Universal Monsters

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Universal has promoted a number of its films in the horror genre and included the logo of Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster on reissued sets of DVD films.[1]

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.

History[edit]

1920s[edit]

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, as well as numerous other pictures.

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.

Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi (1930s)[edit]

Bela Lugosi starred in Universal's Dracula (1931) 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:

Lon Chaney, Jr. (1940s)[edit]

Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's monster with Boris Karloff in House of Frankenstein

During the 1940s, Universal released The Wolf Man (1941), with Lon Chaney, Jr. following in his father Lon Chaney's footsteps.

In 1943, the studio created a remake of Phantom of the Opera, this time starring Nelson Eddy and Susanna Foster with Claude Rains as the Phantom.

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.

Legacy (1950–1960)[edit]

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.[2] 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.

Remakes[edit]

In 1973, Universal produced the two-part miniseries Frankenstein: The True Story for NBC. James Mason starred.

In 1979, Universal released Dracula, starring Frank Langella and Laurence Olivier.

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 and proved popular at the box office despite mixed reviews.

In 2010, Universal released The Wolfman starring Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, and Hugo Weaving.


Rebooted franchise[edit]

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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5] Len Wiseman was announced as The Mummy's director on September 24, 2012.[6]

On February 14, 2013, Universal set The Hunger Games' writer Billy Ray to write a competitive draft for The Mummy reboot against Spaiths's written script.[7]

Wiseman left the project in July 2013 due to schedule conflicts.[8] In September, it was reported that Mama's director Andrés Muschietti was in talks to direct the film.[9] However, he dropped out in May 2014, due to creative differences.[10]

In October 2013, Orci spoke to IGN, hinting that both The Mummy and Van Helsing reboots will have a shared universe.[11]

On November 27, 2013, Universal set the film for an April 22, 2016 release.[12]

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.[13] Kurtzman was set to direct the film by the end of the month.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17] In an interview with IGN, director Gary Shore stated "It's optional for them if they want to use it as that launching pad."[18] 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.[19]

In November 2014, Universal hired Aaron Guzikowski to write the shared universe's reboot of The Wolf Man.[20] In December 2014, Universal hired Jay Basu to write an undisclosed film for the shared universe.[21]

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."[22]

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.[23]

On August 2015, Alex Kurtzman announces the new film series will be a mix of horror and other fictional genres.[24] 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.[25][26]

Recurring cast and characters[edit]

List indicator(s)'
  • 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.


Merchandising[edit]

Werewolf of London wax figure

Merchandising of the Universal Monsters films has been collected by fans around the world for decades. However, when the films were originally released there was little in the way of merchandising other than lobby cards and posters.

Many years later, when the films regained popularity after being regularly shown on American TV, toys and model kits began to be sold. Universal particularly held to the copyrighting of their depiction of Frankenstein's monster.

Out of the first wave of collectables, the most notable was the 1961 plastic model kit of Frankenstein's monster by the now-defunct Aurora Plastics. In the next few years there followed models of Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Phantom of the Opera, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon before the series switched to generic or characters from other firms, though there was a Bride of Frankenstein model in 1965. These hollow statues were quite popular among American boys.

After the popularity of the Aurora series, other companies eventually began using licensed caricatures of the Universal Monsters. Over the decades many collectables have appeared in one form or another; from Halloween masks and action figures to coffee mugs, miniature die-cast cars, jigsaw puzzles, Pez dispensers, lunch boxes, postal stamps, and so on.

Other memorabilia include the products from Sideshow Collectibles with very accurate 12 inch (1/6 scale) "action figures" of many of the Universal Monsters, as well as museum quality 1/4 scale "Premium Format" figures usually cast from polystone with accurate cloth costumes and decoration.

NECA Toys released a series of bobble head caricatures of all the main Universal Monsters in 2006, including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolfman, Bride of Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Diamond Select Toys is the current license holder for action figures, including 7-inch figures, 8-inch retro-styled figures and 2-inch Minimates. Diamond Select also makes vinyl banks based on the films, and their products are often issued in both color and black-and-white. Diamond Select is also a licensee for The Munsters, and has made figures of all of the show's Universal-inspired family members.

In addition to toys, multiple books based on the monsters have been produced, including novelizations of the films and original novels based on the characters, including Return of the Wolfman, a 1998 novel by Jeff Rovin which continued the adventures of Larry Talbot and was followed in 2000 and 2001 by The Devil's Brood and The Devil's Night, both by David Jacobs. In 2001 and 2002, Scholastic published a six-part series of children's books by Larry Mike Garmon, in which six monsters from the films (Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, the Gill Man and the Bride of Frankenstein) escaped into the real world and had to be hunted down by a trio of 21st century teenagers. In 2006 and 2007, Dark Horse Comics, under its DH Press branch, published six books, each by a different author, based on the same six monsters as Garmon's series: Dracula: Asylum, Frankenstein: The Shadow of Frankenstein and Creature From The Black Lagoon: Time's Black Lagoon in 2006, and The Mummy: Dark Resurrection, The Wolf Man: Hunter's Moon and The Bride of Frankenstein: Pandora's Bride in 2007.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johnston, Keith M. (2013-05-09). Science Fiction Film: A Critical Introduction. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 24–. ISBN 9781847884787. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ Gallagher, Brian (4 April 2012). "'The Mummy' Gets Reboot from 'Prometheus' Writer Jon Spaihts". movieweb.com. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "The Mummy Remake to Be an Epic Horror Movie Set in Present Day America". movieweb.com. 13 December 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  5. ^ "Universal Signs Kurtzman And Orci; Pair Takes On ‘The Mummy’ And ‘Van Helsing’". deadline.com. 1 May 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  6. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (24 September 2012). "Len Wiseman Wrapping Up Deal To Helm Universal Reboot Of ‘The Mummy’". deadline.com. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  7. ^ Brodesser-Akner, Claude (14 February 2013). "Starving for Mummy Reboot, Universal Hires Hunger Games Screenwriter to Pen Competing Script". vulture.com. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  8. ^ Sneider, Jeff (31 July 2013). "Director Len Wiseman Exits ‘The Mummy’ Reboot at Universal". thewrap.com. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  9. ^ Kit, Borys (13 September 2013). "'Mama' Director in Talks to Helm 'Mummy' Reboot for Universal". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  10. ^ Sneider, Jeff (6 May 2014). "‘Mummy’ Reboot Loses ‘Mama’ Director Andy Muschetti". thewrap.com. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  11. ^ Tilly, Chris (18 October 2013). "Bob Orci Discusses Van Helsing Reboot". ign.com. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Universal Dates ‘The Mummy’ Reboot For April 2016, Pushes ‘Warcraft’ Out Of ‘Star Wars’ Slot". deadline.com. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  13. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (16 July 2014). "Universal Taps Alex Kurtzman, Chris Morgan To Relaunch Classic Movie Monster Franchises". deadline.com. Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Kit, Borys (30 July 2014). "Alex Kurtzman to Direct 'The Mummy' Reboot". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
  15. ^ Perlman, Jake (July 31, 2014). "Universal to release 'The Huntsman' in 2016, pushes back 'The Mummy'". ew.com. Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  16. ^ Williams, Celeb (October 22, 2014). "EXCLUSIVE: First Plot Details on Alex Kurtzman's 'The Mummy' Reboot". Superhero Movies News. Retrieved October 22, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Producer Confirms that Dracula Untold is the First Part of the Universal Monsters Reboot". heyuguys.com. October 2, 2014. Retrieved October 2, 2014. 
  18. ^ KRUPA, DANIEL (October 2, 2014). "Is Dracula Untold a Part of the Shared Monsters Universe?". ign.com. Retrieved October 2, 2014. 
  19. ^ Ford, Rebecca; Kit, Borys (October 15, 2014). "How 'Dracula Untold's' New Ending Could Tie Into Universal's Monster Universe". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved October 16, 2014. 
  20. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (November 12, 2014). "Will Justin Lin Rev ‘Fast & Furious’ Finale?". Deadline. 
  21. ^ Jaafar, Ali (December 1, 2014). "Jay Basu Tapped By Universal To Aid Relaunch Of Classic Monster Movies". Deadliner. 
  22. ^ McClintock, Pamela (November 13, 2014). "Executive Roundtable: 6 Studio Heads on China Plans, Superhero Overload, WB Layoffs, 'Fast & Furious' Future". Hollywood Reporter. 
  23. ^ Kit, McClintock, Borys, Pamela (April 23, 2015). "Universal's Monster Movies Get Delayed". Hollywood Reporter. 
  24. ^ Hayes, Britt (August 10, 2015). "Len Wiseman Wrapping Up Deal To Helm Universal Reboot Of ‘The Mummy’". Screen Crush. Retrieved August 24, 2015. 
  25. ^ "Amazing Spider-Man 2 Writer To Pen Creature From The Black Lagoon Remake". cinemablend.com. 2015-08-09. Retrieved 2015-08-09. 
  26. ^ Chase, Lou. "TB Exclusive: Universal eyes Scarlett Johansson to star in 'Creature from the Black Lagoon'." Tracking Board, April 9, 2015.

External links[edit]