With Hallowe'en not that far away, I'm in the mood to watch some horror flicks.  Since I have the six Universal Legacy collections for Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, I decided to have a look at them all again. However, instead of just plowing through each one individually, I'm going to watch them all in the order in which they were released, at least as best as I can determine they were.

 

I'll begin with:  Dracula!

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If I wanted to explain the appeal of the Universal monsters with a single film it would be Frankenstein. Based on all that I have read over the years, the movie was quite controversial due to themes of  creating soul-less artificial life, man playing God, grave robbing etc.

When I was a kid my mothers aunt told me about seeing Frankenstein in the theater and how people were screaming and in some cases walking out. She refused to look at my Aurora plastic model of the monster due to bad memories from the movie.

George Poague said:

http://www.amazon.com/Hollywood-Gothic-Tangled-Dracula-Screen/dp/05...

David J. Skal's book, "Hollywood Gothic," has a great deal of info about the making of 1931's Dracula. Skal clearly prefers the Spanish version (and Nosferatu as well).

 

 

Interesting - I've read his book Screams of Reason: Mad Science and Modern Culture, and enjoyed it immensely. I shall have to try to get a look at that one.

The Mummy (1932):

Released: December 22nd, 1932

Directed by Karl Freund (later the cinematographer on I Love Lucy)

Starring Boris Karloff as Imhotep, Zita Johann as Helen, David Manners as Frank, Arthur Byron as Sir Joseph and Edward Van Sloan as Muller.

 

1)Huh - they used the same opening music as in Dracula. This is also the first of these pictures to have music during the body of the film.

 

2)Van Sloan plays some kind of an occult expert here.  He and Karloff are the best things in this, but they both feel a bit "watered down" from their appearances in the previous two pictures.

 

3)The best bit in this goes to the fellow who goes crazy at the start of the picture:  "He went for a little walk. You should have seen the look on his face!"

 

Overall:

Not as much to say about about this - it's an OK picture, but it feels like a real step down form Dracula and Frankenstein.

 

Coming Up Next: Have you seen The Invisible Man?

I ran across a website some time back which listed "Mummy" stories in print and film.  It's astonishing how many of them there were, considering some people mistakenly feel the 1932 film was the "first-ever" such item.

THE MUMMY has also been described by some as an "Egyptian" variation on a theme of DRACULA. What is notable is that several recurring plot elements used in later DRACULA films first appeared in THE MUMMY, not in DRACULA (book or movie).  This is mainly the idea that the title character is somewhat sympathetic (but only to a point) and that the focus on the story is reincarnation and finding "lost love".  This angle was used repeatedly in the TV series DARK SHADOWS, and the films BLACULA, DRACULA (Dan Curtis) and DRACULA (Coppola).

The Mummy benefits from great visuals, unfortunately the opening sequence with the unearthing and re-animation of the mummy is the high point of the film, after that the story plods along ( but then what did you expect from a mummy!)

I’ve been off the board for a couple of days, so it’s time to play catch up.

All my life I had heard how superior the Spanish language Dracula was to the English one. When I was snatching up all those VHS tapes back in the ‘90s, the Spanish one was one I never saw. Finally located a used copy at HPB a couple of years ago. It was okay, certainly fun to compare, but it wasn’t that much better.

I have a Rob Zombie (sponsored) CD of the soundtracks of Universals first three Frankensteins combined. It’s fun to listen to, especially around Hallowe’en. Regarding that “Now I know what it feels like to BE God” line, it was censored in two ways: if the scene wasn’t cut outright, the sound was faded at that point. I have to agree with Bob about the “cutesy little people” from Bride. On reading Frankenstein: I’ve read it a couple of times through, plus about two years ago I listened to the audio book. The monster can be quite erudite at times, which often sets up a dichotomy regarding his level of learning. We were listening to it in the car when the monster described a bird as a small, winged creature, which led Tracy to exclaim something along the lines of (I forget the exact word the monster used), “He know the word ‘erudition’ but he doesn’t know ‘bird’?”

Universal’s original Mummy was quite different from the ones which followed. It was moody and atmospheric, but I guess someone figured the titular character wasn’t scary enough out of make-up.

I have that CD, too.  It's fun to have on in the background when I'm reading.

What I find funny is that these movies were nearly taboo when released but when they're on TV today they're rated TV-PG!

I'm a huge fan of the 1931 "Frankenstein," so it's interesting to read your comments on it. For me, Colin Clive really steals the show. His bitterness really resonates through the film. He will do anything to prove his skill to his scoffers.

And you're right about Whale. His direction makes this a far superior film to "Dracula." You can tell he was really thinking about how things should look, where his camera needed to be and how his actors needed to act.

Leslie Halliwell wrote a book, The Dead that Walk, about vampire, Frankenstein, mummy and zombie films. If there's a copy to hand you might find some interesting information in it, Baron, but it's not exclusively about the Universal films and I don't know it's a must-read.

 

The book Hideous Progenies: Dramatisations of Frankenstein from Mary Shelley to the Present by Steven Earl Forry is a history of Frankenstein plays which has the text of several 19th c. versions and a 1930 one. It was published by University of Pennsylvania Press.

 

The 1910 Edison version of Frankenstein can be found at Internet Archive.

 

Reviews by the B-Masters can be found through the index here. There are some short reviews of some of the Universal films by James Lileks here.

Thanks, LB.

An ad announcing Frankenstein giving Bela Lugosi as its star appeared in an exhibitor's catalogue. It can be seen here at the "Frankensteinia" blog. Reportedly Lugosi did a screen-test as the monster, but the blogger notes that in the image from the ad the mad scientist looks like Lugosi. The monster is depicted projecting eye-rays, which motif was also used in Frankenstein's credits. (Lileks's review of the film has an image showing this.)

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