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This is a journey through Halliwell’s Film Guide, highlighting Universal Studios' cycle of monster movies – or horror films, or psychological thrillers, or supernatural mysteries – which began with the release of Dracula in 1931.  Over the next fourteen years the studio would make around thirty films in a similar vein, mostly featuring one or more of five major characters: Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man and the Mummy – with a host of actors all repeating performances and interchanging roles, such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Lionel Atwill and Lon Chaney Jnr. – the latter managing to play four out of five of the above monsters.

We will follow the sequence in chronological order, taking in each series featuring the genre mainstays mentioned above, with the occasional Poe ‘adaptation’ or other strange tale thrown in (or you can jump straight to the summary list and navigate from there).

Each entry consists of the title followed by Halliwell’s rating and the year of release; his précis and assessment from the Guide, and production or performance contributions he thought were of a particularly high standard (denoted by italics in the Guide). It will become clear, however, that the real artistry lay in the earlier films, with each series steadily deteriorating, sometimes to an absurd level, as time went on.

Also along the way, notes by Halliwell from sources other than the Guide will help ‘flesh’ out our story…

 
 

[Please note: this is not intended to be a definitive guide to the movies in question, as that information can be obtained elsewhere.  We are only concerned with Leslie Halliwell’s impressions of the films and his written opinions.]

 
 
 
 

 

It all began with a Hungarian playing a Romanian...

   
 

“Listen to them… children of the night… what music they make…”

 
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Dracula*** (1931)
          ‘A Transylvanian vampire count gets his comeuppance in Yorkshire.’
          ‘A film which has much to answer for.  It started its star and its studio off on horror careers, and it launched innumerable sequels.  In itself, after two eerie reels, it becomes a pedantic and slow transcription of a stage adaptation, and its climax takes place offscreen; but for all kinds of reasons it remains full of interest.’
Significant production contributions: d Tod Browning  ph Karl Freund

(Halliwell is a little cheeky here in also italicising Bram Stoker’s name even though the guy had been dead for twenty years.  Surprisingly, though, Tchaikovsky, whose music is used, doesn’t rate italics.)

Significant performances: Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan

 
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Halliwell later wrote –

 

         ‘The 1931 Dracula has not maintained its original impact.  That it is watchable at all is most probably due to the strange tricks which Bela Lugosi performs with the English language, and to the absurd exaggerations that pass for acting with him and Dwight Frye.’

 

However, its influence was undeniable:

 

          ‘…for audiences of 1931 this was horror; and without this now stiff and unfrightening film there would have been no other Universal monsters and no family sagas of their dark doings. As it was, within a year the genuinely classical Frankenstein was unleashed to strike true terror into the hearts of the world, and from then on there was no turning back.’

 
 

 

And so, enter heavyweight number two…

   
 

“It's alive… alive!”

 
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Frankenstein**** (1931)
          ‘A research scientist creates a living monster from corpses, but it runs amok.’
          ‘Whole books have been written about this film and its sequels.  Apart from being a fascinating if primitive cinematic work in its own right, it set its director and star on interesting paths and established a Hollywood attitude towards horror (mostly borrowed from German silents such as The Golem).  A seminal film indeed, which at each repeated viewing belies its age.’
Significant production contributions: w Garrett Fort, Francis Edward Faragoh, John L. Balderston  d James Whale  ph Arthur Edeson  ad Charles D. Hall
Significant performances: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Edward Van Sloan, Frederick Kerr, Dwight Frye

 
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LH felt that British director James Whale deserved particular praise:

 

          ‘Many more recent films date badly, but Frankenstein seems to have lost none of its stark style, though the romantic scenes, in which Whale clearly took no interest, might have been treated more realistically. It remains more truly frightening than any of our modern horror sagas filled with bloody corpses and severed eyeballs. And it retains this effect because Whale intuitively used his camera to get through to fears and hopes which lurk within all of us.’

 

And another Brit's contribution was crucial to the film's success:

 

          ‘…audiences must have been aware that they were to witness the birth of a new star. and Karloff does not disappoint. what wonders of expression [he] can bring into that totally false face, especially when compared with the stolid comic-strip vacuum offered by his several successors. It is almost true to say that every frame in which he appears makes a still picture worth hanging on the wall.’

