Universal Classic Monsters
|Universal Classic Monsters|
Official franchise logo as displayed on home video releases
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
Universal Classic Monsters is a name given to the horror, fantasy, thriller and science fiction films made by Universal Pictures during the decades of the 1920s through the 1950s. They were the first shared universe in the entire movie industry in Hollywood and around the world. They began with The Phantom of the Opera, a silent film starring Lon Chaney. Universal Classic Monsters continued with talkies including core monsters in the franchise Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man and Creature from the Black Lagoon. The films often featured Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr.
Universal Classic Monsters began in the 1920s during the silent film era. The Phantom of the Opera (1925) Lon Chaney starred as the Phantom. The character haunts the Opéra Garnier in an attempt to make the woman he loves become an opera star. The interior of the Opéra Garnier was re-created to scale and was used again in the 1943 remake with Claude Rains.
In 1931, Bela Lugosi starred in Universal's Dracula and Boris Karloff portrayed the monster in Frankenstein. Actors Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan, who played major supporting roles in both films, made several film appearances in this decade. Make-up artist Jack Pierce created several monsters' make-up starting in the 1930s.
The Mummy (1932) starring Karloff, was produced in 1932. Universal began releasing sequels including Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Dracula's Daughter (1936). The first mainstream werewolf picture appeared, Werewolf of London (1935) starring Henry Hull.
The end of Universal's first run of horror films came in 1936. The monster movies were dropped from the production schedule altogether and would not re-emerge for another three years. In the meantime, a theater owner revived Dracula and Frankenstein as a resoundingly successful double feature, prompting the studio to re-release the original movies. Son of Frankenstein (1939), starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and Bela Lugosi, was filmed as a result of the unexpected resurgence.
In 1941, Universal released The Wolf Man (1941), with Lon Chaney Jr.. The junior Chaney became the studio's leading monster movie actor in the 1940s, just as his father had been two decades earlier, supplanting the 1930s' Karloff and Lugosi by a wide margin in terms of the number of leading roles that he played. Chaney Jr. physically resembled his father apart from usually being somewhat overweight, which the senior Chaney never was. The studio dropped the "Jr." from the junior Chaney's billing almost immediately to confuse some in the audiences into assuming that this was the same actor.
The Frankenstein and Wolf Man series continued with The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), in which Chaney Jr. played Frankenstein's monster and Lugosi reprised his role as Ygor, and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) with Lugosi as the monster and Chaney Jr. as the werewolf. 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), The Mummy's Tomb (1942), The Mummy's Ghost and The Mummy's Curse (both 1944) with Chaney Jr. as the Mummy in the last three films. House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945) featured many of the monsters from the studio's previous films, with Glenn Strange taking over the Frankenstein's monster role from Karloff, albeit with only tiny increments of screen time in either picture.
As the decade drew to a close, the comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) features Lugosi in only his second film as Count Dracula, alongside Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot (the Wolf Man), and Glenn Strange reprising his role as Frankenstein's monster, albeit with minimal screen time again. Abbott and Costello also appeared in other comedy 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.
|Film||U.S. release date||Director(s)||Screenwriter(s)||Story by||Producer(s)|
