part of the channel’s spooky, 24-hour programming block. Tod Browning’s DRACULA (1931), with Bela Lugosi as the creepy count who “never drinks…wine,” kicks off the primetime festivities at 8 p.m. And next up at 9:30 p.m. is THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), director James Whale’s follow-up to his heart-warming 1931 family film about a new dad and his rambunctious offspring. In the darkly comic sequel, an even madder mad scientist makes Dr. F look like a weekend hobbyist in the monster making department. Hilarity and explosions ensue.
Before and after the movies, COZI is airing Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond, a paranormal anthology series that aired on ABC for three seasons, from 1959 until 1961. The show is hosted by actor and director John Newland, who also emceed The Next Step Beyond, a syndicated follow-up during the 1978-79 season. The Twilight Zone it ain’t, but One Step Beyond is still worth checking out.
So, why are DRACULA and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, two of the best loved horror films ever made, not airing on TCM, where they might be exposed to a far wider audience of classic film lovers (and new potential converts)? The answer, as always, has to do with the labyrinth of corporate ownership that controls far more of what you see, where you see it, and how you see it than you may know.
DRACULA, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and every other Universal Monsters film made through the 1950s were released by Universal Pictures, which continues to control them and mine them for profits. In just the last two years we’ve seen both a Blu-ray box set – Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection – and a new DVD set – Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-film Collection. Also just released are new Legacy Collection DVD sets for Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, the Wolf-Man, the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, not to be confused with the previous Legacy Collection releases from a few years ago. And don’t forget transactional VOD rentals and digital downloads on sites like Amazon, Vudu, iTunes, etc.
In short, more than 80 years after these films were made, the Universal Monsters are the gift that keeps on giving for whichever corporate entity happens to control Universal at a given moment. And since COZI TV is owned by the NBC Owned Television Stations group, which is in turn a division of NBCUniversal (formed in 2004 through the merger of GE and Vivendi), they get the Halloween gift in 2014. And the roughly half of the United States that doesn’t get COZI TV in their local television market isn’t invited to the party.
To be clear, both films have aired on TCM, and probably will again. But you may not see them on Halloween on TCM, just like you don’t see IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (exclusive to NBC) or other iconic holiday films on the channel at Christmas. And, with the rise of broadcast digi-nets controlled by content owners – CBS just announced their own last week – you may continue to notice changes in the who, what, where, when and why of you classic film viewing.