 

It is astonishing, though, that in no edition of the Guide did make-up artist Jack Pierce get credit for creating possibly the most iconic visage in the history of movies, an image that is still imitated and parodied even now, over seventy years after it was conceived.  Halliwell at least had this to say elsewhere:

 

          ‘…we begin to see the cleverness of the make-up designed by Jack Pierce. Any light which catches the face gives it new shadows and highpoints, all of them alarming.’

 

We break from the walking dead for a moment to introduce a marvellous curiosity. Technically nothing supernatural happens, but it deserves a place simply because you'll never see another film quite like it -

 
 

“No beds!  They can't 'ave beds!”

 
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The Old Dark House**** (1932)
          ‘Stranded travellers take refuge in the house of a family of eccentrics.’
          ‘Marvellous horror comedy filled with superb grotesques and memorable lines, closely based on a Priestley novel but omitting the more thoughtful moments.  A stylist’s and connoisseur’s treat.’
Production: w Benn W. Levy, R. C. Sherriff  d James Whale  ph Arhur Edeson  ad Charles D. Hall
Performances: Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Boris Karloff, Ernest Thesiger, Eva Moore

 
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Unfortunately, the years have not been kind to one of Halliwell's favourites:

 

          ‘…something went out of my life a few years later when it could no longer be shown because the literary rights had lapsed.  When, in 1982, I began to buy films for Channel Four I negotiated its British television premiere; but meanwhile something had happened to the negative, and it seems that The Old Dark House can never again be seen in a print which glows so beautifully and with such satisfying depth, turning faces into gargoyles and shadowed corners into areas of tingling terror, as the one I saw, and saw again, in Bury in June 1947.’

 
 

 

An elderly Egyptian gentleman now makes his first appearance, and LH pays further tribute to the actor tasked with bringing him (back) to life:

   

          ‘Certainly Karloff himself brought sympathy, even tragic status, to his mad doctors and monsters; viewers were shocked by their plight and relieved when their suffering was over. But he was set his most difficult task when Universal in 1932 decided to film The Mummy.’

 

"I loved you once, but now you belong with the dead."

 
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The Mummy** (1932)
          ‘An Egyptian mummy comes back to life and covets a young girl.’
          ‘Strange dreamlike horror film with only fleeting frissons but plenty of narrative interest despite the silliest of stories and some fairly stilted acting.’
Production: w John L. Balderston  d Karl Freund  ph Charles Stumar  ad Willy Pogany
Performances: Boris Karloff

 
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The main character's appearance in bandages is limited to a brief shot early on, and his rejuvenation takes place offscreen.

 

          ‘For the rest of the movie Karloff has been magically restored to something resembling normal human appearance, assuming you know a few very wrinkled humans. however he spends the remainder of his existence mooning over a young woman who resembles his lost love of 3000 years ago. Then Isis (or Osiris, or one of those gods) reduces him to dust, and we can all go home happy.’

 

LH wasn't sure the movie was a horror film at all, thinking it.

 

         ‘...a macabre romance rather than a thriller. When Carl Laemmle first saw the rough cut, he must have wondered whether to release it. He did, with cuts, but its very moderate box office results temporarily halted Boris Karloff's early career. Fifty years later, The Mummy seems to contain its star's subtlest performance.’

 

 

The British are dominating the genre now, as another takes centre stage for Mr Whale’s third masterpiece:

   
 

"The whole world's my hiding place!"

 
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The Invisible Man**** (1933)
          ‘A scientist discovers a means of making himself invisible, but in the process becomes a megalomaniac.’
          ‘Superb blend of eccentric character comedy melodrama and trick photography in a Hollywood English setting; remarkably faithful to the spirit of the book.  It made a star of Claude Rains in his first film, even though he is seen for only a couple of seconds.’
Production: w R. C. Sheriff, Philip Wylie, (H. G. Wells)  d James Whale  ph Arthur Edeson  sp John P. Fulton
Performances: Claude Rains, E. E. Clive, Una O’Connor.

