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Classic Universal Horror

post #1 of 142
Thread Starter 
It's October. We just had a Horror Draft. Hammer is also in this subforum. And I'm again reminded of my affection for Universal's horror classics.

A rough estimate of what comprises Universal's output is the following, although the inclusion of some such as Hunchback is debatable.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
The Cat and the Canary (1927)
The Man Who Laughs (1928)
The Last Warning (1929)
The Last Performance (1929)
The Cat Creeps (1930)
Dracula (1931)
Dracula (Spanish Version) (1931)
Frankenstein (1931)
The Mummy (1932)
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
The Old Dark House (1932)
The Invisible Man (1933)
The Black Cat (1934)
The Raven (1935)
Werewolf of London (1935)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Dracula's Daughter (1936)
The Invisible Ray (1936)
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
Tower of London (1939)
Black Friday (1940)
The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
The Invisible Woman (1940)
The Mummy's Hand (1940)
The Wolf Man (1941)
The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
Invisible Agent (1942)
The Mummy's Tomb (1942)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Phantom of the Opera (1943)
Son of Dracula (1943)
The Mad Ghoul (1943)
The Climax (1944)
House of Frankenstein (1944)
The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944)
The Mummy's Ghost (1944)
The Mummy's Curse (1944)
House of Dracula (1945)
She-Wolf of London (1946)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Revenge of the Creature (1955)
The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)

I've seen 22 of these features. Most of the notables, but I'm probably missing a gem or two.
post #2 of 142
Best Buy's Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection 1 & 2 (6 Discs) focuses on Sci-Fi, but features quite a few Universal flicks that cross-over into the horror genre. Complete list:

Dr. Cyclops (1940)
Tarantula (1955)
Cult of the Cobra (1955)
The Mole People (1956)
The Deadly Mantis (1957)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
The Land Unknown (1957)
The Monolith Monsters (1957)
Monster on the Campus (1958)
The Leech Woman (1960)

Most of these ^ are after the era (post CREATURE) you're focusing on, but deserve a mention.

And even though it's a Paramount release, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932 Dr. Moreau adaptation with Laughton & Lugosi) is a brother to these classics in spirit (and in cast).

post #3 of 142
My favorite is easily Frankenstein. I've never understood why Bride of Frankenstein was so much more well respected. I always thought the first was a lot better, although I haven't watched either in a few years. They're both great though.

The Wolf Man is probably my second favorite. Chaney Jr. at his best with some of Jack Pierce's best makeup and a great performance by Claude Raines.
post #4 of 142
The really fun one is 'Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein' (1948). The movie is one of their better and more consistent efforts and comes off much, much better than it should.
post #5 of 142
I can watch almost every film on that list a hundred times and still love them. Hunchback is historically considered a horror film from that period, but like the rest of those films they're not scary anymore. It was mostly because of the make up.
post #6 of 142
If you haven't seen any classic Universal Monster movies, the best two to get are Bride of Frankenstein and The Wolf Man.

If you're already familiar with the originals, I would suggest the underrated Son Of Dracula. Lon Chaney Jr. doesn't exactly look the part, but it's got a relatively dark story and intriguing story for the era.
post #7 of 142
I always found Werewolf of London to be an intriguing bastard stepchild of the Universal Monster family. Coming off Frankenstein, The Mummy, and Dracula, Universal tried to add a hairy member of the family, but it didn't take. Is it because Henry Hull's a thoroughly unlikeable lead? Who knows. But I dig a werewolf who puts on his hat and coat before heading out to kill some deserving adulterers.

Also, Chinamen.
post #8 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil View Post
I always found Werewolf of London to be an intriguing bastard stepchild of the Universal Monster family. Coming off Frankenstein, The Mummy, and Dracula, Universal tried to add a hairy member of the family, but it didn't take. Is it because Henry Hull's a thoroughly unlikeable lead? Who knows. But I dig a werewolf who puts on his hat and coat before heading out to kill some deserving adulterers.

Also, Chinamen.
Definitely agree with this.
post #9 of 142
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil View Post
I always found Werewolf of London to be an intriguing bastard stepchild of the Universal Monster family. Coming off Frankenstein, The Mummy, and Dracula, Universal tried to add a hairy member of the family, but it didn't take. Is it because Henry Hull's a thoroughly unlikeable lead? Who knows. But I dig a werewolf who puts on his hat and coat before heading out to kill some deserving adulterers.

