Monday, July 28, 2014

MR:Quickies Universal Monsters films

Time to go back to the classics!

Let's dig into not one but six all-time classic Universal Monsters films! Those are not the only "Universal Monsters" out there, and I'm only having a look at one of the beloved sequels.

To be precise, this is a look into a "Complete Collection" that was released a few years back, which was based on the old VHS release and is also sort of similar to the recent Bluray Collection.

What are the "Universal Monsters films"?

It's a genre of films that basically made the rising popularity of Universal Studios and helped them establish themselves from 1923 to1960, beginning with The Hunchback of Notre Dame adaptation which would branch out into several more other classic black & white films from The Phantom of the Opera, to Dracula, going through the likes of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc. and even going as far as spawning a few first crossover films such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.

A movement mostly inspired first and foremost by European cinema, also in its infancy at the time. Mostly the "little" 1922 German film (cult nowadays) Nosferatu by F. W. Murnau, which would become a huge inspiration on Universal Studio's horror franchises right down to several inspired shot recreations and influencing the aesthetics of this entire Universal Monsters lineup, not only Dracula.

These movies were done on the cheap, despite their big success with the audiences. They also re-used a lot of sets, including the same famous leading actors who become legends of the genre. Such as Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff or Lon Chaney, Jr.

It was the Golden Age of Hollywood. They massively produced these movies, sequels and, yes, even remakes in a short few years back then. They were coming off successful ventures outside adventure serials, such as King Kong, which was a huge impressive box office hit for the time. And the unexpected warm reactions from the audience prompted them to explore the horror genre. These films could be made much cheaper than huge stop-motion animated monsters, good make-up and a few locations were all they needed.

They continuously released those over the following decades, but after a while they declined in success, never to attain the same success anymore...

Their very first true horror film was Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde in 1913. Then followed a couple of other short silent films like the first The Werewolf in 1913..

The first actual "Universal Monsters" and soon to be one of their most famous titles was the 1923 Hunchback of Notre Dame with Lon Chaney. Another big defining film was the first 1925 The Phantom of the Opera..

When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, the producers at Universal decided to nonetheless keep pursuing these kind of horror films. They were cheap and not many risks would be taken to make more of those. And that's how they continued to innovate cinema with several more adaptations from literature classics.  Starting with Dracula in 1931, with Bela Lugosi. Many, many more would shortly follow. A lot of sequels to the more successful films, new versions (or "reboots" as we say nowadays). Along this Golden Age of the movie industry.

By the 1950s, their original line of horror characters stared to get really repetitive, or desperate what with the numerous crossovers they experimented. They finally had to retire these characters and despite one last late success big notable success - Creature from the Black Lagoon - it was the end of the genre as we know it. People turned to science-fiction "alien invasion" titles as the Cold Ward began. And the last more or less attempt at that new genre while still retaining some last elements of these so-called "Universal Horror" was The Leech Woman in 1960.

But let's go back to the beginning and have a look at the Horror Classics...

Movie title: Frankenstein
Directed by James Whale 
Release date 1931
Genre Horror monster film

The story begins in Switzerland, 1894.

Henry Frankenstein (Victor in the book) is trying to discover the secret of human live, with the help of his assistant.

They've been building an artificial body by assembling together several body parts collected around the cemetery. They plan to re-animated a dead body through electricity. Dr. Frankenstein has also been having some trouble with his fiancée Elizabeth lately.

"It's alive!!"

Life is given to "the creature", born through the combined might of thunder and the electric machines. The monster lives and escapes, it disappears in the wild, tormenting people by accident due to its grotesque nature, frighting innocent people along the way.

The monster seems apparently frightened itself by fire.

Henry Frankenstein's wedding is coming up.
The monster meet some people along the way, kind of a horrific take on Pinocchio (the original Pinocchio tale was already dark, but here the artificial being is made from dead people parts, not wood!).

The monster finally finds its way back to the castle just in time to ruin the wedding.