 
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LH also said:

 

          The Invisible Man, edited with tremendous pace, is for the most part not only packed with fun, thrills and bewildering photographic tricks; it is a work of true eccentricity, and Hollywood did not allow many of those through its net.’

 

 

Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff begin their onscreen rivalry with an unusual tale:

   
 

"I don't know, it all sounds like a lot of superstitious baloney to me."

 
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The Black Cat* (1934)
          ‘A revengeful doctor seeks out the Austrian architect and devil-worshipper who betrayed his country in World War I.’
          ‘Absurd and dense farrago set in a modernistic but crumbling castle which is eventually blown to bits just as its owner is skinned alive.  Mostly rather dull despite the extraordinary plot, but the thing has moments of style, a delightful cod devil worship sequence (especially for audiences with a rudimentary knowledge of Latin) and nothing at all to do with the title or Edgar Allan Poe.’
Production: ph John Mescall
Performances: Bela Lugosi

 
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One old favourite now reaches its zenith, with the last of James Whale's contributions, as we drink a toast…

   
 

"…to a new world of Gods and Monsters!"

 
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The Bride of Frankenstein**** (1935)
          ‘Baron Frankenstein is blackmailed by Dr Praetorious into reviving his monster and building a mate for it.’
          ‘Frankenstein was startlingly good in a primitive way; this sequel is the screen’s sophisticated masterpiece of black comedy, with all the talents working deftly to one end.  Every scene has its own delights, and they are woven together into a superb if wilful cinematic narrative which, of its gentle mocking kind, has never been surpassed.’
Production: w John L. Balderston, William Hurlbut  d James Whale  ph John Mescall  m Franz Waxman.
Performances: Boris Karloff, Ernest Thesiger, E. E. Clive, Elsa Lanchester

 
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This remarkable mixture of horror and comedy came in at number three in Halliwell's list of all-time favourites.

 

          ‘…it plays more as a black comedy with horror asides, and is narrated, in an eighteenth-century drawing room during a stormy night, by Mary Shelley, explaining to her husband and to Lord Byron how a sequel to her famous tale might run...’

 

Once again director James Whale takes much of the credit:

 

          ‘…this had to be his own kind of horror film, something with more black comedy than outright terror, a tale peopled by eccentrics of his own choosing and decorated with little twists of black fancy in which he had come to delight...’

 

Although Ernest Thesiger, as the evil Dr Praetorius, deserves a large share too:

 

          ‘You wouldn't think so from the billing, but Thesiger was the real star of The Bride of Frankenstein. for his two performances under Whale's direction he richly deserved an Academy Award.’

 
 

 

We sidetrack for another oddity, sadly lacking any big names but with a lot to answer for:

   
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Werewolf of London* (1935)    
          ‘Werewolves fight for a rare Tibetan flower with curative properties.’
          ‘Patchy horror film which lurches from excellent suspense scenes to tedious chunks of superfluous dialogue.  In many ways a milestone in the history of its kind.’
Production: d Stuart Walker  ph Charles Stumar.

 

 
 

 

Those two old warhorses Karloff and Lugosi are at it again:

   
 

"Your monstrous ugliness breeds monstrous hatred."

 
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The Raven* (1935)
          ‘A doctor obsessed by Poe-inspired torture devices transforms a gangster on the run into a hideous mutant.’
          ‘Silly but quite effective horror film with memorable sequences.’
Performances: Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff.

 

 
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…and again, in another strange story which is not actually part of the Invisible Man series -

   
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The Invisible Ray* (1935)
          ‘A scientist discovers a superpowerful element which makes him homicidal.’
          ‘Slow-moving science fiction with a touch of horror, and the pattern for its star’s [Karloff] many later roles as a sympathetic man who turns into a monster.  Interesting rather than stimulating.’
Production: sp John P. Fulton.

 

 
 
 

 

The long wait for a sequel to Dracula finally ended, but Bela Lugosi's absence was a surprise -

   

          ‘Since Universal's battery of writers had already shown the Frankenstein monster safe and well after his apparently fatal adventure in the blazing windmill, it can surely not have been beyond their imaginative powers to resurrect the Count.’

 

"She was beautiful when she died... a hundred years ago."

