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Universal Monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein & Wolf Man - Part one



Universal Monsters Part One Intro

Markedly a time of great struggle in United State’s history, the period between 1929-1939 is known for the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, both historically significant periods of economic and cultural collapse.


The Golden Age of Hollywood period occurred around the same time, considered to have begun in 1915 with the historically inaccurate movie The Birth of the Nation, it was actually a time of more liberal approaches to subjects of cultural interest. It is often associated with “glitz and glamour” being marked by first the Silent Era from 1915-1929 before audio became possible for film and secondly the Pre-Code Era from 1929 to 1934.


During the Pre-Code era studios had all the creative freedom that sound provided with little of the puritanical, religiously influenced oversight that would come to be once the Hay’s Code began negatively impacting films. The Hay’s Code made such an impact on Hollywood to signify a pre and post period of film and the types of films made during both periods.


Remembering Hollywood’s Hays Code, 40 Years On,” by Bob Mondello on NPR describes the pre-code time up until 1922 as quote, “come to seem like a moral quagmire, even by the bathtub-gin-and-speakeasy standards of the Roaring 20’s,” referring in particular to the scandals that had overtaken Hollywood at the time.


Some of the scandals that created enough outrage for the Hay’s Code to take hold of the industry are noted in the NPR article as Fatty Arbuckle being charged with manslaughter of a fellow actress, various stars dying of drug overdoses, and other murders linked directly to the community. The article goes on to state that under Postmaster General Will Hays the Hollywood studios decided to self-impose restrictions but due to this list having no real consequence nothing much came of it.


The Wexner Center for the Arts notes that in 1933 the movie I’m No Angel starring Mae West simultaneously saved Paramount from bankruptcy and took things far enough for calls, both manufactured and real, internal and external, for studios to crack down on the Hay’s Code restrictions. Mondello went on to write that the Hay’s Code had strong influence from the religious community and stated to want to have a production code that considered what they felt to be good taste.


During this time a great push to not negatively influence audiences grew, drawing a connection between movies and perceived failing societal morals, quote, “that no picture should ever “lower the moral standards of those who see it,”” and implying that depicting evil, crime, and wrongdoing would cause audiences to emulate that behavior in the real world.


Bans on the “don’ts” and “be carefuls” with included bans on nudity, mocking religion, drug use, addiction, interracial relationships, revenge, crimes that could be imitated, and so on. To enforce this code American theaters, owned at the time by the studios that wanted to enforce the code to avoid government censorship, did not allow a movie to be played that didn’t meet the standards and receive a certificate. In some of the movies after Hay’s Code became enforced around 1934 you can still see the certificate numbers listed on the title pages of some films, indicating they complied with the regulations.


Something else of note at the time of these movies creation and original popularization is the culture that film studios did want to have on audiences and the significant role that media had become in shaping society. According to The Kennedy Center’s “Part X: Hollywood and Radio in the 1930’s,” movies became an escape during this decade.


While being relatively affordable, movies often depicted lives dissimilar to the harsher realities of the viewer’s circumstances. The same article goes on to explain that at time theaters became the only place for people to get warm and rest. Movies provided a literal escape; escape from hunger, dust, misery, and various other anxieties of the time.


Movies began to serve another purpose during this time, bringing communities together and inspiring people to believe in the American Dream again. Escape movies became a trend and the portrayals of excellence and success helped to boost Hollywood, California’s reputation of being a quote, “haven of opportunity,” also from Jayne Kristen.


UNIVERSAL MONSTERS SERIES - Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man


The Universal Horror Monsters movies in this video, the first of a three part series, are all Universal Studios made movies based on gothic fiction elements. In contrast to the happy, light image of life that escape movies portrayed Universal Pictures Studios, newly headed by Carl Laemmle (Lem-Lee) Jr, became the leading producer of horror films during the 30’s.


Britannica details how these movies, the Universal Monster movies, became characteristically low budget films that allowed Universal, one of the Little Three studios at the time, stay afloat during financial hard times. Commercially successful in the box office, the movies created a genre out of necessity that would go on to transform cinema forever.


