The Creature Walks Among Us is the unceremonious end of the classic Universal monster movies. A three decade long rollercoaster that ranges from top-notch horror to slap dash B movies. The Creature Walks Among Us falls comfortably in the latter category. The Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy was completed in 3 years, but only Revenge of the Creature retained the quality of the original. Director Jack Arnold moved on to better films and Universal-International wasn’t concerned with quality. The Gill-Man is once again alive and pursued by another team of scientists.
I’m pretty sure underwater scenes with the Creature are reused since he only directly interacts with other characters once. Don Megowan replaces the previous land actor, but Ricou Browning consistently swam throughout the entire trilogy. New characters are even more shallow in comparison to the original. Jeff Morrow plays paranoid scientist Dr. William Barton who has the crazy idea to bridge the gap between human and fish. Rex Reason is the more reasonable scientist Dr. Thomas Morgan.
Leigh Snowden is the latest beautiful blonde Marcia. She’s Barton’s carefree wife with an infidelity subplot given more attention than the monster. Gregg Palmer continually makes passes at Marcia as guide Jed Grant. The Creature is forever ruined by a procedure that makes him more human. A lazy decision that replaces his intricate scales with clothes and a cheap rubber mask. It’s so ridiculous that I couldn’t take him attempting to fit into society seriously. The air breathing Gill-Man is last seen heading for the water, never to be seen again. The Creature Walks Among Us was dead in the water.
The Creature walking among us
Preceded by: Revenge of the Creature
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy is just not as funny as the comedy duo’s previous monster encounters. Not including Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello have met all other Universal-International owned monsters including, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Invisible Man. They even managed to meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon in some capacity.
Since the Mummy is the weakest franchise, it only made sense for Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy to follow in its slow moving footsteps. The production feels bigger than the many low budget sequels, but it’s mostly a bunch of Egyptian jokes and barely any mummy. Abbott and Costello don’t even bother changing their names. They play bumbling archeologists who get wrapped up in a mummy’s curse. Kharis is replaced by Eddie Parker as Klaris, though attention is given to a medallion that can find the treasure of Princess Ara.
Costello finding the monster before Abbott has gotten as tired as some of their other gags, but they still made me laugh. The exotic Marie Windsor plays another woman who seduces Costello. Madame Rontru searches for the treasure along with Klaris’ follower Semu and several other unfortunate characters. The plot goes in several directions and is a little over complicated for a comedy involving the Mummy. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy lays to rest an iconic comedy double act.
Costello awakens the Mummy
Preceded by: Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man
Revenge of the Creature gave the Gill-Man a second chance at love. Creature from the Black Lagoon proved to be another hit monster franchise in the making for Universal-International. Since Revenge of the Creature was released a year later, the quality is just as good with Jack Arnold returning as director and continuing to shoot in 3D. Revenge of the Creature does feel more like a B movie, but the underwater action is still impressive. Luckily the Gill-Man suit was also kept intact.
Tom Hennesy replaces the original land actor, but Ricou Browning continues to swim through many forms of water. Revenge of the Creature is even more like King Kong with the Creature being taken into captivity after a more capable expedition finds him alive in the Amazon. Nestor Paiva plays the only returning character Captain Lucas. Replacement actors are practically the same as who came before. Except for a quick cameo from Clint Eastwood in his very first film role.
John Agar plays hunky animal psychologist Professor Clete Ferguson, John Bromfield plays his bitter love rival Joe Hayes, and the beautiful blonde Lori Nelson plays ichthyology major Helen Dobson. She’s probably the smartest heroine in any Universal monster movie, but she’s still the object of the Creature’s undying affection. A change in venue at least keeps the sequel from fully repeating itself. The Ocean Harbor Oceanarium studies the Gill-Man and puts him on display until he goes on a harmless rampage. He tries to flee with Helen, but his fate is the same as it was before. Revenge of the Creature kept a steady current.
The Creature attacks Clete Ferguson
Preceded by: Creature from the Black Lagoon & Followed by: The Creature Walks Among Us
Creature from the Black Lagoon explores the terror of the deep. Although Universal-International was slowly phasing out their monster movies, there was still time for one more. Even in 1954 when color was slowly starting to take over. Creature from the Black Lagoon is another original idea based on myth. A half-man, half-fish sea monster was too unique to ignore. My brother and I knew we needed to watch Creature from the Black Lagoon, but most of our viewings were on TV. Science fiction director Jack Arnold shot the film in widescreen with early 3D effects. Black & white is put to effective use with otherworldly underwater cinematography. Everything shot underwater is impressive for the 1950’s.
