It’s been a full 123 years since the publication of H. G. Wells’ haunting 1897 book The Invisible Man and 87 years since the film adaptation in 1933. Now, Universal studios has decided to revisit the classic horror tale and will soon be bringing the terrifying concept of this invisible stalker into the present. With production reportedly starting 13 years ago – it’s clear Universal takes its horror seriously. So we thought we’d reminisce on some of the classic and best horror films Universal have made in their long history.
The Mummy (1999)
The Mummy franchise has been a part of Universal’s repertoire since its initial appearance in 1932. However, it was the 1999 revival based loosely around this original, attractively fronted by Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, that brought the ancient Egyptian demon into popular cinema.
The Mummy is a glorious romp of high-octane action and glamour, but also has its terrifying – albeit unsubtle – moments. We can all agree that no one would want to run into Imhotep in a dark alley and flesh-eating scarab beetles have featured in many nightmares. What’s more, The Mummy continues to be the gift that keeps on giving – progressing into a trilogy of films and recently being rebooted yet again in 2017. This action-horror has become a core part of Universal’s bread and butter - and is showing no sign of leaving.
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Long before Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lauded musical version, director Rupert Julian set about adapting the famous early 20th century novel The Phantom of the Opera for screen. One of Universal’s earliest forays into horror film, this 1925 silent, black and white classic may not seem terrifying to some viewers now but at the time was a triumphant and chilling portrayal of one of the most unusual horror stories of its time.
The Phantom of the Opera perfectly captured the eerie and unnerving aspects of what is, at its core, a very bizarre tale. Lon Chaney gives an excellent performance as the phantom – a man with a deformed visage living in an opera house with his very own purpose made torture chamber, kidnapping the woman he has a crush on and blackmailing her in the hope of winning her heart. A terrible first date? Certainly. But audiences at the time genuinely found Chaney’s phantom horrifying with reports of audience members fainting and vomiting in cinemas at the sight of his unmasked face. Poor guy…
It’s hard to put a finger on what makes Universal’s 1931 version of the famous Bram Stoker novel Dracula still the best to date. Whether it’s the gothic atmosphere set by cinematographer Karl Freund or Bela Lugosi’s iconic Dracula – this first legal interpretation of the famous novel is still, all these years later, arguably the best.
With an atmosphere thick with mystery and foreboding, this film really captured the unusual tone of the novel. And despite the many sequels and spin-offs, many consider Lugosi’s Dracula to be the interpretation that has had the most impact on how Dracula has been portrayed since. This can be seen in many horror and particularly vampire movies that have followed and we can’t help feeling Lugosi would have been great in Twilight, right?
The Invisible Man (1933)
The original film adaptation of H. G. Wells iconic book, the 1933 The Invisible Man was very different in tone to the full-on horror promised for the latest instalment – juggling its horror with moments of pure comedy and zaniness. But whilst there is plenty of fun to be had in this feature, it never ceases to be unnerving and frightening.
Universal were brave to take on Wells’ tale at this time because of the inevitable difficulties of visually portraying Griffin, the “invisible man” himself. And what makes the film so memorable is how well this was achieved and the incredible visual effects which are still convincing with a modern eye. No doubt the new interpretation will have all the tools to do this too, but we like to think this achievement will be hard to beat.
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Most sequels don’t live up to the original but there are some exceptions to the rule: Aliens, The Godfather II and right up there with them is Universal’s sequel to Frankenstein - Bride of Frankenstein. Across the board, Bride of Frankenstein delivered whether it be the film’s score, script, direction or acting. Even the hair and make-up is worthy of acclaim!
What’s more, Bride of Frankenstein breathed fresh emotion into the iconic monster. And whilst Elsa Lanchester’s on-screen time as the ‘bride’ is surprisingly fleeting, thanks to her bold, erratic performance (and her awesome wig) she becomes a memorable character in her own right. Universal’s Bride of Frankenstein is a masterclass in how to take a horror film and elevate it into something new whilst still keeping the heart of the original.
So there we have it – five of the best Universal Horror Films from their long history in the genre. Do you have any films you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.
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