Universal Monsters Poll

PrintOne of our greatest joys in producing Horror Movie Podcast is providing quality viewing recommendations for our listeners and every so often a listener has a recommendation request that we think the whole community may benefit from participating in.

This one comes from listener Dino from Cleveland (by way of New York). Dino tweeted:

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-2-31-52-amWith Universal now in production on remakes of their classic films (the teaser and poster for The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise, was released just today), we thought this was a great time to explore the beloved originals and determine which might be essential viewing before the remakes come out.

Here’s you chance to get involved. You can select up to 10 essential Universal Monsters movies of your choosing. Please only vote once and only select a max of 10 films when you vote. You are not required to select 10 in order to vote.

Additionally, if you’d like to leave us (and Dino) some wise words about your top pick, please do so below in the comments and we’ll read the best responses on the show when we reveal the poll results. If we left any of your favorites off, please select “other” and tell us what we missed—and why it’s so great—in the comments below.

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Polls close Wednesday December 7th 2016 at 8pm PST.

Of course, you can hear us discuss some of these classics in our Frankenstein Versus (Ep 83) discussion, our Dracula Versus (Ep 85) discussion, Dr. Shock’s tributes to Bela Lugosi (Ep 33) and Lionel Atwill (ep 49) , our Horror Comedy (Ep 87) discussion, our Horror for Kids (Ep 97) discussion, and all the way back to the very beginning with Dr. Shock’s Top 10 Horror Movies (on Ep 02) list.

Thanks to listener Dino for getting this ball rolling. You can follow Dino on Twitter: @dinoticinelli

Snazzy Universal Monsters artwork above by the great Tom Whalen. Check out Tom’s entire (and very cool) Universal Monsters collection at his website: Strong Stuff

35 thoughts on “Universal Monsters Poll

  1. Mummy writer Jon Spaihts (Doctor Strange) said:

    “In ‘The Mummy’, I think we’re going to see the first Mummy film in the entire Universal canon with the true power to terrify. The earliest [Boris] Karloff and Bela Lugosi Mummy movies were scary in a small way, perhaps a dated way. They were almost parlor movies. Subsequent movies have been more swashbuckling. This one is going to have all of that action and adventure, but a legitimate power to terrify. I think that’s going to be the new experience of that film.”

    Which is hopeful.

    And apparently Russell Crowe (who will be playing Dr. Jekyll) said The Mummy will “scare the sh*t out of you.” I’m hoping he’s right.

    • I’m still feeling extremely cynical about this. Everything I’ve heard about the Universal relaunch gives me the impression that the people behind it don’t even really like the original movies. Sure, I get that they aren’t scary to most modern audiences but the key to their timelessness, for me at least, is the emphasis on atmosphere. Something that modern day Hollywood couldn’t seem to care less about most of the time. Trying to reboot a series of slow, ominous, deliberately paced “parlour films” as modern action movies just doesn’t bode well at all.

      That said, if there is one Universal Monster that might successfully incorporate action-adventure elements I guess it is The Mummy, what with all the potential for Indiana Jones style set pieces and exotic locales. But I’m not holding my breath.

      • David, I’m with you. I’m hopeful but also not holding my expectations too high. And I get the same impression about the people behind the new ones not liking or respecting the old ones. Spaihts saying that the Mummy movies are only scary in a “small way, perhaps a dated way” without saying anything positive about them makes me nervous. I totally agree about atmosphere and that’s something I don’t hear getting talked about. Saying the new one will have a “true power to terrify” means nothing to me. They probably said that about the 1999 Mummy, too.

        Still, I’m always willing to give remakes a chance. I did like the 2010 Joe Johnston Wolf Man. Yes, it did feature a lot of action and went way off the original story, but it did have a better sense of atmosphere and a “gothic” look than the CGI fest like Van Helsing.