Having created the horror movie niche with the various monsters Carl Jr., less than respectfully known as Uncle Carl around the studio, helped transition the studio into “talkies” after they faced challenges under his father’s management. Article “Universal Studios and the Rise of Horror films” notes that Universal was financially strapped and took advantage of gothic elements on sets that they could use for various projects.


In a 1998 documentary Kingdom of Shadows: The Birth of Cinema the word “monster” is explained as having derived from Latin meaning “divine warning,” connecting this to not only the way that the authors Shelley, Stoker, and Wells used the monstrous characters in the stories they wrote but the way those stories are reimagined for various other media and time periods. The Birth of Cinema makes a clear distinction between what does and does not qualify as a monster, stating that monsters have to be displayed, are a warning that lessons can be learned from.


The idea being that the threat of the monster is a tool to govern and encourage people to behave in ways the community sees as morally and ethically good. For example, Frankenstein, is a lesson in the negative outcomes to defying God and trying to upset the natural order, something of great concern when the novels were written in the nineteenth century.


The nineteenth century, or the period between 1800 and 1899 according to “Decade by Decade Timeline of the 1800s” on ThoughtCo.com, has similar themes to those that tinge society today. The Victoria era in particular, described as 1837-1901 is one of quote-“expanding horizons of education and literacy, as well as by an increased desire of the people to question religion and politics,” from British Literature Wiki.


In the 19th century though rather than restrictions to reproductive healthcare they battled women’s sexuality, instead of slashers and true crime they became fascinated with reanimation, immortality purchased with blood, and curses that chain you to the moon. More importantly people became enthralled with the immoral actions, the wicked whims, and the lure of the dark side; the dark side of you revealed take while under the influence of the supernatural.


The potential impacts (both perceived and otherwise) associated with women’s liberation had become a hot button topic during both 1818 when Shelley’s Frankenstein published and in 1897 when Bram Stoker’s Dracula published. During the 19th century women’s suffrage started to become a reality in western cultures, challenging long held social structures based on male led systems.


According to the page “The Long Road to Women’s Suffrage” on the Historic England website regional groups of women had become increasingly involved in the suffrage movement by the late 19th century. The first major event of note on the same site the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage moving outside of their city in 1877 to begin more regional organizing that included public meetings in the northern parts of England.


All three of the novels that would go on to become the first horror movies monsters originated in England aside from all being published in the 1800’s. Despite Mary Shelley’s novel being published a whopping 79 years prior to both Stoker’s and Well’s own monster creations Count Dracula is regarded as the character with the most adaptations of all time. From Guinness World Record’s website the character Count Dracula from Bram Stoker’s novel had been portrayed in 538 films as of August 2015 with the closest literary character being Sherlock Holme’s created by Arthur Conan Doyle appearing in 299 films.


Not only is Dracula the most portrayed character but in addition Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula from the 1931 film is often cited and praised as a key and iconic horror character portrayal that sparked countless others. Despite the image of Dracula being that of Lugosi’s the actual appearance in the book is more similar to that of Nosferatu when utilizing his vampire abilities than a charming, intense but handsome gentlemen with a cape and painfully slow advance on prey.


Frankenstein is the only character I’d have thought to be most common if Dracula hadn’t have become synonymous with horror. It’s a perfect tale in part due to it’s creation during the Year Without a Summer during 1816, in Geneva, Switzerland. Inspired in large part by the ideas at the time surrounding death, women’s place in the world, science, and the nature of life in combination with a challenge issued to a group of friends spending their summer stuck inside reading German ghost stories.


John Polidori, another friend in the same group would write and publish a short story titled The Vampyre in 1819, about fears surrounding “corrupt aristocracy” according to From Monsters to Victims: Vampires and Their Cultural Evolution from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century by Caitlyn Orlomoski with the University of Connecticut.


The idea that monsters could hide among those with status, money, and influence became a theme amongst the Universal Monster movies of this time. Orlomoski also states that this is the first portrayal of a vampire as a gentlemen or noblemen, a way to depict vampires which is later replicated in the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.


