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Universal Monster Movies-Yawn


Tikisoo
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I'm bracing for a flaming....just wondered if I'm the only one?

 

There's a fun Saturday night horror movie show on ME-TV, "Svengoolie" that shows pretty exclusively Universal horror films. As a weekly viewer I've noticed Universal horror films aren't really very good-formulaic with long convoluted plots that wrap up in the last 5 minutes. The same story, the same sets, etc.

 

I've also recently attended several 35mm screenings of early Universal horror like FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA & THE MUMMY which were more interesting. But aside from "looking good" with lighting and sets, they all contained slow plodding sequences I found actually boring.

 

That said, Universal's comedy horror like Abbott & Costello, MUNSTER GO HOME and (somewhat comedy) THE INVISIBLE MAN seem to entertain and flow just a bit better, especially if seen in a theater with an audience.

 

I realize Universal's horror movies have been extremely popular for several decades. Does the great creativity of the make up coupled with consistently outstanding acting enough to carry a so-so story for most?

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I'm old enought to have started watching the 1950's stuff in their original releases, so I still watch them through that excited-kid prism. I get what you're saying, but I still love them (admittedly in smaller doses). I think some of what was going on at Universal back then was that they were moving into TV big time, so there was overlap with a lot of their sets, crews, and probably writers. The movies have somewhat of a TV feel to them, some of the assembly line quality you were questioning. So, to answer your question from my personal perspective, yes, I can still get past a lame story and enjoy the movie. Hope you don't get flamed. Everything you said seems reasonable to me, but where does that get you these days? P.S. The YAWN in the subject line was a little provocative, so that could trigger something.

 

Edited by: DougieB on Feb 21, 2014 8:33 AM

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The Universal horror productions from the 1930's are all classics "The Bride of Frankenstein", "The Invisble Man" and " The Mummy" have all aged very well. even in the 40's they could still produce superior scares like "The Wolfman". Yes some of the series specially the Mummy films tend to be repetitious. Universal recycled everything - all the sci- fi movies from the 1950's all take place in the same town set. "Abottt and Costello Meet Frankenstein" is still one of the funniest horror comedies ever made.

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I believe this descent into formula is a natural progression.

 

I have seen a similar trait in books. An author's early works may be stunning and there will be occasional masterpieces but the majority of their later works are retreads of their early works.

 

I suspect one who follows musicians will see the same progression.

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The reason I still like the early Universal horror films is because when I saw them as a kid, either in a theater during a re-release or on television, they looked real to me. The old style of photography, the old lenses used, the unusual style of the acting and the unusual stories, all made these films seem believable. They seemed something like late 19th Century films of real events that might have actually happened in Europe in the old days. It would be like watching Triumph of the Will today. It is a very bizarre story about bizarre events in old Europe, but it actually did happen.

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All the blood splattering in the horror movies made since that era has tamed these old classics, but those of us who were frightened by them at some young age on tv or maybe even in theatres can still enjoy them with nostalgia. Aside from the best - "The Bride of Franknstein" IMHO - (Thank you James Whale), my personal favorite is "Son of Frankenstein" with those great expressionistic sets. I also love the humor in "The Invisible Man", aided much by the hilarious Una O'Connor.

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  • 1 month later...

happy to see a mention one my favorite movie hosts ever, svengoolie!

 

i think most who enjoy his show have as much fun making fun of the movie as enjoying it, as you'll see if you follow the live tweeting at #svengoolie on saturday nights.

 

one such fan observed just last week as "the bride of frankenstein" ended that director james whale opened with a prologue where elsa lanchester, portraying the novelist mary shelley, explained to her husband percy and another contemporary that "there is more to the story..." before dissolving to the body of the film but then whale (or the editor) did not return for an epilogue at the film's close.

 

i hope he just had to edit for time because it does seem to be an error in form. he simply blew up the castle and rolled the credits.

 

but still fun even if easy to pick apart.

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I agree with the original post BUT these are favorite films.  I'm not confusing "favorite" or "memorable" with "good" or "best".  I don't see anything wrong with "favorite" as a valid label.

 

The Universal Classic Monster films are far more important than good.  That's how I view them - it's like Beatles albums - each one contains junk songs, but even THAT inclusion makes those albums important. 

 

DRACULA is almost agonizing for me to sit thru, even in a packed, big-screen theater.  But it's also startling to realize how quiet it is, how devoid of musical soundtrack, and how that impacts us, the audience - good AND bad.  This film is a great example of "far more important than good or bad".  It's transcendent - and could anyone deny how important this central character is to the rest of Hollywood history? 

 

I don't think there's anything wrong with viewing films as "important or not",or "favorite or not" instead of pretending we have ultimate Good/Bad/Best labeling abilities.

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Not bad for a one-legged woman.

whoa whoa.

 

varga did paint a piece where the model appeared to lack an arm. esquire published it during the war years and got a lot of mail about it. if my wife hasnt tossed my old varga book out i'll see if i can find the month and year.

 

on topic though i have to say i havent enjoyed a svengoolie broadcast as much i did last saturdays airing of "son of frankenstein." rathbone was excellent as usual and seeing the scenes parodied in "young frankenstein" played straight was great fun.

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