With the release of the new Mummy movie I thought it would be fun to write something about the old classic monster movies. Now known as the Universal Monster Movies. I have to say that I wasn't too excited when I heard that Universal is breathing new life into these classic films. But then again for most of these movies there are a ton of remakes. And from what I've seen of the trailer, I think you can hardly call the new Mummy movie a remake. But I guess that's not what's Universal is aiming for anyway. But I have no problem with that, times are now very different from when the original films were released. And you probably wouldn't entertain most of the modern audience with it anyway.
The Universal Monster Movies were made from the 30's until the 50's and are all in black & white. Well actually it started in the 1920's with movies as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera. Although I like these movies very much, I don't consider them part of the Universal Monster Movies. The biggest difference in those movies being that they're silent. I consider the following movies to be part of the Universal Monster Movies legacy: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man and the 1943 version of The Phantom of the Opera. Universal did a lot of other horror and sci-fi movies during this period as well. But I don't think does are part of the Monster series.
I love these films very much. But these weren't films I grew up with. I'm an 80's/90's kid and this kind of stuff was never shown on TV when I was growing up. So it wasn't until my early 20's that I first saw Dracula. And I loved since my first watch. Also it gave me hunger for more. So slowly I started collecting and watching all these films. I think the biggest appeal for is the atmosphere in these films. And it just reminds me of the old days where everyday life was more simple then it is now. Also most of the films have a great cast and there some actors who you see in a lot of these films. With some big names from that time such as: Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney jr., Claude Rains. All of the films, with the exception of The Phantom of the Opera, had many sequels. Not all of them being good, haha. But most of them are. The cool thing about that was also that they did some mash up movies, where some of the monsters fight each other. So let's to talk about the movies:
For me it all started with Dracula. But this was also the first movie made in the Monster series. There were actually 2 versions filmed at the same time. One was the American version starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. But there was also a Spanish version made, with a different cast but all the same movie sets. I think this movie is also part of the Monster series even though it's the only none English movie. And I think it's a great fil. If you love the Lugosi version, you should give this one a try. The cast in this one is very good, although I think Lugosi is still the best Dracula. The American version had 3 more sequels Dracula's Daughter, Son of Dracula and House of Dracula. Of which I thought House was the best, just for the fact there are a lot of other monsters in this movie as well. But they all have their charm, but like with most films, the original is still the best.
After the success of Dracula Universal released Frankenstein the same year. Lugosi would also star as the monster in this one. But he declined the role, a decision he'd later regret. But this time it was Boris Karloff who stole the show portraying the monster. And he still is the image of what we now know as the Frankenstein Monster. If you see any image of the Frankenstein monster now, most of the time it will resemble the look that was created for Karloff back then. In the first film, Karloff has no dialogue at all. But in the sequel The Bride of Frankenstein the monster can talk. This is probably the highest praised sequel of all of the Monster Movies by critics. And maybe even one of the best sequels ever made. A lot of fans seem to love Bride even more than the original. For me, however, this isn't the case. As much as I love Bride, I do like the original the best. And to be honest, when I first watched Bride of Frankenstein I thought that it was kind of silly that the monster could talk. But after re-watching it I got used to it and I like it very much. Frankenstein also spawned various sequels: Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, The Ghost of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman and House of Frankenstein. I think this series has the best sequels. And I recommend these the most. House is just great because it has some awesome monster mash-ups, the same goes for Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman actually has Lugosi playing the Frankenstein monster. Lugosi also does a great job playing Ygor the assistant of Frankenstein in Son and Ghost of Frankenstein. There was also a movie made with Abbott and Costello, called Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. But this was more of a parody of the original films. I don't consider it part of the series, but I do think it is worth mentioning just because it had Karloff returning in the monster makeup.