While Shelley’s novel started with more intellectually and creatively pure intentions, Stoker’s on the other hand is the 7th book published by the author who’s friends claimed he only wrote for money but not seeking fame as a writer; rather he worked in the theatre and sought success in his career there. The themes of the 19th century had persisted throughout the decades and the anxieties surrounding change and the perceived threat from that change, although different, can still be felt in Dracula as much as Frankenstein.


Dracula is purely superstitious and supernatural, delving into religion as a weapon against the undead whereas Frankenstein is mostly scientific with hints of supernatural elements when it comes to the origin of life, and the question of morality surrounding our actions and divine responsibility for those actions. In a same-but-different-font situation these books’ themes embody the tension and trends in society at the time.


Both are considered to be Gothic fiction of the romantic period. One of the definitions of the word “romantic” is “of, characterized, or suggestive of an idealized view of reality” from Oxford Languages. All three monsters’ stories have romantic tones and the three based on literature generate from novels considered to be part of the Romantic, Neo-romantic and Gothic movements.


The Romantic Movement is described as artistic and intellectual lean of literature, art, music, etc. from 1790 through 1850 on Britannica’s Arts & Culture page dedicated to Romanticism. Originating in Europe, the movement is marked by individualism, awe for the mysteries of life and introspection to name a few.


The New York Public Library article “A Brief History of Gothic Horror” by Amanda Pagan describes gothic fiction as a subgenre typically featuring morality, philosophy, and religion. Pagan also writes that the endings are not always considered good and cites Mary Shelley’s work as a shift in the genre—a switch to the human reflection in the villain.


It’s easy to draw the connection between this display of monstrosity in the original novels as well as later movie adaptations that warn people to avoid the scarier aspects of life. Lessons to avoid potential harm to your fellow citizens, to respect laws of nature, and sometimes to accept fates worse than death in exchange for a safe and peaceful society—or so the stories go. Welcome to the Universal Monsters series, where I’ll be diving into the topics already mentioned, some real world context to the books and movies, as well as reviews of the movies themselves.


This article is a general overview of three Universal Monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man. The movie Frankenstein being based upon Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley, Dracula by Bram Stoker, and then on the other hand the Wolf Man character and backstory is studio made.


The second video, that I am planning to post at the end of July will cover Dracula portrayals from 1958-1979 movies, including the Blaxploitation ones like Blacula, the Frankenstein movies from 1948-1992, and The Wolf Man movies from 1961-2004.


At the end of this December the final part of the series will be posted. The final video will cover related video games, some other interpretations of vampires and the Dracula story, twists on Frankenstein movies like Frankenweenie and Lisa Frankenstein, and werewolf movies like Underworld and Van Helsing. Included in this video will be a Nosferatu 2024 review and any information available about the upcoming Wolf Man 2025 movie release.


In contrast to the monsters inspired by literature the Wolf Man monster is solely studio created and reflects the sentiment of the studio and Hollywood at the time looking to create commercial successes. Much of the character’s struggles have to do with human nature, what lies beneath a man’s societal exterior. Man as himself is the problem, amplified to deadly levels by the werewolf curse, acquired from surviving the bite of a werewolf. At the hands of one man another meets his own destruction and that same motif plays out in most of the Universal Wolf Man portrayals.


By the time that The Wolf Man premieres in 1941 the studio is extremely different, in the clutches of being approved for Hay’s Code compliance certificates in order to play in most theaters and a necessary Supreme Court decision that required the Big 5 studios in Hollywood, which Universal hadn’t been a part of, to address their monopolization of the film industry.


Universal Monster films associated with the earlier part of that time period gone over in this video include Dracula and Frankenstein 1931, Werewolf of London in 1933, Bride of Frankenstein 1935, Dracula’s Daughter 1936, and later on The Son of Frankenstein which released in 1939.


Despite the horror films being a product of the Laemmle reign of Universal Pictures they’d proven to be commercially successful and continued into the 40’s and even 50’s with the Count Dracula films Son of Dracula 1943, House of Frankenstein 1944, House of Dracula 1945, the Frankenstein movies The Ghost of Frankenstein 1942, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man 1943, The Curse of Frankenstein 1957, The Revenge of Frankenstein 195, and Wolf Man movies with the character Larry Talbot including The Wolf Man 1941, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman 1943, House of Frankenstein 1944, and House of Dracula 1945.


