Universal Horrors Challenge – The (Mostly) Final List

So, the more I’ve attempted to compile the list, the more I’ve discovered that trying to pin down a clear indication of what could be considered Universal’s overall silent horror film output is like trying to lasso a tornado.  Still, I think this is a fairly solid list.

Thus, it is after much deliberation and examination that I’ve decided to release what is to be my mostly final list–“mostly”, because I may add titles as I become aware of them (especially at the back end of the list–I’m still a little concerned about the completeness of my list post-1946, and I may add one or two additional silent titles as “specials” here and there).

Some titles on the list may be considered less horror and more science fiction, or espionage, or film noir, or mystery, or suspense, or fantasy, or comedy–but these titles are added here because they fit a certain criteria agreed upon by film scholars of the genre, and their place on this list will no doubt be discussed in depth when it comes time for each movie’s respective episode.

Bold means the movie is lost, unavailable, or fragmented.  Italics means I own the title.  Neither means I have yet to purchase the title.

Format will be podcast, with youtube videos for each at some point later.  Any materials that are available for public consumption (posters, stills, clips, etc.) will be linked to a corresponding “Learn More” blog post.

The episodes will consist of at least one preparatory introduction (giving a brief history of Universal Studios), at least one epilogue (offering my conclusions regarding the breadth of Universal’s horror output), and several episodes (of varying lengths) dealing with the titles on the list below.

Episodes will consist of me doing some or all of the following:

  • Summarizing the plot
  • Talking about my impressions of the film itself and where it fits in the greater scope of Universal’s horror output from 1913 until 1960
  • Referencing some background information found in the books I’ve cited in a prior blog post (click here)
  • Discussing the version or versions of the film or films which are the subject(s) of the episode (where more than one version is used, a comparison will be discussed to attempt to ferret out the “best version”)
  • Errata for a prior episode, should I find I need it
  • Miscellaneous content, as I see necessary

I may be accompanied by others for certain episodes (such as Mike Podgor and/or Jeffrey Holloway of Fictosphere fame), but I think time constraints will likely place me at the center of most episodes.  Don’t worry–I’m told I have a very soothing voice.  Considering I have a face for radio, that’s an especially good thing.

Again, Paramount horror films owned by Universal have been eliminated from the list, due to the fact that they are not “true” Universal films.  They may show up in a later project (depending upon the success of this one), but for the Universal Horrors Challenge, they shall remain off of the list.

Without further ado, the (mostly) final list:


 

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

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.

Universal Horrors Challenge – The List (Update #1)

Though I haven’t added anything to the list (those additions will be forthcoming), I have recently acquired a few new pieces:

  1. The Last Warning
  2. The Charlatan
  3. Secret of the Blue Room
  4. Life Returns
  5. Mystery of Edwin Drood
  6. The Black Doll
  7. The Phantom Creeps (Serial)
  8. The Phantom Creeps (Feature Film)

I’ve picked up the novelization of the lost The Phantom of the Violin (1914/1915) by H.M. Egbert (which is a novelization in name only as it amounts to less than five actual pages) and I’m currently tracking down some additional material related to The Cat Creeps (1930) that will help me give the most comprehensive review of the lost film possible.  More updates as they become available.

Universal Horrors Challenge – The (Preliminary) List

Well, no more putting it off.  The following is the (tentative) film list for the Universal Horrors Challenge.  There will likely be additions over the next six months (hopefully no subtractions).  Bolded items are considered lost.  Italicized items are those currently in my possession.