His daughter murdered, the father of the bride gets several peasants to join him against this unholy creation. Carrying pitchforks, flaming torches, and all.

In the end, the monster finds itself atop a windmill, where the mill is burnt to the ground with creature...

Overall: Frankenstein is a really powerful film. There's a sort of sadness to this "monster".

The film use amazing (despite somewhat primitive) simple practical effects. It looks terrifying. It looks great. It also looks real.

The film was based on the classic Mary Shelley book, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein aka "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus". It's one of my all-time personal favorite books to be honest. A few changes were made here and there obviously. And most of the final act was cut down (to finally find its way back in the sequel).

The film stars the great Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles and the always amazing and fascinating Boris Karloff in one of his defining roles.

It was of course a huge hit at the time, with both critics and the public alike.

It basically helped establish Universal Studios by itself, and is a landmark of motion picture.

Let's also mention the fantastic make-up work, really impressive for the time.

The film was censored at the time - no surprise there. They called it "blasphemous". (I wonder what those same people would think of films in general nowadays).

Frankenstein went on spawning several sequels, including a direct sequel which I discuss a bit more in-detail below, as well many reinterpretations over the years, more or less inspired by either the book or this first film.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Dracula 
Directed by Tod Browning & Karl Freun
Release date 1931
Genre Horror film

The story takes place in Transylvania. The Castle of Count Dracula!

A man named Renfield is visiting the home of this Count on a business matter. At the local village people fear these mythical "vampire" creatures that supposedly inhabit the region.

Renfield decides to stay at the castle, not the inn.

The Count is an eccentric man, that seems to be rooted in traditions... but he's really actually a vampire!

The Count lets his three wives attack Renfield, and turn him into a "slave".

Dracula now hijacks his trip back, hiding in his coffin aboard the ship to England. Renfield ends in an asylum.

Now in London, Dracula decides to go after a girl named Mina. He starts to stay around her and her fiancé John Harker. There's also another girl named Lucy who becomes fascinated by the Count. He "kills" that night as he drinks her blood.

The next night he then visits Mina's bedroom and bites her as well.

Meanwhile there's this Professor Van Helsing who has been analyzing Renfield.

Van Helsing joins Harker. They find out Dracula has no reflection! He's the "vampire" that has been behind everything that happened lately!

Lucy is not dead, but now a vampire as well! Mina finally admits what Dracula did to her. Dracula comes in to his new "bride" and get Mina back from them.

Van Helsing goes after him. They can only get him at that moment, as he's forced to go back to sleep in his coffin during the day.

Dracula is killed and Mina turned back normal...

Overall: Dracula was directed by Tod Browning with some uncredited help from Karl Freund.

The film is loosely based on a first 1924 Dracula stageplay by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, itself loosely inspired by the original novel Bram Stoker's Dracula novel, and not the real life historical "Vlad the Impaler" which it has barely nothing to do with.

Bram Stoker's classic had already sort of-been the inspiration behind F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu film, which is why Stoker's widow sued Murnau for plagiarism. And the reason why all the prints of the classic cult German film had been mostly destroyed.

This time, this Universal Studios picture was going to be an official adaptation, and so have been every single Dracula film produced by them ever since.

A lot actors were considered for the main role at the time, before they ever set for Bela Lugosi.

Here the "special effects" remain mostly simple, confined to mostly fog and some bats here and there. They also employed some smart off-camera tricks for Dracula's transformation for example.

All in all, this movie still retained most of the aesthetics from the silent film of the 1920s era.

Dracula was actually released before Frankenstein, and helped inspire their following early horror films that would come.

Dracula itself spawned dozens of sequels, and it kinda typecasted Lugosi for years.

It's a very iconic film with great visuals. The film itself would be re-cut for a different Spanish "film" and made into a silent version for some theaters not equipped for sound at the time.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Movie title: The Mummy 
Directed by Karl Freund
Release date 1932
Genre Horror film

The Mummy follows the story of an old Egyptian priest called Imhotep, who is resurrected as his body is dug out of an archaeological dig site in 1921.

