Universal Monsters may return sooner than expected

With various new projects in the works, it appears that the Universal Monsters are set for another renaissance. While Invisible Man was a hit for Universal, Ryan Gosling is set to be the latest actor to howl at the moon in Wolfman. Director, Stephen Williams is slated to helm Don’t Go In The Water, which may be a Creature from the Black Lagoon film.

While we eagerly await for the next installment of the Universal Monsters franchise, Waxwork Records is releasing the soundtrack of 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein, Lego recently released a Universal Frankenstein figure, and NECA, in conjunction with LootCrate, released a limited series of collectible masks based on Universal Monster characters.

Universal Monsters Movie History
The classic monster films made by Universal Pictures from the 1920’s to the 1950’s are often imitated yet never duplicated…unless you count the remakes, of course. With such an incredibly iconic cast of creatures to choose from, it’s hard for filmmakers not to dip back into the Universal well to try and re-tell those stories with the help of today’s SFX technology. The first one to get the remake treatment was the excellent Dracula (1979) starring Frank Langella in the title role and then The Mummy franchise of the late 90’s starring Brendan Fraser. Now, since 2014, we’ve had the “Dark Universe” featuring reboots of Dracula (again), The Mummy (again) and The Invisible Man with more supposedly on the horizon.Universal Monsters

Universal Pictures was founded in 1912 by Carl Laemmle who immigrated to the US from Germany in 1884 and worked his way up through a variety of jobs before forming Independent Moving Pictures and then merging with five other motion picture companies to form the “Universal Film Manufacturing Company”. Though he produced hundreds of silent films in his day, Laemmle is probably most remembered for the two that we’ll discuss first below. It was his son, Carl Laemmle Jr., however, who made the Universal name synonymous with monster pictures during his tenure as head of production from 1928 to 1936.

Let’s take a look at the monsters and the Universal movies they were a part of:

Quasimodo – Originated in the 1831 novel ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’ by Victor Hugo, Quasimodo was a severely deformed human who was kept hidden by the church and “employed” as the bellringer for Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Universal Film(s)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923): While not really horror and not often associated with the “Universal Monsters”, the Quasimodo of the 1923 film solidified the stardom of the already famous Lon Chaney, “The Man of a Thousand Faces”. The Hunchback became the most financially successful silent fill in Universal’s catalogue grossing 3.5 million dollars. Also starred: Patsy Ruth Miller as Esmeralda, Norman Kerry as Phoebus de Chateaupers, Kate Lester as Madame de Gondelaurier, Winifred Bryson as Fleur de Lys and Tully Marshall as King Louis X.

 


The Phantom – Based on the 1910 novel ‘Le Fantôme de l’Opéra’ by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom is said to look “corpse-like” and haunts the Palais Garnier Opera House in 1880’s Paris. The Phantom has been played several different ways – in the 1925 film he is portrayed with a completely disfigured face but in the 1943 film only part of his face is disfigured (the same with the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical).

Universal Film(s)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925): Directed by Rupert Julian and starring Lon Chaney as The Phantom. Chaney’s makeup for this 1925 silent film is legendary as it was truly frightening. This was the last of the Universal Monster films to be produced by studio head Carl Laemmle.

The Phantom of the Opera (1943): The 1943 version almost removed all of the scares from the original story and focused on more of a love story. The Phantom was played by The Invisible Man’s Claude Rains and the cast was rounded out by major stars of the time Nelson Eddy as Anatole Garron, Susanna Foster as Christine DuBois and Edgar Barrier as Raoul Dubert. The interior of the theater was the same used from the 1925 film. This is also the only Universal horror film to win an Oscar as it picked up the award for Best Art Direction and Cinematography (it was also nominated for three others).

 


Count Dracula – The title character of Bram Stroker’s 1897 gothic-horror novel, Dracula is not the first vampire in literature, but he is the most famous.