 
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Dracula’s Daughter** (1936)
          ‘The daughter of the old count follows his remains to London.’
          ‘Lively sequel which develops in the manner of a Sherlock Holmes story.’
Production: Lambert Hillyer.
Performances: Otto Kruger.

 

 
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LH elaborates further -

 

          ‘…a neat if rather doleful little film, but despite careful attention it has the look of a support. what we are invited to enjoy is less a feast of horror than a number of mildly interesting hors d'oeuvres. The script is carefully balanced but never finds its batwings.’

 
 

 

The continuation of the Frankenstein series is here explained -

   

          ‘In 1936 and 1937 a double bill revival of Frankenstein and Dracula played all over the world, and Universal executives were astounded when they came to tot up the enormous receipts. So in 1939 a big budget was expended on Son of Frankenstein, a few scenes of which were shot in colour before taste and a sudden economy drive dictated otherwise.’

 

“He... he... does things for me."

 
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Son of Frankenstein*** (1939)
          ‘Handsomely mounted sequel to Bride of Frankenstein and the last of the classic trio.  The monster is less interesting, but there are plenty of other diversions, including the splendid if impractical sets.’
Production: w Willis Cooper  d Rowland V. Lee  ph George Robinson  m Frank Skinner  ad Jack Otterson.
Performances: Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Edgar Norton.

 
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Halliwell later found it to be.

 

          ‘...an expensive-looking piece full of robust barnstorming from actors who are upstaged throughout by massive gothic sets.  Honours were for once taken by Bela Lugosi as Ygor, the malevolent shepherd, who had been hung once already and can therefore have no further crime laid at his door.’

 

It also features another memorable 'part':

 

          ‘Police Inspector Krogh (Lionel Atwill in a much-parodied performance which may have been the origin of Dr Strangelove). manipulates in stiff Teutonic fashion a rather squeaky false arm.’

 

However, we bid farewell to an iconic image:

 

          ‘It was Karloff's last cinematic outing as the monster: he thought that in his fifties he was past it, and besides he despaired of finding the script that would provide him with the acting opportunities he had enjoyed in 1931 and 1935.’

 

 

Vincent Price now takes on the role of the man who wasn't there:

   
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The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
          ‘A man convicted of killing his brother uses the secret of invisibility to find the real culprit.’
          ‘Second in the series takes itself too seriously: a slow starter which works its way to a strong climax.’
Production: sp John P. Fulton

 

 
 
 
 

 

The studio was once again pretty tardy in extending a series, with the Mummy at last returning, this time with Tom Tyler beneath the wrapping.

   

          ‘Eight years went by before a sequel was envisaged to what had proved an only barely profitable grotesquerie, and even then one of the chief concerns was to re-use some of the expensive sets from the recently completed jungle melodrama Green Hell.’

 

“Neither time nor death can touch us…”

 
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The Mummy’s Hand** (1940)
          ‘The high priest of an evil sect revivifies an Egyptian mummy and uses it to kill off members of an archaeological expedition.’
          ‘Semi-sequel to 1932’s The Mummy, economically using the same flashback.  It starts off in comedy vein, but the last half hour is among the most scary in horror film history.’
Production: d Christy Cabanne.
Performances: George Zucco, Tom Tyler, Eduardo Ciannelli.

 
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However, LH later said -

 

          ‘Looked at in the cold light of a later day, The Mummy's Hand is mostly innocuous banter, and the monster moves so slowly as to be a creature of hilarity rather than horror, but it touched a raw nerve in a twelve-year-old-schoolboy.’

 

 

The genre is nearly into its second decade now, with quality in short supply, as the invisible 'man' series illustrates.

   
 
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The Invisible Woman (demoted from *, in the 7th Edition) (1940)
          ‘A mad scientist turns a model invisible.’
          ‘Screwball comedy with a deteriorating star [John Barrymore] at his hammiest: generally very laboured, but with some funny moments.’

 
 
 

 

But a new franchise was about to get underway -

   
 

                           “Even the man who is pure in heart,

 
 

                           And says his prayers by night,

 
 

                           May become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms,

 
 

                           And the moon is pure and bright."

