31 Days of Halloween – Universal Monsters

Story Found By: Ken Hulsey
Source: Cliqueclack
Written By: Chuck Duncan

I ran across this nice article about the classic Universal monsters:

If you love Halloween as much as we do, then you’ve come to the right place! Welcome to CliqueClack Flicks’ 31 Days of Halloween. All month long our coven of writers will dust off some of our favorite horror movies and discuss what makes them a seasonal favorite.

To kick off the month, we’ll start with what is arguably the movie famous and beloved collection of movie monsters ever committed to celluloid — the Universal Monsters: Dracula, Frankentstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and the Invisible Man (the Creature from the Black Lagoon is often lumped in with this group, but the Gill Man didn’t come along for another 20 years).

Dracula (1931) was based on a stage play which was based on Bram Stoker‘s novel — the first official adaptation of the book (Nosferatu was, infamously, nearly erased from existence when Stoker’s widow sued for infringement on the material). The movie, like the play, cast the debonair Bela Lugosi in the title role — a departure from the novel’s tall, elderly man with the long white mustache — to give the Count more of an air of sophistication and smoldering sexuality. The better to mesmerize you and drain your blood. If reports are to be believed, the film was so frightening to audiences that woman were fainting in the aisles. Today, it’s a slow, stage bound adaptation of a stage play (a Spanish version filmed at night on the same sets is considered by many to be far superior to this classic). Frightening or not, it certainly holds its place in history as an iconic horror movie.

Universal really struck it rich with its adaptation of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, and all the credit goes to director James Whale for his stunning visual style and his casting genius. This is the movie that made Boris Karloff a star, and unlike Lugosi, he managed to have a long, successful career (albeit, mostly in horror films) and is beloved by fans the world over. Besides Whale’s expert direction, Karloff’s performance lifts the Monster (mistakenly referred to by many as Frankenstein) from just a simple caricature to a creature with deep emotional turmoil. His iconic makeup scared the pants off of audiences in 1931, but they also felt sorry for the misunderstood creature as he plunged to his death in the flaming windmill at the end of the movie.

The movie was such a hit that Universal demanded a follow-up, so the Monster was resurrected (again) for The Bride of Frankenstein, which is considered to be one of the best monster movies ever made. Again, with Karloff’s performance, Whale’s directional influence (and Whale certainly managed to camp things up with some not very subtle homosexual subtext — two words: Ernest Thesiger) and the addition of Elsa Lanchester as both the Bride and Mary Shelly, this might actually be the first horror film with comedic overtones. Whether funny, scary or both, The Bride of Frankenstein is simply brilliant filmmaking all around.

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