Victor Frankenstein (Samuel West) makes his Monster (Shuler Hensley), just as the angry torch-wielding mob arrives. We learn that Frankenstein's experiments have been funded by Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh), who wants the Monster for an undisclosed purpose. Dracula kills Frankenstein, but the Monster escapes, only to seemingly die in a burning windmill.

The Monster's cloak is patchwork. Get it?

Meanwhile, Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) – a warrior for a interdenominational holy anti-monster order – is sent to defeat Dracula. He travels with Carl (David Wenham), basically a monkish version of Q. In Transylvania, van Helsing meets Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsdale) a warrior woman whose brother recently died fighting the Wolf Man. ...continue reading "Van Helsing — 2004"

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"It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world." -- Mary Shelley, Frankenstein.

"Wolfman's got nards." -- Horace, The Monster Squad

In ye olden days, van Helsing and his friends tried to destroy Dracula (Duncan Regher) but their plan failed. Now it's the 1980s and Dracula is trying to conquer the world again.

The boys are back in town
The boys are back in town

He reckons without a bunch of kids who have a monster fanclub. They are looked down on by their principal and bullied by the older brother from the Wonder Years (Jason Hervey). However, they win the respect of the coolest kid in school, Rudy (Ryan Lambert), who looks like he just stepped out of a kid's version of The Wild One. He's made to complete a quiz on how to kill monsters and is allowed to join the club. The leader of the monster club, Sean (Andre Gower) happens to come into possession of van Helsing's journal. ...continue reading "The Monster Squad – 1987"

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When I was a boy, I got a couple of books about the Universal Monsters out from my local library, and they were both scathing about Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. At the time, I sort of bought the argument. Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolf Man reduced to foils for a pair of bumbling idiots? Hah!

'Rah! Why you not understand 'Who' is name of first baseman?'
'Rah! Why you not understand that "Who" is name of first baseman?'

I mean I like an Abbot and Costello movie now and then. They're no good for binge watching, because they reuse too much of their own material. But the pair were fine entertainers of their day. Perhaps they lack the genius of the great comics of the 1920s and 30s – Chaplin, Keaton, Fields, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers. But at their best, Bud and Lou are very talented and at their worst they're still perfectly competent. They're rapid back-and-forth routines are legendary – so much so that Lou Costello's skill as a physical comedian is often quite underrated. Still, bottom line, they're comedians and the great monsters deserve to come off better than second best to them.

But (and yes, you can ignore everything I said before 'but') watching the Universal Monster series in order changes this superficial assessment. Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein may be a parody, but it's way better than most of the later Universal Monster films. It's the best Wolf Man movie since Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. It's the best Frankenstein's Monster movie since Son of Frankenstein, if not Bride of Frankenstein. And it's the best Dracula movie since, well, Dracula. ...continue reading "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein – 1948"

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House of Dracula. Seventh Universal Frankenstein movie. Forth Wolf Man.  Either third or fifth Dracula, depending on whether you count Dracula's Daughter and Son of Dracula. The poor old series is very tired now. Tired, and in dire need of a little nap.

Please count, treat my house is if it were your own. It's the only way we can justify the title.
Please Count, treat my house is if it were your own. It's the only way we can justify the title.

There's a spooky house on a hilltop. Dracula (John Carridine) arrives late at night, and checks out a woman sleeping inside. But he's not there for her. He lets himself in and talks to the house's owner, Dr Edelman (Onslow Stevens) who is dozing in a chair. The two men have a rambling conversation. Dracula leads the doctor to the basement and shows off his coffin. Dracula wants to stay there and have the doctor treat him for his vampirism. The kindly doctor rattles off some rationalisations for vampirism, and agrees to help.

In the morning, he discusses his work with his hunchbacked nurse, Nina (Jane Adams). He then examines Dracula's blood and asks Nina to prepare an antitoxin. Now that's how you cure vampirism! Get your nurse to do it. ...continue reading "The House of Dracula – 1945"

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I was going to move on to something more interesting this week, because I'm already getting tired of the late Universal Monster Mash. Then I decided just to power through this one and House of Dracula. Here goes:

HouseFrank9
It's like seeing double here! Four Frankenstein Monsters?

A circus cart drives through the rain, then we cut to Neustadt Prison. A guard opens the hatch on a door and Boris friggin' Karloff reaches out and tries to strangle him. Okay, good start. Let's see where we go from here. The guard calls Karloff (aka Dr Niemand) a 'would be Frankenstein'. Niemand basically agrees, promising to follow in Frankenstein's footsteps when he escapes.

Niemand tells his hunchbacked cellmate, Daniel (J. Carol Nash), that his father was Frankenstein's assistant and passed his secrets on to him. Daniel sees possibilities here, and wonders if Niemand might give him a non-hunchbacked body.

The prison collapses in the storm, and they easily walk out through a tunnel. The Shawshank Redemption it ain't. Coming across the circus carts, they help the showman get the wheels out of a ditch and join him inside. The cart is the property of Dr Caligari Dr Bruno Lampini, who makes a living showing what he claims is Dracula's skeleton. Niemand observes that removing the stake from the skeleton would bring Dracula back to life. ...continue reading "House of Frankenstein – 1944"

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This is a dull movie and kind of pointless, and yet its historical importance is undeniable. The central idea -- taking two successful characters from different franchises and throwing them together -- didn't begin here. But by the same token I think this is where the idea started to appeal to the owners of properties, rather than just to creators. At the same time, similar ideas were being explored in the nascent comic book publishing business, and these days the idea of 'take two characters that you love and make them fight' is a dominant one at the box office.

I'm going to illustrate my point with this picture, because all of the fight scenes are rubbish.
I'm going to illustrate my point with this picture, because all of the fight scenes are rubbish.

In purely Frankensteinian terms, this film represents a big change for the Monster. Teaming him up here with the Wolf Man is just the start. Later, Dracula would be added, and the next thing you know the trio become inseparable in the public mind. There are a lot of iterations of this trio, whether as heroes, villains or comic foils. A lot. And it all starts here. ...continue reading "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman – 1943"

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