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The Universal Monsters in this episode of Genre Jam.
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The Film Lab - Genre Jam: The Universal Monsters Before, there was Freddy or Jason, or zombies this or that; and even before the C.H.U.D or even that thing that jumps off the toilet and bites in the balls, There were the universal monsters Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolfman, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. The Big Guns, these are the first valid inductees into the monster hall of fame. They’re the ones they wrote monster mash about. Icons, legends, these characters or “scaracters” are the very archetypes of things that go bump in the mind. They haven’t though been around forever; not even that long in fact. So how did it all start? That’s right the roaring twenties. The film industry was new and booming in a serious way. In 1923, Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle, released a historical drama called the Hunchback of Notre Dame; which ended making them a ton of money. Why? Because as it turns out, people loved getting scared and Lon Chaney, as the hunchback, is one scary looking mother―. Indeed, Laemmle really had something, so he decided trying making a horror movie on purpose. This time adopting Gaston Leroux’s the Phantom of the Opera. Despite the film’s not so smooth production, it was re-shut and re-cut twice, it was still a mass of success; thanks in part to Lon Chaney’s totally spooky make-up design. His skull like facial distortions had to create a look that will be associated with long after his death; cementing his place in history as the first official monster in Universal’s monster menagerie. What sound showed up though, everything really took off. In 1931, with the releases of both Dracula and Frankenstein, Carl Laemmle Jr., kept the monster movie genre into high gear; forever changing the face of American cinema and defining the look of these world-famous characters for generations to come. Throughout the thirties, Universal continued to produce hit after hit including, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Pride of Frankenstein, Daughter of Dracula, and Son of Frankenstein and countless chilling titles in between. And then in 1941, Universal released their massive hit, The Wolfman; starring Lon Chaney Jr. this time, every make of which is being released in theatres this Friday. Aside from The Wolfman and the successful remake of The Phantom of the Opera with Claude Rains in 1943, Universal’s monster output through the rest of the 40’s seems stuck on repetitive Dracula, Frankenstein, Mummy, Wolfman sequels; until finally heading into dead horse shark jumping territory with the huge comedy hit, Abbot and Castello meet Frankenstein in 1948. Had the Universal monsters really last their scare mojo? That’s right, yes, yes, the Universal monsters famous solidified in the 1950’s; thanks in part to fan publications like Famous Monsters of Filmland, edited by Forster Acromion , grandfather to all Science Fiction and horror nerds. Ever since then, the output’s been a little dry and we had countless knock-offs, parodies and breakfast cereals in, oh we may add the monster squad thing back in the 80’s. It has been a while since the Universal monsters had appeared in films, not canning that stinker from 2004, Van Helsing, of course. But that’s all about to change; the Universal monsters are on the cast of a new renaissance; starting with tomorrow’s release of The Wolfman, starring Veniz Del Toro. Hopefully, I mean we’re great, timeless characters and there are even rumours out there of a remake of The Creature of the Black Lagoon. Phil Hartman indeed, I just hope they do us justice.