 
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The Wolf Man* (demoted from **, in the 5th Edition) (1941)
          ‘The son [Lon Chaney Jnr.] of an English squire [Claude Rains] comes home, is bitten by a gypsy werewolf [Bela Lugosi], and becomes one himself.’
          ‘Dazzlingly cast, moderately well staged, but dramatically very disappointing horror piece which established a new Universal monster who later met Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello, and several other eccentrics.’
Production: ph Joseph Valentine
Performances: Lon Chaney Jnr, Maria Ouspenskaya.

 
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Despite italicising his name in the Guide, Halliwell was never very impressed with Mr. Chaney -

 

          ‘After this success Chaney dropped the 'Jnr' and had himself billed as 'the screen's master character actor'; at the same time his acting talent, modest in the first place, left him entirely, and his supremely wooden performances ruined a good many promising horror feasts. His father would have been ashamed.’

 
 

 

'The screen's master character actor' now steps into the Monster's hob-nailed boots

   
 

“Your father was Frankenstein, and your mother was the lightning!”

 
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The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
          ‘Frankenstein’s second son [Cedric Hardwicke] implants evil shepherd Igor’s [Bela Lugosi] brain into the monster.’
          ‘The rot set in with this flatly-handled potboiler, which had none of the literary mood or cinematic interest of Bride or Son which preceded it, and suffered from a particularly idiotic script.’

 

 
 

LH also noted:

 

          The Ghost of Frankenstein is economically set, flatly lit and dully shot, and it lacks actors who care. Hardwicke walks through his role with something like contempt; Chaney might as well be a block of wood, and even Lugosi is less impressive than before. But the old malarkey struck a responsive chord at the box office, and Universal badly wanted to make more Frankenstein stories. Alas, they only made them badly.’

 

 

A topical war-centred plot creeps into the Invisible Man series:

   
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Invisible Agent* (1942)
          ‘Nazi and Japanese spies seek the secret of invisibility from its inventor.’
          ‘Lively fantasy thriller with a cast [Cedric Hardwicke, Peter Lorre] more distinguished than it deserves.’
Production: sp John P. Fulton.

 

 
 
 

 

We sidetrack for a moment, and take in a plotline that defies logic:

   
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Night Monster (1942)
          ‘Murders are committed in a spooky house by a cripple who produces synthetic legs by self-hypnotism.’
          ‘Stilted, creaky would-be thriller with a good cast and an impertinent plot.’

 

 
 

Relatively kind in the Guide, Halliwell later called the film.

 

          ‘.an irredeemable cheapjack effort. a gem of incompetence. the greatest mystery about Night Monster, apart from the matter of why it was made at all, is the billing. Bela Lugosi, who gets half a screen to himself, plays the butler. who not only didn't do it but has no part in the plot.’

 
 

 

Chaney must have been determined to play every monster going, as he now dons the bandages.

   
 

"There is death in the night air - your work begins."

 
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The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)
          ‘The aged high priest sends a young disciple to America, where Kharis dutifully kills off those who violated the tomb.’
          ‘Shoddily made sequel to The Mummy’s Hand, with much re-used footage; astonishingly, it broke box office records for its year, and provoked two more episodes.’

 

 
 

The studio had taken a few liberties with continuity in order to set up this sequel:

 

          ‘[George Zucco] explains that he was not after all so badly hurt in the previous fracas: 'The bullet he fired into me only crushed my arm. The fire they thought consumed Kharis only seared and twisted his leg. Funny, when we last saw Kharis he was flat on his face in a pool of flaming oil. And Andoheb was not only shot full of holes but fell down a long flight of stone steps.’

 

Lon Chaney Jnr's ubiquity seemed also to be backfiring:

 

          ‘...although Chaney claims to have complained bitterly about his limited role, a contract is a contract; he played Kharis twice more before all concerned lost interest.’

 

And LH later commented -

 

          ‘The only thing to be said for the arrant potboiler called The Mummy's Tomb is that it made a surprising amount of money and so kept the monster stalking for two further films of diminishing plausibility.’

 
 
 

 

They must have had a problem when casting this one: I wonder if Chaney wanted both roles? Bela Lugosi ended up playing the Monster.