Creature from the Black Lagoon is different from other monster movies since it begins at creation. The Gill-Man is a million year old Devonian amphibious humanoid lost to time. His iconic appearance consists of armored scales, webbed hands, and sharp claws. The Creature also possesses superhuman strength and can survive on land for a short period of time. The amphibian makeup is especially impressive when worn underwater. Ben Chapman creates a menacing monster on land, while stuntman Ricou Browning makes him a majestic swimmer. A small but memorable cast elevates the movie further. A team of scientists are assembled for an expedition in the Amazon. The hispanic Antonio Moreno plays Dr. Carl Maia, the leader of the expedition who found a fossil belonging to the Creature’s race.
Richard Carlson plays hunky ichthyologist Dr. David Reed. Richard Denning plays David’s slightly unhinged love rival Dr. Mark Williams, the hispanic Nestor Paiva plays the hardened Rita boat Captain Lucas, and Whit Bissell plays the unfortunate Dr. Edwin Thompson. They all provoke the Gill-Man into picking them off one by one, but the real star of the movie is the beautiful Julie Adams as fellow scientist Kay Lawrence. Much like Beauty and the Beast or King Kong, the Creature is immediately drawn to her. The most iconic shot is Kay and the Creature swimming in tandem. Kay fears the monster, but it’s easy to sympathize with him. Marilyn Monroe, Guillermo del Toro, and I all agree that the Creature deserved to be loved. Rather than shot dead in its own territory. Creature from the Black Lagoon pulled another classic creation out of the water.
The Creature carries Kay
Followed by: Revenge of the Creature
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man brings the laughs without showing a thing. Turns out the Invisible Man’s cameo at the end of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was more than just a quick gag. It led to a whole slew of crossovers between Universal-International monsters and the comedic duo. Although I didn’t see Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man initially. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are now bumbling detectives named Bud Alexander and Lou Francis. The story is more small scale with only one monster, but the jokes are just as good before he shows up. The Invisible Man is now a boxer named Tommy Nelson played by Arthur Franz.
The original Invisible Man, Jack Griffin is directly referenced with a portrait of Claude Rains. The invisible transformation is played straight with the expected fear of insanity. Nancy Guild plays Tommy’s sweetheart Helen and Gavin Muir plays her scientist father who holds the formula. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man is mostly a more comedic version of The Invisible Man Returns. It follows a murder mystery that the framed Tommy tries to investigate while invisible. The special effects are up to the usual standard. The jokes come out of Lou reacting to nothing and Bud remaining unconvinced.
There’s even a running gag where several people go to a shrink after witnessing the Invisible Man. Bud and Lou go undercover in a boxing ring to help clear Tommy’s name. Lou reluctantly pretends to be a boxer with Tommy secretly throwing his punches. Boots Marsden played by the lovely Adele Jergens seduces Lou as an accomplice to the real murderers. They catch the crook, but a botched blood transfusion turns Lou invisible in the silliest way possible. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man gave invisibility one last shot in the limelight.
The Invisible Man joins Bud and Lou
Preceded by: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein & Followed by: Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is the best of horror and comedy. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are an old fashioned comedy duo best known for their “Who’s on first?” routine. They were so popular in the 40’s that Universal-International allowed them to interact with their biggest monsters. I’m sure I would’ve been exposed to the comedians eventually, but Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein had to be my first introduction. My parents encouraged my brother and I to watch it when we were younger. Although I didn’t fully grasp the idea of Frankenstein’s Monster, Count Dracula, or the Wolf Man in comedic situations. Even The Munsters was difficult for me to imagine, but Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is an affectionate parody. It frankly gives the “big three” more dignity than they had in the more serious House of Frankenstein or House of Dracula. The movie appropriately begins with an animated opening. Abbott and Costello play a bumbling pair of baggage clerks named Chick and Wilbur.
I quickly caught on to Abbott being the straight man and Costello being the goofball. Their gags, slapstick, and zany antics are consistently hilarious throughout. Just as funny is every famous monster being played straight. Almost every actor surprisingly said yes. Lon Chaney Jr. is as tragic as ever while playing Larry Talbot. The Wolf Man makeup is a little sillier, but the werewolf is just as ferocious without killing anyone. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is the only monster movie to bring Bela Lugosi back in the role that made him iconic. Dracula makes theatrical use of his cape, but he’s still more intimidating than anyone else who played the vampire. Animation is used extensively to bring Dracula’s bat transformation to life. Boris Karloff once again said no to returning, but at least Glenn Strange has more to do as Frankenstein’s Monster. He even speaks a few times. Unlike the House of… series, the monsters are actually allowed to interact. The plot follows Larry desperately trying to prevent Dracula’s coffin and the Monster’s crate from being taken to “McDougal’s House Of Horrors.” Wilbur is frightened by everything, but Chick is none the wiser.
