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raymac Written by raymac
Oct. 27, 2006 | 12:57 AM

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UNIVERSAL’S MONSTERS: An annotated filmography


PHANTOM OF THE OPERA ? A ?ghost? haunts the Paris Opera House while tutoring a beautiful young opera singer. A rich, opulent film starring Lon Chaney features one of the greatest make-up jobs in film history. The unmasking scene still packs a punch in modern times.


DRACULA ? Dracula, a 500 year old vampire, leaves his native Transylvania in search of new blood. Originally conceived as a vehicle for Lon Chaney who died before production could begin, in stepped Bela Lugosi, reprising his stage role, and created a handsome, seductive vampire that set the standard for all that followed.

FRANKENSTEIN ? Henry Frankenstein, an ambitious scientist, using parts from dead bodies brings a monster to life. Filmed after the success of DRACULA, it achieved even greater critical and financial acclaim thanks largely to the sympathetic star making performance by Boris Karloff as the Monster and iconic make-up by Jack Pierce.


MURDERS OF THE RUE MORGUE ? In 19th Century Paris, the maniacal Dr. Mirakle abducts young women and injects them with ape blood in an attempt to prove ape-human kinship. Robert Florey and Bela Lugosi were given this atmospheric adaptation of the Poe classic after DRACULA fell through. Another powerful and creepy performance by Lugosi.

THE OLD DARK HOUSE ? Seeking shelter during a pounding rainstorm in a remote region of Wales, several travelers are admitted to a gloomy, foreboding mansion belonging to the extremely strange Femm family. Karloff (now billed only by his last name) and James Whale team up again for this dark comedy based on the J.B. Priestly novel. The film features Whale’s trademark humor and many cast members who would appear in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

THE MUMMY ? An ancient Egyptian priest, Im-Ho-Tep, revived by the desecration of his tomb, tries to reunite with his lost love who has been reincarnated in a beautiful young woman. Karloff and director Karl Freund create the next great Universal Monster. The film is very creepy and boasts another fine performance by Karloff as well as several iconic make-ups by Jack Pierce.


THE INVISIBLE MAN ? Claude Rains plays a scientist who discovers the secret of invisibility but the process has the affect of driving him mad. The great special effects still hold up today. Direct by James Whale and featuring his trademark black humor.


THE BLACK CAT ? American honeymooners in Hungary are trapped in the home of a Satan- worshiping priest when the bride is taken there for medical help following a road accident. The first teaming of Karloff and Lugosi. Based very loosely on Poe, Lugosi gets the chance to play a rare heroic role as Dr. Vitus Werdegast to Karloff’s satanic Hjalmar Poelzig. Short on plot but with loads of atmosphere. It holds up very well.


THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN ? The monster is back and is seeking a mate. The first sequel to FRANKENSTEIN and considered to be the far superior film. James Whale effectively mixed horror and humor. The Monster speaks.

THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON ? While on a botanical expedition in Tibet Dr. Wilfred Glendon is attacked in the dark by a strange animal with devastating results. Universal’s first ?werewolf? film. Jack Pierce’s original design was toned down at the insistence of its star, Henry Hull. A highly effective thriller.

THE RAVEN ? Dr.Vollin, a neurosurgeon, disfigures a wanted criminal and promises to restore him if he will do his dirty work. Karloff and Lugosi again in an alleged Poe adaptation.  Although Karloff is top billed, Lugosi as a mad surgeon is the real star. The pleasure of this film is watching the two greats at work.


INVISIBLE RAY ? A scientist, who’s touch can bring death, seeks revenge on the members of an expedition who he feels stole his discovery. Karloff & Lugosi together again.

DRACULA’S DAUGHTER ? Prof. Van Helsing is facing prosecution for the murder of Dracula until a hypnotic woman steals the Count’s body and bloodless corpses start appearing in London again. A sequel of sorts to the original DRACULA. The film plays up sexual tension more than frights. Edward Van Sloan reprises his role from the original. The last film of the first horror cycle for Universal.


THE SON OF FRANKENSTEIN ? The son of Henry Frankenstein returns home and restarts the family business when he finds the body of the Monster. Karloff’s final turn in the role that made him famous. The film also boasts Bela Lugosi as Ygor and Basil Rathbone as Wolf Frankenstein. Its success paved the way for the second cycle of Universal horror films.


THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS ? A man, framed for the murder of his brother, uses the invisibility serum to find the killer before it drives him mad. An early role by Vincent Price, as the Invisible Man, playing a role similar to the roles that he would play in the 1960s and 1970s.

THE MUMMY’S HAND ? A pair of archaeologists discover the tomb of Ananka which is guarded by an ancient mummy. Mixing horror and humor, the Mummy here makes a much longer appearance then he does in the original.

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN ? Kitty Carroll, an attractive model, volunteers for an invisibility experiment but complications arise. The plot has nothing to do with original INVISIBLE MAN but rather the title was used to make it appear like a sequel.


THE WOLF MAN ? Even a man who is pure of heart and says his prays by night may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms and the moon is full and bright. Lon Chaney Jr. reluctantly steps into his father’s shoes under the guidance of Jack Pierce. A classic film that created a monster equal in stature to Dracula and Frankenstein.