|The Phantom of the Opera||November 25, 1925||Rupert Julian||Walter Anthony, Elliott J. Clawson, Bernard McConville, Frank M. McCormack, Tom Reed, Raymond L. Schrock, Jasper Spearing & Richard Wallace||Carl Laemmle|
|Film||U.S. release date||Director(s)||Screenwriter(s)||Story by||Producer(s)|
|Dracula||February 14, 1931||Tod Browning||Garrett Fort||Tod Browning and Carl Laemmle Jr.|
|Dracula (Spanish version)||April 24, 1931||George Melford||Baltasar Fernández Cué and Garrett Fort||Garrett Fort||Carl Laemmle Jr. and Paul Kohner|
|Frankenstein||November 21, 1931||James Whale||Francis Edward Faragoh & Garrett Fort||John L. Balderston||Carl Laemmle Jr.|
|The Mummy||December 22, 1932||Karl Freund||John L. Balderston||Nina Wilcox Putnam & Richard Schayer|
|The Invisible Man||November 13, 1933||James Whale||R. C. Sherriff|
|The Bride of Frankenstein||April 20, 1935||William Hurlbut||William Hurlbut & John L. Balderston|
|Werewolf of London||May 13, 1935||Stuart Walker||John Colton, Robert Harris, Harvey Gates, Edmund Pearson, James Mulhauser & Aben Kandel||Robert Harris||Stanley Bergerman|
|Dracula's Daughter||May 11, 1936||Lambert Hillyer||Garrett Fort||Oliver Jeffries||E. M. Asher|
|Son of Frankenstein||January 13, 1939||Rowland V. Lee||Wyllis Cooper||Rowland V. Lee|
|Film||U.S. release date||Director||Screenwriter(s)||Story by||Producer(s)|
|The Invisible Man Returns||January 12, 1940||Joe May||Curt Siodmak & Lester Cole||Curt Siodmak & Joe May||Ken Goldsmith|
|The Mummy's Hand||November 20, 1940||Christy Cabanne||Griffin Jay and Maxwell Shane||Ben Pivar|
|The Invisible Woman||December 12, 1940||A. Edward Sutherland||Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo & Gertrude Purcell||Curt Siodmak & Joe May||Burt Kelly|
|The Wolf Man||December 12, 1941||George Waggner||Curt Siodmak||George Waggner|
|The Ghost of Frankenstein||March 13, 1942||Erle C. Kenton||W. Scott Darling||Eric Taylor|
|Invisible Agent||April 17, 1942||Edwin L. Marin||Curt Siodmak||Frank Lloyd|
|The Mummy's Tomb||October 23, 1942||Harold Young||Griffin Jay & Henry Sucher||Neil P. Varnick||Ben Pivar|
|Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man||March 5, 1943||Roy William Neill||Curt Siodmak||George Waggner|
|Phantom of the Opera||August 12, 1943||Arthur Lubin||Samuel Hoffenstein & Eric Taylor||John Jacoby|
|Son of Dracula||November 5, 1943||Robert Siodmak||Eric Taylor||Curt Siodmak||Ford Beebe and Donald H. Brown|
|The Invisible Man's Revenge||June 9, 1944||Ford Beebe||Bertram Millhauser||Ford Beebe|
|The Mummy's Ghost||July 7, 1944||Reginald LeBorg||Griffin Jay, Henry Sucher & Brenda Weisberg||Griffin Jay & Henry Sucher||Ben Pivar|
|The House of Frankenstein||December 15, 1944||Erle C. Kenton||Edward T. Lowe||Curt Siodmak||Paul Malvern|
|The Mummy's Curse||December 22, 1944||Leslie Goodwins||Bernard Schubert||Leon Abrams & Dwight V. Babcock||Oliver Drake|
|House of Dracula||June 29, 1945||Erle C. Kenton||Edward T. Lowe||Dwight V. Babcock & George Bricker||Paul Malvern|
|Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein||June 15, 1948||Charles T. Barton||Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo & John Grant||Robert Arthur|
|Film||U.S. release date||Director(s)||Screenwriter(s)||Story by||Producer(s)|
|Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man||March 19, 1951||Charles Lamont||Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo & John Grant||Hugh Wedlock Jr. & Howard Snyder||Howard Christie|
|Creature from the Black Lagoon||February 12, 1954||Jack Arnold||Harry Essex & Arthur Ross||Maurice Zimm||William Alland|
|Revenge of the Creature||May 13, 1955||Jack Arnold||Martin Berkeley||William Alland|
|Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy||May 23, 1955||Charles Lamont||John Grant||Lee Loeb||Howard Christie|
|The Creature Walks Among Us||April 26, 1956||John Sherwood||Arthur Ross||William Alland|
Recurring cast and characters
- This table only includes characters which have appeared in multiple films within this shared universe.
- A dark grey cell indicates the character was not in the film.
- A G indicates that Cedric Hardwicke played the son of Henry Frankenstein, he also played the ghost of Henry Frankenstein.
- A P indicates the character was shown in a photograph.
- A U indicates a uncredited role.
- A V indicates a voice-only role.