Dracula plans to fully control the Monster with a more simple brain. Wilbur is just the simpleton for the job. Exotic beauty Lenore Aubert plays Wilbur’s deceptive sweetheart Dr. Sandra Mornay who’s secretly working with the Count. Chick is even more baffled when Wilbur is also pursued by undercover insurance investigator Joan Raymond played by traditional beauty Jane Randolph. They go on a double date to the house of Dracula where the spooky antics continue. Dracula turns Sandra and controls the clueless Professor Stevens in an attempt to secure Wilbur’s brain. The climax is hilarious, but it’s also a monster fans dream come true. Abbott and Costello are primarily chased by the Monster throughout the house. Meanwhile, Dracula and the Wolf Man engage in the first vampire and werewolf fight. The Wolf Man overpowers Dracula, but they both perish at the same time. The Monster goes out in a blaze of glory as well. Chick and Wilbur take a sign of relief, but the Invisible Man isn’t far behind. The Vincent Price cameo gives even more credibility to the horror comedy. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein gave the monsters one last hurrah before retirement.
Count Dracula keeps Frankenstein’s Monster away from Wilbur
Followed by: Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man
She-Wolf of London has nothing to do with Werewolf of London, and even less to do with The Wolf Man. It’s not explicitly part of the Universal monsters lineup, but its inclusion in the Wolf Man collection box set was good enough for me. Even though I knew nothing about the movie. She-Wolf of London deals with werewolves, but not the way you think. A young June Lockhart plays wealthy London heiress Phyllis Allenby.
She hopes to marry Barry Lanfield played by Don Porter, but everything goes wrong when a string of murders happen nearby. Scotland Yard detectives are convinced it’s a female werewolf. Phyllis lives with three other women. Her caring cousin Carol, mysterious gaslighting Aunt Martha, and observant maid Hannah. Along with a handful of dogs that bark every night. Martha convinces Phyllis that the family “curse of the Allenbys” means she’s the She-Wolf that comes out at night.
She-Wolf of London is different from other monster movies. It’s more of a mystery with an obvious outcome. I was immediately suspicious when I couldn’t find a single photo of the alleged Wolf Woman. Monster fans were no doubt disappointed to know there is no She-Wolf. The title is more false advertisement that was clearly chosen to sell the picture better. She-Wolf of London earns points for atmosphere, but it’s a deceptive waste of horror.
Phyllis Allenby examines her hands
House of Dracula is practically a remake of House of Frankenstein. The director is the same, the cast is the same, the crew is the same, footage is reused, sets are reused, and scores are reused. It was at this point that Universal Pictures made monster movies less of a priority. Although intended to be titled Wolf Man vs. Dracula, the studio wanted another “monster rally” with Frankenstein’s Monster involved. So the movie was retitled House of Dracula and retained the same basic structure. There’s Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, Dracula, a hunchback, and a mad doctor just like the previous crossover. Yet the monsters still don’t directly interact. Universal intended to bring back Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff as Dracula and the Monster respectively, but that was long off the table. Only Lon Chaney Jr. consistently played the Wolf Man in all appearances.
House of Dracula is the final serious film to feature the “big three,” and it’s just as unceremonious as it was before. At least Count Dracula makes an early introduction this time around. Even if he is the less intimidating John Carradine version in a silly top hat with the cover name Baron Latos. He does the usual schtick of turning into a bat, sucking blood, and being repelled by a cross. For some reason Dracula wants to be cured of his vampirism. It doesn’t make nearly as much sense as Larry Talbot wanting to be cured of his lycanthropy. Both monsters are inexplicably alive with zero explanation. The not so mad doctor this time is Onslow Stevens as Dr. Franz Edelmann. His hunchback assistant is now a woman named Nina played by the lovely Jane Adams.