Joseph Whemple is the head of an Egyptian archaeological expedition. He finds the mummified body of Imhotep who had been mummified alive as a punishment for his forbidden love affair with a princess, Ankh-es-en-amon. A friend of Whemple, Dr. Muller, warns him not to mess with a curse like that. His other assistant Ralph Norton reads an ancient scroll they also find there.

That night Imhotep is brought back to life, and escapes...

Imhotep goes looking for the reincarnation of his lover Ankh-es-en-amon in Cairo.

Strangely enough, time passes. Now 10 years have since passed. We find Imhotep still looking for Ankh-es-en-amon's soul, he is now disguised as an Egyptian man named Ardath Bey.

He is able to get Joseph Whemple's son Frank and a new group dig for him where he hopes to find Ankh-es-en-amon's body. They donate their findings to the Cairo Museum.

Imhotep finally encounters this woman, named Helen Grosvenor, who might just really be Ankh-es-en-amon's reincarnation. Imhotep wants to kill her, to resurrect his long-lost bride.

In the end Helen calls for the Goddess Isis to save her, a statue gets animated and helps her. The scroll is destroyed.

Imhotep returns back to dust and our heroes escape from there...

Overall: This film was directed by Karl Freund and starred Boris Karloff once more, this time as our revived ancient Egyptian priest. The movie also features actors Zita Johann, David Manners and Edward Van Sloan.

This one was actually not based on a book, but inspired instead by the real-life opening of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 and myths about curse following Pharaohs' mummified bodies. The studio basically wanted to explore an Egyptian-themed Dracula/Frankenstein-like movie, hoping to get another hit on their arms.

The story does seem to have some passing resemblances to Arthur Conan Doyle's The Ring of Thoth but that was mostly involuntary due to the subject's nature. They actually used an old script of an earlier movie treatment as basis, a movie that was titled Cagliostro which actually took place in San Francisco following this  3000-years old resurrected magician.

The Mummy is a great film, featuring a captivating cinematography. A lot of details and effort was put into this film's design, sets and make-up work.

Sure enough, it was another hit.

The film didn't get a proper remake like the previous Universal horror iflms. Instead it would actually be rebooted right away in the 1940 "semi-remake" The Mummy's Hand with a much simpler tongue-in-cheek tone and approach. And it was that one that would get several sequels. It follows mostly the same basic plot and follows instead a new mummy called Kharis instead of Imhotep. But the original film would serve as basis for the only real successful 1990s Universal Monster revival, the 1999 The Mummy film, which was a proper remake and adaptation of this original 1932 film, the only of those many attempts at a revival that would spawn an entire franchise of its own, including 2 sequels, and several spin-offs/prequels.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Movie title: The Invisible Man 
Directed by James Whale
Release date 1933 
Genre Science-fiction/horror film

The movie begins with this mysterious-looking person who has his face covered in bandages and glasses hiding his eyes, in a village in Sussex, in South England.

This man wants to be left alone. But the people there are trying to evict this stranger, since he hasn't been paying his rent for a while and has been making a huge mess around with his "research". The police arrive on the place. He removes his bandages and clothes to reveal... he's actually invisible! And he escapes laughing like a crazy maniac!

We find out this man is called Dr. Jack Griffin, he's a scientist who has been able to discover the secret behind invisibility and has been now working on a way to reverse the effects back. His fiancée Flora has been getting kind of worried by his long absence recently. People search his old abandoned laboratory. This man named Dr. Cranley gets more and more worried when he discovers Griffin had been using this chemical "monocane", which is a powerful dangerous addictive drug.

Griffin forces his old assistant Dr. Kemp to help him. But Griffin has really been starting to get worse and more insane. He now wants to commit "a few murders" and spread terror. They find back his old notebooks regarding the invisible potion that turned him into this monster. He even kills a police officer.

