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From Dracula to Frankenstein | Universal’s Classic Monsters – the first major film franchise



The buzzword in Hollywood these days is candor. Establish a successful brand or redirect it by taking all the juice it can offer. These million dollar properties are constantly being renovated for new generations. So we have the product returns from the 1980s arriving in droves, reconfigured for modern times. It’s true that many properties that predate the pop generational milestone of the 1980s are also being reworked to continue generating jobs and money – as is the case with works like Psycho and Westworld, for example, among many countless others.

To show just how old the practice of franchises in Hollywood is, here we’ll go back no less than 90 years to look back at one of the first profitable serialized properties in the cinema from a major studio. These are the so-called monsters of Universal Pictures – one of the first studios considered majors to think outside the box and interconnect the productions of its most famous characters of the time. It was decades before Marvel Studios masterfully achieved its goal by following this formula. So before Iron Man, Thor and Captain America starred in their films and ended up in other productions, we had the 1930s and 1940s pop figures of the time: Dracula, Frankenstein and the wolf- garou doing the same. Extremely salable horror figures to the general public, who follow one another in pop culture to this day.

With that in mind, and the fact that these numbers are the perfect essence that defines Halloween, in this article, we’ll step back in time to where these numbers started a marketing movement that would greatly help movie entertainment decades later. Let’s remember the main features of the so-called universe of classic movie monsters. Check it out below.

Considered by many to be “the” first great horror film in cinema history, Dracula was released in February 1931, exactly 90 years ago. Have you ever wondered? As much as Bram Stoker’s story about a noble prince who is secretly a bloodsucking undead had already been brought to the screen (albeit unofficially) in Nosferatu (1922), during the silent film era, c was the first push into the text in a specific way. and the permitted manner. Directed by Todd Browning and Karl Freund (uncredited), the film immortalizes characters who will forever remain in the collective unconscious, such as Van Helsing, for example, the learned doctor who is the first to shed light on the demonic condition of Dracula, and becomes as popular as the villain himself. The protagonist, in turn, would be forever marked in the forms of the Romanian Bela Lugosi, the most elegant Dracula of the seventh art. In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola gave his sumptuous version of the classic.

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The same year as the timeless classic Dracula, another iconic production was released in November that would help the monster universe take shape. Produced by the same Universal Pictures, and also based on an old literary horror novel (this one by trailblazing author Mary Shelley), Frankenstein went a step further by tackling issues of a broad dramatic setting. At the center of the plot is a genius of science, allowing himself to be completely controlled by his obsession. Playing God, Dr. Frankenstein grants life to one dead man – or rather, to many, since Frankenstein’s monster is the assembly of the parts of several corpses stitched together to form “the perfect man”. An unholy creature, who does not understand its purpose in the world, lost in limbo between the living and the dead. James Whale conducts the classic, with, of course, Boris Karloff. In 1994, it was Kenneth Branagh’s turn to try his luck with an adaptation.

After two goals with the gothic and morbid Dracula and Frankenstein, two tales about the macabre, Universal Pictures realized that this vein could be extremely profitable. He therefore tried to bring the following year a production to the height. Directed by Karl Freund, who had co-directed Dracula, and starring Frankenstein’s same Boris Karloff (now the studio’s golden boy in the genre), The Mummy wasn’t an adaptation of a classic book, but a original screenplay. In the plot, a new ancient evil has been introduced to terrorize the mass audience: Dracula’s Eastern European prince, has been replaced by an Egyptian prince named Im-Ho-Tep. After being accused of sacrilege, he was sentenced to death and mummified. An expedition in 1921 finds him and awakens him from his slumber, where he comes back to life as an evil creature. The tale would return to Universal’s own hands in 1999, in an Indiana Jones-style matinee adventure.

With each new year, Universal Pictures added another stone to the construction of its big haunted house. For his fourth major film in the gallery of monsters, yet another classic literary work served as raw material for one of his productions. After Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley, one of the fathers of “science fiction” in pop culture, HG Wells was the subject of a universal horror feature. The Invisible Man brought a lot of Frankenstein into its narrative, in the sense that two scientific geniuses created secular inventions, even though they had good intentions. In the end, the two ended up going crazy with their experiments and became the real monsters here. The difference is that unlike Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) used himself as a guinea pig for his experiment. Thus, he became the Invisible Man, a formless, reasonless monster. In directing, the studio rotated its talents and here it again hired James Whale.

In the winning team do not move. Thus, James Whale, Silver of the House of Universal at this stage, had created two films about mad scientists and their inconceivable experiments, which defied reason and the laws of men. The Invisible Man was successful, but he didn’t become an icon like Frankenstein. So, the studio decided to keep Whale close to its creation for a new round with the zombie monster made from corpse parts. The option was for a suite. The one many claim is even better than the original. Used to complement the text that Mary Shelley had written for the original book, Bride of Frankenstein features the first female character in this gallery of classic monsters, immortalized by an unforgettable performance by Elsa Lanchester. Bringing in Karloff again as a monster, the story shows the same mad scientist creating a companion for his “son”.

Although he is considered part of the “triad” of monsters, alongside Dracula and Frankenstein, The Werewolf was not thought of from the start to compose this terribly frightening team. On the contrary, at the beginning, in the 1930s, other macabre beings presented themselves before him as mainstays of the franchise at the studio: see The Mummy, The Invisible Man and The Bride of Frankenstein. The werewolf won’t be revealed until ten years after it all began, in 1941, in a new decade. Again betting on an original idea, like The Mummy, The Werewolf was created from a screenplay and not from a classic novel. In the plot, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) is cursed to have been bitten by a wolf, thus transforming into a half-man, half-wolf creature, when the full moon takes over the sky. A mindless creature that is pure murderous instinct and can tear anyone apart, including those the man behind the wolf loves. The monster was so successful that it would appear in encounters alongside Frankenstein and Dracula, becoming one of the studio’s most popular creatures.

During the 1940s, after the highly successful Werewolf was introduced as one of the famous figures in the studio’s monster universe pantheon, the “triad” (Frankenstein, Dracula and Werewolf) starred in several crossovers. , which dominated the decade. Like other brands such as The Mummy and The Invisible Man, they continued to generate sequels in their own narrative lines. With the arrival of the 1950s, the era of terror gave way to the unknown of science fiction. At the height of the alien villains, Universal was betting on a different creature to become the last big character in this gallery. In 1954, The Monster of the Black Lagoon appeared, the missing link between man and fish, brought out of the depths to be studied by scientists. A curiosity is that the sequel to the film, released the following year, brought one of Clint Eastwood’s first film roles. Other than that, this creature would be honored by Guillermo del Toro in The Shape of Water (2017), which won the Best Picture Oscar.

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