|Dracula||Frankenstein||The Invisible Man||Bride of Frankenstein||Dracula's Daughter||Son of Frankenstein||The Invisible Man Returns||The Wolf Man||The Ghost of Frankenstein||Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man||Son of Dracula||House of Frankenstein||House of Dracula||Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein||Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man|
|The Frankenstein Monster||Boris Karloff||Boris Karloff||Boris Karloff||Lon Chaney Jr.||Bela Lugosi||Glenn Strange|
|Count Dracula||Bela Lugosi||Lon Chaney Jr.||John Carradine||Bela Lugosi|
|The Wolf Man
|Lon Chaney Jr.||Lon Chaney Jr.||Lon Chaney Jr.|
|Van Helsing||Edward Van Sloan||Edward Van Sloan|
|Henry Frankenstein||Colin Clive||Colin Clive||Cedric HardwickeG|
|The Invisible Man
|Claude Rains||Claude RainsP||Claude RainsP|
|Elizabeth||Mae Clarke||Valerie Hobson|
|Ygor||Bela Lugosi||Bela Lugosi|
|The Invisible Man
|Vincent Price||Vincent PriceUV|
|Maleva||Maria Ouspenskaya||Maria Ouspenskaya|
|Elsa Frankenstein||Evelyn Ankers||Ilona Massey|
Remake era (1979–2010)
|Dracula||July 13, 1979||John Badham||W. D. Richter||Marvin Mirisch and Walter Mirisch|
|The Mummy||May 7, 1999||Stephen Sommers||Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvielle & Kevin Jarre||James Jacks and Sean Daniel|
|The Mummy Returns||May 4, 2001||Stephen Sommers|
|Van Helsing||May 7, 2004||Stephen Sommers and Bob Ducsay|
|The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor||August 1, 2008||Rob Cohen||Alfred Gough & Miles Millar||Stephen Sommers, Sean Daniel, James Jacks and Bob Ducsay|
|The Wolfman||February 12, 2010||Joe Johnston||Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self||Sean Daniel, Scott Stuber, Benicio del Toro and Rick Yorn|
Reboot era (2014–present)
Since 2014, a new collection of stand-alone horror films is being distributed by Universal; it was originally planned as a shared cinematic universe, but those plans were later scrapped.
|Dracula Untold||October 10, 2014||Gary Shore||Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless||Michael De Luca|
|The Mummy||June 9, 2017||Alex Kurtzman||David Koepp
and Christopher McQuarrie
and Dylan Kussman
and Alex Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet
|Alex Kurtzman, Chris Morgan, Sean Daniel and Sarah Bradshaw|
|The Invisible Man||February 28, 2020||Leigh Whannell||Jason Blum and Kylie Du Fresne|
|Dark Army||TBA||Paul Feig||Paul Feig and Laura Fischer|
|Renfield||TBA||Dexter Fletcher||Ryan Ridley||Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ridley||Robert Kirkman, David Alpert, Bryan Furst and Sean Furst|
|Frankenstein||TBA||TBA||Robbie Thompson||James Wan|
|The Invisible Woman||TBA||Elizabeth Banks||Erin Cressida Wilson||Elizabeth Banks||Elizabeth Banks and Max Handelman|
|Monster Mash||TBA||Matt Stawski||Will Widger||Matt Stawski||Marty Bowen|
|The Bride of Frankenstein||TBA||TBA||David Koepp||Amy Pascal|
|Dracula||TBA||Karyn Kusama||Matt Manfredi & Phil Hay||Jason Blum|
|The Wolf Man||TBA||Leigh Whannell||Lauren Shuker Blum & Rebecca Angelo||Ryan Gosling
and Leigh Whannell
|Jason Blum and Ryan Gosling|
|Little Monsters||TBA||Josh Cooley||Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman|
|Untitled Invisible Man sequel||TBA||TBA||TBA||Leigh Whannell||N/A|
Originally conceived as a cinematic universe that was officially titled the Dark Universe, with multiple crossovers and inter-connectivity between films, the label is now used colloquially by some media outlets to refer to Universal Pictures' rebooted franchises. Conceptualized as a shared universe, the studio had announced the projects in development with a press release announcing the intellectual property's title, a trailer, casting announcements, and official theme music composed by Danny Elfman. Casting included: Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr. Edward Hyde, Javier Bardem as the Frankenstein's Monster, and Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man. They joined Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella, as Nick Morton and Princess Ahmanet / The Mummy. Additional rebooted adaptations of characters was also announced, including: Van Helsing, the Wolf Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Phantom of the Opera, Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan were announced as co-runners of the Dark Universe, with collaborations from David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie.
After mixed critical reception to the first two installments, Universal halted development on further projects, while their plans for future releases was reassessed. Despite this, in May 2018 artist Robert Vargas announced from his social media account that he had attended a meeting with the studio and would collaborate on the Dark Universe character designs moving forward. During this period of time, Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan left their roles as co-architects of the franchise, while successful horror film producer Jason Blum had at various times publicly expressed his interest in reviving and working on future installments within the Dark Universe franchise. By January 2019, the studio announced plans to develop individualized films, with stand-alone installments.
