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The Universal Monsters

Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, and The creature From The Black Lagoon as well as others from Universal Studios in the 30’s and 40’s are the Grandfathers of all modern horror. The directors and performers started a rich tradition that has influenced actors, directors, and producers for every generation since. These are the classic films that our grandparents talked about until we watched them and now we show them to our kids.

The Monster Squad (1987)

The Monster Squad (1987)
82 mins. - PG13
Director: Fred Dekker

Starring: Andre Gower, Duncan Regehr, Stephen Macht, Stan Shaw, Tom Noonan, Robby Kiger, Brent Chalem, Ryan Lambert, Ashley Bank, Michael Faustino, Mary Ellen Trainor, Leonardo Cimino, Jon Gries, Lisa Fuller, Jason Harvey

Synopsis: A time portal was left open by Dr. Van Helsing and a band of freedom fighters trying to fight off Dracula and his gang of monsters. Flash forward a hundred years into the present to Sean and a group of pre-teen "monster hunters" who have formed a group called the infamous "Monster Squad". They stumble across the German diary of Dr. Van Helsing that unravels a story of mystery. Will the "Monster Squad" solve the mystery of the vortex to stop Dracula and history's greatest monsters before it is too late or will the world be plunged into darkness forever?

Patrick: As a favorite of mine from my childhood, I still love this movie. A very clever storyline along with classic one-liners with a unique collection of characters, both good and evil. I highly recommend this movie. This is one that I watch over and over.

Tommy: I thought this film was so fun to watch! This was a great homage to the Universal monsters! Tom Noonan did a great job as the Frankenstein monster. He portrayed the monster a lot like Boris Karloff did. Ducan Regehr did a great job portraying Count Dracula as well. No one can watch this film and not like it. Everything was done perfectly. You can even watch this one with the kids! Monster Squad is a classic and shouldn't be missed.

Roy: I can't say enough about this film. The plot, the acting, the make up, all were great. This film captured the feeling that my generation had for the classic Universal Monsters. It was a coming of age film for us horror lovers and fun for the whole family. This is a must for any collection.

Patrick's Rating: * * * * 1/2
Roy's Rating:
* * * * *
Tommy's Rating: * * * * *

Movie Facts:
 
- According to director Fred Dekker the film was cut by 13 minutes because some executives didn't want it to run more than 90 minutes.

- Dustin Diamond had a small role as a kid who tries to sell comic books to the boys, but this was later cut.

- Liam Neeson was paid for a bit part that was never shot. He was also considered for the role of Dracula.

Frankenstein (1931)

Frankenstein (1931)
71 mins. - Not Rated
Director: James Whale

Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles, Edward Van Sloan, Frederick Kerr, Dwight Frye, Lionel Belmore, Marilyn Harris, Arletta Duncan, Ted Billings, Francis Ford

Synopsis: Obsessed scientist Dr. Frankenstein creates a living being from parts of exhumed corpses. When Dr. Frankenstein realizes he's created an agressive monster, he locks the creature away in a cell. Soon the Monster escapes and two people are murdered. Is the Monster evil, or is he just misunderstood?

Tommy: This is one of the best horror films ever made. Jack Pierce's monster make-up hasn't been touched to this day, and probably never will be. Never has a monster movie had such a tragic story. You immediately bond with the Monster and feel sorry for him. To this generation, the film will be boring. But any true horror fan will recognize the impact this film has had on the genre. If you are a horror fan, you simply can not miss this film.

Roy: To say this film is one of the greatest horror films ever is almost redundant, it truly goes without saying. Boris Karloff gave the performance of a lifetime without dialogue. Very few actors then or since, horror or otherwise, has captured a character's essence the way he did. James Whale's direction was flawless. Colin Clive set the bar for all demented scientists to come. A true horror fan commits blasphemy by not watching this film. The word classic is thrown around lightly these days, but Frankenstein rightfully takes it's place as a classic for all time.

Tommy's Rating: * * * * *
Roy's Rating: * * * * *

Movie Facts:

- Bela Lugosi was offered the role of the Monster but refused on the grounds that his character would not speak.

