As many of you possibly aren’t aware, Universal created the horror genre with their monster films from the twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties. They are considered revolutionary for their time and even helped save the company from bankruptcy during the Great Depression. Now, to begin, as Edward Van Sloan said at the beginning of Frankenstein, “I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you.”
Two films that were unofficially the very start of it were the silent films The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Man Who Laughs, both based off of Victor Hugo novels. Despite being forgotten, these two still had a cultural impact (The Man Who Laughs became the inspiration for the Batman villain, The Joker).
The first film of this lineup was the silent film version of Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney Sr., which was released in 1925. It was praised for Chaney’s excellent makeup techniques, which was said to make audiences faint once the mask was finally off.
I could go into extensive detail on the makeup through these films, but I recommend going to the Universal Horror Makeup Show next time you go to Universal Orlando. It’s hilarious and well-informed since it basically explains everything that would take me forever to go through.
The second film to be released was Dracula in 1931, which was an adaptation of the novel by Bram Stoker. It became such a big success that it got sequels: Dracula’s Daughter, Son of Dracula, and House of Dracula.
Released that same year was Frankenstein, based on the novel by Mary Shelley. It was also a success and received some sequels: Bride of Frankenstein (the more famous sequel), Son of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Ghost of Frankenstein, and House of Frankenstein (which was the first crossover and gave way to Super Smash Bros and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as “the most ambitious crossover of all time”).
The next film was The Mummy, which was released in 1932. As you are aware, it got two reboots, but had some sequels before that, which were The Mummy’s Tomb, The Mummy’s Curse, The Mummy’s Ghost, and The Mummy’s Hand.
Next in the lineup is my personal favorite film: The Invisible Man. Released in 1933, it was based on the novel by HG Wells. The actor, Claude Rains, was chosen for the part because he had a good voice due to the character not being seen at all. It also got sequels: The Invisible Man Returns, The Invisible Man’s Revenge, and The Invisible Agent.
After that film was The Wolf Man released in 1941, which helped make werewolves as popular as vampires in pop culture. It also starred Lon Chaney Jr., the son of Chaney Sr. He would later appear in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and House of Frankenstein.
After that, Universal decided to focus on doing science fiction films for the rest of the decade.
Now, here we are with these films being regarded as classics and now, it’s getting a haunted house for this year’s Horror Nights in Orlando. Last year, they had it in California at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights. I would say this is my most anticipated house for this year and I can’t wait! . We may also be getting an attraction based on the monsters for Universal Orlando’s new theme park.
Which one is your favorite?