The Story of the Universal Classic Monsters
The Story of the Universal Classic Monsters

The Story of the Universal Classic Monsters

Larry Holzwarth - October 18, 2019

The Story of the Universal Classic Monsters
Bela Lugosi in costume as Frankenstein’s monster, still copied widely every Halloween by celebrants. Wikimedia

25. The Universal Monsters became and remain American icons, seen every Halloween

The Universal Classic Monsters were born in the early days of talking movies, out of black and white films set in gloomy tones, sprinkled with the myths of Eastern Europe. Their initial impact was one of awe at the filmmaker’s ability to frighten the audience. More jaded later audiences learned to regard them with a snicker. Their images are recalled throughout the year, but never more so than in the days and nights as Halloween approaches. At every Halloween party, someone is likely to appear as one of them, in serious homage or in campy spoof. Sexy vampires have become as common as scary.

But the monsters worked their way into American culture and American history and they retain their place, though their ability to shock and frighten has faded into the mists which were so much a part of their image. Today they are regarded with fond amusement, an annual entity like the Easter Bunny or green beer for Saint Patrick’s Day. Every decade or so they seem to reappear, resurging like a delayed tide. Perhaps its just a quirk of the common memory reminding us all, deep down in some primitive instinct, “Even a man who is pure in heart and who says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the Autumn moon is bright”.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Legendary Comics Reunites Horror Icons Bela Lugosi and Dracula for New Graphic Novel”. Graeme McMillan, The Hollywood Reporter. October 10, 2019

“Frankenstein”. Alfred Rushford Greason, Variety. December 8, 1931

“Boris Karloff: More than a Monster”. Stephen Jacobs. 2011

“Claude Rains Makes His Film Debut in a Version of H. G. Wells’s Novel ‘The Invisible Man'”. Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times. November 18, 1933

“Lon Chaney Jr: Horror Film Star”. Don G. Smith. 1996

“The Monster Movies of Universal Studios”. James L. Neibaur. 2017

“The Films of Lon Chaney”. Michael F. Blake. 1998

“Inner Sanctum Mysteries: Behind the Creaking Door”. Martin Grams. 2003

“Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931 – 46”. M. Brunas, J Brunas, and Tom Weaver. 1990

“Review: Son of Frankenstein”. Variety. December 31, 1938

“Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: the expanded story of a haunting collaboration”. Gregory William Mank. 2009

“Bela Lugosi: Dreams and Nightmares”. Gary Rhodes. 2007

“Hollywood Horror: From Gothic to Cosmic”. Mark A. Vieira. 2003

“Abbott and Costello in Hollywood”. Bob Furmanek; Ron Palumbo. 1991

“An in-depth look at ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’. Bob Furmanek and Greg Kintz, 3d film archive. Online

“The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy”. Tom Weaver, David Schecter, and Steve Kronenberg. 2014

“Chicago TV Horror Movie Shows from Shock Theater to Svengoolie”. Ted Okuda and Mark Yurkiw. 2007

“About Us. Famous Monsters of Filmland”. American Gothic Press. Online

“Aurora Monster Models – turning every boy’s dream into a nightmare”. Nige Burton, Classic Online

“The Munsters: A Trip Down Mockingbird Lane”. Stephen Cox. 2006

“Monsters: They started out just a little bit nervous”. Article under brands, General Mills. Online

“Hollywood Flashback: Boris Karloff Played His Final Creature in 1966’s ‘Grinch'”. Bill Higgins, The Hollywood Reporter. November 8, 2018

“Screen: Langella’s Seductive Dracula Adapted From Stage”. Janet Maslin, The New York Times. July 13, 1979

“‘When the wolfbane blooms’ – birth of the werewolf”. Article, Universal Monsters Universe. Online