All of the movies mentioned so far will be gone over in this video with a brief review of each. A lot has changed since the 1930’s and 40’s but the attraction to the darker side is a prevalent theme in all Universal Monster movies and that more gloomy and shadowy tilt to the world mirrors sentiments of the 2020’s just like they did in the past.


Obviously with hindsight we can assess some of those quote-unquote “lessons” as self serving creations. Many of them, like female sexuality leading to societal collapse, or homosexuality being the ultimate sin, to be based on certain people’s beliefs rather than universally held truths about humanity. Despite how they are sometimes portrayed to be.


DRACULA 1931 & NOVEL


The first pivotal and prime example is the OG king of the Universal Monsters, Dracula, first officially featured in the 1931 film under the same name. Most literature and documentaries on the subject agree that Dracula, a foreigner and outsider to England (which is the main setting of the novel and many movie adaptations) with nefarious intentions lures women away from their English men and turn them from pious and pure virgins to sexually open and ravenous women who are overtaken with their thirst for blood.


The first Dracula movie simply titled Dracula premiered in 1931 and said to be based on the 1924 stage play of the same name by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. Bela Lugosi famously plays Dracula in the film which is also the first sound film version of Stoker’s novel. The novel begins in Transylvania, Romania following Johnathan Harker who is visiting a castle atop a small village in the Carpathian Mountains.


The noblemen that Harker has come to assist with a real estate transaction is Count Dracula, who the town fears and reveres from the safety of their village using superstitious techniques like lining entrances in garlic and wearing crucifixes to protect against being fed upon by the Count and ward off attacks. Unfortunately for Harker he doesn’t heed the warnings (which fair—they are in Romanian and he’s an English man), and becomes Dracula’s prisoner before he puts two and two together that Dracula and his three wives are vampires.


As an epistolary novel, or a narrative told through letters or other documents rather than one cohesive narrative, we jump from Harker’s POV as a prisoner in Dracula’s castle to his fiancé Mina Murray’s letters with Lucy Westenra. The two women correspond about Lucy’s three suitors who later become part of the Dracula hunting party, and they come across the wrecked Russian ship that carried the 50 boxes of dirt from Transylvania. Mina informs Harker that she saw Lucy sleepwalking in the cemetery with red eyes over her, only to discover that Lucy had 2 tiny red marks on her throat of unknown origin.


Due to the weird circumstances surrounding Lucy’s ailments and behavior Dr. Seward, one of her suitors and a doctor at the asylum Mina works at, calls in his mentor Professor Van Helsing for assistance. Van Helsing immediately identifies that not only are the weird circumstances with Renfield, the raving lunatic who ominously warns that he is coming but won’t say who, and Lucy are the result of vampires but the vampire that he’s been hunting his whole career, Count Dracula.


In an attempt to save Lucy’s life the men perform blood transfusions that fail and the situation worsens when Lucy’s mother succumbs to a heart attack induced by shock. All of their efforts are for naught when Lucy is attacked and killed by a wolf.


On the other side of Europe Harker is taken in by nuns while suffering brain fever post-Castle escape and has recovered, now sending for Lucy to join him in Budapest so they can be married.


Back in England Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, and Lucy’s two other suitors go to her grave under concern that she is going to transition to an undead vampire which the men accompanying Van Helsing don’t believe. Van Helsing is obviously right and Lucy has attacked a child and is in fact not dead and resting in her tomb. They all decide to release Lucy’s soul by killing her in a rather brutal way and ensuring she can’t rise from the dead again.


Upon Mina and Johnathan’s return to Western Europe they join in the efforts to stop Dracula which includes burning his supply of dirt from his homeland, necessary for him to rest in during the daylight hours at risk of perishing otherwise. Assuming his next move the hunting crew chases Dracula back to Transylvania and kill his wives before he arrives and intercept him and ultimately kill him.


