Universal Monsters or Universal Horror is a series of horror, suspense and science fiction films made by Universal Studios from 1923 to 1960. The series began with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, both silent films starring Lon Chaney. Universal continued with talkies including monster franchises Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. The films featured Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney, Jr.
In the 1920s, Universal produced several horror and monster films featuring Lon Chaney. These include the 1923 historical drama The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which starred Chaney as Quasimodo on production sets built to evoke 15th-century Paris, including a re-creation the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.
After Hunchback of Notre Dame, Universal produced the horror film, The Phantom of the Opera, based on the mystery novel by Gaston Leroux. Universal released the film in 1925. The interior of the Opéra Garnier was recreated to scale which was used again in the 1943 remake with Claude Rains.
Other Universal films of the period include The Cat and the Canary (1927) and The Last Warning (1929) with Laura LaPlante, as well as The Man Who Laughs and The Last Performance (1929) with Mary Philbin and Conrad Veidt.
In 1931 Bela Lugosi starred in Universal's Dracula and Boris Karloff in Frankenstein. Lionel Atwill, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan, and John Carradine appeared in multiple films by Universal. Make-up artists Jack Pierce and Bud Westmore, and composers Hans J. Salter and Frank Skinner also worked on many of the films.
The Mummy, starring Karloff, was produced in 1932. This was followed by a trilogy of films based on the tales of Edgar Allan Poe: Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) starring Lugosi, The Black Cat (1934), and The Raven (1935), the latter two of which teamed Lugosi with Karloff. Universal began releasing sequels including Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Dracula's Daughter (1936) and sequels for The Invisible Man (1933).
The end of Universal’s first run of horror films came in 1936 as the Laemmles were forced out of the studio after financial difficulties and a series of box office flops, partly due to a temporary ban on American horror films in Britain in the wake of MGM's Mad Love and The Raven (both 1935). The monster movies were dropped from the production schedule altogether and would not re-emerge for another three years. In the meantime, a theatre owner revived Dracula and Frankenstein as a double feature, resulting in an immediate smash hit and leading to the original movies being re-released by the studio to surprising success. This forced the new executives to give the go-ahead to Son of Frankenstein (1939) starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Thirteen of the seventeen 1930s Universal horror films listed below star either Lugosi or Karloff or both:
- Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi
- Dracula (Spanish version) (1931) with Carlos Villarías
- Frankenstein (1931) with Boris Karloff
- Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) with Bela Lugosi
- The Old Dark House (1932) with Boris Karloff
- The Mummy (1932) with Boris Karloff
- Secret of the Blue Room (1933) with Lionel Atwill and Gloria Stuart
- The Invisible Man (1933) with Claude Rains
- The Black Cat (1934) with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi
- The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935) with Claude Rains
- Bride of Frankenstein (1935) with Boris Karloff
- Werewolf of London (1935) with Henry Hull
- The Raven (1935) with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi
- The Invisible Ray (1936) with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi
- Dracula's Daughter (1936) with Gloria Holden
- Night Key (1937) with Boris Karloff
- Son of Frankenstein (1939) with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi
- Tower of London (1939) with Boris Karloff
During the 1940s, Universal released The Wolf Man (1941), with Lon Chaney, Jr. following in his father Lon Chaney's footsteps.
The Frankenstein and Wolf Man series continued with The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), in which Lon Chaney, Jr. played Frankenstein's monster, and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) with Bela Lugosi as the Frankenstein monster and Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man. Son of Dracula (1943) featured Chaney, Jr. in Lugosi's original role as the Count. The Mummy series was also continued with The Mummy's Hand (1940) and The Mummy's Tomb (1942). Eventually, all of Universal's monsters, except the Mummy and Invisible Man, were be brought together in House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945), in which Dracula was played by John Carradine. As the decade drew to a close, the comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), with Lugosi in his second movie as Dracula, starring alongside Chaney, Jr. as Larry Talbot (the Wolf Man), and Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's monster. Lon Chaney, Jr. played the lead in seventeen of the thirty-five 1940s Universal horror films.
- The Invisible Man Returns (1940) with Vincent Price
- Black Friday (1940) with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi
- The Mummy's Hand (1940) with Tom Tyler
- The Invisible Woman (1940) with Virginia Bruce and John Barrymore
- Man Made Monster (1941) with Lon Chaney, Jr.
- Horror Island (1941) with Dick Foran
- The Black Cat (1941) with Basil Rathbone and Bela Lugosi
- The Wolf Man (1941) with Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi
- The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942) with Lionel Atwill
- The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) with Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi
- Invisible Agent (1942) with Peter Lorre and Cedric Hardwicke
- The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942) with Maria Montez
- The Strange Case of Doctor Rx (1942) with Lionel Atwill
- Night Monster (1942) with Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill
- The Mummy's Tomb (1942) with Lon Chaney, Jr.
- Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) with Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi
- Captive Wild Woman (1943) with Aquanetta and Evelyn Ankers
- Phantom of the Opera (1943) with Claude Rains
- Son of Dracula (1943) with Lon Chaney, Jr. and Evelyn Ankers
- The Mad Ghoul (1943) with Evelyn Ankers and David Bruce
- Calling Dr. Death (1943) with Lon Chaney, Jr.
- Weird Woman (1944) with Lon Chaney, Jr. and Evelyn Ankers
- Jungle Woman (1944) with Aquanetta and Evelyn Ankers
- The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944) with John Carradine and Evelyn Ankers
- The Mummy's Ghost (1944) with Lon Chaney, Jr. and John Carradine
- The Climax (1944) with Boris Karloff
- Dead Man's Eyes (1944) with Lon Chaney, Jr.
- House of Frankenstein (1944) with Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr.
- The Mummy's Curse (1944) with Lon Chaney, Jr.