  1. The Werewolf
  2. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
  3. The Phantom Violin/The Phantom of the Violin (Novelization Obtained)
  4. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  6. The Phantom of the Opera
  7. The Cat and the Canary
  8. The Man Who Laughs
  9. The Last Warning
  10. The Charlatan
  11. The Last Performance
  12. The Phantom of the Opera (1929 Sound Re-issue)
  13. The Cat Creeps/La Voluntad del Muerto (Audio Obtained)
  14. Dracula
  15. Dracula (Spanish Version)
  16. Frankenstein
  17. Murders in the Rue Morgue
  18. The Old Dark House
  19. The Mummy
  20. Island of Lost Souls
  21. Secret of the Blue Room
  22. The Invisible Man
  23. Murders in the Zoo
  24. The Black Cat
  25. Secret of the Chateau
  26. The Man Who Reclaimed His Head
  27. Life Returns
  28. Mystery of Edwin Drood
  29. Night Life of the Gods
  30. Bride of Frankenstein
  31. WereWolf of London
  32. The Raven
  33. The Great Impersonation
  34. The Invisible Ray
  35. Dracula’s Daughter
  36. Night Key
  37. The Black Doll
  38. The Missing Guest
  39. Son of Frankenstein
  40. The House of Fear
  41. Tower of London
  42. The Phantom Creeps (Serial vs. Movie Comparison Special)
  43. The Invisible Man Returns
  44. Black Friday
  45. The House of the Seven Gables
  46. The Mummy’s Hand
  47. The Invisible Woman
  48. Dr. Cyclops
  49. Man Made Monster
  50. Horror Island
  51. The Black Cat (1941)
  52. Hold That Ghost
  53. The Wolf Man
  54. The Monster and the Girl
  55. The Mad Doctor of Market Street
  56. The Ghost of Frankenstein
  57. Mystery of Marie Roget
  58. The Strange Case of Doctor Rx
  59. Invisible Agent
  60. Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror
  61. The Mummy’s Tomb
  62. Night Monster
  63. Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon
  64. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
  65. Sherlock Holmes in Washington
  66. Captive Wild Woman
  67. Phantom of the Opera
  68. Sherlock Holmes Faces Death
  69. Flesh and Fantasy
  70. Son of Dracula
  71. The Mad Ghoul
  72. Calling Dr. Death
  73. The Spider Woman
  74. Weird Woman
  75. The Scarlet Claw
  76. The Invisible Man’s Revenge
  77. Ghost Catchers
  78. Jungle Woman
  79. The Mummy’s Ghost
  80. The Pearl of Death
  81. The Climax
  82. Dead Man’s Eyes
  83. Murder in the Blue Room
  84. House of Frankenstein
  85. The Mummy’s Curse
  86. Destiny
  87. The House of Fear
  88. That’s the Spirit
  89. The Frozen Ghost
  90. The Jungle Captive
  91. The Woman in Green
  92. Strange Confession
  93. Pursuit to Algiers
  94. House of Dracula
  95. Pillow of Death
  96. Terror by Night
  97. The Spider Woman Strikes Back
  98. House of Horrors
  99. Night in Paradise
  100. The Cat Creeps
  101. She-Wolf of London
  102. Dressed to Kill
  103. The Time of Their Lives
  104. The Brute Man
  105. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
  106. Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff
  107. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man
  108. It Came From Outer Space!
  109. Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  110. The Black Castle
  111. Creature from the Black Lagoon
  112. Tarantula
  113. Cult of the Cobra
  114. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy
  115. The Strange Door
  116. Revenge of the Creature
  117. This Island Earth
  118. The Mole People
  119. The Creature Walks Among Us
  120. The Incredible Shrinking Man
  121. The Monolith Monsters
  122. The Land Unknown
  123. Man of a Thousand Faces
  124. The Deadly Mantis
  125. Monster on Campus
  126. Curse of the Undead
  127. The Leech Woman
  128. Psycho

Universal Horrors Challenge – RIP Philip J. Riley

As though Father’s Day isn’t hard enough for me already…

It is with a heavy heart that I report to you that Philip J. Riley, film scholar, horror buff, and producer behind the MagicImage and Bear Manor Media publications of Universal horror film script books, has passed away at the age of 68.

Per a Facebook post by Michael Pestritto:

Philip J Riley, passed away this morning at 68years old. That’s so so sad and still so young. He was such a good man. Incredible, Amazing, Unbelievable, Genius..bass player, guitar player, singer, song writer, novelist talented person. That I ever had the pleasure and privilege to play the drums and create..America’s only 2 man Heavy Metal Rock and Roll band !!!!!! “GRANMA” original music to perform in front of a 100,000 screaming people at Fairmount Park Festival in Philadelphia. WOW !!!! What a unforgettable experience of my lifetime on planet earth !!!! He will be missed dearly my good friend Philip J Riley. This year 2016 in the heavens with, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson, Lenny Kilmister of MOTORHEAD and Prince. RIP

There are no words for me to describe how distraught I am over this. Phil and I communicated quite a bit on social media (he was mentor-like in his advice to me concerning a great many subjects), and though he was at times a controversial figure in the horror scholar world (I may talk about this at a later date), his contributions are not to be ignored. A warm, friendly, approachable individual who was always there to help a newbie out.  To date, he’s the only Phil I’ve ever known who hasn’t betrayed me.

You will be missed, Phil.

There will be no list today.  Perhaps tomorrow.

Universal Horrors Challenge – Personal History/Qualifications (Part Two)

So, by all accounts, I didn’t have a normal childhood, but I did have a happy one.  I was fortunate enough to have an immediate family that fostered my horror film hobby, and when the Universal Monsters Classics Collection came out on VHS in the early 1990s, it was like a revolution.  Finally, all in one place–or, at least, in the Saturday Matinees or Suncoasts in one of the many local malls–were (what I thought to be) every single horror film produced by Universal during their golden age.  Minus the silents, of course.  I don’t recall how I rationalized that, but know now of course that Universal doesn’t seem to offer much consideration to any of its properties that has fallen into the public domain.

