Universal Monsters or Universal Horror is a phrase used to describe the series of horror, suspense and science fiction films made by Universal Studios during the decades of the 1920s through the 1950s. 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 often featured Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney, Jr.
In 1923 Universal produced the drama The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which starred Lon Chaney as Quasimodo. The production sets were built to evoke 15th-century Paris, including a re-creation the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.
Chaney starred as The Phantom in 1925's horror film, The Phantom of the Opera, based on the mystery novel by Gaston Leroux. 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 decade included The Cat and the Canary (1927) and The Last Warning (1929) with Laura LaPlante, as well as The Man Who Laughs (1928) 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. Actors Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan made several film appearances in this decade. Make-up artist Jack Pierce created several monsters' make-up starting in the 1930s.
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. 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 the original movies being re-released by the studio. Son of Frankenstein (1939) starring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi was released.
- The Cat Creeps (1930) with Helen Twelvetrees
- La Voluntad del muerto (1930) with Antonio Moreno, Lupita Tovar and Andrés de Segurola
- Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi
- Dracula (1931) with Carlos Villarías
- Frankenstein (1931) with Boris Karloff and Colin Clive
- Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) with Bela Lugosi
- The Old Dark House (1932) with Charles Laughton and 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 and Colin Clive
- 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 and Warren Hull
- Son of Frankenstein (1939) with Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and Bela Lugosi
- Tower of London (1939) with Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and Vincent Price
During the 1940s, Universal released The Wolf Man (1941), with Lon Chaney, Jr.
The Frankenstein and Wolf Man series continued with The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), in which Chaney, Jr. played Frankenstein's monster, and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943) with 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). House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945), featured many of the monsters from the studio's previous films. 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.
- 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., Claude Raines, and Bela Lugosi
- The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942) with Lionel Atwill
- The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) with Lon Chaney, Jr., Cedric Hardwicke and Bela Lugosi
- Invisible Agent (1942) with Jon Hall, 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 Evelyn Ankers, John Carradine and Aquanetta
- 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 Jon Hall and John Carradine
- 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, Lon Chaney, Jr. and John Carradine
- 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.
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.
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: Winter's War.
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."
In 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.
In 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.
In November 2015, Variety reports that Jon Spaihts and Eric Heisserer will write The Van Helsing reboot, but Cruise left the film, It was announced by Variety that Criuse is talks to star in the Mummy reboot and The Hollywood Reporter has reported that the studio are looking at Angelina Jolie for the role of The Bride of Frankenstein.
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- 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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