Experience Universal Horror – The Golden Age of Movie Monsters!

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For a comprehensive and what I consider a definitive history of one of the original Hollywood Studios – Universal, check out the Documentary – “Universal Horror.”  Universal was founded in 1912 by Carl Laemmle and is the world’s fourth oldest major film studio.

Originally airing on Turner Classic Movies in 1998, “Universal Horror” showcases the golden age of 1930’s movie monsters. The film also highlights Carl Laemmle’s family and Carl Laemmle, Jr’s game-changing vision of producing films based on classic horror tales.

 

 

The studio is known for such horror classics as Frankenstein (1931) and Dracula (1931), the Universal monster franchise. Dracula is a 1931 American Pre-Code vampire-horror film directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. The film was produced by Universal and was loosely based on the novel by Bram Stoker.

Casting for the film became problematic initially since Laemmle was not at all interested in Lugosi, in spite of good reviews for his stage portrayal. Laemmle instead considered other popular actors of the day, including Paul Muni and Chester Morris.

 

Frankenstein is a 1931 American Pre-Code horror monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale. The film stars Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles and Boris Karloff and features Dwight Frye and Edward van Sloan. Trivia: Bela Lugosi turned down the role saying the monster was just a hulking beast.

In 1991, the Library of Congress selected Frankenstein for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

Throughout the documentary, we hear personal accounts and behind-the-scene stories from early stars such as Rose Hobart – co-star in the original film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Gloria Stuart – The Invisible Man (1933) and Lupita Tovar – Dracula (1931) Spanish Version.

 

 

Forrest Ackerman, (November 24, 1916 – December 4, 2008) was editor and principal writer of the science fiction magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland and recalls his experiences in the documentary of seeing these films first hand. Ackerman’s magazine would provide inspiration to many who would later become successful artists, including Joe DantePeter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Stephen King, George LucasDanny ElfmanJohn Landis and countless other writers, directors, artists, and craftsmen.

Also affectionately called “Forry,” Ackerman was central to the formation, and spread of science fiction fandom, and a key figure in the wider awareness of science fiction as a literary, art and film genre. Famous for his wordplay he coined the genre nickname “sci-fi”.

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Universal Monsters Tribute

 

The end of Universal’s first run of horror films came in 1936 as the Laemmles were forced out of the studio after financial difficulties and a series of box office flops due partly to censorship and a temporary ban on American horror films in Britain. The release of MGM’s Mad Love and The Raven (both 1935) were the final nail in the coffin for monster movies, being too strong for 1935 tastes, with its themes of torture, disfigurement, and grisly revenge.

 

The monster movies were dropped from the production schedule altogether and would not re-emerge for another three years. In the meantime, a theater owner revived Dracula and Frankenstein as a double feature, resulting in an immediate smash hit and leading to the original movies being re-released by the studio to surprising success.

Be sure to checkout these films and experience the original horror classics from the original horror classics studio – Universal!

 

Universal Horror – The Golden Age of Movie Monsters

Universal_monsters_logo

 

For a comprehensive and what I consider a definitive history of one of the original Hollywood Studios – Universal, check out the Documentary – “Universal Horror.”  Universal was founded in 1912 by Carl Laemmle and is the world’s fourth oldest major film studio.

Originally airing on Turner Classic Movies in 1998, “Universal Horror” showcases the golden age of 1930’s movie monsters. The film also highlights Carl Laemmle’s family and Carl Laemmle, Jr’s game-changing vision of producing films based on classic horror tales.

 

 

The studio is known for such horror classics as Frankenstein (1931) and Dracula (1931), the Universal monster franchise. Dracula is a 1931 American Pre-Code vampire-horror film directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. The film was produced by Universal and was loosely based on the novel by Bram Stoker.

Casting for the film became problematic initially since Laemmle was not at all interested in Lugosi, in spite of good reviews for his stage portrayal. Laemmle instead considered other popular actors of the day, including Paul Muni and Chester Morris.

 

Frankenstein is a 1931 American Pre-Code horror monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale. The film stars Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles and Boris Karloff and features Dwight Frye and Edward van Sloan. Trivia: Bela Lugosi turned down the role saying the monster was just a hulking beast.

In 1991, the Library of Congress selected Frankenstein for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

Throughout the documentary, we hear personal accounts and behind-the-scene stories from early stars such as Rose Hobart – co-star in the original film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Gloria Stuart – The Invisible Man (1933) and Lupita Tovar – Dracula (1931) Spanish Version.