Also, Chinamen.
It really is somewhere in the middle between Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde and The Wolf Man.

It's slightly surprising that the followup Mummy series was apparently so successful in the 1940s. The Mummy's Hand is o.k., and probably has more in common tonally with Brendan Frazier's series, but the followups really have nothing all that interesting about them, save for the one time the Mummy "gets" the girl.
post #10 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil View Post
Werewolf of London... But I dig a werewolf who puts on his hat and coat before heading out to kill some deserving adulterers.
Huh, I'd like to meet his tailor.
post #11 of 142
English werewolves are so much more proper than their vulgar American counterparts. Werewolf Of London is worth it for the ridiculous science and cool makeup.
post #12 of 142
Werewolf of London is a rather interesting little oddity, especially the rodent-eating plant. On the whole, I prefer it to the rather flat story telling of The Wolfman, inferior effects or no.
Bride of Frankenstein's appeal has always baffled me a little, too. There are some great scenes and moments, but the tone is so uneven, the comic relief often painful, and the midgets downright jarring. The original's a much more effective film for me.
The Mummy's often rather overlooked. Yes, it's basically a Dracula retread, but it's still a decent film, and Karloff gives a rather good performance.
Creature From the Black Lagoon is worth seeing just for the rendition of the creature itself, which is a really rather impressive combination of effects and performance even now.
post #13 of 142
Creature is too long. The extended swimming under water scenes are BORING.

Yeah, I said it.
post #14 of 142
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobClark View Post
Creature is too long. The extended swimming under water scenes are BORING.

Yeah, I said it.
They're better in 3D.
post #15 of 142
Love these movies.

I'm in the same boat with the Frankenstein series. I think the first one is the best, but Bride is right behind it for me. Both films are fantastic. Son of Frankenstein is okay - it just doesn't come close to comparing with the other two.

Werewolf of London is good, but I actually like The Wolf Man more. Honestly, though, it's been years since I've seen the former. I'll have to give it another look one day.

Dracula has always been a bit overrated for me, but I still love the movie anyway. There are lots of cool stuff in that movie, even if I'm still amazingly confused as to why there are armadillos in it. I guess the producers were just trying to think of anything that could be defined as scary, so those things could be showcased in the movie. Much of what they threw in there has stuck, but those armadillos stand out.
post #16 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by Judas Booth View Post
The really fun one is 'Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein' (1948). The movie is one of their better and more consistent efforts and comes off much, much better than it should.
I totally agree. I was incredibly happy drafting that in the horror draft.
post #17 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iron Maiden View Post

Dracula has always been a bit overrated for me, but I still love the movie anyway. There are lots of cool stuff in that movie, even if I'm still amazingly confused as to why there are armadillos in it.
Dracula introduced most of the horror tropes still used today and the character work by Lugosi and Frye is excellent. But everyone knows what a stuffy bore of a film it can be. We all give it a pass because c'mon, it's DRACULA.
The Spanish language version, filmed consecutively on the same sets, is technically a better film. The direction is better as it makes full use of the sets and actually moves the camera around. Plus the script is tweaked with more eroticism. (Jim Gaffigan voice)Oh those hot-blooded latinos!
No armadillos, though.
post #18 of 142
The Mummy is the best version of Universal's Dracula.
post #19 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iron Maiden View Post
Dracula has always been a bit overrated for me, but I still love the movie anyway. There are lots of cool stuff in that movie, even if I'm still amazingly confused as to why there are armadillos in it. I guess the producers were just trying to think of anything that could be defined as scary, so those things could be showcased in the movie. Much of what they threw in there has stuck, but those armadillos stand out.
It's funny as Fred Dekker pays homage and includes them in the prologue of MONSTER SQUAD.
post #20 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilTwin View Post
They're better in 3D.
I heard that!
post #21 of 142
Thread Starter 
Pervert!

I suppose I can mention here that The Times theater in Milwaukee is showing Creature in 3D the weekend of October 25-26. Probably won't get lost in the big draft talkback this way.

I'm with Phil that the best version of Dracula is The Mummy. Karloff, the makeup, the created mythology, and the lighting and cinematography all work for me. And Zita Johan turns in one of the best performances by a Universal Horror lead and plays a role in the climax.

BTW, anybody know if Spanish language versions of the other Universal horror films of this period were ever made? I doubt that they exist any longer or were remotely comparable is quality, but it's something I'm curious about.
post #22 of 142
I've found a lot of these to be very underwhelming. The Old Dark House, Wolfman, The Invisible Man, and Bride of Frankenstein are probably the best however. I still can't believe how boring Dracula, The Mummy, and Frankenstein were.
post #23 of 142
The Invisible Man is a terrific little film and I would stack it up against the best of the Unviersal lot. Claude Rains - while mostly limited to voicework, if fantastic at being joyfully malevolent. I was actually surprised by how wicked the character gets - train derailment and all. The direction is more fluid than Whale's other Universal films, the storyline speeds along (unlike so, so many of the Universal films), and the special effects are still impressive.

Dracula would be deadly dull were it not for Lugosi's performance. Yeah, he's chewing scenary, but damn if he doesn't do it with style. Frankenstein and Bride are great for entirely differnt reasons. The Mummy has never really done much for me. The Wolf Man is a high mark - probably the only Lon Chaney Jr. performance that rivals his dad.

For sheer weirdness, check out Dracula's Daughter. It's not action-packed, nor does it make much sense, but there's an oddly captivating ambience and some none-too-subtle suggestions of lesbian-vampire erotism (the first in the history of cinema?). James Whale actually had been originally slated to direct, but for whatever reason the project went elsewhere. Apparently many of the film's more distinctive concepts originated with him. It's fairly forgotten these days, but definitely worth checking out.
post #24 of 142
Thread Starter 
Re: Frankenstein vs. Bride of...

The polish of Bride I think is its main advantage over Frankenstein, although they're both excellent films. I'd probably sum up the differences this way:

Advantage Frankenstein
It's scarier.
It has the more important laboratory scene, particularly from Dr. Frankenstein's viewpoint.
The climax in the windmill is stronger.

Advantage Bride of Frankenstein
It's funnier.
There's more subtext and symbolism.
Sets are better.
The score is a classic.
Karloff has more to do and the monster is more fully rounded.
Elsa.
Praetorius.
No annoying elder Baron and maids.
post #25 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobClark View Post
Dracula introduced most of the horror tropes still used today and the character work by Lugosi and Frye is excellent. But everyone knows what a stuffy bore of a film it can be. We all give it a pass because c'mon, it's DRACULA.
The Spanish language version, filmed consecutively on the same sets, is technically a better film. The direction is better as it makes full use of the sets and actually moves the camera around. Plus the script is tweaked with more eroticism. (Jim Gaffigan voice)Oh those hot-blooded latinos!
No armadillos, though.
I like both movies for different reasons. I do remember watching a documentary (it may have been on the DVD I lost a few years back) that explained the making of both films.

The Spanish version is loads of fun and more energetic (obviously). The Lugosi film, though, really has a classy look that I love. I don't really find it boring, though. I find Tod Browning to be a very interesting director, and I love watching his "talkies" because he had so much experience making silent movies. There are lots of scenes in which very little is said, but they look so elegant. I love that shit, even if I'm still confused as to why people would think armadillos are scary.
post #26 of 142
Revisited THE WOLF MAN last night (I suggested a creepy flick since it's Oct and my wife wanted classic Universal). Lon Chaney is such a strange leading man in this. His physical presence (height, build, looks) is much more appropriate for the thugs he usually plays and he comes off a bit stalkerish in his attitude towards Gwen (even before he's bitten). He also spirals into madness pretty darn quick (but his character seems on edge prior, so it's not a huge leap). Like AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, the fully transformed beast doesn't get much of a showcase until the end, and the movie closes really abruptly, post-death. I do enjoy the more surreal stuff, get a kick out of watching Larry Talbot watching his own feet transform, and I like how the mist/fog on the moors and the gypsy mumbo jumbo creates just the right amount of atmosphere.

The idea of beating someone to death with a cane is simultaneously a little silly and yet, darn brutal.

During all this, I was imagining how the Benicio Del Toro remake is going to turn out. Where's the delayed online HD trailer for that anyway?
post #27 of 142
Iron Maiden,
Have you seen Browning's MARK OF THE VAMPIRE with Lugosi? It's pretty effective, full of good old fashioned creepy images (no armadillos). It's from MGM, so Lugosi plays a vampire who is absolutely not Count Dracula. But, you know, it's Lugosi in the suit and cape so he totally is Dracula.
post #28 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobClark View Post
Iron Maiden,
Have you seen Browning's MARK OF THE VAMPIRE with Lugosi? It's pretty effective, full of good old fashioned creepy images (no armadillos). It's from MGM, so Lugosi plays a vampire who is absolutely not Count Dracula. But, you know, it's Lugosi in the suit and cape so he totally is Dracula.
Actually, it sounds somewhat familiar. If I saw it, though, it was when I was a kid. I'll have to throw this one on the never-ending Netflix queue to refresh my memory.
post #29 of 142
Not enough Mummy love on this thread.

Granted it's the weakest series of the group; but Karloff's Mummy is one of the best horror movies ever made. The first appearance of the Mummy is shot in a way that shouldn't work, especially to our ADD generation. But it works. Boy does it work.
post #30 of 142
I hate all the other Mummy films. But this motherfucker right here:



Hell yes. I've either said it here or elsewhere, but The Mummy is a superior version of the Dracula story. And it adds the "reincarnated lost love" angle that was ripped off for stuff like Dark Shadows and Coppola's version.
post #31 of 142
Maybe it's because I was hoping for The Creature of the Black Lagoon (In Egypt :P), but I've never had so much trouble sitting down to watch an hour long movie on the first viewing.
post #32 of 142
Try getting through the commentary. Paul Jensen has loads of great info, but all the charisma of a Speak & Spell.
post #33 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil View Post
loads of great info, but all the charisma of a Speak & Spell.
Didn't Stephen Hawking's prophetic High School year book say the same thing?
post #34 of 142
Thread Starter 
I got around to finishing one of the few "classic monsters" Universal films I hadn't seen, House of Dracula, last night. That's a pretty poor effort of a film right there, although it's interesting that Larry Talbot is apparently cured at the end of it. Other than that, pure formula filler.
post #35 of 142
Revisited the MUMMY last week. I thought I remembered footage of a bandaged Imhotep limping around. My brain must have combined scenes from the various flicks. I'll have to get to the others in turn. The Legacy sets are nice like that. He's a quite powerful villain. Causing harm via satellite and all. It was interesting seeing the elements that were cherry-picked for Sommers' remakes, which are fresher in my mind.

Also revistited CREATURE FROM THE BL. Despite a little bit of samey-ness (due to the mostly singular location and hit & run tactics of the Gill Man), it really holds up. I like the feeling of heading deeper into the unknown and the creature suit (like the design and makeup of the other Univ Monsters) REALLY holds up. It's just so detailed and iconic.
post #36 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilTwin View Post
I got around to finishing one of the few "classic monsters" Universal films I hadn't seen, House of Dracula, last night. That's a pretty poor effort of a film right there, although it's interesting that Larry Talbot is apparently cured at the end of it. Other than that, pure formula filler.
And just like House of Frankenstein, it's basically two 40 minute stories told back to back. HoD is good for the Wolf Man stuff and the inclusion of the most terrifying monster of all... THE HUNCHBACK NURSE!
post #37 of 142
Thread Starter 
Just because it's October and there's another thread, I'll bump this up as well.
post #38 of 142
I've been flying through these things the last year or so. Here's my thoughts on a few:

Frankenstein: The first two are flat-out brilliant. No question. However, I'm surprised there's not more love for Son of Frankenstein, which is a great little psychological thriller with a killer Lugosi performance, gorgeous art direction and cinematography, and a thrilling climax. It gets a little bogged down in the middle (Its 100 minute runtime is definitely padded in spots), but overall it's pretty great. The Ghost Of Frankenstein is sorta fun, but slight and visibly rushed. I actually really like Chaney's performance as the monster though, and Lugosi returns!

The Mummy: The first one almost put me to sleep, and I was amazed not to see the stereotypical mummy in wrappings lurching around. When did that come to become the standard? I actually found the second film, The Mummy's Hand, more entertaining in a pulpy way.

Creature From The Black Lagoon: I've got a soft spot for the first two. Yes, the underwater scenes go on a bit long, but I'm a sucker for the outdated fantacized representations of the Amazon, back when the jungle was an oh-so-mysterious locale for films. The third film The Creature Walks Among Us sucks though, as they turn the creature into a dumb, grunting, musclebound Frankenstein clone. Lame.

Dracula: I've only watched the first, but it was a chore. Lugosi's great, but the film is like watching paint dry. I'll stick with Nosferatu, thanks. I've never bothered to check out the sequels.