        Although it’s probably one of my least favorite Universal monsters, I think a modernized Creature from the Black Lagoon could be really good. I’d love to see it with newer special effects, less hammy acting, and a darker, more menacing tone than the original, which is too over-the-top to be that scary or even atmospheric for me.

        • I actually have never gotten around to checking out the 2010 Wolf Man movie. I didn’t hear great things but if it succeeded in developing a gothic atmosphere rather than just being another action-horror schlock-fest then I might have to give it a whirl.

    • So out of curiosity I just checked out the trailer for The Mummy and now I’m even more cynical. It looks like nothing more than generic action schlock. Nothing about it is in anyway atmospheric or exotically creepy in the way that a Universal Mummy movie should be. Just the beyond-tired clichés of dub-step siren noises and massive destruction of big cities. It looks like a Hack Snyder superhero movie that just focuses more on a super-villain. All I get from the trailer is that Universal are more interested in box office turnaround than in any way respecting or paying homage to the movies that got them where they are today. Maybe I’ll eat my words when I see the actual film but judging by the trailer it’s just another homogenised big budget action-fest specifically tailored to pander to the widest general audience of slack-jawed rubes who want to pay their money and see some ‘splosions.

  2. Anything with that black and white logo of the plane circling the deco globe plucks my nostalgia strings. That said I have more fun revisiting the older scifi tinged Universal Monsters.

    The Creature From the Black Lagoon trilogy has an interesting arc. The absurd idea of surgically “correcting” the Creature not-with-standing. And “The Incredible Shrinking Man” and “The Monolith Monsters” are great fun. The bonus is you’ll get to see some of Jack Arnold’s finest work. Knowing that name will put a whole new spin on those old episodes of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch.

    • I agree, gatz! Jack Arnold needs a mention for these later films. He directed The Creature and it’s sequel Revenge of the Creature, just like James Whale directed Frankenstein and it’s sequel Bride of Frankenstein. He also directed It Came From Outer Space, Tarantula, and Monster on Campus. I didn’t know he wrote The Monolith Monsters. I looked that up after I saw your post.

      • Man, so much great feedback on this poll so far. I haven’t seen a single of these Universal monster movies*, but I’m already pumped for HMP’s future coverage!

        * I actually own and have seen the original The Phantom of the Opera, but that’s the only one.

  3. It’s not included, but I’d greatly recommend The Old Dark House. Director, James Whale, may have only made four horror movies, but he absolutely nailed it with Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, and the Bride of Frankenstein.

  4. This is awesome! Thanks so much for putting out this poll.

    I need help pruning the list of 80+ universal horror movies down to a more manageable number. Plus, this will definitely put on the pressure to actually do the marathon! (which I will)

    I took a peek at the early numbers and I like where the results appear to be heading.

  5. My feelings on the classic monster movies is that all of the characters are relatable. I think that is why many of us flocked to those movies as kids. The monsters in the movies weren’t necessarily evil, just misunderstood.
    By far my favorite monster was the Creature. The first movie is solid, and really stands the test of time, but what seals the deal is the Gillman himself. I’m drawn to the creativity that went into him. A prehistoric, aquatic creature surviving unknown for millennia is just such a great concept for a movie. What they accomplished with the special effects back then is still impressive, and the underwater camera shots were pretty ground breaking.
    Out of all of the Classic Monsters the Gillman is the one you can point to and say “Yeah, that’s a monster”. He looks like what you would expect a monster to look like. I just hope the new Universal movies do him justice, and gives us a chance to fall in love with the Creature all over again.

  6. I’d also suggest skipping the silent movies like the original Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Not that they shouldn’t be watched, but rather they fit more in with a silent movie marathon rather than being lumped in with all of the talking movies of the Universal Monsters.

    Likewise, if you do end up watching the Phantom of the Opera remake, I’d advise you to do what I did and mess with the color option on your TV so you can watch it in black-and-white. It doesn’t feel “Right” to me to watch any of these in color.