- John Carridine turned down the part of the Monster because he considered himself too highly trained to be reduced to playing monsters.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
75 mins. - Not Rated
Director: James Whale

Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson, Ernest Thesiger, Elsa Lanchester, Gavin Gorden, Douglas Walton, Una O'Connor, E.E. Clive, Lucien Prival, O.P. Heggie, Dwight Frye, Reginald Barlow, Mary Gordon

Synopsis: Dr. Frankenstein and his monster both turn out to be alive, not killed as previously believed. Dr. Frankenstein wants to change his ways, but when another mad scientist, Dr. Pretorius, kidnaps his wife, he agrees to help create a new creature, a woman to be the companion of the Monster.

Tommy: Great sequel to Frankenstein. The great Boris Karloff did a wonderful job portraying The Monster again. James Whale struck gold with this film and I thought it was about as good as Frankenstein, and considered by many to be better. Don't miss this one, it's a good continuation of the Frankenstein story and a classic horror tale. The only downside is when the Monster speaks. Don't miss this one.

Roy: This film is a masterpiece. Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester gave probably the best prefomances of their careers. Whale gave us a classic horror story as well as an unusual dramatic story of a "man" who can't accept being alone in this world. It is as sad as it is scarry. Horror lovers will appreciate this film, non-horror lovers can also appreciate the story.

Tommy's Rating: * * * * *
Roy's Rating: * * * * *

Movie Facts:

- Claude Rains was offered the role of Dr. Pretorius, but was unavailable due to scheduling conflicts.

- Boris Karloff protested against the decision to make the Monster speak, but was overruled.

Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)

Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954)
79 mins. - Rated PG
Director: Jack Arnold

Starring: Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno, Nestor Paiva, Whit Bissell, Bernie Gozier, Ben Chapman, Henry Escalante, Ricou Browning

Synopsis: A scientific expedition searching for fossils along the Amazon River discover a prehistoric Gill-Man in the legendary Black Lagoon. The explorers capture the mysterious creature, but it breaks free. The Gill-Man returns to kidnap the lovely Kay, with whom it has fallen in love.

Tommy: This is one of my all-time favorite films. I've loved this movie since I was a small child and still do. Jack Arnold did a terrific job in his direction because this is one beautifully shot film. The under-water sequences are awesome and the Gill-Man's suit shows Jack Arnold was way ahead of his time. The acting at times can be chessy but what movie from the 50's and 60's wasn't? Watch this one to see a true classic and one of the best creature features ever made. Highly recommended.

Roy: This film had cutting edge fx for the time. The Creature was, and still is, one of the most innovative films of all time. The Gill-Man suit was impressive and broke the mold that was set by other Universal monsters of the period. A classic that is timeless, a keeper, and a crown jewel in anyone's horror collection.

Tommy's Rating: * * * * * 

Roy's Rating: * * * * *

Movie Facts:

- AKA: Black Lagoon

- The Creature's appearance was based on old seventeenth-century woodcuts of two bizarre creatures call the Sea Monk and the Sea Bishop.

- Two different stuntmen were used to portray the Creature, one on land, and one for the water sequences.

Revenge Of The Creature (1955)

Revenge Of The Creature (1955)
82 mins. - Not Rated
Director: Jack Arnold

Starring: John Agar, Lori Nelson, John Bromfield, Nestor Paiva, Grandon Rhodes, Clint Eastwood, Dave Willock, Robert Williams, Charles Cane, Loretta Agar, Ricou Browning, Diane DeLaire, Mike Doyle

Synopsis: Scientists from Florida's Ocean Harbor Marine Center set out to capture the notorious Gill Man. Once captured, he's transported to an aquarium and becomes the Center's main attraction. When the Creature falls in love with one of the female scientists, it isn't long before he escapes, and chaos ensues.

