Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “Universal Horror

Hotel Transylvania 2 – Trailer

Sony Pictures Animation released the first teaser trailer to Hotel Transylvania 2, which introduces Oscar-Tony-Grammy and Emmy-winning writer, director, performer, composer and producer Mel Brooks in the sequel to the 2012 worldwide hit.

Dracula, Mavis, Jonathan and all of their monster friends are back in the brand new comedy adventure: when the old-old-old-fashioned vampire Vlad arrives at the hotel for an impromptu family get-together, Hotel Transylvania is in for a comic collision of supernatural old-school and modern day cool.


The Creature From The Black Lagoon – By Nick Pill

Check out this ‘reinvention’ of The Creature From The Black Lagoon by concept artist Nick Pill. Click on the image for a close-up. You can see more of Nicks work HERE

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Dracula – By Geraldo Moreno

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Horror Icons – By Diego Parpa

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The Wolfman – Original Promo Stills

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Absolut Karloff – Boris Karloff Tribute

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Boris Karloff – Undergoing Make-Up for Bride of Frankenstein

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Lon Chaney Jr’s Family vs. Universal Studios

chaney-jr-lon-wolf-manThe heirs of Old Hollywood continue to want today’s studios to pay up. Legendary horror movie actor Lon Chaney Jr’s family today went after Universal Studios in the courts for more than $1 million in damages. In a nine-page breach of contract and other claims complaint (READ IT HERE) filed Monday in LA Superior Court, Chaney Entertainment alleges that Universal Studios Licensing uses the Wolf Man and Mummy and Frankenstein actor’s likeness for merchandise and goods and services despite the fact that a representation agreement between the studio and the company expired on December 31, 2008.Although he played Lennie Small in 1939′s Of Mice and Men adaptation alongside Burgess Meredith, Chaney was best known for his performances in a series of Universal monster movies in the 1930s and 1940s. After his death in 1973, his heirs and their corporate entity entered into a number of agreements with Universal over the rights to his image and his film work. Seeking a 5-day jury trial, the complaint filed today also claims that Universal Home Video has not properly paid the Chaneys for the use of the long-deceased actor’s image or voice-over in licensed film clips.“Universal’s continued exploitation of the Chaney’s rights has been done intentionally in conscious disregards of the rights of Chaney, and with malice, fraud, or oppression towards Chaney, thereby entitling Chaney to an award of punitive damages according to proof at trial,” says the complaint. Seeking restoration of full rights to the actor’s likeness and image, a full accounting and payment of funds allegedly due plus 10% per annum in interest, the complaint also wants all legal fees paid by the defendants as well consequential and punitive damages. Chaney Entertainment is represented by attorney Joseph F. Hart of Beverly Hills in their filing.

This seems very similar to the Bela Lugosi v. Universal Pictures (1979) 25 C3d 813, which was decided in Universal’s favour.


Classic Horror Posters from Mondo

City of the Living dead_MondoBride of Frankenstein_Mondo


Claude Rains

William Claude Rains (10 November 1889 – 30 May 1967) was an English stage and film actor whose career spanned 46 years. He was known for many roles in Hollywood films, among them the title role in The Invisible Man (1933), The Wolf Man (1941), a corrupt senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Mr. Dryden in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and, perhaps his most notable performance, as Captain Renault in Casablanca (1942).

Rains was born in Camberwell, London. He grew up, according to his daughter, with “a very serious cockney accent and a speech impediment”. His parents were Emily Eliza (Cox) and English stage and film actor Frederick William Rains. The young Rains made his stage debut at 11 in Nell of Old Drury.

His acting talents were recognised by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, founder of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Tree paid for the elocution lessons Rains needed in order to succeed as an actor. Later, Rains taught at the institution, teaching John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier, among others. Many years later, after he had gone to Hollywood and become a film star, Gielgud was to quip: “He was a great influence on me. I don`t know what happened to him. I think he failed and went to America.”

Rains served in the First World War in the London Scottish Regiment, with fellow actors Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman and Herbert Marshall. Rains was involved in a gas attack that left him nearly blind in one eye for the rest of his life, by the war’s end he had risen from the rank of Private to Captain.

Rains began his career in the London theatre, having a success in the title role of John Drinkwater’s play Ulysses S. Grant, the follow-up to the playwright’s major hit Abraham Lincoln, and travelled to Broadway in the late 1920s to act in leading roles in such plays as Shaw’s The Apple Cart and in the dramatisations of The Constant Nymph, and Pearl S. Buck’s novel The Good Earth, as a Chinese farmer.

