Franchise: Universal Horror
Back in the day, Universal Pictures was a minor film studio of modest means, looking to stand out from its competition. Their solution? Create some of the most classic and enduring horror movie icons in history.Universal first dabbled in the horror genre with its 1923 adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Lon Chaney, but its first true horror movie was its 1925 adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, also starring Chaney. It then had a string of successful silent films with German expressionist director Paul Leni and actor Conrad Veidt before it came roaring into the "talkie" era in 1931 with two movies: Frankenstein and Dracula. These two films were smash hits that laid the foundation for the modern horror genre, helped to establish Universal as a studio to be respected, and made leading men out of their respective stars, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Universal followed this up with The Mummy in 1932, The Invisible Man in 1933, and a trilogy of movies based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe (Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat and The Raven), as well as sequels to Dracula and Frankenstein.Although Universal took time off from making horror movies in the late 1930s due to financial difficulties, it returned in 1939 with Son of Frankenstein before introducing in 1941 one of its most enduring films: The Wolf Man (1941), starring their new leading man, Lon Chaney Jr. They remade Phantom of the Opera in 1943 and continued making sequels to their now-classic properties. Eventually, these sequels would start giving way to crossovers featuring all of Universal's monsters, culminating in the 1948 hit Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, an Affectionate Parody of the early horror genre. From here, Universal horror entered a period of dormancy, as the trend in horror movies began to shift toward science gone wrong and alien invaders in the Atomic Age — the only original horror films (not based on existing properties) that Universal made after this point that are still unanimously considered to be "Universal horror" were Creature from the Black Lagoon in 1954 and The Mole People in 1956.However, while production of new horror movies out of Universal came to an end, the monsters were by no means forgotten. Starting in the late 1950s, a British film studio called Hammer Film Productions began making their own movies based on the same material, in color (often very lurid color). These portrayals of the classic monsters would be distributed by Universal within America, and left their own mark on the popular image of the characters. Decades later, The Monster Squad introduced Universal horror to a new generation of young people, becoming a cult classic in its own right. While it wasn't actually made by Universal (the monster designs were all changed slightly so as not to infringe upon trademarks), it was filmed on their backlots.Universal itself has also mined its past for ideas. They did a remake of Dracula in 1979 starring Frank Langella and Sir Laurence Olivier, and at the Turn of the Millennium, they remade The Mummy (1932) as a series of pulpy, two-fisted Action Adventure movies, known as The Mummy Trilogy. They reunited the Wolf Man, Dracula, and Frankenstein's monster for the cheesily good Summer Blockbuster Van Helsing in 2004, and did a remake of The Wolf Man in 2010 starring Benicio Del Toro and Sir Anthony Hopkins. Remakes of Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, and Bride of Frankenstein have also been announced. Finally, it's perhaps not a coincidence that Universal's theme parks in Orlando and Hollywood are known across America for having some of the biggest Halloween celebrations around, collectively known as Halloween Horror Nights.An interesting aspect of Universal Horror for film geeks is that it represents one of the earliest attempts at a shared movie universe. Through sequels, its Dracula, Frankenstein, and Wolf Man movies were established as sharing a (somewhat loose) continuity, effectively creating the Überwald trope. Via movies by Abbott and Costello, the Invisible Mannote and the Mummynote were also added to this shared universe. In later uses for homage and satire, these five "classic" Universal Monsters became somewhat inseparable, and were also frequently featured with the Creature from the Black Lagoon; while "Gill Man" was never established as having any canonical ties to the othersnote , his popularity appears to have gotten him into the club. Eventually, as a way of promoting Van Helsing, Universal gave its official stamp of approval to these six "classic" monsters — Count Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man, and Gill Man — by releasing six "Legacy" collections, one for each, officially setting them apart from the remainder of Universal Horror (although the Wolf Man collection featured two unrelated films, one of which did not even feature an actual werewolf, to fill space). More recently, there have been plans to create a new, rebooted "Universal Monsters universe", with Dracula Untold as the first film in this shared 'verse.It goes without saying that any horror fan is expected to have at least a passing familiarity with Universal's classic horror films. Until The Seventies, the Universal monster movie was what most people thought of when they heard the phrase "horror movie". A large number of Horror Tropes were made, codified, and employed by these movies, particularly those pertaining to the so-called "classic movie monsters" — vampires, werewolves, mummies, etc. The modern images of said monsters were more or less created by Universal, to the point where deviations from their classic blueprints are still regarded as subversions of the "traditional" rules surrounding them. Also, since the limitations of The Hays Code meant that Universal couldn't rely on graphic violence and sex to frighten and titillate viewers, they remain a great way to introduce younger or more squeamish viewers to horror — which is exactly what they did once TV stations started using them as late-night movies.Thanks to the Essential Collection, the 8 Major Universal Monsters are officially Count Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The (1943 version) Phantom of the Opera, and Gill Man. Note: Boris Karloff plays two, the Mummy & Frankenstein's Monster. Also Claude Rains who playes the Invisible Man and the Phantom of the Opera.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
- The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
- The Cat and the Canary (1927)
- The Man Who Laughs (1928)
- The Last Warning (1929)
- The Last Performance (1929)
- The Cat Creeps (1930) — Sound remake of The Cat and the Canary.