They get Flora in there to try calming him down, but Griffin escapes and starts a killing spree. He even derails a train!

The police is having a problem trying to catch this "Invisible Man", with no luck. They try making a trap to capture him.

And once more, Griffin finally escapes.

He finds some peace to rest in this old barn. The next day, the local farmer finds him sleeping there and calls the police.

Griffin try to flee into the snow, but he leaves footprints behind. They open fire... As he's dying, Griffin finally becomes visible again...  

Overall: This was another fun and different film.

Following the adaptations of Bram Stoker's Dracula Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, it was time for another film based on classic literature. The Invisible Man was based on the similarly-titled novel by H. G. Wells from 1897. A science-fiction classic!

The film was carefully crafted to best represent this classic novel, the script went through several revisions to be the best possible adaptation of H. G. Wells' work.

This film starred Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart. It was originally going to feature Boris Karloff in the main role. It is fun to note Claude Rains mostly interprets our protagonist as a voice only on screen, since he spends all the screen time with his body covered in bandages. 

The film is considered one of Universal Horror's best entries despite being not that similar to their past entries.

The Invisible Man would spawn several sequels, spin-offs and later more recent adaptations as well, less and less related to H. G. Wells' original story over the years..

While the basically follows the original story in the overall lines, there's some notable differences here and there. In the book less is known about our main invisible protagonist, while in the film he's given a backstory and a fiancée.

The film has some really amazing groundbreaking special effects, which continue to be really impressive on-screen to this very day. And it was just a simple use of wires and clever editing!.

It went on winning several awards. And would be followed by several direct and unrelated sequels, featuring other people using the same invisibility formula, and would be the inspiration behind what is perhaps the only successful non-Mummy "Universal Horror" revival, Paul Verhoeven's Hollow Man. 

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Movie title: The Bride of Frankenstein 
Directed by James Whale
Release date 1935
Genre Horror monster film

Following the events of the first film, Henry Frankenstein had finally abandoned all plans to try re-creating life, but he ends up finally forced by the Monster itself to pursue his work, and an old mentor of his return, named Dr. Pretorius, also encouraging him to create a mate for the Monster...

The tale begins with a meta story "outside" the film. Mary Shelley herself was finishing telling the story of "Frankenstein. But you see, the story was not finished there. There was more to this tale, as we leave Shelley & co in this stormy night and go back to the ending of the 1931 classic  Frankenstein film....

Following the burning of the windmill and the apparent "death" of the Monster, Henry Frankenstein was also apparently killed there. The peasants wanted to find some proof of the creature's death. But the monster lives! And it then proceeds to kill the father of the girl it had previously killed as well, and escapes into the forest.

Henry body is returned home, and turns out he was actually still alive and breathing. His fiancée Elizabeth takes care of him as he recovers slowly.

Henry's former mentor, Doctor Septimus Pretorius arrive at the castle. He's also been working on "Homunculus" of his own, living miniature beings (really impressive effect for that time).

Pretorius wants to see Henry go back to his work and try recreating a new "monster". Pretorius appears to aspire to play God. Pretoriues will work on recreating an artificial brain while Henry works on the formula and assembles a female mate for the monster.

Meanwhile the creature's been living at large. It has been hunted down and hurt. The monster finally befriends this old blind man. The man teaches the creature music, and words like "friend" and "good". They become friends. But two hunters finally encounter the monster...

The Monster sees Pretorius raiding graves for his experiments. It finally learns they're going to create a mate for him!

Henry is finally now married to Elizabeth. He wants to drop out of their "experiment", but the Monster forces him to keep his end of the bargain. To do so, they kidnap Elizabeth to force him to collaborate.

They finally complete "the Bride of Frankenstein". Lightning is used once more to finally give her wrapped & damaged body life!

"She's alive!!"

The monsters reach out for her... "Friend?!"... But she seems reluctant and finally rejects the monster. The creature decides to finally spare Henry and Elizabeth, but decide to stay behind as the laboratory is being destroyed, with Pretorius and the Bride he deems unworthy of life...