Universal Film(s)
Dracula (1931 – English): Directed by Tod Browning, Dracula marks the beginning of the Carl Laemmle Jr. era of Universal Monsters pictures. Knowing that the novel ‘Dracula’ would make for a great film, Laemmle Jr. purchased the rights from the Bram Stoker estate (unlike the Nosferatu folks) and set about making his first Universal Monsters film. Although Bela Lugosi was already playing the lead role in a touring play about Dracula, Laemmle did not want him for the film. Lugosi hounded the production so much and agreed to take such a small salary that they finally relented and cast him as Dracula in the groundbreaking film. Renfield is summoned to Dracula’s castle in Transylvania under the guides of a real estate purchase in London. Renfield is set upon by the Count and becomes his slave who accompanies him back to England where he meets John Harker and his fiancée Mina, as well as Mina’s friend Lucy; all hell ensues. Joining the cast was Helen Chandler as Mina Seward, David Manners as John Harker, Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing, Frances Dade as Lucy Weston and Dwight Frye – in the first of several Universal Monsters films for him – as Renfield.

Dracula (1931 – Spanish): Filmed on the same days, on the same set and with the same costumes as the Dracula film you all know and love, Universal also had this Spanish language version being directed by George Melford and starring Carlos Villarías as Conde Drácula. Many consider this version superior to the English-speaking version because they had the opportunity to view the film shot that morning and were able to improve upon lighting and angles for their version. They were also allowed a longer runtime which helped with plot development.

Dracula’s Daughter (1936): Picking up moments after Dracula ends, Van Helsing is arrested for the killing of Dracula (spoiler alert) and we are introduced to Countess Marya Zaleska a.k.a. Dracula’s daughter who hunts humans with the help of her enchanting ring. The film doesn’t actually have any scenes with Count Dracula. Directed by Lambert Hillyer, Dracula’s Daughter only brought back Edward Van Sloan as Professor Van Helsing from Dracula; the rest of the cast was new and included Gloria Holden as Countess Marya Zaleska, Otto Kruger as Dr. Jeffrey Garth, Marguerite Churchill as Janet Blake and Irving Pichel as Sandor.

Son of Dracula (1943): Fresh off his success playing Larry Talbot in 1941’s The Wolf Man, Universal cast Lon Chaney, Jr. as Count Alucard in this, the third Universal Dracula film about a vampire who arrives in New Orleans and waits for someone to figure out that “Alucard” is “Dracula” spelled backwards. Also starred Louise Allbritton as Katherine Caldwell, Robert Paige as Frank Stanley and co-star of Chaney in The Wolf Man, and frequent Universal monsters’ actress, Evelyn Ankers as Claire Caldwell.

The House of Frankenstein (1944): One of Universal’s successful multi-monster films, this stars John Carradine as Count Dracula, Boris Karloff as Dr. Gustav Niemann, Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster, J. Carrol Naish as Daniel and Elena Verdugo as Ilonka. Dr. Gustav Niemann escapes from prison and goes on a quest to revive all of the monsters to help him gain some revenge.

House of Dracula (1945): Again, featuring John Carradine as Count Dracula, this is another one of Universal’s crossover films that feature several of their popular monsters and a direct sequel to The House of Frankenstein. Also features Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster and Martha O’Driscoll as Milizia Morelle.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948): The first of three Universal films to feature the comedy duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello meeting up with Universal monsters and also the last of the Universal Classic Monsters films to feature Count Dracula. This film also marked the second, and only time since the first Dracula, that Bela Lugosi played Count Dracula on screen. Also starred Abbott and Costello, Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster and Vincent Price as the voice of the Invisible Man.

 


Frankenstein’s Monster – In 1818, Mary Shelley published the novel ‘Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus’ which told the story of a brilliant, if slightly mad, scientist named Victor Frankenstein who posited that he could create life using a deceased corpse, a brain and some lightening. And so was born “Frankenstein’s Monster” (or “The Creature” in the novel).

Universal Film(s)
Frankenstein (1931): After the huge success of Dracula earlier in the same year, Universal Pictures’ head Carl Laemmle Jr. was all about bringing as much horror as he could to the big screen and securing the rights to Mary Shelley’s masterpiece was next up. Laemmle originally wanted Dracula’s Bela Lugosi to play The Monster but Lugosi reportedly declined to take on a role with no dialogue. Director James Whale called in venerable actor Boris Karloff to play the role and history was made. Rounding out the cast was Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein (changed from Victor in the novel), Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Lavenza, Dwight Frye as Fritz, John Boles as Victor Moritz, Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Waldman and Frederick Kerr as Baron Frankenstein.

