Meet the original Dark Universe monsters!

Universal is trying to muscle in on the current trend of cinematic universes with their recently unveiled DARK UNIVERSE, which will be a modern retelling of their various horror properties. This includes the upcoming THE MUMMY, but also BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE INVISIBLE MAN, WOLF MAN, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, and many, many more. Though, the thing is, the Universal monsters actually invented the cinematic universe, decades before Marvel (creating the first ever mash-up in the 1943 FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN).

And with the recently announced reboots of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME to the mix, let's take a look at the original versions of these Gods and monsters, shall we?


DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE was actually produced by "The Universal Film Manufacturing Company, Incorporated", before the studio got its name shortened to Universal. Thus, he is really the first Universal monster, making his debut in the 1913 27-minute silent horror film. It's actually not bad for the time, especially considering that in that era actors were supposed to apply their make-up, and I feel star King Baggot did an admirable job with it. The film also shows the monster - Mr. Hyde - attack a crippled child, so you know, he's also kind of a huge asshole.

He will be played by Russell Crowe in the DARK UNIVERSE, and will be next seen in the upcoming THE MUMMY as the leader of a monster-hunting organization called The Prodigium.


1923's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME starring Lon Chaney is the next film in the Universal monster line-up. It is best known for its expensive sets recreating 15th century Paris (including a re-creation of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral), and Chaney's impressive make-up as Quasimodo (such as using a cracked eggshell for an off-center eyeball). It was also one of Universal's most profitable films of the silent era, and cemented Chaney as a bonafide star.

Though it was recently announced that THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME would be part of the ever-expanding DARK UNIVERSE, there's been no news on who will be cast as Quasimodo, nor how he'll fit into the overall narrative. Will it be modern times (which seems weird that - given our modern medical technology - that we couldn't cure him of some of his physical ills), or will it be a period piece (in the same way CAPTAIN AMERICA and WONDER WOMAN were for their perspective cinematic universes)? Only time will tell. Though it seems likely we won't have fucking wise-cracking gargoyles in it, at least.


In 1925's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, Lon Chaney - hot off the success of HUNCHBACK - was given free-reign to devise his own make-up, creating the iconic grisly visage that's probably the most iconic version of this character (sorry Gerald Butler). In fact, it was so gruesome that they kept his face a secret until the premiere, where reportedly audience members screamed and fainted at the eventual reveal (and it won't be the last time that a Universal monster supposedly did that).

Like HUNCHBACK, there's been news of PHANTOM being part of the DARK UNIVERSE, though specifics (and casting) are still unknown. Maybe in this version he'll be a DJ?

DRACULA (1931)

Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Count Dracula in the 1931 film DRACULA is by far the most iconic depiction of a vampire ever. In fact, every other version is either a recreation (like The Count from SESAME STREET or the Count Chocula breakfast cereal) or a repudiation of it (such as BLADE or TWILIGHT). It's the standard by which all other vampires are compared to - even to this day. And it really is a great, chilling performance, worthy of its icon status. Though, the film itself is a bit underwhelming (even by '30s standards, which were still at this point in the pre-Hays Code era). Still, it single-handedly created the modern vampire, and for that we should be grateful.

No news on who'll play Dracula in the new DARK UNIVERSE as of yet. However, at one point, Luke Evans' version from Universal's DRACULA: UNTOLD was supposed to fill that role. The movie began filming before and during the decision by the studio to create a cinematic universe; thus, at the last-minute, an after-credits sequence set during present day was shot to possibly lead into the universe, making DRACULA: UNTOLD the de-facto first film in the franchise. However, after that film failed both critically and financially, Luke Evans' Dracula became non-canon. Though I loved his giant bat-fist move from that movie, so in my opinion that's a loss.


FRANKENSTEIN surprisingly came out the same year as DRACULA, with Boris Karloff's towering monster becoming just as - if not moreso - iconic than the seductive blood-sucker. Either way, it can't be mistaken that the image of Frankenstein's monster is one of the most indelible in all of pop-culture - whenever you see the silhouette of a hulking figure with a flat-top head and bolts in his neck - you know who it is right away. In fact, like PHANTOM OF THE OPERA before it, there are many stories of people fainting or running out of the theater at the mere sight of Karloff's horrible visage (though there are also reports that those were publicity stunts). Either way, the film - directed by famed horror director James Whale - is beautiful and haunting, with a great, heart-breaking performance by Karloff. It is certainly a must-see.

Meanwhile, Javier Bardem has been cast as the new Frankenstein's monster in the DARK UNIVERSE. He'll next be seen, however, not in his own film, but rather in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, which will come out February 14th, 2019 and directed by Bill Condon. It is the only other DARK UNIVERSE film with an official release date besides THE MUMMY.

