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Posts tagged “Universal Monsters

Interview With The Vampire… Again

interview_with_the_vampire_xlgIt’s been 20 years since Neil Jordan’s film version of Interview With the Vampire saw Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt sucking blood, and now Universal is getting back into monsters in a big way. Not only are Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan spearheading a relaunch of the old Universal Monsters line, beginning with a new Mummy movie, the studio has snapped up rights to all of Anne Rice‘s Vampire Chronicles books.

So the whole 13-book series starting with Interview With the Vampire and ending with the forthcoming Prince Lestat novel, and the screenplay for Tales of the Body Thief, adapted by Rice’s son Christopher Rice, all belong to Universal for the time being.

The Wrap reports that Brian Grazer will produce for Imagine Entertainment with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, while Bobby Cohen will executive produce.

Reports of Universal getting into business with Anne Rice actually go back years; in 2009 reports came out that the studio had picked up rights to the author’s books. Imagine optioned that Body Thief script a couple years back, too. There was even a point when Robert Downey Jr. was apparently attached to play Lestat in a new film based on Interview With the Vampire.

Regardless, nothing was done with them at the time. Now, with Imagine Entertainment and the old Kurtzman/Orci producing team working on the project, we could see pretty swift movement.

Ironically, the Kurtzman and Morgan-produced Mummy reboot sounds like an action-adventure film, which is pretty far from the original Universal Monsters. But Anne Rice’s vampire books have a really romantic angle to them. The Vampire Chronicles films could end up being better standard-bearers for the old Universal Monsters identity than the new Universal Monsters films will be!


Universal Look To Relaunch Monster Franchises

universal-monstersNot sure how I feel about this, I’m still scarred from that vile Van Helsing movie… Universal Pictures most enduring legacy is its library of classic movie monsters that include Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, Creature Of The Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man, Bride Of Frankenstein, and The Mummy. Universal is now dedicating renewed resources and an unprecedented, far-reaching commitment to revitalise its monster heritage.

The studio is in early stages of developing a substantial new production endeavor that will expand and unify a network of classic characters and stories. The architects of that narrative will be Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan. Kurtzman recently broke with partner Roberto Orci, but his big-scale projects have included Transformers, Star Trek and The Amazing Spider-Man. Morgan is the writer behind five installments of The Fast And The Furious, which has been Universal’s most reliably lucrative franchise. It’s not set in stone yet if either will write, but they will soon be going around town enlisting talent to bring new cinematic life to these enduring characters from lore, literature and Universal’s own library. While Universal has selectively tapped its Movie Monster library for The Mummy, Van Helsing, The Wolfman, and the upcoming Dracula Untold, this will be the first time that the studio has formalized an approach to these classic characters in a cohesive, connected way rather than as a series of stand-alone projects by disparate filmmaking teams.

They’ve begun the meetings to put together an interconnected slate of Monster films, and the first will be a reboot of The Mummy, which will be released April 22, 2016. Part of their duty will be to work closely with production, marketing, promotions and consumer product to support the revival. They will also reevaluate projects which have preexisting attachments, and bring it under one cohesive strategy.

Obviously some of those monster pictures haven’t panned out. With Marvel Studios and Disney building a billion-dollar business relying on the Marvel Comics superhero character library, Universal seems to be trawling it’s heritage and is looking to dust off and modernize the classic movie monsters that inspired many of the movie monsters we see today.

I’m just wary…


Jack Pierce

Jack-Pierce_bannerJack Pierce (born Janus Piccoula; May 5, 1889 – July 19, 1968) was a Hollywood make-up artist most famous for creating the iconic make-up worn by Boris Karloff in Universal Studios’ 1931 adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, along with various other classic monster make-ups for Universal Studios.