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935): The first sequel to a Universal Monster film and quite possibly the greatest sequel in film history, The Bride brought back James Whale to direct, Boris Karloff to play The Monster for the second time, Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Dwight Frye in a new role as Karl and introduced Ernest Thesiger as Doctor Pretorius, Valerie Hobson as Elizabeth Frankenstein and Elsa Lanchester in a dual role as Mary Shelley and The Monster’s Bride.

Son of Frankenstein (1939): The son of Henry Frankenstein, Baron Wolf von Frankenstein returns to the castle with his family in an attempt to clear the family name but instead ends up reviving The Monster in a bit of a poor decision. Stars Boris Karloff as The Monster, Bela Lugosi as Ygor, Basil Rathbone as Baron Wolf von Frankenstein, Josephine Hutchinson as Baroness Elsa von Frankenstein, Donnie Dunagan as Peter von Frankenstein and Lionel Atwill as Insp. Krogh.

The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942): The village where all of the prior films’ carnage has taken place feels they are under a curse from the Frankenstein family’s shenanigans and they get permission from the Mayor to destroy Frankenstein’s castle once and for all – the attempted destruction awakens The Monster who, for the first time, is not played by Boris Karloff. Stars Lon Chaney Jr. as the Monster, Bela Lugosi as Ygor, Cedric Hardwicke as Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein, Ralph Bellamy as Erik Ernst, Lionel Atwill as Dr. Theodore Bohmer, Evelyn Ankers as Elsa Frankenstein and Dwight Frye as a villager.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943): The first of the multi-monster films (monster rallies) features Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolf Man in a deadly face-off. Features Lon Chaney Jr. as Lawrence Talbot (aka The Wolf Man), Bela Lugosi as The Frankenstein Monster, Ilona Massey as Baroness Elsa Frankenstein, Patric Knowles as Dr. Frank Mannering and Dwight Frye as Rudi.

The House of Frankenstein (1944): One of Universal’s successful multi-monster films, this stars John Carradine as Count Dracula, Boris Karloff as Dr. Gustav Niemann, Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster, J. Carrol Naish as Daniel and Elena Verdugo as Ilonka. Dr. Gustav Niemann escapes from prison and goes on a quest to revive all of the monsters to help him gain some revenge.

House of Dracula (1945): Again, featuring John Carradine as Count Dracula, this is another one of Universal’s crossover films that feature several of their popular monsters and a direct sequel to The House of Frankenstein. Also features Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster and Martha O’Driscoll as Milizia Morelle.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948): The first of three Universal films to feature the comedy duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello meeting up with Universal monsters and also the last of the Universal Classic Monsters films to feature Count Dracula. This film also marked the second, and only time since the first Dracula, that Bela Lugosi played Count Dracula on screen. Also starred Abbott and Costello, Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster and Vincent Price as the voice of the Invisible Man.

 


The Wolf Man – While not based on any literary source like Dracula and Frankenstein were, the legend of the werewolf has been around for centuries.

Universal Film(s)
Werewolf of London (1935): While not considered a part of the “Universal Classic Monsters” universe, Werewolf of London has the honor of being the first mainstream Hollywood film to tackle the werewolf legend. Stars Henry Hull as Dr. Wilfred Glendon who is bitten by a werewolf while on a job in Tibet and becomes Hollywood’s first “Wolf Man”. Also stars Valerie Hobson as Lisa Glendon, Warner Oland as Dr. Yogami and Lester Matthews as Paul Ames.

The Wolf Man (1941): The one everyone knows (and rightfully so). Returning home after the death of his brother, Larry Talbot is bitten by a werewolf and is told by a gypsy that he will soon become one himself. This is the werewolf film that all of the rest are molded after and Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man/Larry Talbot literally owns this role for the next decade. Also stars Claude Rains as Sir John Talbot, Evelyn Ankers as Gwen Conliffe, Bela Lugosi as Bela, Ralph Bellamy as Colonel Paul Montford, Warren William as Dr. Lloyd and Maria Ouspenskaya as Maleva.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943): The first of the multi-monster films (monster rallies) features Frankenstein’s Monster and The Wolf Man in a deadly face-off. Features Lon Chaney Jr. as Lawrence Talbot (aka The Wolf Man), Bela Lugosi as The Frankenstein Monster, Ilona Massey as Baroness Elsa Frankenstein, Patric Knowles as Dr. Frank Mannering and Dwight Frye as Rudi.