    • Those are 2 good movies to become familiar with Lon Chaney, “The Man of a Thousand Faces.” Like Sal said, you don’t need to get to those right away and I’d start with Phantom. He’s also the father of Lon Chaney Jr. (obviously) who played The Wolfman, The Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster and even a vampire in the universal films.

    • Sal, are you talking about The Phantom of the Opera (1943) with Claude Rains as the remake? It was filmed in technicolor. I think the color and elaborate opera stagings are whats good about that film. It’s light on horror.

      • Yeah, I’m referring to the Rains’ Phantom. Considering I own it as part of that awesome Universal Classic Monsters – The Essential Collection, it was a bit off putting to have this one movie shown in color while everything else was in black-and-white.

        • Yea, that movie is very light on the horror. It’s reminds me of another universal horror film The Climax (1944) which has opera and a little horror.

  7. Honestly, I don’t like the original ‘Dracula,’ but not sure how you do a watch of all of these and don’t include it. I however did not vote for it because there are easily ten more that I would go with before it.

  8. For my top pick, I’m going to go with perhaps an underdog (or underwolf) here: The Wolf Man. First off, the star-studded cast: Lon Chaney, Jr., Claude Rains, and Maria Ouspenskaya kill it as Larry Talbot, Sir John, and Maleva. Plus, you have Bela Lugosi in there too, even if briefly. Some of the other early Universal monster films may be more artfully done from a craft perspective, but this film easily oozes the most pathos with all these excellent performers. Frankenstein is probably the best from a technical perspective, and Karloff is sublime as the Monster, but Colin Clive is a bit over-the-top even for 1931.

    Also, I’m a sucker for the Wolf Man’s tragic nature, something some of the other monsters (Quasimodo, Phantom, Frankenstein’s Monster) share. But the Wolf Man takes tragedy to its bleakest extreme. It’s not that Larry is misunderstood and lashes out, like those other characters. Nor is it that he arrogantly tries to control his darker half, like in Jekyll and Hyde. Nor is he simply predatory, like Dracula. Larry is cursed; doomed; he doesn’t want to kill, but he cannot control the monster inside.

    For me, this is less moralistic than some of the other films, which try to teach a heavy-handed lesson about the hubris of men trying to play God, or of how society demonizes those who look different, etc. It’s message isn’t so much a lesson as a somber observation: sometimes we can’t escape fate, or the circumstances we’ve been forced into. We can’t always reign in the beast–it will destroy others, and in the end, ourselves. And that, to me, is truly horrifying.

  9. For me, Frankenstein is the quintessential Universal horror film. I love the German expressionism that Whale brought to the film. This film also put Boris Karloff into rotation for many of the Universal films. It was horrifying to audiences of the time and some theaters cut the scene where the little girl drowns. The line “It’s alive! It’s alive! In the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!” was considered blasphemy.

    The sequels to Frankenstein are also great and some consider Bride of Frankenstein to be better crafted than the first. Son of Frankenstein has Lugosi playing Igor, a character who’s popularity eclipses Frankenstein’s previous two assistants.

    Although the 1920’s (Phantom, Hunchback, The Man who Laughs) were a great start to Universal’s horror, the 1930’s is really where the best of the universal films are found. Examples are the previous mentioned Frankensteins, Dracula, Invisible Man, The Black Cat (1934), The Raven, The Invisible Ray, The Old Dark House and Murders in Rue Morgue and the Mummy.

    The 1940’s introduced us to The Jungle Woman and The Wolf Man played by Lon Chaney Jr. He starred in a lot of the 1940 films including six films based on a radio show called Inner Sanctum Mysteries. Also, this was the decade of the monster mash movies like Frankenstein meets The Wolfman, House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula. At the end of the 40’s Abbott and Costello got mashed up with the monsters too.

    The 1950’s were the end on the Universal Monster reign. A lot of the movies from this decade are influenced by science fiction. We get the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tarantula, The Deadly Mantis and the Mole People to name a few.

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