Rains came relatively late to film acting and his first screen test was a failure, but his distinctive voice won him the title role in James Whale’s The Invisible Man (1933) when someone accidentally overheard his screen test being played in the next room. The Invisible Man is based on H. G. Wells’ science fiction novel The Invisible Man, published in 1897, as adapted by R. C. Sherriff, Philip Wylie and Preston Sturges. The film was directed by James Whale and starred Claude Rains, in his first American screen appearance, and Gloria Stuart.

Rains portrayed the Invisible Man (Dr. Jack Griffin) mostly only as a disembodied voice. Rains is only shown clearly for a brief time at the end of the film, spending most of his on-screen time covered by bandages. In 2008 The Invisible Man was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Rains’ portrayal of The Invisible Man is considered to be one of the main Universal Monsters and is often listed with the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Mummy and Gill-man.

Following The Invisible Man, Universal Studios tried to typecast him in horror films, but he broke free, starting with the gleefully evil role of Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), then with his Academy Award-nominated performance as the conflicted corrupt US senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and followed with probably his most famous role, the flexible French police Captain Renault in Casablanca (1942).

The Wolf Man (1941) written by Curt Siodmak and produced and directed by George Waggner; starred Lon Chaney, Jr. as The Wolf Man, with Claude Rains, Béla Lugosi, and Maria Ouspenskaya. The title character has had a great deal of influence on Hollywood’s depictions of the legend of the werewolf. The film is the second Universal Pictures werewolf movie, preceded six years earlier by the less commercially successful Werewolf of London.

In 1943, Rains played the title character in Universal’s full-colour remake of Phantom of the Opera. Bette Davis named him her favourite co-star, and they made four films together, including Mr. Skeffington and Now, Voyager. Rains became the first actor to receive a million dollar salary, playing Julius Caesar in Gabriel Pascal’s lavish and unsuccessful version of Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra (1945). In 1946, he played a refugee Nazi agent opposite Cary Grant and Casablanca co-star Ingrid Bergman in Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious.

Rains remained a popular character actor in the 1950s and 1960s, appearing in many films. Two of his well-known later screen roles were as Dryden, a cynical British diplomat in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and King Herod in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). The latter was his final film role.

Rains died from an abdominal haemorrhage in Laconia, New Hampshire, on 30 May 1967 at the age of 77. He is interred in the Red Hill Cemetery, Moultonborough, New Hampshire.


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The Invisible Man – Poster Art by Francesco Francavilla


Frankenweenie by my 7 Year Old Son

Frankenweenie is about a young boy called Victor and his dog Sparky. One when they were playing baseball, the ball goes on the other side of the road, when Sparky chases it, when he runs back a car hits him and he dies. For his science experiment Victor makes Sparky come back to life by using Frankenstein’s experiment with lightning.

The school was having a science fair and Victor was going to use Sparky as his experiment at the fair, but one of his friends finds out and wants to do the same experiment. He uses a dead goldfish but when the experiment is over, the goldfish is invisible. Then other kids do the same experiments with other dead pets. The best dead pet is Shelley, a turtle who grows into a giant turtle like Godzilla who goes crazy and attacks everything.

I really liked it; it’s funny and spooky, more spooky than Hotel Transylvania. My Dad told me that it’s in black and white to make it like a copy of the old Frankenstein movie, which is called an homage. SPOILER ALERT The end is the same as the old Frankenstein movie when they go to a windmill and burn it. I haven’t seen it yet but my Dad says I can watch it and his other old spooky movies (He means Universal Classic Horror).

I give it 4½ stars


Bride of Frankenstein – Behind the Scenes


Colin Clive

Colin Clive (20 January 1900, Saint-Malo, Ille-et-Vilaine, France – 25 June 1937) was an English stage and screen actor best remembered for his portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein in James Whale’s two Universal Frankenstein films ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Bride of Frankenstein’.

Clive was born in France, to an English colonel, and he attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where an injured knee disqualified him from military service and contributed to his becoming a stage actor. Clive first worked with James Whale in the Savoy Theatre production of Journey’s End and subsequently joined the British community in Hollywood in the 1930s, repeating his stage role in the 1930 film version of ‘Journey’s End’, which was also directed by Whale.

