Where are my fans of Classic Horror at?
Growing up I spent a lot of time staying at my grandparents house and they are big fans of the old Universal Monster movies and, being from Illinois, we used to watch Svengoolie every Saturday Night. I’m a fan of all types of horror, but those classic monsters are something kind of special.
The one and only time that I made it to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando (so far anyway) they had a scare zone that was basically just photo ops with monsters and Egyptian Anubis stilt walkers. Of course we had dinner at the Monster Cafe and caught a showing of Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Review.
Monsters are a part of our yearly Halloween traditions
Every fall we make our way to Fright Fest at Six Flags Great America and have to see the Love At Fright show. We end up there nearly every Friday night that it’s open in September and October and see the show every time. Yes I know all the words and most of the dances. My son loves it too, he calls it the Thriller show and is somewhat disappointed that they don’t play it in the summer as well – and I mean, same.
Everyone Has a Favorite
My favorite classic monster has always been Frankenstein, from the original film to the sequel, Bride of Frankenstein, and my personal favorite horror/comedy – Young Frankenstein. The story of someone who can’t control who they are and is destroyed for being mis-understood resonates with those of us who have always felt like we belonged on the outside. This theme is shown on Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the episode “Some Assembly Required” (S2E2) and the character of Adam from season 4. One of the saddest examples of a Frankenstein-type monster to me is Shelley from Hemlock Grove who is feared and even used as a scape-goat by the people who are supposed to love and protect her forcing her to live a life in hiding.
A Brief History of The Universal Monster Films
I’ll be concentrating on the main monsters, the ones you think of first when you think of the Universal slate of movies. Planning to have a monster marathon? The link to our interactive viewing guide can be found at the bottom of this post.
Released int 1931, the film starring Bela Lugosi as the titular character was based on the 1924 stage play of the same name. Of course the play was inspired by the original gothic novel by Bram Stoker, published in 1897. The film was well received by critics and some members of early audiences we reported to have fainted from shock. This was not the first film adaptation of the novel as it was used, without permission, as the bases for 1922’s Nosferatu.
FUN FACT! My great great uncle (by marriage) Ian Keith was considered for the roll of Dracula! You may know him as Rameses I in The Ten Commandments. (Thanks to my grandma for reminding me of this!)
FILMS: Dracula (1931), Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Son of Dracula (1943), House of Dracula (1945)
Based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, the 1931 film stars Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster. Bela Lugosi was originally up for the roll of the monster, though he hoped to play Dr. Frankenstein. The film was a great hit for the studio and is preserved in the United States National Film Registry.
FILMS: Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944)
Boris Karloff again stars as the title character, a mummified high priest named Imhotep, and his alter ego Ardath Bey. The idea to produce a film featuring a mummy was inspired by the opening of King Tut’s tomb in 1922. This is the third time that music from Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake can be heard in a Universal horror movie, the first being Dracula and the second Murders in the Rue Morgue. The Mummy was a critical and financial success.
FILMS: The Mummy (1932), The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), The Mummy’s Ghost (1944), The Mummy’s Curse (1944)
The 1941 film The Wolf Man, starring Lon Cheney Jr., was Universal’s second werewolf movie. The first was Werewolf of London with Henry Hull as the infected Dr. Wilfred Glendon was released in 1935. Lon Cheney was the only actor to play The Wolf Man / Larry Talbot in the original movie, it’s sequel and all other appearances of the character in other films.
FILMS: The Wolf Man (1941), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Creature from the Black Lagoon
3D was extremely popular in the early 1950’s when Creature from the Black Lagoon was produced so it happily took advantage of the technology, however by the time it was released in 1954 the fad faded and most audiences were shown the movie in 2D. Gill-man was played by two actors, Ben Chapman played him on land and Ricou Browning played him underwater. The monster was designed by Disney animator Milicent Patrick, though make-up artist Bid Westmore would get sole credit at the time.
FILMS: Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge of the Creature (1955)
The Invisible Man
Based on a science fiction novel by H.G. Wells of the same name, The Invisible Man starred Claude Rains and Dr. Jack Griffin / The Invisible Man. Boris Karloff was originally offered the roll but withdrew over contract disputes. The film was Universal’s most successful movie since Frankenstein.
FILMS: The Invisible Man (1933), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Invisible Woman (1940), The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944)