The House of Frankenstein (1944): One of Universal’s successful multi-monster films, this stars John Carradine as Count Dracula, Boris Karloff as Dr. Gustav Niemann, Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster, J. Carrol Naish as Daniel and Elena Verdugo as Ilonka. Dr. Gustav Niemann escapes from prison and goes on a quest to revive all of the monsters to help him gain some revenge.

House of Dracula (1945): Again, featuring John Carradine as Count Dracula, this is another one of Universal’s crossover films that feature several of their popular monsters and a direct sequel to The House of Frankenstein. Also features Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster and Martha O’Driscoll as Milizia Morelle.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948): The first of three Universal films to feature the comedy duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello meeting up with Universal monsters and also the last of the Universal Classic Monsters films to feature Count Dracula. This film also marked the second, and only time since the first Dracula, that Bela Lugosi played Count Dracula on screen. Also starred Abbott and Costello, Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster and Vincent Price as the voice of the Invisible Man.

 


The Invisible Man – Based on the 1897 novel by H.G. Wells, who was said to have been partially influenced by ‘The Republic’ by Plato which contained the quote, “if a man were made invisible and could act with impunity, he would go about among men with the powers of a god”.

Universal Film(s)
The Invisible Man (1933): A chemist named Dr. Jack Griffin invents a chemical which can render a person completely invisible…and also drive them mad. Stars Claude Rains as Dr. Jack Griffin (aka The Invisible Man), Gloria Stuart as Flora Cranley, William Harrigan as Dr. Arthur Kemp, Henry Travers as Dr. Cranley, E. E. Clive as Constable Jaffers and Dwight Frye in a small role as a reporter.

The Invisible Man Returns (1940): When Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe is jailed for a murder he did not commit, the brother of Jack Griffin injects him with the invisibility drug to help him escape. Vincent Price as Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe, John Sutton as Dr. Frank Griffin, Cedric Hardwicke as Richard Cobb and Nan Grey as Helen Manson.

The Invisible Woman (1940): No real connection to the previous films, this one is a comedy that features a device created by a professor which they use to turn a woman invisible. Stars Virginia Bruce as Kitty Carroll (aka The Invisible Woman), John Barrymore as Prof. Gibbs, John Howard as Dick Russell and Charles Ruggles as George.

Invisible Agent (1942): Frank Griffin is the grandson of the original Invisible Man and is set upon by members of the Axis powers looking to secure his grandfather’s invisibility secrets for use against America. Jon Hall as Frank Griffin (aka The Invisible Man), Ilona Massey as Maria Sorenson and Peter Lorre as Baron Ikito. The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944): Don’t test your invisibility serum on homicidal mental patients because they might escape and wreak havoc. Jon Hall as Robert Griffin (aka The Invisible Man), John Carradine as Dr. Peter Drury, Evelyn Ankers as Julie Herrick, Leon Errol as Herbert Higgins and Alan Curtis as Mark Foster.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948): The first of three Universal films to feature the comedy duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello meeting up with Universal monsters and also the last of the Universal Classic Monsters films to feature Count Dracula. This film also marked the second, and only time since the first Dracula, that Bela Lugosi played Count Dracula on screen. Also starred Abbott and Costello, Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster and Vincent Price as the voice of the Invisible Man.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951): The comedy duo is hired by a professional boxer who was wrongly convicted of a crime. He injects himself with “Jack Griffin’s” invisibility serum in order to help them find a killer. Bud Abbott as Bud Alexander, Lou Costello as Lou Francis, Arthur Franz as Tommy Nelson (aka The Invisible Man), Nancy Guild as Helen Gray and a picture of Claude Rains is used to show Dr. Jack Griffin in one scene.

 


The Mummy – Carl Laemmle Jr. was inspired by the huge news that was the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 and ordered his people to find a novel to use as a basis for an Egyptian mummy film. While none was found, they supposedly used a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle entitled “The Ring of Thoth”.

Universal Film(s)
The Mummy (1932): On an archaeological dig, the mummy of high priest Imhotep is discovered along with the “Scroll of Thoth” which is, unfortunately, read aloud resulting in The Mummy coming to life. Stars Boris Karloff as Ardeth Bay (aka Imhotep aka The Mummy), Zita Johann as Helen Grosvenor (aka Princess Anck-su-namun), David Manners as Frank Whemple, Arthur Byron as Sir Joseph Whemple and Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Muller.