Although Colin Clive made only three horror films, Whale’s two Frankenstein movies and Mad Love (1935), he is widely regarded as one of the essential stars of the genre by many film buffs. His portrayal of mad Dr. Frankenstein has proved inspiration and a launching pad for scores of other mad scientist performances in films over the years. In the film, the character is renamed Henry Frankenstein (a later film shows his tombstone bearing the name “Heinrich”) and he played opposite British actor Boris Karloff as the Creature. Clive reprised his role in the superior 1935 sequel, ‘Bride of Frankenstein’, which reunited Clive, Whale and Karloff, as well as first giving Frankenstein the official title of Baron.

Clive was also an in-demand leading man for a number of major film actresses of the era, including Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, and Jean Arthur. He also starred as Edward Rochester in a 1934 adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre’ opposite Virginia Bruce. He was related to Clive of India and appeared in a featured role in a film biography of his relative in 1935.

From June 1929 until his death, Clive was married to actress Jeanne de Casalis. Although she worked in films and on stage, her greatest success was as a comedienne on radio sitcoms in England. De Casalis did not accompany her husband to Hollywood. There has been speculation that de Casalis was a lesbian and Clive either gay or bisexual, and their marriage was one of convenience. David Lewis, the longtime companion of Clive’s frequent director James Whale, flatly states that Clive was not gay.

Colin Clive suffered from severe chronic alcoholism and died from complications of tuberculosis in 1937 at age 37. Clive’s alcoholism was very much apparent to his co-stars, as he was often seen napping on set and sometimes was so intoxicated that he had to be held upright for over-the-shoulder shots. Not only did his ailment contribute to his ultimate demise, it also mentally took its toll. But Clive was also tormented by the medical threat of amputating his long-damaged leg. It was a final demon to taunt this brilliant, sad, young actor before his death.

Forrest J. Ackerman recalls visiting Clive’s body in the funeral parlour. “As I recall, he had a dressing gown on and he was calmly lying there. And he looked very much like that scene in Bride“. Over 300 mourners turned out for the lonely soul that died alone. One of the pallbearers was former co-star Peter Lorre.

His cenotaph is located at Chapel of Pines Crematory, but his ashes were scattered at sea in 1978 after they spent over 40 years unclaimed in the basement of the funeral parlor where his body was brought after his death.


Universal Monsters – the 40’s and 50’s.

During the forties, the most successful of the new series of Universal Horror movies was ‘The Wolf Man’ (1941), which also established Lon Chaney, Jr., as the new leading horror actor for the studio, following in his father’s foot steps.

In 1943, the studio created a remake of ‘Phantom of the Opera’, this time starring Nelson Eddy and Susanna Foster in a film that was as much musical as horror. Claude Rains played the Phantom.

The Frankenstein and Wolf Man series continued with ‘The Ghost of Frankenstein’ (1942) and ‘Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man’ (1943) while ‘Son of Dracula’ (1943) featured Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Count. The Mummy, too, continued to rise from the grave in ‘The Mummy’s Hand’ (1940) and ‘The Mummy’s Tomb’ (1942). Eventually, all of Universal’s monsters, except the Mummy and Invisible Man, would be brought together in ‘House of Frankenstein’ (1944) and ‘House of Dracula’ (1945), where Dracula was played by John Carradine. As the decade drew to a close the comedy ‘Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein’ (1948) proved an instant hit for the studio, with Bela Lugosi starring alongside Lon Chaney, Jr. as Larry Talbot (the Wolf Man), and Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster.

With the success of ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (directed by Jack Arnold in 1954) the revived “Universal Horror” franchise would gain a whole new generation of fans.

The original movies such as Dracula and Frankenstein were re-released as double features in many theatres, before eventually premiering on syndicated American television in 1957 (as part of the famous Shock Theater package of Universal Monster Movies).

Soon dedicated magazines such as Famous Monsters in Filmland would help propel these movies into lasting infamy.


Carl Laemmle

Carl Laemmle (January 17, 1867 – September 24, 1939), born in Laupheim, Wurttemberg, Germany, was a pioneer in American film making and a founder of one of the original major Hollywood movie studios – Universal. Laemmle produced or was otherwise involved in over four hundred films.

Regarded as one of the most important of the early film pioneers, Laemmle was born on the Radstrasse just outside the former Jewish quarter of Laupheim. He emigrated to the US in 1884, working in Chicago as a bookkeeper or office manager for 20 years. He began buying nickelodeons, eventually expanding into a film distribution service, the Laemmle Film Service.

On June 8, 1912, in New York, Carl Laemmle of IMP, Pat Powers of Powers Picture Company, Mark Dintenfass of Champion Films, and Bill Swanson of American Eclair all signed a contract to merge their studios. The four founded the Universal Motion Picture Manufacturing Company in 1914, and established the studio on 235 acres (0.95 km2) of land in the San Fernando Valley, California.