Tommy: Good sequel to Creature From The Black Lagoon, although I didn't like the whole "lovesick" routine they put him in. I think it would have been better to have the Creature more of a savage beast than some lovesick monster. Despite that, there are some tense moments and the Creature makeup is awesome again! Don't miss this one. The Creature rules!

Roy: I love the Creature but this film seemed to have the same story as a lot of other films. The whole "Beauty kills the Beast" schtick played out pretty quick. But as always it's great to see the Gill Man.


Tommy's Rating: * * * *
Roy's Rating: * * * *

Movie Facts:

- Clint Eastwood's first screen appearance.

- Reported to be the highest grossing film of the series.

The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)

The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)
78 mins. - Not Rated
Director: John Sherwood

Starring: Jeff Morrow, Rex Reason, Leigh Snowden, Gregg Palmer, Maurice Manson, James Rawley, David McMahon, Paul Fierro, Lillian Molieri, Larry Hudson, Frank Chase, Ricou Browning, Don Megowan

Synopsis: Dr. William Barton leads an expedition to the Amazon's Black Lagoon to capture the Gill Man. Once captured, the Creature is turned into an air-breather and kept in captivity at the Doctor's seaside ranch.

Tommy: My least favorite of the trilogy. I thought it was a tad bit lame to turn the Creature human. Not to mention they made him look absolutely ridiculous. Still, it's the Creature From The Black Lagoon and there's just something about his films that have always hooked me in. The ending wasn't very pleasing but this one is still worth a look.

Roy: This is a prime example of putting a sequel in the wrong hands. There was, and is, so much potential in this character, that to see it wasted like this, was almost painful for me.

Tommy's Rating: * * * 1/2
Roy's Rating: * * 

Movie Facts:

- The only film in the series not made in 3-D.

The Wolf Man (1941)

The Wolf Man (1941)
70 mins. - Not Rated
Director: George Waggner

Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi, Ralph Bellamy, Warren William, Patric Knowles, Maria Ouspenskaya, Evelyn Aukers, J.M. Kerrigan, Fay Helm, Forrester Harvey, Gibson Gowland

Synopsis: Upon the death of his brother, Larry Talbot returns from America to his ancestral home in Wales. While visiting a gypsy camp, he saves a young girl being attacked by a wolf, but in turn gets bitten during the fight. He is then told by an old gypsy woman that because of the bite, he will turn into a werewolf at each full moon.

Tommy: Incredible film that oozes with atmosphere. One of Universal's best and most definitely one of the greatest werewolf films ever made. Lon Chaney Jr. was so good at playing Larry Talbot. You felt sorry for him and feared him at the same time. The effects, for it's time, were great, and still in my opinion, hold up today. The benchmark film for ALL werewolf movies since then. A must see for any true horror fan. Highly, highly recommended.

Roy: This is my favorite film of the Universal years. When I was a kid it  truly scared the crap outta me. The transformation scenes were incredible and new for the time. Great performances all around, but especially Lon Chaney Jr. He will forever be the king of the sympathetic anti-hero. A must have for any collector. One funny thing I want you to notice, The Wolfman doesn't bite his victims, he strangles them.

Tommy's Rating: * * * * *
Roy's Rating: * * * * *

Movie Facts:

- AKA: Destiny

- One of Universal's top grossing films in 1942.

- Lon Chaney Jr's makeup took 6 hrs to apply and 3 hrs to take off.

- Dick Foran was originally cast to play the part of Larry Talbot.

Dracula (1931)

Dracula (1931)
75 mins. - Not Rated
Director: Tod Browning

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan, Herbert Bunston, Frances Dade, Joan Standing, Charles K. Gerrard, Nicholas Bela, Geraldine Overak, Cornelia Thaw, Dorothy Tree

Synopsis: After a harrowing ride through the Carpathian mountains, Renfield enters Castle Dracula to finalize the transferral of Carfax Abbey in London to Count Dracula, who in actuality, is a vampire. Renfield is hypnotized by the eerie Count, and turned into one of his thralls, to protect him during his sea voyage to London. Once arriving in London, Dracula turns his attention to Jonathan Harker and the Seward family, and it's up to Dr. Van Helsing to save them.

