By Eli Sanchez
Silver Screen Capture
One of my early introductions into monster movies was 1941’s The Wolf Man which featured a heavy browed sunken eyed heavy weight Lon Chaney, Jr. in the titular role, chasing around the attractive shopkeeper’s daughter Evelyn Ankers. I don’t know if it was the lumbering behemoth of Lawrence Talbot that caught my interest or the slow descent in madness that he fell into after being bitten by Bela Lugosi (let’s face it, a lot of that was going around back then). Needless to say, if you weren’t hooked by Maria Ouspenskaya reading a prophetic curse about the way you walked was thorny through no fault of your own, it tends to lead a guy to drink, or in Larry Talbot’s case…murder.
I wasn’t done. Subsequent introductions to these films culminated into equal affection and infatuation, and I was drawn into the worlds of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and of course one of my favorites, The Invisible Man.
There’s something to be said about a disembodied pair of trousers skipping through the countryside singing, “Here we go gathering nuts in May” with a particularly ham-handed Claude Raines chasing after an unsuspecting townswoman.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I found out there was actually a sequence to this frivolity, a logic to this illogical and a nuance to the notion of nocturnal lycanthropes…well before the likes of Kate Beckinsale appearing in numerous tight leather underwear action films cum sexy vampires with a lust for lycans graced the silver screen back in 2003. No apologies to the Twilight series.
It all started with Dracula and Bela Lugosi and every London female’s nightmare by being hunted down by a handsome Hungarian with a thirst for O Positive and being led into his ultimate bachelor pad…a crypt.
Then it was Frankenstein later that year that introduced us to Karloff and doing more of a pantomime during the infancy of sound films and creating an at first gentle soul who has a penchant for child tossing and a less than bravura performance in classical rhetoric.
It goes on and on, but with the inclusion of The Mummy in 1932, The Wolf Man in 1941, the Universal Monsters followed a series of sequels until their eventual pairing in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in 1943. This was basically the first vestige of the 1940’s team who would lead to some small Bavarian village being the center of this cataclysmic event and also witness to an odd number of Leiderhosen clad locals perpetually engaged in Oktoberfest. A deluge occurs, a sulphur pit strategically exists directly under a castle, and we along with every villager feel pathos because despite the strangely supernaturally occupied village of Visaria, we still find the village idyllic and could see ourselves raising our kids there.
They were re-teemed, resurrected, recharged and re-sanguinated with House of Frankenstein, 1944 and House of Dracula in 1945.
But as the years went on, the interest for many of these characters waned and their ultimate doom was not at the hands of the theater going public, but by Abbott and Costello. They pretty much met everyone and they met their doom. Even Bela Lugosi inexplicably resurrected from the corpse of John Carradine couldn’t survive a comedy.