   
 

"It shouldn't be difficult to connect these wires again."

 
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Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man** (1943)
          ‘Lawrence Talbot, the wolf man, travels to Vasaria in the hope of a cure, and finds the Frankenstein monster being reactivated.’
          ‘Once one recovered from the bargain basement combination of two monsters in one picture, this was a horror comic with stylish sequences, weakened by cuts in the script and a miscast Bela Lugosi.’
Production: d Roy William Neill.
Performances: Maria Ouspenskaya.

 
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Later, though, Halliwell would forgive Lugosi's acting:

 

          ‘.the performance you see on the screen (I later discovered) was not entirely his fault. This is the film in which the monster first stalks around with outstretched arms, because when the film was shot he was supposed to be blind, but for some reason all reference to this was removed in the editing.’

 

However, plot explanations were becoming increasingly strained:

 

          ‘The geography of FMTWM is curious. Ludwig's old home was previously shown as a small chateau on flat ground just at the end of town, but it has now become a ruin on the thickly forested slope of a distant mountain. Moreover, when Talbot, having suffered an unfortunate change into his wolf-like persona, is chased by the townsfolk into it, the ruin turns out to have cellars filled with natural ice, even though down in the village it has been a summer evening.’

 
 

 

[1943 was also a sad year for the horror film as one of its most famous character actors, Dwight Frye, passed away. He had managed to appear - either in a prominent supporting role or as a completely uncredited extra - in all five of the Frankenstein films mentioned thus far, as well as Dracula and The Invisible Man.]

 

 
 
 

Halliwell now notes that World War II was having an impact on the horror genre:

 

          ‘Americans found it difficult enough to comprehend what was happening in the real Europe, while the imaginary one, natural habitat of the legendary monsters, seemed more and more remote. Quality of production no longer paid off; instead there was an insatiable public appetite for cheap, brisk entertainment on the comic-strip level, with plenty of mindless action and not too much regard for logic or probability.’

 
 

 

And thus the son of Dracula was born, with - yes, you guessed it - Mr. Chaney now donning the cape and fangs.

   
 

“You have what I want… what I need… what I must have!”

 
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Son of Dracula* (1943)
          ‘A mysterious stranger named Alucard [read it backwards], with a penchant for disappearing in puffs of smoke, turns up on a southern plantation.’
          ‘Stolid series entry with a miscast lead; nicely handled moments.  The title cheats: he isn’t the son of, but the old man himself…’
Production: d Robert Siodmak  ph George Robinson.

 
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LH was fairly charitable:

 

          ‘It was fast moving with a story set in America for easy assimilation by the juvenile audience. yet it achieved a unique sombreness from its Louisiana bayou setting, and its characterisation of the heroine as a melancholic depressive who longs above all to become one of the undead.’

 

But the film itself wasn't a great success -

 

          ‘Within its limits reasonably logical, and unusually plotted to say the least, Son of Dracula seems only to have been made at the wrong time. In America it was virtually ignored; in Britain the censor, very curiously, did not see fit even to award it the 'H' for horror certificate.’

 
 

 

It's all over for the Invisible Man, easily the weakest series in the genre, but the special effects are still impressing Halliwell -

   
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The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944)
          ‘A psychopathic killer on the run takes refuge with a doctor who has discovered the secret of invisibility.’
          ‘Curious reversion to the original story in that the invisible man is now again the villain; but otherwise there’s no flavour at all to this horror comic set in a phoney England.’
Production: sp John P. Fulton.

 
 

LH later commented that.

 

          ‘.the script and treatment were too stodgy for anyone to care, despite the novelty of an invisible Great Dane.’

 
 

 

Back to a contract-obligated Chaney in bandages:

   
 

"It does sound ridiculous, doesn't it?"

 
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The Mummy’s Ghost (1944)
          ‘The slow but unstoppable Kharis is now on the trail of his long-lost princess.’
          ‘A slight improvement on its predecessor.’

 

 

 
 

LH also said of this series -

 

          ‘Although the Mummy invariably moved as stiffly as the Tin Man before Dorothy found the oil can, no small-part actor was ever found who could move fast enough to get out of the way...’

