(Above) A collection of movie art from producer Val Lewton’s brief by prolific time running RKO’s B-movie horror unit. From 1942-1946, Lewton produced (and contributed uncredited script polishing) to nine genre shockers. Many of the films were scripted around preconceived exploitation titles such as I Walked With a Zombie and The Ghost Ship.
The lurid titles for the first six of the RKO horror films were audience-tested and mandated by (RKO head Charles) Koerner. RKO was the first studio to commit to George Gallup’s Audience Research Institute (ARI), signing a contract in March 1940 that would furnish sustained research regarding various audience groups’ preferences in story types, stars, and specific title choices. An initial survey for RKO revealed that a quarter of audiences bought tickets on the basis of the film’s title alone, thus explaining Koerner’s commitment to his audience-tested titles.