On Screen: Universal Movie Monsters

In 1920 Universal Studios were so impressed with The Hunchback of Notre Dame they decided to continue to make horror/monster films and went on to make The Phantom of the Opera.

Lon_chaney_srLon Chaney, Universal’s most prominent horror star, as seen in The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

From here on Universal Studios would be known as the home of the original monsters. There were a few more films in the 20’s that fall under the horror category, but it was not until the 1930’s that really catapulted the Universal Monster.  Starting in 1931 and the introduction of both Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff and their most memorable characters in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Bela LugosiBela Lugosi in Dracula (1931)

Boris Karloff Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931)

The film line-up during the 30’s included:

  • 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
  • The Yeti (film) (1938) with Dr Ewolloi Rameses
  • Son of Frankenstein (1939) with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi
  • Tower of London (1939) with Boris Karloff

Universal would continue the movie monsters into the 40’s and 50’s, but eventually the movie monster is taken over by the nuclear threat and and we get giant ants and spiders.

In recent years we have been thrusted into a film industry that has decided to create a shared universe.  From Marvel and DC to recent news that Transformers will begin to create a shared universe.  It would seem that Universal Studios would like to do the same, but with their classic monsters.

Universal Studios would like to bring back their classic movie monsters and place them in a shared universe.  Thanks to Collider.com who spoke with screenwriter and director Alex Kurtzman (Sleepy Hollow) on the upcoming  remake of the Mummy that is set to launch the classic movie monster shared universe.  during Kurtzman’s interview he gave us a little insight on the movie monster franchise.

“The monster universe is coming together very very quickly, we’re very excited. There will be announcements soon. We have actually started doing a lot of design work, we’re getting scripts in, everything is feeling really really good, so I don’t want to curse it by saying too much to you, but it’s going well.”

Now for audiences today the classic movie monster really don’t fit into the horror category, but during their day they did.  This too was addressed by Katzman.

“Yeah, I think [fans being upset is] a fair response and it’s actually not [going to be devoid of horror] — I think there was some lost in translation quality to the way it was received, because I promise you there will be horror in these movies. It is our life goal to make a horror movie. The tricky part is actually how you combine horror with either adventure or suspense or action and be true to all the genres together. In some way, Mummy, dating all the way back to the Karloff movie, was the first to do that. It was the first to combine horror with — I wouldn’t say action, but certainly a lot of suspense. So it’s more about how you blend the different elements and stay true to each one, but there will definitely be horror in the monster movies…We will hopefully serve it up good and plenty.”

As for the launch of the shared monster movie universe The Mummy is set to be released on March 24, 2017.   From what we know the story follows Navy Seal Tyler Colt and his mission in the Iraqi desert to find a group of terrorists hiding out in a bunker. To his and his team’s surprise, the terrorists within the bunker turn out be nothing more than some grave robbers who have all magically died. Upon entering the bunker Tyler and his team also succumb to some mystical forces out of their control. They soon realize the bunker they have infiltrated is actually a centuries old tomb. Mayhem erupts as all the Navy Seal members start turning on one another and are captivated by the forces within the tomb. Tyler is the only one to make it all the way deep within the tomb alive to find a black iron sarcophagus. It’s marked with Egyptian symbols like the Ankh and Eye of Horus. Here Tyler is entreated by the forces to open the sarcophagus and release what is inside. But after placing his hand on the sarcophagus, he is immediately stabbed in the palm with a star shaped symbol. From then on Tyler’s mind is cursed with visions of Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria… The Mummy.


In recent years hollywood has tried to remake the classic monster movie and for the most part have failed since the film is more based on action than horror.  Lets hope Universal can bring back the magic of the classic monster.

Leave a Reply