Universal Monsters

Monster Squad Monsters

Remember when Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Mummy, Wolf Man and the rest of the classic Universal Monsters were horror characters? Then 80 years worth of cheesy sequels and mash-ups and merchandising watered them all down to the point where they couldn’t even scare a baby. Hollywood has tried different ways to make them relevant for modern audiences, including attempts at grittier takes on the literary sources, blockbuster versions with lots of action and special effects and animated features starring the voices of Adam Sandler and friends. These have each only kept the creatures as corny as ever. They’re never going to be the stuff of nightmares again, so the question is whether they’ll ever be as cool as they once were. Or even cooler? What if the classic movie monsters were suddenly as hip as the Fast and Furious movies became after the franchise was refueled with high-octane entertainment value following the fourth installment? Unfortunately, a dash of Dwayne Johnson isn’t going to cut it here. He already sort of contributed to the quick ruin of the last Mummy reboot. Never mind that that was before he reenergized his own movie career. The alternative might be the reported hire of screenwriter Chris Morgan for the job of penning the studio’s previously announced super-franchise for its Halloween costume favorites. He’s the guy who wrote all the Fast and Furious sequels from Tokyo Drift onward. It took him a couple installments to really reveal the awesome potential, but he found new life in what had initially seemed […]

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monstersquad

Ever since Marvel Studios blew past the billion dollar mark by getting all of their various protagonists together and teaming them up in a big crossover movie, The Avengers, every other studio out there has been clamoring to find a way to recreate that success. Whether that’s Sony looking to build to a Sinister Six movie through their Amazing Spider-Man franchise, Warner Brothers looking to build to a Justice League movie through their Man of Steel franchise, or Fox looking to bring their two disparate X-Men franchises together with Days of Future Past, the message seems to be the same: team-up movies are the new go-to. The truth is, crossing over different properties in order to create big team-up movies is nothing new though. Universal was doing it with their popular monster characters all the way back in the 40s with things like 1943’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, 1944’s House of Frankenstein, or even the 1948 comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. These movies took classic characters like Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein’s monster, kept the original actors who made them famous where possible, and threw them all together into one adventure that kept the properties fresh in ways that more solo films couldn’t. It was a good strategy then, and The Avengers shows that it’s still a good strategy now, so it’s looking like Universal is getting ready to go back to it.

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Frankenstein DVD Commentary

IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE! For 81 years, those words have surely been said from at least one person to another every year around Halloween time, and for good reason. Not only is Frankenstein arguably the best of the Universal monsters from the 1930s, the monster at the film’s center has become a pivotal image for October 31st. So, to round our horror slate of commentaries, we’re diving into the classic original, our oldest film covered to date. Naturally, this means we aren’t listening to any of the cast or crew from the film (although we get some quotations from director James Whale). Since the first commentary track came out in 1984 – King Kong Criterion Collection, which will be covered at some point here – films from days of old have to settle for film historians to talk shop while they play out. That’s not to say there aren’t invaluable bits of information found here, but expect lots of film theory and LOTS of snobbery. Who knows? Maybe Rudy Behlmer, who is featured here, likes to check his brain at the door with the rest of us. Checking brains at the door. Frankenstein’s monster. There’s a joke in there somewhere, but probably not a very funny one. Let’s get the commentary started, shall we?

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Invisible Man

How do show the world an invisible man? That was the challenge for James Whale when he directed an adaptation of H.G. Wells‘ story for Universal. It was also the challenge facing Francesco Francavilla, the comic book artist who has scored some acclaim for work on “Zorro,” “Black Panther: The Man Without Fear,” and various “Captain America” tales when he took the task of creating a new poster for the iconic flick. To be fair, he had some help from how Whale dressed up Claude Rains for the role, but the poster he’s crafted for the forthcoming Mondo gallery show dedicated to The Universal Monsters is still a thing of beauty. The show takes place on October 19th (running through November 10th), and will feature art from Rick Baker, Kevin Tong and more. Lucky for you, we have a sneak peek of Francavilla’s work:

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Universal Monsters Blu-ray

Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Dracula, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera, The Mummy and The Creature From The Black Lagoon are finally all together on Blu-ray. Universal will be releasing a massively awesome set called “Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection” on October 5th, and there are a ridiculous amount of extra features in addition to the horror flicks. Production photos, behind-the-scenes stuff, trailers, tributes to Jack Pierce and Lon Chaney, Jr. That’s the tip of the horror iceberg (which is also the name of the script I just finished. Call me, Asylum). The movies have been together on DVD before with a decent collection of features, but this Blu-ray collection seems absolutely stunning. A big upgrade for true classics. Plus, there are books involved! Everyone loves reading. The big question is…at a pre-sale price of $112, is this a necessary upgrade or a dreamy luxury?  

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Universal’s classic movie monsters have always been an important part of their history, and a profitable part of their stable of trademarks. Normally they don’t let too many years go by without making a movie featuring a the wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, or a mummy. So, it should probably come as no surprise that they’re currently looking for ways to further extend their Mummy franchise, the latest incarnation of which started with Stephen Sommers’s 1999 film that starred Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. Variety reports that they’re looking to do a reboot of the whole franchise, and in order to get things started, they’ve hired writer Jon Spaihts to come up with a script. Spaihts isn’t really a widely known name as of yet, but considering he’s got a co-writing credit on Ridley Scott’s upcoming project that’s set in the Alien universe, Prometheus, that’s probably going to change pretty quickly.

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Universal really wants this vampire fad to go out with a bang and a fizzle.

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Wolfman-3

Universal Pictures sent over a note this evening that their upcoming horror remake The Wolfman has been rated ‘R’ for bloody horror, violence and gore. Also, we’ve got pictures!

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thirst_movie

All I heard for weeks was how Park’s vampire opus Thirst was a gorgeous, deeply affecting film; my interest was duly peaked. Two very long hours later, I emerged in the minority. I did not like this film.

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Boris Karloff as Frankenstein

If you don’t think a 77-year old movie can make you wet your pants and think about your own existence, you haven’t seen James Whale’s Frankenstein.

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