Dracula Untold (2014)
The studio's first attempt at launching their shared universe, Dracula Untold was originally developed prior to the plans for a shared universe of horror films. The studio decided to retool the movie to be the first installment of the franchise, with re-shoots adding a modern-day setting at the end of the film. Starring Luke Evans as the eponymous role, the plot incorporated elements regarding the real-life Vlad Drăculea in an original story where he becomes the vampire, Dracula. Released on October 10, 2014, the film's mixed financial and critical reception resulted in the film's presence within the franchise to be downplayed. Evans has remained attached to the role, with potential to return in a future film.
The Mummy (2017)
Originally announcing plans for a reboot of The Mummy franchise in 2012, Universal marketed The Mummy as the first film in the Dark Universe. Alex Kurtzman served as director and co-writer, The Mummy was released on June 9, 2017. It received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics. Universal deemed the domestic ticket sales to be, underwhelming box office returns. Due to the mixed reception, Universal removed additional films from their scheduled release dates, while the future of the franchise was reassessed. As of June 2020, it remains as the only installment of the Dark Universe.
The Invisible Man (2020)
The project was initially announced in February 2016 as a part of the Dark Universe with Johnny Depp cast in the lead role, and a script by Ed Solomon. By January 2019, it was announced to be retooled as a stand-alone feature film written and directed by Leigh Whannell with an acknowledgement that Depp had the option to remain cast as the titular monster. The project was a joint-production between Universal Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, Nervous Tick, and Goalpost Pictures. Jason Blum and Kylie du Fresne served as the producers.
Elisabeth Moss and Oliver Jackson-Cohen were cast as the lead characters, Cecilia Kass and Adrian Griffin / the Invisible Man, respectively. Principal photography commenced in July 2019, and continued into September 2019. The Invisible Man was released on February 28, 2020. Later, Whannell stated that the movie was developed as a stand-alone installment, and was not developed with a greater cinematic universe in mind.
Other films in development
- The Bride of Frankenstein: Originally announced with Bill Condon as the director for the reboot of the titular character, with a script written by David Koepp; the movie was scheduled to be released on February 14, 2019. By November 2017, the movie was pulled from its initial release, with the studio stating that the filmmaker and all creatives involved had wanted to delay the film in favor of further refining the script. In January 2018, development on the film continued with Condon hiring a production team consisting of cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler, production designer Sarah Greenwood, composer Carter Burwell, and costume designer Jacqueline Durran. By November 2019, Condon confirmed that though the film had entered pre-production at one point, it was ultimately halted due to the outcome of the release of The Mummy. The director also confirmed that Koepp remains involved with re-working the rebooted franchises. By February 2020, it was announced that Amy Pascal will serve as producer, with the project becoming a joint-venture production between Universal Pictures and Pascal Pictures. The studio is courting David Koepp to continue his work as screenwriter. Filmmakers John Krasinski and Sam Raimi have individually had discussions with the studio regarding potentially directing, while Variety reported that Krasinski was given options to develop films from the roster of monsters owned by Universal Pictures. In June 2020, Koepp stated that, in addition to still being actively involved with the project, and stated that he was inspired by the success of The Invisible Man. He stated that the story will explore the modern-day desire to extend our lives, create life, and cheat death. Furthermore, the filmmaker intends to include plot devices that are relevant to the #MeToo era, stating that "it's horror effortlessly lending itself to metaphor."
- Dark Army: In September 2019, it was announced that the film, featuring monsters from the original movies as well as new characters, was in development. Paul Feig will serve as director, from a script of his own. He will serve as co-producer with Laura Fischer. The project will be a joint production between Universal Pictures and Feigco Productions. In October of the same year, the filmmaker confirmed that "the Dark Universe people" were reviewing the first draft of his script, while stating that The Bride of Frankenstein will be a major influence on his project. By February 2020, Feig stated that he was working on the second draft of the script, after receiving input from Universal Pictures. By May of the same year, Feig stated that he had recently finished the second draft of the script and described the tone of the film as closer to the original films, when compared to Whannell's The Invisible Man. The filmmaker reaffirmed that it will be a horror movie, but that it will portray the monsters as rejects, similar to the original films. He further stated that the studio is still deciding which of the projects they have in development will enter production first. Variety reported that Feig was given the option to develop films of any characters from the roster of monsters owned by Universal Pictures, prior to his chosen project.
- Renfield: In November 2019, it was announced that a film centered Count Dracula's henchman, R. M. Renfield, is in development. The project was greenlit following a pitch to the studio from Robert Kirkman. Dexter Fletcher signed on as director, with a script by Ryan Ridley. The film will be a joint-venture production between Universal Studios, and Skybound Entertainment. Kirkman, David Alpert, Bryan Furst, and Sean Furst will serve as producers.