Tommy: One of the all time Universal greats. Dracula set the standard for all vampire films to come. Eerie, foreboding, and down right creepy, this film has been one of the biggest influences on the horror genre. The only real complaint I have is that Bela Lugosi's performance was a tad bit campy and cheesy. He sure ate up the screen when he was on it and demanded your attention. Despite that, this is a keeper and a must see for all horror fans. Great film. Highly, highly recommended.

Roy: The Father of the Modern Vampire film. Lugosi was mesmerizing as Dracula. The sets are incredible and the cinematography very progressive for the time. This film set the stage for the horror genre for decades. A must have for any true horror fan.

Tommy's Rating: * * * * *
Roy's Rating:  * * * * *

Movie Facts:

- Originally, the role of Dracula was meant for Lon Chaney.

- Bela Lugosi only played Dracula once more on screen, in the comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

- Bette Davis was considered to play the part of Mina Harker.

House of Dracula (1945)

House of Dracula (1945)
67 mins. - Rated PG
Director: Erle C. Kenton

Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Martha O'Driscoll, Jane Nigh, Lionel Atwill, Onslow Stevens, Jane Adams, Ludwig Stossel, Glenn Strange, Skelton Knaggs, Joseph E. Bernard, Fred Cordova, Dick Dickinson, Beatrice Gray, Casey Harrison, Gregory Marshall, Harry Lamont

Synopsis: Dracula arrives at Dr. Edelman's office asking for a cure for his vampirism. However, this is a ruse by Dracula to get near Dr. Edelman's beautiful assisstant and turn her into a bloodsucking vampire. Meanwhile, Lawerence Talbot arrives seeking a cure for his lycanthropy. When Dr. Edelman's first attempt fails, Talbot tries to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff, but instead he finds a network of underground caves where Frankenstein's monster is in stasis.

Tommy: This one could have been lots better had the monsters been in the movie more. They were hardly in it until the very end! It would have been nice to see someone else play Dracula as well because to me John Carradine just doesn't do Count Dracula justice. Overall, this one is just about like all the other Universal monster movies, campy, so-so acted, dripping with atmosphere, and it has a good story. Still it's not the best one of the series and simply just lacks something to me. Check this one out only if you're a big Universal monsters fan.

Roy: I unfortunately disagree with Tommy completely. I enjoyed this film very much. Carradine did an interesting portrayal of the Count. Chaney Jr. as poor tortured Larry Talbot was great as always. The campy nature of this film is what makes it indearing. Take a walk on the mild side and watch this film.

Tommy's Rating: * * 1/2
Roy's Rating: * * * 1/2

Movie Facts:

- AKA: The Wolf Man's Cure

White Zombie (1932)

White Zombie (1932)
69 mins. - Not Rated
Director: Victor Halperin

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, Joseph Cawthorn, Robert Frazer, John Harron, Brandon Hurst, George Burr MacAnnan, Claude Morgan, John Printz, Annette Stone, Frederick Peters, Dan Crimmins, John Ferguson, Hans Joby

Synopsis: On a haitian plantation a devious witch doctor named Legendre is turning people into mindless zombies. When a young man can't convince a beautiful girl to leave her husband and run away with him he uses some of Legendre's zombie potion. Soon the grieving husband is searching for his wife to save her.

Tommy: White Zombie is oozing with atmosphere, and the cinematography is outstanding. Bela Lugosi is hamming it up as usual but this one is just way too boring for me. This isn't a very good follow up to his portrayal of Dracula a year earlier. Very overrated film that in my opinion, has only become a cult classic due to Lugosi's appearance. This is for Lugosi fans only, or if you want to cure insomnia.

Roy: This film is for Noir fans only. Overacting reigns supreme in this yawnfest. I love the oldies as much as anyone but I can't get behind this one.

Tommy's Rating: *
Roy's Rating: *

Movie Facts:

- Rob Zombie named his first band after this film.

- Bela Lugosi only made $800 dollars for this film.