Universal became known as the most paternalistic of all the Hollywood studios. Virtually all of “Uncle” Carl’s relatives (including his son, Carl Jr., and his vastly more talented nephew, William Wyler were employed there). The studio enjoyed enormous hits during the 1920’s, especially Lon Chaney’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ (1923/I) and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (1925) before the actor was lured away to MGM.

Lacking a theater network, Universal concentrated on independent rural theatrical houses, offering affordable exhibitor’s packages which allowed them to change bills numerous times per week. This marketing strategy largely concentrated on product that would appeal to rural theaters through 1930. During the 1920’s Europe also became a major source of revenue, with Universal actively involved in co-productions overseas. Sound productions became the norm by 1929 and Universal responded by increasing the number of quality productions, scoring it’s first Academy Award for Best Picture with ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ (1930) the following year.

However, for me, it will always be synonymous with horror. Universal Monsters or Universal Horror is the name given to a series of distinctive horror, suspense and science fiction films made by Universal Studios from 1923 to 1960. The series began with the aforementioned 1923 version of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, and continued with such movies as ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, ‘Dracula’, ‘Frankenstein’, ‘The Mummy’, ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘Bride of Frankenstein’, ‘Werewolf of London’, ‘Son of Frankenstein’, ‘The Wolfman’, and ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’. The iconic gallery of monsters created by Universal has created a lasting impression on generations of avid moviegoers around the world.

In spite of the Great Depression, executive Carl Laemmle Jr produced massive successes for the studio in 1931 with the legendary Dracula (directed by Tod Browning) and Frankenstein (directed by James Whale). The success of these two movies launched the careers of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, and ushered in a whole new genre of American cinema. With Universal at the forefront, film makers would continue to build on their success with an entire series of monster movies. These films also provided steady work for a number of genre actors including Lionel Atwill, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan, and John Carradine. Other regular talents involved were make-up artists Jack Pierce and Bud Westmore, and composers Hans J. Salter and Frank Skinner. Many of the horror genre’s most well-known conventions—the creaking staircase, the cobwebs, the swirling mist and the mobs of peasants pursuing monsters with torches—originated from these films and those that followed.

The Mummy was produced in 1932, followed by a trilogy of films based on the tales of Edgar Allan Poe: ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’ (1932), The Black Cat’ (1934) and ‘The Raven’ (1935), the latter two of which teamed up Lugosi with Karloff. ‘The Invisible Man’, released in 1933, was a phenomenal hit and would spawn several sequels. Of all the Universal monsters, the most successful and sequelized was undoubtedly the Frankenstein series, which continued with ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935). Althugh Dracula too had its share of sequels, beginning with ‘Dracula’s Daughter’ in 1936.

1936 also marked the end of Universal’s first run of horror films as the Laemmles were forced out of the studio after financial difficulties and a series of box office flops. The monster movies were dropped from the production schedule altogether and wouldn’t re-emerge for another three years. In the meantime the original movies were re-released to surprising success, forcing the new executives to give the go-ahead to ‘Son of Frankenstein’ (1939) starring Basil Rathbone.

Following his death from cardiovascular disease on September 24, 1939, in Beverly Hills, California, at the age of 72, Laemmle was entombed in the Chapel Mausoleum at Home of Peace Cemetary.


Untitled Werewolf Project at Universal

Another new Werewolf movie is on the horizon. It appears that Universal haven’t been put-off by the lack of box-office interest in the genre as they will release straight to the DVD market.

Roger Corman veteran Louis Morneau (Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead; The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting; Bats), has started production on the film called, for now, Untitled Werewolf Thriller. Stephen Rea, Steven Bauer, Ed Quinn, Nia Peeples, Guy Wilson, Adam Croasdell and Rachel DiPillo are in the cast.

Universal Press Release: There’s no safe place to hide as the all-new supernatural Untitled Werewolf Thriller begins principal photography in and around Bucharest, Romania. Universal celebrates its storied history of creatures and horror with an exhilarating original adventure that embraces the popular cultural resurgence of the age-old werewolf myth. Breathtaking action and nail-biting suspense collide as an army of bounty hunters descend on a tiny hamlet in search of the most terrifying monster they have ever fought. The latest entry in the hugely successful DVD Originals line from Universal 1440 Entertainment, a production entity of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Untitled Werewolf Thriller will be released on Blu-ray DVD, Digital Download and On Demand in time for Halloween 2012.