Invisible Man: My favourite of the bunch. Claude Rains is both freaky as all hell, and absolutely hilarious. My sister and I often quote the line "Even the moon's frightened of me!!!". He's the bitchiest villain of all time, alternately murdering folks while whining for people to fetch him a carpet because he's cold. Absolutely genius. I just bought the Legacy edition off of Amazon and can't wait to check out the sequels. Too bad Rains doesn't return.

Wolf Man: Not much to say, really great first film - loved it to bits - and haven't had the opportunity to watch any of the followups yet.
post #39 of 142
I really gotta catch The Invisible Man one of these days.

I think Dracula sort of stumbles into being a really interesting movie through a combination of the stagyness and Lugosi's understated performance. The drabness of the movie gives it this air of melancholy, and Lugosi totally fits into that - he's not an all-powerful bloodsucker or a twisted sex fiend, he's just this sad, tired old man. It's also one of the few versions of the character where the immigrant subtext of the novel still shines through - like when Dracula meets the other people at the opera, and it's just awkward, he doesn't look like he knows what he's doing or how he's supposed to react.
post #40 of 142
Disagree that Lugosi comes across as a sad, tired old man. They could never get those lights in his eyes to match up (again, point: Mummy), but he still has this magnetic alien presence that so badly deserved a better movie. Agree on the last part of your post.

And "catching" these old flicks is so easy - they're almost all under 70 minutes!
post #41 of 142
Watched Werewolf of London for the first last night, and thought it was a pretty decent effort, and was interesting because it's a lot different than the other early Universal horror movies. It reminded more of a lesser Lewton film than a Universal horror, but I can't put my finger on why. I can see why it wasn't as popular as the other Universal pictures because it's a bit slower paced than the other films around that time, and the main characters aren't the most likable bunch around. But I did like the part where a plant ate a frog.
post #42 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by Episode29 View Post

Wolf Man: Not much to say, really great first film - loved it to bits - and haven't had the opportunity to watch any of the followups yet.
FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN is quite good, though the way the Wolfman is brought back to life makes no sense whatsoever.
post #43 of 142
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sebastian OB View Post
FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN is quite good, though the way the Wolfman is brought back to life makes no sense whatsoever.
I don't know if "good" is the proper adjective, although the first half has its moments when it's a pretty straightforward Wolfman sequel. "Fun" is the adjective I'd use.
post #44 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil View Post
Disagree that Lugosi comes across as a sad, tired old man. They could never get those lights in his eyes to match up (again, point: Mummy), but he still has this magnetic alien presence that so badly deserved a better movie. Agree on the last part of your post.

And "catching" these old flicks is so easy - they're almost all under 70 minutes!
I did perhaps lay it on a bit thick. He looks dignified, and somehow sympathetic, but a far cry from the terrifying master of evil that he is in other incarnations. The movie's more melancholic than scary.
post #45 of 142
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobClark View Post
And just like House of Frankenstein, it's basically two 40 minute stories told back to back. HoD is good for the Wolf Man stuff and the inclusion of the most terrifying monster of all... THE HUNCHBACK NURSE!
Yeah, I just finished watching House Of Frankenstein tonight, and you are so right. The first section, with Dracula, is pretty awful. John Carradine comes across like a wimpy fop, and the romantic male lead (Peter Coe) is unspeakably awful. The second picks up a little with the appearance of Chaney - who is characteristically compelling - and I thought L. Carrol Naish's hunchback Daniel was actually kinda poignant, but overall it all just feels like stitched together filler. Not bad or boring by any stretch, but little more than mediocre.
post #46 of 142
I watched Frankenstein for the first time, the other night and thought it was great. Karloff's performance was brilliant, giving us a classically tragic movie monster. There were some unintentionally hilarious moments in this film, namely Frankenstein going 'Rroaw' to Mae Clarke, it just made me laugh. The film has tons of atmosphere, from the spooky castle, to the graveyard, the set design is amazing.
post #47 of 142
Saw The Wolf Man last night. Excelent! Werewolves are such sad monsters, the "it could happen to you" factor really makes them stand out. Was also blown away by the special feature's revelation that scriptwriter Curt Siodmark (a jewish refugee) gave the film quite a lot of subtext dealing with nazi Germany - the idea of ordinary people becoming monsters, the star of David on the victim's hands. Can't believe I didn't catch on to that immediatley!
post #48 of 142
Isn't it a pentagram on their hands?
post #49 of 142
Yes.
post #50 of 142
Err, yeah. The connection being marked by a star of some sort on the hand, which I failed to mention. Sorry guys, I should work at making my posts less stream-of-conciousness.
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