- The Frozen Ghost (1945) with Lon Chaney, Jr. and Evelyn Ankers
- The Jungle Captive (1945) with Rondo Hatton
- Strange Confession (1945) with Lon Chaney, Jr.
- House of Dracula (1945) with Lon Chaney, Jr. and John Carradine
- Pillow of Death (1945) with Lon Chaney, Jr.
- The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946) with Gale Sondergaard
- House of Horrors (1946) with Rondo Hatton
- She-Wolf of London (1946) with June Lockhart
- The Brute Man (1946) with Rondo Hatton
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) with Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949) with Boris Karloff
Abbott and Costello appeared in films featuring characters such as the Mummy and the Invisible Man.
Creature from the Black Lagoon, directed by Jack Arnold, was released in 1954. Dracula and Frankenstein were re-released as double features in theatres, and were later broadcast in syndication on American television in 1957 as part of the Shock Theater package of Universal Monster Movies. Magazines such as Famous Monsters of Filmland covered the monster films. Universal spent the last half of the decade issuing a number of one-shot monster films.
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
- The Strange Door (1951) with Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff
- The Black Castle (1952) with Boris Karloff
- It Came from Outer Space (1953)
- Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953) with Boris Karloff
- Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
- Revenge of the Creature (1955)
- Cult of the Cobra (1955) with Faith Domergue
- This Island Earth (1955) with Faith Domergue
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
- Tarantula (1955)
- The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)
- Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956)
- 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 Thing That Couldn't Die (1958)
- Curse of the Undead (1959)
- The Leech Woman (1960)
In 1999 and 2001 respectively, the films The Mummy and The Mummy Returns were both box office successes directed by Stephen Sommers. In 2008 Universal released the third film in the series The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. The Scorpion King, was a spin-off prequel to the second movie.
In 2004, Stephen Sommers directed Van Helsing starring Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale. The film featured the characters of Dracula, his Brides, a Wolf Man, and the Frankenstein Monster. The film was a homage to the classic Universal monster mash up movies of the 1940s, such as the Frankenstein Meets and The House of series.
||It has been suggested that this section be split into a new article titled Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe. (Discuss) Proposed since August 2015.|
In 2012, Universal announced plans to reboot two of their franchises: The Mummy and Van Helsing. Jon Spaihts would write The Mummy reboot, and Sean Daniel, who produced the previous three Mummy films, would return as producer. In December, it was stated that The Mummy would be a new take on the mythology, returning to its roots as a horror film, and set in the present day.
On May 1, 2012, Universal signed on with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman a two-year deal, producing Spaihts' reboot of The Mummy and a reboot of Van Helsing, which would star Tom Cruise, through their K/O Paper Products banner. Len Wiseman was announced as The Mummy's director on September 24, 2012.
Wiseman left the project in July 2013 due to schedule conflicts. In September, it was reported that Mama's director Andrés Muschietti was in talks to direct the film. However, he dropped out in May 2014, due to creative differences.
On November 27, 2013, Universal set the film for an April 22, 2016 release.
New developments were made in July 2014, when Universal announced that they had tapped Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan to develop all classic movie monsters which include Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein, and The Mummy, with The Mummy as the first developed. Kurtzman was set to direct the film by the end of the month. The next day, the film's release date was pushed back to June 24, 2016, when Universal announced the April 22 for its new film The Huntsman.
That same month, The Mummy reboot's plot was announced, with the film following a Navy SEAL and his team hunting terrorists in the Iraqi desert, and inadvertently setting events in motion that would tie him to the mummy of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal.
In October 2014, the film Dracula Untold, which had begun development in 2007 as Dracula: Year Zero, was released; producer Alissa Phillips confirmed at the film's UK premiere that the film was a part of the new monsters cinematic universe. She hoped that Luke Evans' character might have a cameo in a future The Mummy film and also spoke of a potential sequel. In an interview with IGN, director Gary Shore stated "It's optional for them if they want to use it as that launching pad." On October 15, THR reported that the ending scenes of the film hinted that the film Dracula Untold could be included into the monsters universe.
In November 2014, Universal hired Aaron Guzikowski to write the shared universe's reboot of The Wolf Man. In December 2014, Universal hired Jay Basu to write an undisclosed film for the shared universe.
Universal's chairman, in a November interview, stated that the new films would be more action-adventure based rather than horror, and would be set in a present-day setting in order to "reimagine and reintroduce them to a contemporary audience."
On April 2015, the studio announced that the Mummy reboot has been delayed for March 24, 2017, while another untitled project has been delayed for March 30, 2018.
On August 2015, Alex Kurtzman announced the new film series will be a mix of horror and other fictional genres. That same month, in addition to the new shared universe, a new remake of Creature from the Black Lagoon was announced, with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 writer Jeff Pinker being hired to write the film and actress Scarlett Johansson being offered to portray the lead role.
Recurring cast and characters
- This table only includes characters which have appeared in multiple films within the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe.
- A dark grey cell indicates the character was not in the film.
- Johnston, Keith M. (2013-05-09). Science Fiction Film: A Critical Introduction. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 24–. ISBN 9781847884787. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- Okuda, Ted; Yurkiw, Mark (2007). Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows: From Shock Theatre to Svengoolie. Lake Claremont Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-1893121133.
The 'Shock!' package was sold in 142 markets. As a result, stations across the country aired a late-night Shock Theatre series to showcase these pictures.
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- McClintock, Pamela (November 13, 2014). "Executive Roundtable: 6 Studio Heads on China Plans, Superhero Overload, WB Layoffs, 'Fast & Furious' Future". Hollywood Reporter.
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- Chase, Lou. "TB Exclusive: Universal eyes Scarlett Johansson to star in 'Creature from the Black Lagoon'." Tracking Board, April 9, 2015.