No matter how many Universal monster movies I’ve seen, and no matter how much I’ve grown to love their iterations of Dracula and Frankenstein, The Gill-Man always comes out ahead as my favorite Universal monster of all time. While Dracula and The Bride often get the spotlight and special treatment, the Gill-Man has always been the underdog with the great trilogy of horror films in his own right. He just doesn’t receive the credit he deserves, especially in modern horror where Dracula, Frankenstein and Wolfman are still being reworked, while he patiently waits in the wings for his turn.
“Creature Crypt” is a four part weekly column that spotlights two creatures from our childhood that made us in to rabid horror fans. These are the creatures that scared us, wowed us, made us cry, and made us hope they weren’t under our bed.
As with all box sets, there will be controversy and debates among horror fans about what belongs in this set and what doesn’t. “The Bride of Frankenstein” is the only sequel, there’s a baffling inclusion of the Claude Rains “Phantom of the Opera.” And no “The Fly”?
In either case, included in a wonderful box set, with a copy of the 48-page booklet “The Original House of Horror,” and of course eight horror gems for fans of Universal Studios that completely changed the horror genre forever. Not to mention, they changed the way film was made, forever.
(1931, 75 min.)
For me the main attraction of “Dracula” is the performance of Dwight Frye. While “Dracula” is a stellar and often compelling bit of vampire fantasy horror with the great Bela Lugosi offering the most iconic portrayal of the vampire lord, for me the performance that always stuck out was Dwight Frye. His turn as the assistant Renfield is magnificent and his devious laugh is just chilling.
This is a man who has lost all semblance of his persona to Dracula, and now just an animal. He’s mad, and he’s vicious. “Dracula” lives up to its reputation as an entertaining and whimsical bit of horror cinema with remarkable performances, and incredible set pieces, all of which marked a turn in the genre thanks to director and visionary Tod Browning. “Dracula” is where Bela Lugosi was at his all time greatest, and as the count, he drips magnetism, charisma, and threat of a century old monster desperate for blood shed and willing to destroy whom ever he feels stands in his way.
How do you ruin four of the most timeless, scariest, and three-dimensional horror characters in history? Well, if you’re Stephen Sommers you put them in a special effects-laden piece of trash like this, and then make like a politician and cop -out insisting you’re a fan of these monsters, just to cover your bases and prevent criticism for directing and overseeing this chunk of cinematic sacrilege. The best about the opening of “Van Helsing” in theaters, you ask? Their releases of Universal’s monster classics in boxed sets. Continue reading
10. The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
Directed by: Jack Arnold
The creature is a misunderstood fella; and mostly is considered as the lesser known and all around lesser creature from the Universal monster family because his movies were released later in the monster movie days. However, this film stands as my all-time favorite of the Universal monster series. An archaeological team is informed of a discovery on an island of a fossilized hand from a prehistoric creature. Intrigued, an assembled team of explorers journey to the island to research the hand but arrive to find the village of previous diggers brutally slaughtered by a mysterious animal. What they’ll soon learn is that the creature they’re learning of that was long believed to be dead is alive and living within the lagoons of the island. It soon begins wreaking terror on the crew, and falls in love with the lead explorer’s girlfriend (Julie Adams). I fell in love with this movie when I was a child simply because of the sheer entertainment this movie provides. I love how director Arnold doesn’t show much of the creature until the middle of the film where we’re really surprised to see his appearance as he carries off actress Julie Adams into the water. The monster is purely creepy and very cool, and the entire movie is creepy fun. It was later followed by two sequels which were just as good.