The Universal Monsters are a classic group of characters which, whether we realize it or not, are around us and even inspire what is around us in some way, shape or form. We dress up like them for Halloween, we read books about them in the library or bookstore and even see their real-life counterparts in museums. I enjoy the Universal Monsters even though I got into the movies later in life. Here is my experience with these beloved characters.
When I was a kid, I was into Halloween. I enjoyed dressing up, going to parties and going around the neighborhood to trick-or-treat. Of course, every year there was a Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Mummy and Dracula walking around at some point. As far as I was concerned, they were characters in scary movies which I had no intentions of watching. I did not know they were “Universal Monsters” or that they were originally featured in books. If you wanted to look like Frankenstein, you painted yourself green and drew stitches on your body. The Mummy was even easier because all you had to do was wrap yourself up in toilet paper. These methods were a far cry from the grueling, detailed makeup sessions between famous artist Jack Pierce and actor Boris Karloff. Speaking of Karloff, the only reason I knew of his name was because I watched Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas every holiday season.
I did not see my first Universal Monsters movie until I was in my teens. In fact, it wasn’t actually Universal itself but it was Bram Stoker’s Dracula starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Oldman. It was an immediate favorite of mine despite the fact it wasn’t the Dracula I was used to seeing with slicked-back hair and a tuxedo. I did my research and learned that it was based off of the actual book of the same name which was loosely based on the real-life Vlad The Impaler. Some years later I bought and read the book which is also a favorite of mine to this day. Little did I know, by watching Bram Stoker’s Dracula, followed by Van Helsing, I was planting the seeds for a growing interest in the classic monsters.
The next Universal Monster-oriented movie I saw following Bram Stoker’s Dracula was The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. I had not seen the previous Mummy films at the time so to me this was really cool. There were firecrackers, horse chases and Jet Li which made for an entertaining day at the movies. I was a huge wrestling fan at the time so of course I had to see The Scorpion King starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. This was followed by the Universal re-make of The Wolfman starring Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt and Anthony Hopkins. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie as much as I did The Scorpion King. It was at this point I knew I was a Universal Monsters fan going forward.
When I was approached with the idea of Universal Monsters Universe, I could not say no. It is because of this website I have seen four incarnations of The Mummy. The 1999 re-make of The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, along with its sequel, The Mummy Returns are excellent movies. They were fun to watch and had a great story. The original 1932 version is the first classic monsters movie I have seen and it was immediate to see why it is so iconic. Karloff and Zita Johann went so well together and everything was done so well under the direction of Karl Freund. These characters have become more than just the Halloween decorations I saw as a kid. They become an interpretation of life itself. We begin to relate to them in certain ways. My name is Joe Grodensky and this is what the Universal Monsters franchise means to me.
(Joe Grodensky – @JoeGrodensky)