frankenstein_jack-pierce_themanbehindthemonstersAfter immigrating to the United States from his native Greece as a teenager, Pierce tried his hand at several careers, including a stint as an amateur baseball player. In the opportunist twenties, Pierce embarked on a series of jobs in cinema—cinema manager, stuntman, actor, even assistant director—which would eventually lead to his mastery of in the field of makeup. In 1915 he was hired to work on crews for the studio’s productions. On the 1926 set of The Monkey Talks, Jack Pierce created the make-up for actor Jacques Lernier who was playing a simian with the ability to communicate. The head of Universal, Carl Laemmle, was won over with the creative outcome. Next came Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, also a silent Universal picture. Pierce was then immediately hired full-time by the newly established Universal Pictures motion picture studio. The 1930 death of Lon Chaney, who throughout the 1920s had made a name for himself by creating grotesque and often painful horror makeups, opened a niche for Pierce and Universal, Chaney’s films provided audiences with the deformed, monstrous faces that Pierce and moviegoers so clearly enjoyed.

jack-pierce_boris-karloff_frankensteinUniversal’s first talkie horror film, Dracula, eschewed elaborate horror make-up. Pierce designed a special color greasepaint for Bela Lugosi for his vampire character, but apparently the actor insisted on applying his own makeup. For all film appearances of the character thereafter, Pierce instituted a different look entirely, recasting Dracula as a man with greying hair and a moustache. The most significant creation during Pierce’s time at the studio was clearly Frankenstein, originally begun with Lugosi in the role of the Monster. The preliminary design was apparently similar to the Paul Wegener 1920 German film of The Golem. When James Whale replaced Florey as director, the concept was radically changed. Pierce came up with a design which was horrific as well as logical in the context of the story. So, where Henry Frankenstein has accessed the brain cavity, there is a scar and a seal, and the now famous “bolts” on the neck are actually electrodes; carriers for the electricity used to revive the stitched-up corpse. How much input director James Whale had into the initial concept remains controversial. Universal loaned out Pierce for the Lugosi film White Zombie. They also loaned out some of the Dracula sets for the troublesome filming. Lugosi had collaborated with Pierce on the look of his devilish character in the film.

frankenstein_boris-karloff_jack-piercePierce’s make-up can be seen in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Mummy (1932), Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man (1941), and their various sequels associated with the characters. He also helped comedian Bud Abbott augment his thinning hairline with a widow’s peak toupee in his early films with Lou Costello. Pierce’s final credit is as makeup artist for the TV show Mister Ed from 1961 to 1964. He died in 1968 from uremia.

Jack Pierce’s enduring work at Universal has become a huge influence to many in the entertainment field, including make-up artists Rick Baker and Tom Savini. Jack Pierce was an innovator in the world of screen entertainment and material design. Pierce understandably felt he never got the recognition he deserved and died a bitter man. Finally, in 2003, Pierce was recognized with a lifetime achievement award from the Hollywood Make-up Artist and Hair Stylist Guild.

jack-pierce_wolf-man_lon-chaney-jrIn recent years, there is a strong desire to give Pierce a Hollywood Boulevard star for his popular lasting triumphs that have been preserved for decades on the movies he worked on. Pierce undeniably created screen icons to last beyond his lifetime. His contributions still continue to attract droves of attention to his astonishingly memorable, entirely original designs.


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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Peanut Sculpture – By Steve Casino

Steve-Casino_Creature_Bride-Frankenstein_MunstersCheck out these exquisitely made pieces of art… from peanut shells by artist Steve Casino. I’ve posted some of his horror-themed art here, there is much more at his website HERE

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Universal Monsters – Infographic

If you have a monster fan in your life who isn’t quite as in touch with the Universal Monsters legacy as they should be, send them this handy chart, which highlights all of the major films involving these core characters from 1923-1960. Courtesy of  Movie.com

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Dracula – By Geraldo Moreno

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Rick Baker for M.A.C.

Rick-Baker_MAC-CosmeticsLearn how movie make-up master Rick Baker brings the Monster’s Bride to life and how he plans, paints and perfects his Zombie, a creature-creation the artist designed exclusively for M∙A∙C to inspire your Halloween look. Watch how to create the make-up magic yourself.


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Absolut Karloff – Boris Karloff Tribute

Absolut Karloff


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The Invisible Man – Poster Art by Francesco Francavilla


Dracula – Poster Art

Another fantastic poster from Mondo. Martin Ansin continues the Universal Monsters series with his interpretation of the 1931 film Dracula. Already sold out… missed out again.


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.


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.