Neither character is particularly menacing compared to what came before. The other female lead is Edelmann’s nurse Milizia Morelle played by Martha O’Driscoll. Dracula becomes an obvious problem when he seduces Milizia, but he’s quickly killed once again when Edelmann exposes his coffin to sunlight. Larry’s usual pleas for help are always tragic, but they have gotten one note at this point. The Wolf Man’s werewolf transformation is exposed in prison, but Larry finally gets the cure he always wanted. Frankenstein’s Monster is kind of shoehorned in with Edelmann only becoming a monster through a blood transfusion with Dracula. Though he’s more Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde than vampire. Glenn Strange only lumbers around until the Monster is buried under a burning building at the last minute. House of Dracula blew its second chance at a monster mash.
Count Dracula seduces Milizia
Preceded by: House of Frankenstein
The Mummy’s Curse is so rushed that it came out the exact same year as The Mummy’s Ghost. Both movies are often mixed up, but they are direct continuations. In fact, every sequel that came out after The Mummy’s Hand has more continuity than any other Universal monster franchise. Even though it’s still the weakest by comparison. Much like The Mummy’s Tomb, The Mummy’s Curse reuses footage just to fill an hour runtime. It starts out kind of different with the swamp from The Mummy’s Ghost being dug up by Southern stereotypes.
The cast is mostly cajun inspired despite the last two movies being set in Massachusetts. Then it gets repetitive again with yet another fez wearing High Priest reviving Kharis with those stupid tana leaves. Lon Chaney Jr. plays Kharis one last time and Peter Coe plays Dr. Zandaab. The only difference is an additional servant named Ragheb played by Martin Kosleck. The Mummy slowly kills more disposable characters in an effort to finally find his bride.
Princess Ananka returns played by Virginia Christine instead of the previous actress. She goes from mummy to beautiful amnesiac protected by Dennis Moore’s Dr. James Halsey and other female lead Betty Walsh played by Kay Harding. Kharis manages to take in his century old lover, but the same old betrayal ruins everything. Ragheb betrays Zandaab, Kharis betrays Ragheb, and the Mummy is buried once and for all. The Mummy’s Curse put a merciful end to the cursed Mummy franchise.
Kharis holds onto Zandaab
Preceded by: The Mummy’s Ghost
House of Frankenstein is the horror event Universal monster fans have been waiting for. Well keep waiting, because this is more false advertising. After their first “monster rally” Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man proved successful, Universal wanted all of their monsters in one movie. Chamber of Horrors would’ve featured an all-star cast and included Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, Dracula, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and even the Mad Ghoul. House of Frankenstein instead features Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, Dracula, a hunchback, and a mad doctor. I was still excited to see the massive crossover, but it’s kind of a let down. House of Frankenstein is practically sectioned off with none of the big three monsters directly interacting. Boris Karloff returns, but he ironically plays a mad scientist instead of the Monster who made him famous.
Dr. Gustav Niemann is a wannabe Dr. Frankenstein who escapes prison with his hunchback assistant Daniel. He’s no Igor, but J. Carrol Naish does make an impression. He longs for a normal body that only Niemann can provide. Dr. Niemann swears revenge on those who imprisoned him and lays low after stealing a traveling horror exhibit. Count Dracula is finally revived when Niemann removes the wooden steak from his skeleton. Though it would’ve been better with Bela Lugosi, at least John Carradine knows what he’s doing. Anne Gwynne is the first female lead who gets seduced by Dracula. Rita Hussman is drawn to his ring and her grandfather’s blood is drained while Dracula is in bat form. Dracula is quickly killed by sunlight when Niemann and Daniel abandon him. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is directly referenced when they head to the village where the monsters fought.
The second female lead is Elena Verdugo as gypsy woman Ilonka who has an unrequited Hunchback of Notre Dame style relationship with Daniel. They travel to the flooded castle where Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man are frozen. Lon Chaney Jr. is always consistently good as the tormented Larry Talbot. Even in a movie that doesn’t give him all the attention. Ilonka falls in love with Larry instead of Daniel. Despite Larry’s need to rid himself of the werewolf curse. Niemann clearly cares more about unlocking the secrets of Frankenstein’s Monster. He plans to swap the brains of his enemies with the monsters, but the Wolf Man is quickly killed by a silver bullet. Daniel turns on his master, but the Monster breaks free to help him. Glenn Strange has the right look for the Monster, but his performance is too last minute for a movie named after him. The Monster runs from an angry mob, but he’s quickly killed like all the rest. House of Frankenstein could’ve been the ultimate monster mash if they only allowed them to interact.
Dr. Niemann awakens Frankenstein’s Monster
Preceded by: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man & Followed by: House of Dracula