The Monster Movies of Universal Studios
By James L. Neibaur
Published by Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. 213 pages.
Anytime there is a book about the Universal monster movies, then count me in, since I’m always up for revisiting these classic films. Of course, the only problem is that since this subject has been written about just a few times before, it might be tough to come up with something new and different for readers to get information that have haven’t several times before. But overall, I think that Neibaur does a good job discussing these films.
After a very brief history of Universal Studios (which could be a book on it’s own), the it follows all the movies from there that feature their main set of monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. So any film that featured one of these monsters, or possibly their descendent, the title is covered. There is a total of 29 features covered here, starting with 1931’s Dracula and ending with The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), with each chapter covering each of the titles. The credits and cast are listed, before Neibaur gets into details of each film, such as the plot, information about the people involved, and some other trivia as well.
There is something to be said about seeing the old Universal classic monster films on the big screen. As many times as we’ve seen them on our TVs, it still doesn’t have the same impact of seeing them projected on a huge screen, inside a theater with a bunch of like minded film fans. There really is something magical about it and is something that every fan of these wonderful films should have the chance to experience that way. Well, if you’re anywhere near Canton, Ohio in October, then you will have the chance to do just that.
Now, before you get all excited and run out to this show, let’s cover a few things first. The prices on some of the items you’ll find run the spectrum. Some dealers will have a table full of one-sheets or stills with a big sign stating “$1 EACH”. Of course, you have to go through each and every stack because you never know if you’re going to come across a real gem in there! You just never know. I have to say from experience, after that first stack, your back is killing you and you start to wonder if it is even worth it! But $1 posters is hard to pass up.
On the other end of that, you have some dealers with items on the slightly high side. You have to remember that these are original pieces of film memorabilia, which can go for big bucks. Such as an insert for the 1951 film Them!, which had a price tag of $1000. Or even a lobby card for the 1957 film Curse of the Demon that was going for $650…just for the single card! There are posters and even the bigger 3-sheet kind of stuff, but those are so high that I don’t even ask. I’m not saying that these are overpriced, but those are the going rates. You need to be a dealer/collector with some serious cash to be playing in that field, one that I know I never will.
I know it’s been a few weeks since this happened and had planned to get something written up, but just never got to it. Then yesterday, I was watching Michael Felsher’s making of Creepshow documentary, Just Desserts, which features some interviews with Wrightson. I knew then that I needed to get this done and posted about this incredible talent that the world of horror and comic books has lost.
Now, I’m not an artist so I couldn’t even attempt to explain just how talented Wrightson was, or the impact that he had on generations of artists. I just know that looking at the below piece he did for the illustrated Frankenstein that was released in 1983 (after spending seven years working on it) just blows my mind at how this is even possible. The detail and layout is just astounding and I couldn’t even begin to understand how a talent like this could even exist.
The Turn to Gruesomeness in American Horror Films, 1931 to 1936
By Jon Towlson
Published by McFarland, 2015. 240 pages
One of the wonderful things about reading up on the history of horror films is that there is always something new and interesting that can be learned once a subject is really put under the magnifying glass. Now this isn’t to say that if you look for something you’ll find it, even if it isn’t there, but Towlson has done a great deal of research to back up his thoughts and ideas in this recent book. It also shows that no matter how long you’ve been a fan, there is always more to learn.
Now for the other side. I usually try to stay away from negative reviews because I would like to stay positive and push that element of the genre. There is already enough negativity on the internet. But…there are those films that I think are simply an embarrassment to the genre, and more importantly, to the fans themselves. Because these producers think they can churn out such low quality drivel and that the fans will just eat it up. Or that they themselves think this is a well made product that hasn’t already been done to death. I do think that constructive criticism is good for the filmmakers to hear. Hearing negative things about a movie could just help someone see a different angle to it. Same goes with a positive review. Yes, these are just my opinions and there might be fans out there that really enjoyed some of the below movies. Great. I’m thrilled that they were able to speak to you. Unfortunately for me, they did not. And here is why.
Let’s just say that I hate making lists in general. It forces you to chose or narrow down a “favorites” list. I have way too many movies that I honestly love the hell out of, so getting it down to a list of ten is just impossible. And honestly, I really don’t care for these kind of lists that are always going around Facebook, mainly because I just don’t want to spend the time on them and my above mentioned hatred for lists. But since this quest was to name films that had a “lasting impression” on you, I figured I could come up with ten titles that did have a major impact on my life. But instead of just listing the movies, I figured I’d try and expand on why these certain titles affected me the way they did. Of course, this list could change at any time…day or night.
Plus, since a friend tagged me on this, I figured it was the least I could do to reply. Thanks Jessica…this was a nice little trip down memory lane.