At any rate, over three waves (and a fourth unofficial wave–a name-change to “Classic Horror Collection” or something like that), Universal opened new doors to me with regards to their horror catalog.  The acquired Paramount horrors that found themselves among the Universal releases (which, truth be told, often shared casts, crew members, directors, etc. with the Universal classics) helped me spread my wings a bit and search other studio horrors from the same time period (1930s and 1940s): Columbia, MGM, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox.  I hit the ground running and haven’t stopped since.

Over the years, I’ve gobbled up as much information as I could on the various players and characters related to these works.  Novels, script books, biographies–you name it.  In 2009 (though I don’t know why it took me quite that long), I tripped over the Classic Horror Film Board, a hub for film freaks and monster kids like me.  It’s insane how much a person can learn from the scholars at this place (who are often those writing the books on these films, or recording the various commentary tracks used on the commercially released DVDs)–right down to the technical aspects of a particular type of camera used for a handful of scenes in King Kong.  It’s a resource in and of itself, and during this challenge, I will be using it as much as possible.

There’s more to my background, but those are the broad strokes.  Likely Mike Podgor and I will do a podcast fleshing out some of the things I’ve talked about already (and some he’s likely to talk about on his own blog).

Okay, so I’ve put it off long enough.  What everyone wants to see is the list.  Keep in mind, I don’t have a final list available just yet–only a preliminary.  But I suppose I can share that with you folks…

…tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

Universal Horrors Challenge – Personal History/Qualifications (Part One)

So, I love movies.  They’re in my blood, in my DNA.  To paraphrase (badly) TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, the flicker of the projector is like a heartbeat to me.  Movies are my life, to the extent that any hobby can be such.

I’m also a fan of horror.  Horror films, horror novels, horror comics.  I love the genre–especially the gothic aspect of the genre, the myth and folklore and supernatural elements to it.  It scratches an itch in my brain that other genres come close to scratching but never quite reach for whatever reason.  And if one is a fan of horror and a fan of movies, one cannot ignore Universal Studios.

During the first half of the last century, Universal Studios was a name synonymous with the horror genre of film production.  From Universal came some of the most classically recognizable names and images in monster pictures: Dracula (Bela Lugosi), Frankenstein’s Monster (Boris Karloff), the Phantom of the Opera (Lon Chaney Sr.), the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.), and a literal ton of others.  If you’ve ever heard someone use a psuedo-Hungarian accent when pretending to be a vampire (“I vahnt to sahck your blahd!“), you have Universal to thank for that.

Indeed, Universal’s time as the undisputed king of horror was a golden age, and, it can be argued, helped to prompt other studios to put forth their own offerings (King Kong and the Val Lewton horrors of the 1940s by RKO, MGM’s various takes on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Laird Cregar chillers from Fox).  To say the studio was historically significant is the understatement of the century (this one or the last), and without Universal’s foray into horror, we might not have the horror genre as it exists today (a potential double-edged sword, depending upon what you think of the state of horror today).

Now, I’m a what one in the community of horror film aficionados would consider a “third-generation monster kid” (I guess that makes me a monster grandkid).  I wasn’t around for the initial theatrical run of many or any of these films, and I wasn’t even around for the resurgence these films experienced on television in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. I didn’t come around in any substantial (or existential) way until the early 1980s–but, what I missed in theatrical releases and in television broadcasts, I made up for in VHS and BetaMax tapes.

And I was lucky enough to be born into a family of people who, from a ridiculously early age, fostered and encouraged my hobby.  One of my earliest memories, for instance, is of my grandmother watching the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera with me when I was, like, three or four years old–at which point she commented on how she herself saw the film in theaters back in the 1920s.  My mother soon followed by showing me the 1931 Dracula (though her own fascination fell to the slasher movies of the early 1980s), and my father followed that by showing me the 1931 Frankenstein (though his own fascination fell to the atomic age sci-fi horrors of the 1950s).  I loved them all.

Almost from birth, then, I was hooked on old Hollywood, and on Universal and horror specifically.  After my introduction to the horror film as a concept, I requested biographies written about the Chaneys (both Lons), Boris Karloff, and Bela Lugosi, among others, to be read to me in place of bedtime stories.  When I learned to read myself, I did so with a healthy mix of children’s books and several of the (then brand new) Random House monster movie books.  When I discovered video games, one of my favorites quickly became Castlevania, a game whose enemies pull from the pantheon of Universal and Hammer horror movie monsters.

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow.