A not-so-brief history of the Universal Monsters movies
Universal Studios’ “Universal Monsters” are the true classic icons of horror. Everyone knows these portrayals of Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and the like. The movies set the bar for horror during their golden years and continue to impact the way horror movies are viewed and thought of today (if you don’t believe, just look at all the merchandise they get during Halloween season).
I’ve loved these movies for as long as I can remember. There’s a charm to these movies that cannot be matched. The atmosphere, the production and the characters are classic in every sense of the word.
Join me as I take a look at this great collection of movies…
The Universal Studios’ “Monsters” group of films got its unofficial start during the silent movie era with 1923’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which starred “The Man of 1,000 Faces” Lon Chaney, Sr. Of course, Chaney’s son, Lon Jr. is well-known for having played the Wolf Man throughout the 1940s and also taking turns as Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula.
Bolstered by the success of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera (again, with Chaney in the starring role), Universal released a handful of other horror & thriller films in the 1920s that would eventually fall under the Universal Monsters branding when it came to the opinions of fans and Universal Pictures. One of these movies is The Man Who Laughs (1928), which is listed as a great source of inspiration in the creation of the DC Comics villain The Joker.
The 1930s brought us the golden age of the macabre creatures that roamed the Universal lot when Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) broke ground and shocked & awed audiences and made quite a profit in the process. These movies made Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff two of the biggest names in Hollywood during that era and Claude Rains’ starring role in The Invisible Man propelled him to critical acclaim and respected roles outside of horror films. Unfortunately, for Lugosi and Karloff, their successes in the horror genre would forever typecast them, despite the fact that both of them held true acting talent and loads of charisma.
In fact, so popular were Lugosi and Karloff that only four Universal horror flicks were made in the 1930s that did not star one, the other or both: The Cat Creeps, Werewolf of London, The Invisible Man and Dracula’s Daughter.
During this time, legit horror was very much what many of these movies were (later films became kinda schlocky). Dracula and Frankenstein were especially fearsome for their time. These movies are creepy even to this day, imagine what they must’ve been like in the 1931!