 

 

Forrest Ackerman, (November 24, 1916 – December 4, 2008) was editor and principal writer of the science fiction magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland and recalls his experiences in the documentary of seeing these films first hand. Ackerman’s magazine would provide inspiration to many who would later become successful artists, including Joe DantePeter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Stephen King, George LucasDanny ElfmanJohn Landis and countless other writers, directors, artists, and craftsmen.

Also affectionately called “Forry,” Ackerman was central to the formation, and spread of science fiction fandom, and a key figure in the wider awareness of science fiction as a literary, art and film genre. Famous for his wordplay he coined the genre nickname “sci-fi”.

FamousMonsters14

 

Universal Monsters Tribute

 

The end of Universal’s first run of horror films came in 1936 as the Laemmles were forced out of the studio after financial difficulties and a series of box office flops due partly to censorship and a temporary ban on American horror films in Britain. The release of MGM’s Mad Love and The Raven (both 1935) were the final nail in the coffin for monster movies, being too strong for 1935 tastes, with its themes of torture, disfigurement, and grisly revenge.

 

The monster movies were dropped from the production schedule altogether and would not re-emerge for another three years. In the meantime, a theater owner revived Dracula and Frankenstein as a double feature, resulting in an immediate smash hit and leading to the original movies being re-released by the studio to surprising success.

As I celebrate this Halloween, my film line-up would not be complete without those original horror classics from the original horror classics studio – Universal!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Countdown to Halloween!

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October holds a special place in my holiday heart because I get to celebrate my favorite day of the year, Halloween. Just picture it. A darkened theater, a bucket of popcorn, sitting terrified and curled up in a ball;  just for the scare of it!

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‘Cause this is thriller, thriller night.’

An essential part of the ritual is breaking out my awesome Halloween decorations and filling up the trick or treater candy bowl with first-class, yummy confections. Envisioning kid’s faces as I proudly hand out M&M’s, Reese Cups, Skittles and no candy bowl would be complete without my personal choice – Snickers! As a seasoned Halloween aficionado, the mood wouldn’t be complete without a spooktacular horror classic marathon streaming on the big screen TV!

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The ultimate Halloween night experience would include waiting in line with fellow enthusiasts to enjoy a horror classic on the big screen. The first scary movie I remember seeing as a kid is William Castle’s “House on Haunted Hill” and man was I thrilled to be able to re-live my first time when a friend told me a neighborhood theater had a special Halloween presentation of my beloved “House on Haunted Hill”. Cherry on the top was that they also sponsored a Best Costume competition and Best Scream Award. It was everything I could hope for; even performing the movie’s gimmick, the flying skeleton!

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Vincent Price in ‘House on Haunted Hill’

This Halloween, movie friends, Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events is presenting in select theaters nationwide, a special double feature screening of the 1931 Universal Horror Classic, Dracula starring Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler as Mina Harker. Based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. In addition to the original, moviegoers will also enjoy the added treat of the Spanish version starring Carlos Villarías as Conde Drácula and Lupita Tovar as Eva Seward.

 

Long thought lost, a print of Spanish Dracula was discovered in the 1970s and restored. I own and love my Legacy Collection DVD which was released in 2004 and contains both versions. The collection also includes – Dracula’s Daughter (1936) Son of Dracula (1943) starring Universal’s Wolfman, Lon Chaney, Jr. and House of Dracula (1945). A must-own addition for every classic horror movie fan’s collection. For ticket information about the Dracula Double Feature, check out Fathom Events or your local theater.

Trivia: For a period of time in Hollywood, studios would produce Spanish language version films for overseas distribution, using the same sets. Tod Browning directed the English production which was shot during the day. George Melford (who did not speak Spanish) was the director for the Spanish version, filming during the evening. The Spanish crew had the advantage of watching the English dailies when they came in for the evening, and they would figure out better camera angles and more effective use of lighting in an attempt to “top” it. There are critics who believe the Spanish production was better, incorporating more interesting and varied camera angles and perspective. I agree with the critics point that this production explored more visual dimensions and created more overall excitement. It also had a sexier edge.

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Dracula 1931 – Spanish Version

So, if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend adding this special event to your calendar. If you do attend, let me know your reaction in the comments.

Happy Viewing!