They’re Alive… Alive! Before you head off to see The Mummy in cinemas on June 8, discover a new world of gods and monsters with these classics from the Universal vaults.
Originally a vehicle for Lon Chaney, Universal turned to the relatively unknown Bela Lugosi, who was very familiar with the role following a two-year stint in the stage production. This opportunity for the Hungarian actor would not only change his life, but would forever associate Lugosi with Dracula (and later Ed Wood). Indeed, when Lugosi passed away in 1956, he was buried wearing his black silk Dracula cape as he had requested.
Director James Whale and star Boris Karloff give us one of the greatest movie monsters of all time, and a definitive treatment of Mary Shelley’s sympathetic tale. Whale’s film amplifies the torment of a scientist struggling with his feverish dreams of creating life and the agonising existence of his creation – a monster. Brought to life by the obsessed Henry Frankenstein, this gentle giant is mistreated and misunderstood. Although portrayed as a villain, Karloff brings a sense of humanity to the monstrous.
THE MUMMY (1932)
Boris Karloff’s undead Egyptian deserves his position alongside Dracula and Frankenstein in the Universal pantheon of timeless movie monsters. The actor brings a mesmerising eeriness to the role of the unwrapped mummy Imhotep, who is searching for his reincarnated princess. A trailblazer for the numerous mummy movies that shambled after it, the original is distinguished by Jack Pierce’s incredible make-up and the indomitable Karloff.
THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933)
James Whale’s adaptation of the H.G. Wells tale blends sci-fi and rudimentary (but effective) special effects with a dark sense of humour. Remember, though, that Claude Rains’ transparent protagonist is pure evil – a man consumed by the desire to have the world grovelling at his feet. The only glimmer of humanity emerges in his love for Flora, but this isn’t enough to prevent his inevitable self destruction. A masterpiece that’s full of fantastic dialogue and technical prowess.
BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)
More than just a sequel, Bride of Frankenstein is a reflection of director James Whale, whose personality shines through in this wonderful blend of humour and horror. Boris Karloff once again stands tall as the sympathetic creature that just wants to love and to be loved – the real villain being the twisted Doctor Pretorius. Bride of Frankenstein gave us the first – and perhaps only – iconic female monster (Elsa Lanchester), a fantastic hairdo, and injected some camp black comedy into the genre. And let’s not forget it’s also one of the greatest horror films of all time. Never the bridesmaid.
THE WOLF MAN (1941)
“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” A signature role for Lon Chaney Jr., The Wolf Man introduced the mythology of the werewolf – a new horror creature who has continued to transform on screen over the decades. With its simple man-to-beast optical dissolve and foreboding atmosphere, this groundbreaking original is something to howl about!
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1953)
Jack Arnold’s subtext-rich creature feature originally made a big splash with audiences, being the first underwater 3D adventure film. Following a potted history of the creation of the world and some suspect scientific jargon concerning our lineage to the undersea realm, Julie Adams joins an expedition to the Amazon and becomes the object of desire for an amorous gillman. This creature is not just an “amphibious missing link”, he’s also the grandfather to a horde of aquatic monsters that followed in his wake.