- Dracula (1931)
- Frankenstein (1931)
- The Mummy (1932)
- Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
- The Old Dark House (1932)
- The Invisible Man (1933)
- The Black Cat (1934)
- The Raven (1935)
- Werewolf of London (1935)
- Bride of Frankenstein (1936)
- Dracula's Daughter (1936)
- The Invisible Ray (1936)
- Son of Frankenstein (1939)
- Tower of London (1939)
- Black Friday (1940)
- The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
- The Invisible Woman (1940)
- The Mummy's Hand (1940)
- The Wolf Man (1941)
- The Black Cat (1941) (no relation to the movie made 7 years earlier with the same title)
- Horror Island (1941)
- Man Made Monster (1941)
- The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
- Invisible Agent (1942) (the result of Universal horror meeting wartime propaganda)
- The Mummy's Tomb (1942)
- The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942)
- Night Monster (1942)
- Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
- Phantom of the Opera (1943) (a sound-enabled remake of the 1925 original that incorporated many musical elements)
- Son of Dracula (1943)
- The Mad Ghoul (1943)
- The Climax (1944)
- House of Frankenstein (1944)
- The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944)
- The Mummy's Ghost (1944)
- The Mummy's Curse (1944)
- House of Dracula (1945)
- The Brute Man (1946)
- She-Wolf of London (1946)
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
- Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)
- It Came from Outer Space (1953)
- Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
- Revenge of the Creature (1955)
- Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
- Cult of the Cobra (1955)
- Tarantula (1955)
- The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)
- The Mole People (1956)
- The Deadly Mantis (1957)
- The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
- The Monolith Monsters (1957)
- Monster on the Campus (1958)
- The Thing That Couldn't Die (1958)
- The Leech Woman (1960)
- Island of Lost Souls (1932) is sometimes listed as a Universal horror film, despite being made by Paramount. This is because Universal released it on VHS in the nineties, and included it under the "Universal Monsters" label in the process.
- Original novels expanding on the stories of the film series occasionally pop up. Jeff Rovin's 1998 book Return Of The Wolfman continued the adventures of Larry Talbot, and itself received two sequels by David Jacobs. From 2001 to 2002 Scholastic published a six-part series of children's books by Larry Mike Garmon, in which monsters from the films escaped into the real world and had to be hunted down by a trio of 21st century teenagers. Most recently Dark Horse published a series of six Universal Horror novels, each by a different author: Dracula: Asylum, Frankenstein: The Shadow of Frankenstein and Creature From The Black Lagoon: Time's Black Lagoon in 2006, followed by The Mummy: Dark Resurrection, The Wolf Man: Hunter's Moon and The Bride of Frankenstein: Pandora's Bride in 2007.
- Allan Rune Pettersson's novel Frankenstein's Aunt is a young adult parody of, very specifically, the Universal Horror universe.
- Bally's Creature from the Black Lagoon is a game based on both the movie itself (in 3D!) and attending a drive-in to see the movie.
- Monster Bash is an ensemble game, with the player collecting six of the Universal Monsters to form a rock band.
- Halloween Horror Nights, an annual event at Universal Studios Orlando and Hollywood, has featured haunted houses and scarezones based on the classic Universal Horror properties and has been used to promote properties like The Mummy, Van Helsing and The Wolfman (2010) remake as well as properties from other studios. Also notable that the Orlando incarnation of the event has invented original horror icons with detailed backstories that feature heavily in the events and their marketing.
- The Universal Monsters brand has provided fertile ground for trading card manufacturers. Perhaps the most remarkable is the series put out by Kitchen Sink in 1996, which incorporated just about anything remotely horrific that was made by Universal up until 1960. Anyone remember The Man Who Reclaimed His Head?
- A few video games have been based on the films. This include the cartoonish Universal Studios Monsters: Dracula on the Game Boy Color and the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena Universal Monsters Online.
- Monster Force, a futuristic 1994 series in which Frankenstein and the Werewolf do Heel-Face Turns and team up with the titular heroes (a Darker and Edgier version of the Ghostbusters) to hunt down their fellow monsters.
- Monster Old Maid, a deck for playing Old Maid featuring Universal monsters (and a few Hammer Horror monsters that snuck in). Dracula's Daughter is the eponymous Old Maid.