 

In fact, things were getting pretty silly everywhere -

 

          ‘.individually the ghouls have worn out their welcome by now, but billed in all-star horrors they still have value at the box office. since from now on Universal's horrors would be presented somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it was thought unnecessary to provide them with logical or even watertight scripts.’

 

 

And so three monsters appear in one pic. John Carradine's Dracula gets killed off early before the story shifts emphasis -

   
 

"I'm going to give that brain of yours a new home."

 
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House of Frankenstein* (1944)
          ‘A mad doctor [Karloff] thaws out the monster [Glenn Strange] and the Wolf Man [Chaney] (frozen at the end of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man) but comes to a sticky end.’
          ‘Originally called Chamber of Horrors, this was the studio’s first attempt to package its monsters (the first two reels are about Dracula).  It could have been pacier in view of the possibilities, but it has its interest.’

 
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An old friend is welcomed back but in an unfamiliar role:

 

          ‘As for Karloff, in returning to the fold he brought nothing to the part of Dr Niemann except an agreeably sepulchral whisper.’

 

LH concludes:

 

          House of Frankenstein, despite its packed plot, is a somewhat boring film, with too much footage allocated to the gypsy girl, who is clearly doomed to meet a tragic fate from one or other of her unpleasant lovers.’

 

 

Our Egyptian friend finally staggers off the screen.

   
 

"Sometimes I feel as though it's all part of a strange dream."

 
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The Mummy’s Curse (1944)
          ‘Sequel to The Mummy’s Ghost, notable for many loose ends of narrative.  Last of the Universal mummy films (until Abbott and Costello met him).’

 

 

 
 

Explanations for the continuation of the series had now gone off the bizarre scale:

 

          Curse has too great a lapse of the logic required even from a low-budget horror series on its last legs.’

 

The main problem being that in this film the Mummy is found in a Louisiana swamp, having fallen in at the end of Ghost -

 

          ‘Ah yes, the swamp, murmurs the audience to itself; but wasn’t that in New England?’

 

By this time, though, it was probably best not to think about it too much -

 

          ‘…this is Universal, where many apparent truths flourish for the duration of the movie, but whither as soon as the lights go up.’

 
 

 

It's all coming to a rather sad end, but these undead chaps won't give up lightly -

   
 

“The spark of life is still there, waiting to be revived... ”

 
click for more info
 

House of Dracula* (1945)
          ‘As a result of being visited in one evening by Count Dracula [Carradine], the Wolf Man [Chaney] and the Frankenstein monster [Strange], a sympathetic doctor goes on the rampage.’
          ‘Mind-boggling finale to the first Universal Monster cycle, with a happy ending for the Wolf Man.  Cheaply made and not really inventive, but it has to be seen to be believed.’

 
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Halliwell's verdict elsewhere:

 

          ‘It is a gem of ineptitude.  Its badness lies in its extremely flat handling and in the fact that the writers were not allowed to transfer to the screen the fun they must have had in cooking up its absurd plot.  As it is, the laughter it evokes is clearly unintentional.’

 
 

 

Since the genre had become something of a joke by now anyway, there was only one direction to go in:

   
 

"Every night when the moon is full I turn into a wolf."

 
 

"You and fifty million other guys!"

 
 

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein** (1948)
          ‘Two railway porters deliver crates containing the Frankenstein monster [Strange], Dracula [Lugosi], and the Wolf Man [Chaney].
          ‘Fairly lively spoof which put an end to Universal’s monsters for a while.  Good typical sequences for the stars, a few thrills, and some good lines.  Probably the Abbott and Costello film which survives the best.’
Production: w Robert Lees, Frederic I. Rinaldo, John Grant.
Performances: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jnr.

 
 
 

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man* (1951)
          ‘A boxer accused of murder makes himself invisible while two detectives clear him.’
          ‘Quite a bright comedy with good trick effects.’

 
 
 

 

Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy* (1955)
          ‘A missing medallion leads to a lost tomb and a living mummy.’
          ‘The comedians show their age in this one, but there is some typical if predictable humour and a thrill or two.’

 

 
 

Elsewhere LH calls this film.