THE MUMMY’S TOMB ? A high priest travels to America with the living mummy, Kharis, to kill all those who had desecrated the tomb of the Egyptian princess Ananka thirty years earlier. Lon Chaney Jr. stars as the mummy. Sequel to the earlier film, THE MUMMY’S HAND, money was saved by using stock footage from that film.

THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN ? Ygor brings the Monster to Ludwig, another of Henry Frankenstein’s sons, in the hope that he can restore the creature to full power but when the brain of Ygor is transplanted into the Monster, his incompatible blood renders him blind. Lon Chaney Jr. plays the Frankenstein Monster.

THE INVISIBLE AGENT ? Frank Raymond, son of the original invisible man, uses the formula this time to spy on the Nazis. More comedy than thriller.


THE SON OF DRACULA ? Count Alucard (Dracula spelled backwards) visits a small town in Louisiana and his presence arouses suspicions. An effective thriller that makes good use of Cajun and Voodoo backgrounds. With this role, Lon Chaney Jr., had now played all four of the major Universal monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and the Wolfman.

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN ? The name says it all. Lawrence Talbot seeks out Dr. Frankenstein in the hope that he can end his life and release him from his werewolf curse.  Bela Lugosi, finally gets to play the role he originally turned down in 1931 but his performance was criticized as lurching and clumsy. However, that was because he correctly played the Monster as blind but the studio took out all references to the blindness that occurred at the end of the last film. The stunt men, who played the Monster in the more physically demanding sequences, did not help matters by playing him as sighted.

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA ? a remake of the 1925 Chaney classic with Claude Rains playing a composer who is disfigured by acid and takes his revenge on the owner of the opera house who stole his work. Often criticized as too much opera and not enough phantom, it was a lavish spectacle even if it wasn?t up to the standards of the silent classic.


THE INVISIBLE MAN’S REVENGE ? A scientist tests out his new invisibility formula on an escaped convict who then terrorizes the family he believes cheated him out of a fortune. A ho hum affair.

THE MUMMY’S GHOST ? An Egyptian high priest travels to America to reclaim the bodies of Kharis and Ananka (who has been reincarnated, once again, into another body.) A strong film even though the plot was overly familiar.

THE MUMMY’S CURSE ? The Mummy is unearthed in a Louisiana swamp. Lon Chaney Jr, sleepwalks through the role but can you blame him? One trip to the well too many.

HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN ? A mad scientist and his hunchbacked assistant revive Dracula, The Wolfman, and Frankenstein in order to exact revenge on his enemies. If two monsters were great in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN, then five (sort of) must be better. Boris Karloff returned to the series one last time playing the mad scientist instead of the Monster.


HOUSE OF DRACULA ? Lawrence Talbot, still seeking a cure to his lycanthropy, encounters Dracula and Frankenstein. At this point, the series was running out of steam.


SHE-WOLF OF LONDON - A young heiress finds evidence suggesting that at night she acts under the influence of a family curse and has begun committing ghastly murders in a nearby park. A throwback to an earlier era when it?s all revealed at the end to be an elaborate hoax.


ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN ? Dracula wishes to put Lou Costello’s brain into the Frankenstein Monster. Universal brought together two of their aging franchises, the Universal Monsters and Abbott & Costello, in the greatest horror/comedy of all time. The monsters play it straight while the boys do their usual shtick to create an almost perfect blend of horror and comedy. The real treat of this film is getting to see Bela Lugosi play Dracula again for the first time since the 1931 original. Lon Chaney Jr, plays the Wolfman and Glenn Strange plays the Frankenstein Monster.


ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN ? The boys help a wrongly accused boxer prove his innocence with the help of the invisibility formula. Although not quite in the same league as ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEETS FRANKENSTEIN, like the previous film it blends the comedic and suspense elements well.


CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON - A scientific expedition traveling up the Amazon River encounter a dangerous humanoid amphibious fish creature. A new monster for Universal. This was an excellent film that holds its own against the earlier greats. Filmed in 3D. Unlike earlier films, the creature was created not through make-up but rather a highly effective rubber suit.


ABBOTT and COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY ? Bud & Lou find themselves in Egypt suspected of murder when they encounter the Mummy. The end of the line for the ?meet? series. Both the comedy and horror elements are tired by now.

REVENGE OF THE CREATURE ? The Creature is captured and brought back to the United States for study where it escapes and wrecks havoc while kidnapping the girl. A strong sequel that was also filmed in 3D. Its greatest claim to fame is that it featured the screen debut of Clint Eastwood who played a lab technician.


THE CREATURE WALKS AMOUNG US ? The Creature is captured by a scientist who transforms him into an air breather. An excellent film with strong acting and a thought provoking storyline. A great send off for the series. The second cycle of Universal Monsters was over.

The Present

The start of a 3rd cycle looked promising when a 1999 remake of THE MUMMY, as an Indiana Jones type adventure with lots of CGI effects, became a surprise hit. A sequel, THE MUMMY RETURNS, released two years later was an even bigger hit even though the story was basically a rehash of the first.

Falling back on an old formula, VAN HELSING would feature Dracula, Frankenstein and a werewolf. Even though it grossed over $120 million, it was consider a financial failure given its huge production costs and was savaged by the critics. The film attempted to mix too many genres, had a convoluted script and over relied on CGI effects. The third cycle of Universal Horror was over before it could begin.

Although a remake of The Creature From The Black Lagoon is still on the drawing boards. The End?


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