Modernity allows for advancements that make moving internationally with 50 boxes of dirt much easier, even sending for a business man from England to assist in the completion of the transaction. Similarly today we grapple with fears about AI and technological advancements that connect us but could potentially bring greater harm by doing so. Like in the novel and adaptations connection brings out some of our most ugly instincts, including fears about people we aren’t familiar with from places we know little about. The character Dracula is a representation of the fears during the 19th century in England that immigrants would bring with evil with them that would spread to English society through susceptible, virginal women.


For example Lucy is written like a plant of sorts to no fault of her own. Similarly to Mina she’s considered a commodity with a hunting party’s worth of protectors and avengers but unlike Mina her succumbing to what they believe is the dark side, symbolized by her being with Dracula rather than them, instantly turns their plan deadly. Rather than saving Lucy they’d rather destroy her under a belief they are doing it for her own good.


The 1931 movie differs in some big ways, for starters Renfield is the man who goes to carry out the transaction with the Count in Transylvania. The story begins with him as a red herring protagonist who goes through Harker’s experiences at the castle. Renfield ends up being alive on the ship that Dracula uses to transport himself and his 50 boxes of dirt to England and now raving madly he is taken to a sanatorium.


Van Helsing uses wolfsbane in the movie as an essential tool to protect against vampires, something not mentioned in the book. Crucifixes are the other essential tool used in the movie with dramatic ends to drawn out attacks from Dracula. In the film Dracula takes the form of mist and a bat in addition to a wolf we don’t see but hear howling to call Renfield.


Lucy is not in this film adaptation and only Mina is preyed upon by Dracula, him sneaking into her room through her window and drinks her blood, turning her into one of his minions. Eventually Dracula flees back to his coffin and upon hearing Van Helsing and Harker arrive believes Renfield betrayed him and kills him by breaking his neck. Sunrise arrives causing Dracula to seek refuge in his coffin which allows Van Helsing and Harker to drive a stake through his heart which frees Mina from his control.


The portrayal is vastly different than the novel including the character Count Dracula. After Laemmle legally acquired the rights Universal Pictures owned the character but took inspiration from the stage play and the illegal Nosferatu adaptation of the novel.


According to The Art of Costume article “Designing Fear: Bela Lugosi’s Dracula” Raymond Huntly is actually who first slicked their hair back and wear a tuxedo cape combo when portraying Dracula in Hamilton Deane’s 1924 stage play adaptation of the book. The article on The Art of Costume also states it’s possible that either the costume designers or Lugosi bought the look from the stage to the play.


In contrast to this Stoker’s novel describes Dracula as having quote, “a hard-looking mouth, with very red lips and sharp-looking teeth, as white as ivory,” on page 9. Not long later on page 17, “The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy mustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly shrimp white teeth; those protruded over the lips.”


Dracula is also said to have a broad strong chin, nasty breath, being generally pale with pointed ears, he is overall thin, has pointed, sharp, long nails and when Harker looks more closely he notices hairs in the center of Dracula’s palms. Upon Dracula touching Harker he physically shudders and becomes nauseated before being rushed off to his own quarters.


On page 36 we learn that Dracula’s eyes turn from a blue to a red glow when he becomes angered, in this instance with his wives going after Harker who he is says belongs to him, offering them a child instead. Later in the novel once many events have transpired Van Helsing explains to the men who Dracula is and the things the myriad of signs he’s a vampire. He never eats with others because he consumes blood which allows him to become younger and replenish depleted abilities.


In addition Van Helsing goes on to tell them that he becomes “elemental dust” in the rays of moonlight, so he can essentially enter any place no matter how small the entry due to this and can see in the dark. Genuinely he’s OP according to Stoker which no shock people would be afraid of. It’s rather mundane that the only ways to take him out are to destroy his connection to his homeland, attack him during daylight hours when he’s weakest, garlic, and religious symbols.


When upset his originally blue eyes become red and every time he appears he looks younger. No matter the age however he’s always able to do things outside the realm of possibility like scaling the wall to climb out of the castle (a truly spooky description in the novel).