Overall: Bride of Frankenstein is an highly recommended all-time classic!

This first sequel was also directed by James Whale, and a direct follow-up to the events of the first 1931 film. It introducing the evil Doctor Septimus Pretorius, and his name was - as you can see - directly inspired by the myth of Prometheus.

The film featured Boris Karloff once more in the role that made him famous, along Elsa Lanchester, Colin Clive and Ernest Thesiger as Pretorius.

The story was actually based on the final act of the original Mary Shelley novel.

The film was originally going to be titled The New Adventures of Frankenstein — The Monster Lives! or The Return of Frankenstein. Original plans were made as early as the release of the first film, but some creative issues delayed it considerably.

The film was received to much of the same critical acclaim as the first film, if not to more positive reaction despite a nation-wide censorship of the film back then.

People also found there was much of an homosexual subtext, probably as in relation to Whale's own orientations, relating it directly to Dr. Frankenstein and Pretorius' relationship in the film.

Like the first film, Bride features some stunning make-up work, including what has since become the iconic look of the Bride, with her visually unique hair style.

It went on to become one of the most profitable hits of Universal Studios. It was followed by more sequels.

Bride is one of Universal most memorable and well-remembered films, for years they have been trying to remake it several times to not much success. The only proper remake in decades being The Bride in 1985.   

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Movie title: The Wolf Man 
Directed by George Waggner
Release date 1941
Genre Horror monster film

Our story begins in 1934, following the death of his brother, Larry Talbot returns back to his hometown in Wales, and get to find again his estranged father.

Larry  meets this local girl named Gwen who has a little antique shop. He buys there a silver walking stick decorated with a wolf. She says it represents the legendary werewolf, a "man who can turn into a wolf in some special occasions".

In the little quiet town, people believe in the legend of the werewolves.

One night Larry tries to help a friend of Gwen from what he thought to be a wolf attack, gets in turn bitten by the creature in the process... He kills the beast but it's already too late..

A fortuneteller tells him the animal was actually her son, in the form of a wolf!

Larry will now transform into a were-wolf as well, as the curse passed onto him upon its death. Larry changes into this "Wolf Man" and starts stalking the villagers himself. He's starting to lose himself to the beast as he tries to keep control over his transformation, losing his memories the next following day.

Larry as "The Wolf Man" is finally killed by his own father with a silver stick of his own, as he almost attacked Gwen.

His son finally transforms back into his human form in front of his very eyes, but it was already too late... 

Overall: Written by Curt Siodmak and directed by George Waggner, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. as our "Wolf Man" along Claude Rains, Evelyn Ankers, Ralph Bellamy, Patric Knowles and Béla Lugosi.

This depiction of the "Wolf Man" would have huge influence on how Hollywood would depict the legendary werewolf on screen for years to come.

The film was actually the 2nd werewolf movie from Universal Studios, the first one being the less popular and less financially successful Werewolf of London (from 1935).

Lon Chaney, Jr. would return as the monster in four more sequels following this film.

In this first original film, the Wolf Man didn't require a full moon for Talbot to turn into the Wolf Man, that would be an addition from the sequel.

The film has some great fantastic special effects to represent our protagonist's transformation on screen. Making a great use of pictures dissolving into each other, revealing the progress of the full make-up bit by bit. It was a fairly complicated laborious transformation for the era, but well worth the effort.

The Wolf Man series would be the only Universal monster played by the same actor in all of his appearances.

This first film was a great unique experience. Since then, there's never been much love for the later new adaptations and remakes of the story, including the Joe Johnston-directed one in 2010.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Phantom of the Opera 
Directed by Arthur Lubin 
Release date 1943
Genre Musical horror film

The plot here follows this violinist named Erique Claudin. Erique has been playing at the Paris Opera house for twenty years, and he has progressively lost the use of his fingers over the year, he can't play violin anymore.

