Werewolf By Night's Cigarette Burns Are A Love Letter To 1930s Horror

In a week where horror folks will be overloaded by the return of Pinhead ("Hellraiser"), Art the Clown ("Terrifier 2"), and Chucky ("Chucky" season 2), the people at Marvel Studios have decided to endow upon us a television special that harkens back to the days of early sound monster movies with "Werewolf by Night." Composer Michael Giacchino, otherwise known as the man behind the scores for "The Incredibles" and "The Batman," has taken it upon himself to adapt the '70s Marvel comic into a love letter to the Universal Monsters for his directorial debut.

As the first of Marvel's "Special Presentation" department, "Werewolf by Night" presents an incredible opportunity for creatives to tinker around with characters and ideas that may not have enough leg room for an entire series or feature film, but fits just nicely into this looser mold. If Giacchino is going to take a crack at taking us back to the golden age of horror under the Marvel banner, this is an excellent way to test the waters and go wild with it.

Giacchino's project may just come in under an hour long, but when you look at most of the Universal Monster films of the era, a good chunk of them barely stretched over the hour mark. Even with those short runtimes, however, projecting monster movies during the '30s and '40s came with a tradition called cue marking, otherwise referred to as "cigarette burns." While 1930s film stock was usually in 1.37:1 aspect ratio, Giacchino's homage is in the more modern 2.39:1, but it appears that he's also tributing the ways in which they were initially shown.

Cigarette burns are a mark of a bygone era in projection

In an interview with Collider, Giacchino talked about how he and editor Jeffrey Ford saw the inclusion of cigarette burns as a way for them to pay tribute to the era in which this would have been seen:

"As we were editing and stuff, my editor Jeff and I are such nerds for this kind of thing, and we were just like, 'Oh, we got to put in those things too. We got to put in the reel changes.' Because we always approached this as something that was being done in the '30s."

In a real blink-and-you-miss-it moment in the trailer for "Werewolf by Night," when Kirk R. Thatcher is yelling "death is coming for you," you'll notice a little blip in the right-hand corner of the screen.

In the event you're unfamiliar with what cigarette cue marks are, they were used by projectionists as an indicator of when to switch over to the next film reel. After all, a single film reel only carries a portion of the movie. According to Videocide, a single reel could hold about 14–20 minutes. In the decades to follow, the reels would be spliced together by the projectionist, then stacked on top of one another.

When the monster movies of the '30s and '40s were projected, however, there was usually a dual setup where the moment one reel was ending, another projector was set up to play the next one. They would usually appear in the top right corner of the frame during the last few seconds of the reel.

See if you can catch them all this Friday.

"Werewolf by Night" will premiere on Disney+ on October 7, 2022.