Universal Horrors Challenge – Grapevine Video

So, I’ve known about a film and DVD distribution company called Grapevine Video for a couple of weeks now.  They specialize in releasing to DVD titles from cinema’s yesteryear which are more obscure than what everyone’s used to seeing.  That said, they fill an important niche in silent film and early talkies, releasing affordable copies of movies (printed on demand) that are often of better quality than what you’ll find in Alpha Video releases (though I admit Alpha Video has its uses).

When it comes to my procurement of materials for the coming challenge, I’ve gone to Grapevine Video no less than six times thus far.  They do great work, and accept donations to help them restore the films they currently possess and to help them in buying more.  Please considering giving a donation, as they are criminally under-funded.

You can find them by clicking here.


Universal Horrors Challenge -The Rules and Format (Revised)

So, I think I’ve decided upon how I will tackle each film, and in what medium.

In terms of rules, the challenge for each is composed of three parts:

  1. Primarily, I am to discuss over the course of one year each film within the accepted Universal Horror Cycle, from the Silent Era to (TBD).  What is “accepted“?  That which appears to be agreed upon in regarded, authoritative texts on the subject of film (i.e. Universal Horrors by Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas, and John Brunas).  Since the challenge is centered around and inspired by the book Universal Horrors, I will show deference to that text when considering films between 1931 and 1946.  Where a film is lost, I will do all I can to experience the film in the best way that I can–whether through seeking the audio, through examining still photographs, or through reading and analyzing summaries or scripts.
  2. Each accepted film on the final list is to be addressed in some sort of publicly accessible medium.  Acceptable media are blog posts, videos, and podcasts.  At this point, I’m thinking podcasts will be best.  This way, I can address specific talking points about each film, and sometimes pull in other people to have a discussion.  I might do rudimentary videos at some point, but writing blog posts feels like a cop-out to me (with regards to this challenge, anyway).
  3. Each podcast must be posted in order of its respective film’s placement on the list.  I can record them out of order (depending upon availability of the films necessary to complete the challenge), but I have to post them in order.  The goal right now is three podcasts a week, but there may be periods of silence followed by a glut of posts.  I’ll try to avoid that as best I can by having the film well in advance (I’m off to a good start), but life has a funny way of throwing curve balls.  We will see what happens.  In any case, all films on the final list must be covered within one year.

The marathon will be preceded by an introductory podcast, laying out my own personal horror film history, and briefly touching upon the early days of Universal Studios (it’s actually a fascinating story).  The final podcast will be a wrap-up, discussing the evolution of Universal’s horror over the years, and offering perhaps a preview of what’s next to come.


Universal Horrors Challenge – The (Updated) List

So, I renovated the list a little.  I made the decision to remove the Paramount horror films from the list, and will do something different with them later–I’ll have my hands quite full when dealing with the breadth of Universal’s horror output.

I also removed the Paramount films to make room for more Universals that might be considered “horrors”, or at least have sci-fi or fantasy elements nearing the requirements to be covered by some of the books listed in a previous post.

Still not the final list, but a little more svelte and goal-oriented.

NOTE: The lost films for which there exist nothing but summaries and perhaps a still photograph might be covered in a single episode, possibly two episodes.  I’m also kicking around the idea of splitting the list, and tackling this year only the films up to The Brute Man (1946), which would cover the majority of Universal’s horror output but would also grant me additional time to properly research and acquire titles from the late 40s and 50s up through Psycho in 1960.  I do feel like that’s a cop-out, though we’re still talking (right now) of about 101 films.  Hopefully I’ll look at the final list and decide to go big instead of going home.  At any rate, this is not the final list.