Similar to much of the superstitions and folklore of the area surrounding Transylvania and the Romanian people, specifically those who lived nomadically, the Count has no reflection and shape shifts into animal forms as well as mist slash fog.


FRANKENSTEIN 1931 & NOVEL

Despite Dracula being the most portrayed character Frankenstein also came out in 1931 and the Frankenstein story is arguably the one that weaves all of the other Universal Monsters together. The full title of the novel by Mary Shelley is Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, a figure in Greek mythology known for defying the Gods by stealing fire back from Zeus, a trickster. The creation of Frankenstein’s monster is a trick on nature, one of the central themes and driving forces behind character’s struggles throughout the plots of the Frankenstein movies.


The opening chapter of the book is about the book’s background and what inspired the story in the first place—the challenge issued by Shelley’s friend Lord Byron in Geneva, Switzerland, the setting of the book. The first version of the book published didn’t reveal Shelley’s identity, but upon the second publication she is noted as the author of the book. While the first film adaptation covers the main plot points in similar ways to the book much of the story is changed to fit the Golden Hollywood story rather than the Gothic fiction version. Similarly to Dracula, Frankenstein is an epistolary novel, starting with Captain Walton’s 18th century letters to his sister Margaret while he explores the North Pole.


The movie on the other hand begins in a Bavarian Alps village with a nearby medical college where Henry Frankenstein has built a laboratory in a watchtower. Henry has become so engrossed and obsessed with his highly secret experiments that he’s gone ghost. In Captain Walton’s letters back in the novel we get more of a backstory and build up that arguably enhances the fear elements of the story ten-fold.


A few letters deep Walton explains that his ship got trapped in ice only to notice a huge figure driving a sled in the Arctic. Upon getting free from the ice the ship and it’s crew led by Walton decide to rescue a man on the ice, tired and weathered from a long arctic journey. Victor informs them that he’s been pursuing the large figure they’d seen earlier and recognizes the same obsession forming in Walton that he has for tracking the creature.


In an attempt to warn Walton, Victor starts to tell the story of how he came to be on the ice and this then becomes the novel’s main plot told from Victor’s perspective for a decent portion. Unlike in the 1931 movie we learn a lot of detail about Victor’s life and what led him to become the man he is, starting with his birth into a wealthy Genevan family who has a pension for scientific exploration. During his childhood his parents adopt Elizabeth, the daughter of an Italian nobleman who is now orphaned.


All’s well and according to plan until Victor’s mother dies of scarlet fever and he continues with his plan to attend the University of Ingolstadt in Germany. While at university Victor develops a secret way reanimate non-living matter and decides to create a humanoid creature. The creature is planned to be tall and proportionally large due to Victor’s inability to recreate the details of human bodies. Around this time in the novel the movie picks up a parallel plot line to the story.


In the book Frankenstein’s monster is made from parts stolen from buildings where dead bodies were stored, mortuaries, and even animals to acquire the organs and parts he couldn’t by other means. The first scene in the movie is of a funeral, Henry Frankenstein rather than Victor hides nearby with his hunchback assistant, Fritz, to rob the new grave. It’s revealed that him and Fritz have secured parts from graves along with hanged criminals in the town nearby.


He exclaims to his assistant that he believes electricity is the key to life, omitting the events in the book that led Frankenstein to discover a secret but essential technique for reanimation. The last piece, arguably the most essential in the film series, is the brain that will go into the monster which Henry sends Fritz to retrieve from his former mentor’s class, an average, healthy brain. Dr. Waldman, Henry’s former mentor, has two brains to demonstrate to the class differences between a depraved criminal brain and a normal one. Fritz manages to bungle the operation and decides to take the criminal brain rather than the normal one.


Meanwhile, Henry’s fiancé Elizabeth goes to their friend Victor Moritz, which is an interesting callback to Victor from the novel. Her, Moritz, and Waldman rush to Henry’s lab once Waldman informs them that Henry does intend to create life. As they arrive they are invited to watch the reanimation experiment as Henry and Fritz complete it with the lightning storm raging outside. Following the experiments successful completion the famous, “It’s alive!,” lines are delivered with mad scientist exuberance.