- Frankenstein: Beginning in June 2017, the project was initially announced as being in development as one of the films to be an installment in the Dark Universe, Javier Bardem was cast to portray the titular character. Following changes to the release slate, and an reevalution to technique, it was announced in November 2019 that James Wan will serve as producer on a reboot of the Frankenstein film series. Jason Blum expressed interest in joining the production in a producing role. In March 2020, it was announced that Robbie Thompson was hired to serve as screenwriter, with the plot revolving around a group of teenagers who discover that a neighbor is creating a monster in their basement. The project will be a joint production between Universal Pictures and Atomic Monster Productions.
- The Invisible Woman: In November 2019, a reboot of The Invisible Woman was announced to be in development. Elizabeth Banks will star in, and direct the film, with a script written by Erin Cressida Wilson from a story pitch written by Banks. She will co-produce the project with Max Handelman. Variety reported that Banks was given options to develop a film from any characters in the roster of monsters owned by Universal Pictures, while she chose the Invisible Woman.
- Monster Mash: In February 2020 a musical, titled after and centered around the novelty song "Monster Mash", was announced to be in development. Grammy Award nominee Matt Stawski will make his feature film directorial debut, while Will Widger will serve as screenwriter, from an original story written by Stawski. The project will be a joint-venture production between Universal Pictures and Temple Hill Entertainment. Marty Bowen will serve as producer.
- Dracula: By March 2020, Karyn Kusama was hired to direct a film centered around Dracula, from a script co-written by Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay. The plot will reportedly take place in a modern setting. The project will be a joint-venture production, with Blumhouse Productions serving as the production studio. In June of the same year, Kusama stated that the film will be a "faithful adaptation" of Bram Stoker's Dracula, including the plot device of being told from various perspectives.
- The Wolf Man: Initially announced in November 2014 to be in development as a part of the Dark Universe, Universal hired Aaron Guzikowski to write the shared universe's reboot of The Wolf Man film series. In June 2016, Deadline reported that the studio had been eyeing Dwayne Johnson to star as the character. In October 2016, David Callaham was hired to re-write the script. By May 2020, it was announced that Ryan Gosling has been cast as the Wolf Man for an upcoming reboot of the titular character. Lauren Shuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo co-wrote the script, from an original story pitched by Gosling. The actor had previously been in negotiations to also serve as director, though it was ultimately decided that he would instead focus entirely on acting. Universal is actively pursuing a director. By July of 2020, Leigh Whannell was in early negotiations to serve as director, while Jason Blum joined the production team as an additional producer. The project will be a joint-venture production between Universal Pictures, and Blumhouse Productions.
- Little Monsters: In July 2020, a film titled Little Monsters was announced to be in development. Josh Cooley was hired to serve as both writer and director, with the story said to not only set a departure from other Universal Monster films, but to also serve as a "love letter to classic Hollywood and the history of film-making with a story that takes a multi-generational approach to the monsters and a more PG-rated, lighthearted family-friendly tone in the tradition of the classic 80s Spielberg films from Amblin Entertainment to match as well". The movie will be a live-action/CGI hybrid, with Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman serving as producers. The project will be a joint production between Universal Pictures and Mandeville Films.
- Untitled Invisible Man sequel: In February of 2020, after the release of the first film, Leight Whannell and Elizabeth Moss stated that the movie was standalone with a definitive ending. Whannell explained that once the movie is released, and some time passes he may consider working on a followup movie. In May, Leigh and Jason Blum stated that discussions regarding a sequel were ongoing. By June when asked about a sequel, Moss stated: "Look, if people want it that’s kind of a big part of what we need in order to do it. So put the word out there that YOU want it and then I’ll help!" In July 2020, it was officially announced that Leigh Whannell is working on a sequel to The Invisible Man.
In other media
Theme park attractions
Since 1991, Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Parks & Resorts have featured characters from the Universal Classic Monsters franchise. From 2006 to 2014, the characters also appeared in the year-round walk-through attraction, Universal's House of Horrors, at Universal Studios Hollywood. The franchise is also the central theme of Universal's Horror Make-Up Show. The live show opened in 1990 at Universal Studios Florida and is still in operation.
In 2004, Revenge of the Mummy opened at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood. Based on the first two Mummy films of the remake era, the ride is a roller coaster with dark ride elements. Recent reports indicate the franchise will be conceptualized as a brand new land opening at Universal's Epic Universe.
- Monster Force (1994) (TV series)
- The Mummy: The Animated Series (2001–03) (TV series)
- Van Helsing: The London Assignment (2004) (DTV film)
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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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