THE MUMMY (1932)

After the success of FRANKENSTEIN, Karloff signed onto THE MUMMY the next year, directed by the cinematographer from DRACULA. In this film, Karloff played the ancient Egyptian priest Imhotep - who had been mummified alive for sacrilege - and is then later accidentally re-awakened by archaeologists, wreaking havoc in Cairo. Inspired by the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922, the film was a box-office success. However, those more familiar with the 1999 Brendan Fraser film will find many differences to the original, not the least of which being that the eponymous Mummy apparently spends ten years after being resurrected just pretending to be an English nobleman, rather than rain down Biblical plagues or send sandstorm faces at people.

So far, THE MUMMY is the only film in the DARK UNIVERSE to be completed. It stars Sofia Boutella as the eponymous Mummy, replacing the character of Imhotep with Princess Ahmanet. It also stars Tom Cruise as a soldier-of-fortune that becomes cursed by the Mummy, and the ostensible hero of the film. A lot is riding on this film, because its success or failure could determine the fate of the entire cinematic universe.


A modern retelling of the H.G. Wells novel, THE INVISIBLE MAN was director James Whales' follow-up to his smash success of FRANKENSTEIN. The film boasts some impressive special-effects for its time, which were accomplished by a combination of wires, matte processes, and experimenting with film exposures. In fact, many of the effects hold up perfectly well today.

Johnny Depp will be playing the eponymous Invisible Man in the DARK UNIVERSE, and is the last actor to be officially cast in a monster role, alongside Sofia Boutella as The Mummy, Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll, and Javier Bardem as Frankenstein's monster. No news on how Depp's character will fit into the whole narrative - or if there'll even be a cinematic universe by the time THE INVISIBLE MAN will be put into production. I guess time will tell on that one.


As good as FRANKENSTEIN is, many people consider its sequel - BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN - to be even better. Boris Karloff and James Whale both return (as well as Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein), with Elsa Lanchester playing the eponymous Bride. Some even claim it's Whales' masterpiece! The film is certainly oozing with style (from its sets, to its costumes and make-up effects), as well as subtext (which includes allusions to Christianity and homosexuality). In fact, since this was post-Hays Code, it underwent heavy censorship before release. This sequel, at the very least, is a worthy successor to FRANKENSTEIN.

As mentioned in a previous entry, The Bride will be making her debut alongside Bardem's monster in Bill Condon's BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Rumors have spread that the studio is campaigning hard for Angelina Jolie to take on the role. Say what you will about Universal, they're certainly aiming for the stars. And to be fair, she'd be pretty damn perfect in the role as well.


THE WOLF MAN starred Lon Chaney, Jr., son of legendary Lon Chaney (who played the aforementioned Universal monsters Quasimodo and The Phantom of the Opera) as the titular creature. Chaney, Jr. would be the only actor to consistently play a Universal monster in every sequel (calling it "his baby"), including the Abbott and Costello team-ups and his last appearance in 1971's DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN. Interestingly, the first WOLF MAN film doesn't subscribe to the idea of the full moon triggering werewolf transformations, though its sequels do.

No word on who'll play the Wolfman in the new DARK UNIVERSE, though The Rock's name has been rumored to be among the top contenders. If he gets the role, this would be the second Universal monster remake he'd be involved in, having played the villainous Scorpion King in THE MUMMY RETURNS. The question, of course, is: will the werewolf effects will be accomplished with make-up and practical effects (which even the 2010 Benicio Del Toro remake utilized), or with mo-cap?


CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is one of the later additions to the Universal monster lineage. Apparently, the suit designed for the creature (dubbed "Gill-man") was so cumbersome, actor Ben Chapman couldn't sit for 14 hours, and also couldn't see well (causing him to scrape his co-star Julie Adams' head while trying to carry her). Interestingly, the film was made to capitalize on the 3D fad of the '50s, even though the fad was dying by '54, and most people just saw it in 2D.

A reboot of the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, meanwhile, has been in development for ages, with such names as Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Jackson attached at different points in its development. However, the project will finally move forward...as long as the DARK UNIVERSE itself does. Honestly, this is the DARK UNIVERSE film I'm most excited about.

So there you have it, the original DARK UNIVERSE. While those films had their ups-and-downs (especially in their various increasingly ludicrous sequels, meet-ups, and team-ups with Abbott and Costello), they are certainly worthy of their iconic status. Let's hope that the new DARK UNIVERSE can measure up.

Meanwhile, you can see the first DARK UNIVERSE film - THE MUMMY - this weekend on June 9th!

Extra Tidbit: Oof, that Rotten Tomatoes score on THE MUMMY is not looking good...Let's hope the DARK UNIVERSE can survive it. I'm rooting for it.
Source: JoBlo.com



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