  1. The Werewolf
  2. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
  3. The Phantom Violin/The Phantom of the Violin (Novelization Obtained)
  4. The Mysterious Contragrav (Novelization Obtained)
  5. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  6. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  7. The Phantom of the Opera
  8. The Cat and the Canary
  9. The Man Who Laughs
  10. The Last Warning
  11. The Charlatan
  12. The Last Performance
  13. The Phantom of the Opera (1929 Sound Re-issue)
  14. The Cat Creeps/La Voluntad del Muerto (Audio Obtained)
  15. Dracula
  16. Dracula (Spanish Version)
  17. Frankenstein
  18. Murders in the Rue Morgue
  19. The Old Dark House
  20. The Mummy
  21. Secret of the Blue Room
  22. The Invisible Man
  23. The Black Cat
  24. Secret of the Chateau
  25. The Man Who Reclaimed His Head
  26. Life Returns
  27. Mystery of Edwin Drood
  28. Night Life of the Gods
  29. Bride of Frankenstein
  30. WereWolf of London
  31. The Raven
  32. The Great Impersonation
  33. The Invisible Ray
  34. Dracula’s Daughter
  35. Night Key
  36. The Black Doll
  37. The Missing Guest
  38. Son of Frankenstein
  39. The House of Fear
  40. Tower of London
  41. The Phantom Creeps (Serial vs. Movie Comparison Special)
  42. The Invisible Man Returns
  43. Black Friday
  44. The House of the Seven Gables
  45. The Mummy’s Hand
  46. The Invisible Woman
  47. Man Made Monster
  48. Horror Island
  49. The Black Cat (1941)
  50. Hold That Ghost
  51. The Wolf Man
  52. The Mad Doctor of Market Street
  53. The Ghost of Frankenstein
  54. Mystery of Marie Roget
  55. The Strange Case of Doctor Rx
  56. Invisible Agent
  57. Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror
  58. The Mummy’s Tomb
  59. Night Monster
  60. Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon
  61. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
  62. Sherlock Holmes in Washington
  63. Captive Wild Woman
  64. Phantom of the Opera
  65. Sherlock Holmes Faces Death
  66. Flesh and Fantasy
  67. Son of Dracula
  68. The Mad Ghoul
  69. Calling Dr. Death
  70. The Spider Woman
  71. Weird Woman
  72. The Scarlet Claw
  73. The Invisible Man’s Revenge
  74. Ghost Catchers
  75. Jungle Woman
  76. The Mummy’s Ghost
  77. The Pearl of Death
  78. The Climax
  79. Dead Man’s Eyes
  80. Murder in the Blue Room
  81. House of Frankenstein
  82. The Mummy’s Curse
  83. Destiny
  84. The House of Fear
  85. That’s the Spirit
  86. The Frozen Ghost
  87. The Jungle Captive
  88. The Woman in Green
  89. Strange Confession
  90. Pursuit to Algiers
  91. House of Dracula
  92. Pillow of Death
  93. Terror by Night
  94. The Spider Woman Strikes Back
  95. House of Horrors
  96. Night in Paradise
  97. The Cat Creeps
  98. She-Wolf of London
  99. Dressed to Kill
  100. The Time of Their Lives
  101. The Brute Man
  102. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
  103. Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff
  104. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man
  105. It Came From Outer Space!
  106. Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  107. The Black Castle
  108. Creature from the Black Lagoon
  109. Tarantula
  110. Cult of the Cobra
  111. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy
  112. The Strange Door
  113. Revenge of the Creature
  114. This Island Earth
  115. The Mole People
  116. The Creature Walks Among Us
  117. The Incredible Shrinking Man
  118. The Monolith Monsters
  119. The Land Unknown
  120. Man of a Thousand Faces
  121. The Deadly Mantis
  122. Monster on Campus
  123. The Thing That Couldn’t Die
  124. Curse of the Undead
  125. The Leech Woman
  126. Psycho

Universal Horrors Challenge – The Cat Creeps (Update #2)

So, in 1931, Universal Studios released Dracula, a film starring the great Bela Lugosi as the eponymous vampire and directed by Tod Browning, who had under his belt at the time a number of Lon Chaney MGM silent films.  Dracula is generally considered to be the official start of the Universal Horror cycle, and as such, is considered both the first and last nail in the coffins (pun intended) of Universal’s competitors in the arena of horror cinema in the 1930s.

But what if there happened to be another Universal horror talkie, one that had a full audio soundtrack (not merely a silent-to-talkie conversion like 1929’s The Phantom of the Opera) and predated Dracula by one year?

This isn’t a what-if scenario: such a film exists.  Entitled The Cat Creeps, released in 1930, and based on the play The Cat and the Canary, this film has writhed in obscurity for over 75 years due to its status as lost.  All that remains from the film (and its Spanish language counter-part) are a handful of still images, a few posters, and the wax audio disks that were to be played in tandem with the film.

Now, it’s fairly easy to find the photos and posters that remain–most of those are online, and those which are not are available in film books like Of Gods and Monsters.  The audio, however, is not available online; at least, it wasn’t when I searched high and low for it.  The full set of surviving sound disks is located currently at the film archives at UCLA, and one would need to arrange a special engagement in order to listen to this lost film.  Of the few who even know the film existed, fewer have heard the audio.

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of a gentleman in the Monster Kid community, I now possess a copy of the audio from these film disks–and so when I deliver my review during the challenge, I can do so having experienced all that exists of the film.