 

          ‘.a rather sad parody filled with reprises of half-baked vaudeville routines such as 'the disappearing body' and 'look out, he's behind you! When the mummy finally makes his unfrightening appearance it is in. a sort of turn-of-the-century one-piece bathing suit with facial wrappings amounting to little more than a yashmak, behind which the healthy features of stuntman Eddie Parker shine cheerfully.’

 

However, he was philosophical about this apparent end to the genre:

 

          ‘In fact, far from closing the book on Universal's monsters, [this] gave them all fresh life. At least [it] kept the images warm until a little studio by the banks of the Thames was ready to take them over and revitalise them for the hardened appetites of the fifties.’

 

 

And we may follow their Hammer adventures another time, but for now I'll let Edward Van Sloan close this particular chapter:

   
 

"When you go home tonight, and the lights have been turned out, and you are afraid to look behind the curtains, and you dread to see a face appear at the window. why, just pull yourself together and remember that, after all. there are such things..!"

 
 
                                               
*                      *                      *                      *                       *

 

However, before we go, let us recap on the major players.  After all, a good cast is always worth repeating:

 

(Colour code for main characters: Dracula, Frankenstein (and relations), the Monster, the Invisible Man, the Wolf Man, the Mummy.)

 

1931

DraculaBela Lugosi, Edward Van Sloan, Dwight Frye.

FrankensteinBoris Karloff, Colin Clive, Edward Van Sloan, Dwight Frye.

 

1932

The Old Dark HouseBoris Karloff, Ernest Thesiger.

The MummyBoris Karloff, Edward Van Sloan.

 

1933

The Invisible ManClaude Rains, E. E. Clive, Una O’Connor, Dwight Frye.

 

1934

The Black CatBoris Karloff, Bela Lugosi.

 

1935

The Bride of FrankensteinBoris Karloff, Colin Clive, Ernest Thesiger, Dwight Frye, E. E. Clive, Una O’Connor, Valerie Hobson.

Werewolf of London Warner Oland, Valerie Hobson.

The RavenBoris Karloff, Bela Lugosi.

The Invisible RayBoris Karloff, Bela Lugosi.

 

1936

Dracula's DaughterGloria Holden, Edward Van Sloan, E. E. Clive.

 

1939

Son of FrankensteinBoris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Dwight Frye.

 

1940

The Invisible Man ReturnsVincent Price, Cedric Hardwicke.

The Mummy's HandTom Tyler, George Zucco.

The Invisible WomanVirginia Bruce, John Barrymore.

 

1941

The Wolf ManLon Chaney Jnr., Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya, Ralph Bellamy.

 

1942

The Ghost of FrankensteinLon Chaney Jnr., Cedric Hardwicke, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Dwight Frye.

Invisible AgentCedric Hardwicke, Ilona Massey.

The Mummy's TombLon Chaney Jnr., George Zucco.

Night MonsterBela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill.

 

1943

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf ManBela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jnr., Ilona Massey, Maria Ouspenskaya, Lionel Atwill, Dwight Frye

Son of DraculaLon Chaney Jnr.

 

1944

The Invisible Man's RevengeJohn Carradine.

The Mummy's GhostLon Chaney Jnr., John Carradine, George Zucco.

House of FrankensteinLon Chaney Jnr., John Carradine, Glenn Strange, Boris Karloff, George Zucco, Lionel Atwill,

The Mummy's CurseLon Chaney Jnr.

 

1945

House of DraculaLon Chaney Jnr., John Carradine, Glenn Strange, Lionel Atwill.

 

1948

Abbott and Costello Meet FrankensteinLon Chaney Jnr., Bela Lugosi, Glenn Strange, Bud Abbott, Lou Costello.

 

1951

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible ManArthur Franz, Bud Abbott, Lou Costello.

 

1955

Abbott and Costello Meet the MummyEddie Parker, Bud Abbott, Lou Costello.

 

 

[If you have been inspired to seek out some of these movies then I simply cannot recommend highly enough Universal’s ‘Legacy’ DVD box-sets.  Each of the major characters has his own collection, and all comprise four or five movies apiece and feature a host of extras.]

 

 

 
 

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