Erique is dismissed from the Opera. He's left with no money to help support him, since he has been secretly funding the music lessons and the career of this young soprano Christine Dubois.

He tries to get a concerto he had written published, with no success. He finally finds out people have been using his concerto and playing it. To much surprise, they stolen his work behind his back. He attacks the man, they throw a bottle of acid at his face... long story short, Claudin is no more, he will be known as The Phantom from now on!

Erique steals a prop mask and some kind of costume and starts hiding his disfigured face as he becomes increasingly obsessed with this Christine.

An inspector wants to marry Christine and a famous Opera baritone also wants to win her heart.

The Phantom starts killing people in the way of Christine's career. He crashes a chandelier down on the audience. Erique shows Christine what they did to his face.

The police finds his secrete lair. It all comes crashing down and he disappears never to be seen again...

Christine finally decides to pursue her career.

Overall: This one was a "musical" horror film, directed by Arthur Lubin, and starring Nelson Eddy, Susanna Foster and Claude Rains. The film featured an amazing cast for its time.

The music was composed by Edward Ward. It's catchy, memorable and really well done.

Like I wrote above in the introduction, there already was a first Phantom of the Opera film by Universal. The story is both based on the original novel The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux and acts as a remake of the 1925 film starring Lon Chaney.

This second film used a replica of the Opera interior created for the original 1925 film and shared a lot of sets with it. Other than that, it was a pretty different film overall and had little to nothing in common with it.

Phantom of the Opera became the only one of Universal Monster films to actually ever win an Oscar!

Claude Rain's portrayal of the Phantom while pretty decent still seemed like a step down and nothing on the scale of Chaney's original Phantom, which still surpassed it at the end of the day. The problem was the look and burns on his face looked just simpler and less effective on the screen.

There never was a proper sequel to Phantom of the Opera, a proposed sequel was actually canceled and then the script was rewritten and turned into a different film in the end, called The Climax. Phantom of the Opera is probably the least re-visited propriety of the entire Universal Monsters line-up. 

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Creature from the Black Lagoon 
Directed by Jack Arnold
Release date 1954
Genre Horror monster film

Going on a geological expedition into the Amazon, this professor Dr. Carl Maia goes looking for fossils of the missing link between what would commonly be known as land and sea animals.

They find some remains of a skeleton with webbed fingers, what might be the proof they were looking for!

Maia calls in a former student named Dr. David Reed who works at an aquarium and is a specialist in marine biology.

A 2nd expedition is funded and sent to look for the rest of the skeletal evidences. They embark aboard the ship called the Rita. Amongst this new expedition is Kay Lawrence (the always stunning Julie Adams) and scientist.Dr. Edwin Thompson. When they arrive at the camp, they find it completely deserted, the previous team apparently killed. They think it was perhaps a jaguar....

It turns out it was an actual amphibious humanoid creature like the very fossil they found! The Creature was provoked when they settled camp where it lives. It started investigating the camp of these newfound intruders. They got frightened by it and it attacked them in return, killing most of them in the process.

Meanwhile in the river, our heroes can't find anything. They think the rest of the bones might have fallen farther up away in the river. They locate a mysterious Black Lagoon.

Meanwhile this "Gill-man" has been following them and watching them. Attracted Kay, it attacks her while swimming underwater.

The Creature is finally captured and locked into a cage aboard the Rita. It is able to escape at night.

The Creature proves to be much smarter and traps their boat. It also kidnaps Kay.

It brings her back into its lair in a cavern. They chase it down and finally manage to kill it with their weapons...

Overall: Jack Arnold's Creature from the Black Lagoon was originally a 3-D motion picture featuring Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno and Whit Bissell.

The film was actually for 3D at the time (projected in a pretty rudimentary 3-D method compared nowadays, but pretty similar in its execution). Right in the middle of the first original 3-D fad of the 1950s, it was also later re-released in 1975 in the much simpler blue & red 3-D glasses format.

Fun fact, "The Creature" is mostly referred to as the "Gill-Man" nowadays.