The Mummy’s Hand (1940): This one is completely unrelated to the original about a new mummy named Kharis who is used to kill members of an archeological expedition. Stars Tom Tyler as Kharis, Dick Foran as Steve Banning, Peggy Moran as Marta Solvani, George Zucco as Prof (aka Andoheb), Eduardo Ciannelli as the High Priest and Cecil Kellaway as Tim Sullivan (aka The Great Solvani).

The Mummy’s Tomb (1942): A sequel to The Mummy’s Hand but this time starring Lon Chaney, Jr. as Kharis. Tomb brings back Dick Foran as Steve Banning and George Zucco as Andoheb and adds John Hubbard as Dr. John Banning, Elyse Knox as Isobel Evans, Wallace Ford as Babe Hanson and Turhan Bey as Mehemet Bey.

The Mummy’s Ghost (1944): Lon Chaney, Jr. is back again as Kharis in the fourth installment of “Mummy” films which sees Yousef Bey rouse The Mummy from his slumber. George Zucco returns as Andoheb and is joined by John Carradine as Yousef Bey, Robert Lowery as Tom Hervey, Ramsay Ames as Amina Mansori (aka Ananka) and Barton MacLane as Inspector Walgreen.

The Mummy’s Curse (1944): The story began in The Mummy’s Hand ends here with Lon Chaney, Jr. portraying the mummy Kharis for the third, and final, time. This time around Virginia Christine plays Princess Ananka, Dennis Moore is Dr. James Halsey, Kay Harding is Betty Walsh, Peter Coe is Dr. Ilzor Zandaab and Addison Richards is Pat Walsh.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955): That zany team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello accompany the mummy Klaris from Egypt to America and all manner of zaniness occurs. This is the last of the “Abbott and Costello Meets a Universal Monster” films. Features Abbott and Costello as themselves, Eddie Parker as Klaris the Mummy (who was Lon Chaney. Jr.s “Mummy” stuntman), Marie Windsor as Madame Rontru, Dan Seymour as Josef, Richard Deacon as Semu and Kurt Katch as Dr. Gustav Zoomer.

 


The Creature (aka Gill-man) – The final Universal Monster and some say that they saved the best for last. The idea for The Creature came from a story told to producer William Alland about ten years prior of a myth about a race of half fish/half human creatures that existed in the Amazon River. It is important to note that the creature was designed by female Disney animator Millicent Patrick, although credit for the design was taken by Bud Westmore for over fifty years.

Universal Film(s)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954): Filmed and released in 3D to take advantage of the 1950’s 3D fad, Creature follows an expedition to the Amazon to follow-up on a find of a fossilized “Creature” hand and the crew encounters a live version of the fossil. The Creature was played by two men, Ben Chapman for the majority of the film but underwater scenes were done by Ricou Browning (who holds the title of “Last Living Universal Monster”). The film also starred Julie Adams as Kay Lawrence, Richard Carlson as Dr. David Reed, Richard Denning as Dr. Mark Williams, Antonio Moreno as Dr. Carl Maia, Nestor Paiva as Captain Lucas and Whit Bissell as Dr. Edwin Thompson.

Revenge of the Creature (1955): Again, released in 3D, this sequel sees the Gill-man surviving the events of the previous film only to be shipped off to be studied at an oceanographic institution. Ricou Browning returns to play The Creature underwater but this time the rest of the scenes are played by Tom Hennesy. Joining them in the cast is John Agar as Prof. Clete Ferguson, Lori Nelson as Helen Dobson, John Bromfield as Joe Hayes and Nestor Paiva returns as Lucas. Fun bonus: Clint Eastwood’s first film in an uncredited role as a lab technician.

The Creature Walks Among Us (1956): This is the last film in the Classic Universal Monsters series. The Gill-man escapes from the institute and is perused through the Everglades and again captured but this time around, they try to domesticate him. Ricou Browning returns for the third time for underwater scenes and is the only person to play The Creature more than once. On land, The Creature is played by Don Megowan. Rounding out the cast is Jeff Morrow as Dr. William Barton, Leigh Snowden as Marcia Barton, Rex Reason as Dr. Thomas Morgan and Maurice Manson as Dr. Borg.

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