The monster itself is the most different aspect between the novel and the 1931 Universal adaptation. The book’s monster is described as having dull, watery eyes, yellow skin that’s transparent enough to see the blood vessels underneath, flowing black hair and black lips. He’s extremely strong and physically capable but has the mind of a baby.


In the movies however Frankenstein’s monster is green with a flat head, stitches all over his body, short cropped hair with black lips and electric conducting bolts sticking out of his neck. The movie version is the version we commonly think of to represent Frankenstein’s monster, or as the creature is colloquially known, Frankenstein, eliminating Victor/Henry all together.



The novel differs so much from the movie so much that I’ll pick back up talking about it in a later video when I go over Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the 1994 film.


Once the movie monster is made Henry and Fritz end up restraining him, fearing what his violent outbursts could lead to. When Fritz goes to the monster he’s attacked and the other men lock him in, coming up with a plan to let the monster go and then use a drug to kill him when he inevitably attacks. Similarly to the book Henry is horrified by his creation, scared that himself or someone else could be hurt or killed by the monster.


They carry their plan out and the monster is presumably dead after falling to the floor unconscious and Waldman reassures that he will perform an autopsy and then destroy the monster. When he goes to perform said autopsy he’s strangled by the Monster who’s not dead at all. Henry is none the wiser to this development as he prepares for his wedding to Elizabeth occurring the next day.


The Monster escapes the tower laboratory and makes his way through the woods, coming upon a lake with a house nearby. A little girl says goodbye to her father at the house and goes to play by the lake, inviting the Monster to join her with childlike innocence. At first things are fine but then he becomes upset about the flower having no more petals and throws the little girl into the lake. Unable to swim to shore the little girl drowns and the Monster runs away into the woods.


Another famous scene occurs next, the little girl’s father walks through town with the girls wet, limp body to Castle Frankenstein. As he’s walking and people in the town realize what’s happening they join him and form an angry mob that demands answers from the Frankensteins for the girl’s death. It is discovered that Waldman has been strangled by the Monster who has made his way to the castle.


The sight of the Monster causes Elizabeth to pass out and he escapes with the mob following him. Henry is then attacked by the Monster and hurled over the side of the windmill as the mob demands justice below. The dummy body breaks it’s fall off the windmill by hitting one of the blades and the people below carry Henry back to the village.


The Monster goes down with the burning windmill, anger mob members cheering below at his fear of the fire and eventual demise. Everyone thinks the Monster is dead and the Frankensteins proceed with a wedding and Henry’s father toasts to a future grandchild.


WEREWOLF OF LONDON 1935

The movie Werewolf of London premiered in 1935 and originally had Lugosi cast as Dr. Yogami and Boris Karloff as Dr. Wilfred Glendon. Despite it being not about Lawrence Talbot, the version of the werewolf monster that I’ll be covering in this series, it is the first werewolf movie that Universal made and precedes The Wolf Man character by about six years.


Wilfred is a botanist from England who is in Tibet searching for the mariphasa lupina lumina, a rare plant that is legendary for being powered by the moon. During his journey he’s bitten by a humanoid creature but is still able to collect the specimen from the plant he’d been searching for.


Some of the nastiest but well done effects occur in Wilfred’s conservatory with the butt looking creature with tentacle arms moving around inside a cage with people observing through bars. The plant consumes a frog which is just as gross as it sounds.


During this time Wilfred is dedicating his focus to the plant specimen from Tibet, with the goal to trick the plant to bloom. While he’s showing someone the plant his hand begins to grow fur and upon seeing this he rushes the man out.


Yogami is another doctor who approaches Wilfred about the flower, requesting that he provide him with 2 blossoms of the plant by the full moon. He wants the flowers due to them being an antidote  to lycanthropy, a man who believes that he is transforming into a werewolf during the full moon.


Unwilling to help him Wilfred isn’t convinced by the two examples Yogami gives of men in London having been bitten by werewolves, surviving the bite, and then becoming a werewolf themselves. Although Wilfred didn’t feel inclined to help Yogami he does use his pro-tip and harvests sap from the plant in order to stop his own transformation.