Next up was The Mummy, in which Boris Karloff gave another star performance. Again he played the monster, but in this one he had way more dialogue and the character had a lot more (and a different) personality than the Frankenstein monster. I have to say that in my opinion, this movie has probably the worst sequels. 4 sequels were made The Mummy's Hand, The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Ghost and The Mummy's Curse. In the last 3, Lon Chaney Jr. played the role of Kahris the Mummy. Which I think is one of the best things about the sequels. But these movies all came out in the 1940's and at this time horror comedy's were very popular. And you can really tell in these films. I think the comedy in these films is really bad and doesn't stand the test of time. But that's just my opinion. I don't hate these films either, I do enjoy watching them. But they are my least favorite.
The Invisible Man
I think the Invisible Man movies are quite different from the other Monster movies. Maybe because I feel the movies have a bit more of a sci-fi approach. Although it still has a classic horror at its core. But nonetheless again great movies. This time it was time for a new star to shine, Claude Rains would play the part of the Invisible Man. And what a great job he did. These films are just a spectacle to the eyes. Especially for the time, they were made. The special effects for the time are beyond amazing. And a lot of the techniques that were used back then are still being used today. The reaction of the audiences back then must've been great when seeing The Invisible Man. Again there were some sequels to this film as well: The Invisible Man Returns, The Invisible Woman, Invisible Agent, The Invisible Man's Revenge. Some of them are better than others, but they are all fun to watch. Although the comedy problem that some of the Mummy's sequels had, also showed up here. The Invisible Man Returns has Vincent Price starring as the Invisible Man, which is just plain awesome.
You could say that The Wolfman is actually a sequel. There where 2 Werewolf movies before it that I do think belong to the Universal Monster Movies legacy. Werewolf of London and She-Wolf of London. Although these films were quite different from The Wolfman. Especially in the makeup department. I think this was one of the main reasons The Wolfman outshines the other 2 films. And I do think it is the better one. In The Wolfman Lon Chaney jr. plays "The Wolfman" and he just does a fantastic job. You can really feel the torture that it has to be to be a werewolf. Claude Rains and Bela Lugosi also have supporting roles in the films which of course makes it even better. The transformation scene of Chaney turning into a wolf is just great. Maybe it is a bit outdated now. But for the time it was truly amazing, and a lot of work to make. I already mentioned Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman as a part of the Frankenstein series. But of course, it also has its place in the Wolfman series. Lon Chaney Jr. reprises his role as the Wolfman and again does an outstanding job. This movie is also a direct sequel to The Wolfman. Lon Chaney Jr. also plays the role of the Wolfman in House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera is also a bit different from the rest of the films, but I do think it belongs in the Monsters series. The problem I find is that movie has a certain stigma about it. Most people think about the later musical of The Phantom of the Opera, which is not really horror I think. But this movie is not a really a musical at all. But just a classic horror movie. Also, you could consider this a remake of the 1920's version of The Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney Sr. I think it's a shame that there weren't any sequels to this film. There was supposed to be a sequel called The Climax, but this ended up being made into a different movie. The Phantom of the Opera still has a special place in my heart. Again Claude Rains has a great performance in this film.
Creature From The Black Lagoon
The last of the Monster movies was the Creature From The Black Lagoon series. This was released in the 1950's and at that time Sci-Fi movies where all the rage and horror wasn't that popular anymore. But these are great films nonetheless. The Gillman is probably my favorite monster of all the films. I really like the look of him. Also unlike the other monster movies, this one is set in "modern" times. The Creature From The Black Lagoon had 2 sequels: Revenge of The Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us. The first 2 Creature movies were also filmed in 3D. It's just too bad the Creature films came that late to the party. It would have been great if the Gillman was part of one of the mash-up movies. The Gillman versus the Wolfman for example, that would have been great.
I know a lot about these movies has already been said over the years. But I just wanted to give my 2 cents on them as well. Just because I have a lot of love for the movies. And I hope more people will discover them. Even though some of them are almost a century old, they still hold up today. And I think it's always good to honor the classics. So if you haven't seen these films and you don't mind watching black and white films, please give them a go. You will not be disappointed.