The film was based on an idea that came up to producer William Alland during the filming of Citizen Kane, playing with a "half-fish/half-human creature" in the Amazon river. They had already written a previous similar unused story titled "The Sea Monster" a decade earlier. He wanted to have a sort of Beauty and the Beast-likeplot.

The film went on having a huge impact on pop culture and despite his late arrival in the Universal horror films, Creature from the Black Lagoon made an impression enough and a success impressive as well to have it since then ranked amongst other Universal classics.

Sadly, Black Lagoon was only followed by a couple of sequels, of questionable and decreasing quality over the time. The original was dark, creepy and serious, the later films much cheesier.

It's the rare only Universal Monster to never have been truly gotten modern iterations these past few decades. There's been various talks and ideas of a possible remake, from the likes of John Landis to John Carpenter, and even Peter Jackson and Ivan Reitman at some point, but they never went that far with it... And the creature never made a proper comeback besides a small role in the Universal Monster-loving tribute Monster Squad.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Over the years, there's been many, many more sequels to all of the above films as well as other less familiar horror monsters films made.

When the genre started to lose some steam, Universal decided to go all out... and simply start producing crossovers.. First there was a Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, then House of Frankenstein, and finally an House of Dracula as well..

This over-situation of the market really lost the audience. These films were silly and fun, sure, but they also completely destroyed the credibility of these monsters which all originally started in much more serious grounded horror films.

Soon "Horror monster" films would be replaced by Sci-fi "Alien invasion" films of the 1960s-70s. They were just as simple and cheap to produce and could be released massively in theaters. They were also much easier to relate than those old "silly" monsters, the paranoia of the alien invasion capturing the tension of the Cold War to a point. (Those films would be in turn replaced by incessant Slasher films in the 1980s, sort of how we have 3 to 5 Superhero films released on the big screen nowadays)

In that time, Hammer Films bought the rights to use all the above monsters and were able to produce series of their own, with Universal working as their distributors. They made those even cheaper, with the help of a new generation of Italian film directors mostly. Their films were very gory, kinda artsy and had quite of a Gothic touch. They began with some pure horror film re-interpretations of Frankenstein and Dracula, both spawned a new series of films, and worked their way to The Mummy along others such as Dr. Jekyll, Phantom of the Opera and more!

In the late 1980s Universal tried to make new monster films with no much success, going for a more direct 80s slasher tone, kinda reminiscent of Hammer Films as well. Only a few of those were made.

Finally the first real big successful attempt to bring the original Universal Monsters back was achieved between 1990 and the 2000s, to more or less success. Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1992 and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in 1994 opened the gate for Stephen Sommers late 1990s The Mummy remake which broke all box office records. It was then followed by two sequels over the next years, as well as a spin-off prequel series. There were other attempts to cash in on Stephen Sommers' Mummy, but with not much luck. A Van Helsing and a Wolf Man reboots.

These last few years there's been several plans to resurrect most of Universal legacy films. Long development hells and canceled projects never went anywhere. Including several plans to bring a Creature from the Black Lagoon or Invisible Man.

Then the success of all these recent superhero "super-franchise" films got to Universal. They would follow suit and make their own inter-connected universe, starting with a Dracula reboot titled Dracula Untold for this 2014 Winter. They're currently working on bringing more old Universal Monsters back to th big screen, supposedly all tied together for the first time since the original House of Frankenstein. From Dracula they're hoping to branch out into new Mummy, Van Helsing, Frankenstein/Bride films. Several film directs have shown interest in participating in this dantesque project (such as Guillermo del Toro).

Let's hope this hoping this new "shared universe" works out for the best for these classic iconic monsters' sake...


That's all for this time's Quickies!


  1. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and the Invisible Man were my favorites. I HATE The Wolf Man. That movie is so fucking boring.

    1. I feel like they've never had much luck with any of the Wolf Man/Werewolf of/in movies. The idea is good and sound, but it never sums up to much compared to the rest of the films...