“Universal introduced the movie-going public to the ‘creature feature’ more than a half century ago,” said Glenn Ross, General Manager and Executive Vice President, Universal 1440 Entertainment. “Today,
audiences are once again enthralled by supernatural creatures in books, on television and in movies. Audiences young and old will enjoy this completely new take on a timeless story that is an essential part of Universal’s legacy.”

SYNOPSIS: A monstrous creature terrorizes a 19th Century European village by moonlight and a young man struggles to protect his loved ones from an unspeakable scourge in Untitled Werewolf Thriller, Universal Studios’ all-new addition to its time-honored legacy of supernatural thrillers.
During his studies with the local doctor (Stephen Rea), Daniel (Guy Wilson) witnesses the horrific consequences of werewolf attacks. Watching as the beast’s fearsome reputation draws bounty hunters, thrill seekers and charlatans to the tiny town, Daniel dreams of destroying the ruthless predator. So when a mysterious stranger (Ed Quinn) and his team of skilled werewolf hunters (Stephen Bauer, Adam Croasdell) arrive to pursue the monster, he offers to join them, despite his mother’s (Nia Peeples) protests. But it soon becomes clear that this creature is stronger, smarter and more dangerous than anything they have faced before. As casualties mount and villagers see their neighbors transformed into ravening monsters, the townsfolk take up arms against each other to find the true identity of the werewolf. Amid the hysteria, Daniel begins to suspect he’s closer to his target than he ever dreamed.


The Gawper – An Animated Graveyard Caper

Here’s a fun little short film that is part early Universal horror (or RKO — in particular, the Val Lewton films) and part Tim Burton.

Gawper from A Large Evil Corporation on Vimeo.


Elsa Lanchester

Elsa Sullivan Lanchester (28 October 1902 – 26 December 1986) was an English-American actress with a long career in theatre, film and television.

Lanchester studied dance as a child and after the First World War began performing in theatre and cabaret, where she established her career over the following decade. She met the actor Charles Laughton in 1927, and they were married two years later. She began playing small roles in British films, including the role of Anne of Cleves with Laughton in ‘The Private Lives of Henry VIII’ (1933). His success in American films resulted in the couple moving to Hollywood, where Lanchester played small film roles. It was her role as the title character in ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ (1935), that brought her recognition.

Bride of Frankenstein (advertised as The Bride of Frankenstein) is a 1935 American horror film, the first sequel to ‘Frankenstein’ (1931). Bride of Frankenstein was directed by Jame Whale and stars Boris Karloff as The Monster, Elsa Lanchester in the dual role of his mate and Mary Shelley, Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Ernest Thesiger as Doctor Septimus Pretorius.

The film follows on immediately from the events of the earlier film, and is rooted in a subplot of the original Mary Shelley novel, Frankenstein (1818). On a stormy night, Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Walton) and Lord Byron (Gavin Gordon) praise Mary Shelley ( Elsa Lanchester) for her story of Frankenstein and his Monster. Reminding them that her intention was to impart a moral lesson, Mary says she has more of the story to tell. The scene shifts to the end of the 1931 Frankenstein.

Villagers gathered around the burning windmill cheer the apparent death of the Monster (Boris Karloff, credited as “Karloff”). Their joy is tempered by the realization that Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is also apparently dead. Hans (Reginald Barlow), father of the girl the creature drowned in the previous film, wants to see the Monster’s bones. He falls into a pit underneath the mill, where the Monster strangles him. Hauling himself from the pit, the Monster casts Hans’ wife (Mary Gordon) into it to her death.

In the film, a chastened Henry Frankenstein abandons his plans to create life, only to be tempted and finally coerced by the Monster, encouraged by Henry’s old mentor Dr. Pretorius, into constructing a mate for him… enter Lanchester.

Preparation began shortly after the first film premiered, but script problems delayed the project. Principal photography started in January 1935, with creative personnel from the original returning in front of and behind the camera. Bride of Frankenstein was released to critical and popular acclaim, although it encountered difficulties with some state and national censorship boards. Since its release the film’s reputation has grown, and it is hailed as Whale’s masterpiece and albeit for a short time on screen, Lanchester’s most iconic role.


The Wolfman – Poster Art

Two exceptional Wolfman posters. On the left, a beautiful new version of the original 1941 classic ‘The Wolfman’ starring Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains and Ralph Bellamy; and on the right, new artwork for the 2010 remake of the same name starring Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt and Anthony Hopkins.