Wilfred’s wife, Lisa played by Valerie Hobson, goes to her Aunt Miss Ettie Coombes’ party with her childhood sweetheart, Paul played by Lester Matthews, who has intentions to try and get Lisa back. Wilfred stays back and he proceeds to undergo a painful transformation into a werewolf humanoid form.


Howling erupts on the streets which the partygoers hear from inside but due to only Ettie, known for being a drunk, seeing the werewolf no one else believes her and Wilfred prowls the streets instead of targeting his wife Lisa. The partygoers only learn the grim truth that a woman got mauled to death on the London streets and some of them begin to piece together something supernatural at foot. Paul informs his uncle, a police chief, about his supernatural suspicions but the superstitious beliefs are brushed off.


In attempts to not go on a murderous rampage and with no flower blossom antidote options Wilfred believes he can lock himself away during the full moon. He breaks out once he’s transformed and searches the streets for a victim, settling on a young woman meeting up with a lover.


Once there’s confirmation something supernatural is going on the police offer to seize the flower from Wilfred in order to stop him transforming into a werewolf. A worry grows that the werewolf curse could become an epidemic that takes over London.


Things escalate when Wilfred breaks out of metal bars to choke his wife only to be run off when Paul and the policemen at the home chase him off. In a technique I hadn’t seen in prior films of this time footage of multiple characters making phone calls are cut over one another to show the efforts the extent to which the group is taking to track Wilfred down over a short period of time.


Yogami and Wilfred go back and forth over the flower, Wilfred slicing him and choking him to death, far more violent than I would’ve expected from a 1930’s movie but this is right around the time that the Hay’s Code would’ve been making ripples in Hollywood without fully controlling it yet.


Wilfred makes it onto the roof and jumps off to attack Paul in a rather funny chase scene and crouch from Wilfred on the roof. Finally Wilfred is shot from behind and he thanks them for killing him, giving a speech and then dying. Upon his death Wilfred transforms back into his man form and the group decides to cover everything up rather than let London know how close they’d come to a werewolf epidemic.


THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN 1935

Following Werewolf of London the Hay’s Code had  first sequel to Frankenstein titled, The Bride of Frankenstein, released in 1935 with Elsa Lanchester playing Mary Shelley in the beginning as well as the Bride later in the film. Directed by James Whale this Carl Laemmle Jr. production has garnered much praise and fanfare over the decades.


In a neat and tidy continuation the events of the film pick back up with the ending of the first movie, the windmill is burning with Frankenstein’s monster atop it. This is Shelley continuing the Frankenstein tale to a group of friends on a stormy night in the present and the movie being her telling. It’s expressly stated by the fictional Shelley that she intended for the story to be a moral lesson and that a common misconception is calling the monster himself Frankenstein.


The townspeople believe that the monster died in the fire that burned the mill to the group but the father of the little girl who drowned In the first film wants confirmation. Hans, the father, travels into the ruin only to fall right into the monster’s hiding place, the monster strangles Hans and his wife to death, wiping out their entire family in less than 48 hours.


Having thought Frankenstein had died Elizabeth is overjoyed to learn he’s still alive, so much so that upon a warning that the monster lives no one listens. Henry is sticking steadfast to his mission however and still feels destined to unlock the secrets of life and renounces his creation without relinquishing his obsession.


Henry’s mentor Doctor Septimus Pretorius arrives to the castle and shows him what he calls “homunculi” which are small, fully formed humans popular during the times of alchemy. Pretorius convinces Henry they should work together to create a second creature but this time Pretorius intends to grow an artificial brain. Henry is tasked with getting the body parts while Pretorius works on the artificial brain.


While in the woods the monster saves a woman from drowning but this is confused for attacking her when two hunters happen upon them and chase the monster after shooting him. Upon catching him he’s chained only to display the strength and ability to break and escape. This ends up with the monster finding an old hermit who’s blind and just happy to have a friend in the vicinity. The man teaches him the word “friend” and feeds him but the lost hunters stumble upon them and end that union.


The cottage is burned down in the scuffle and the hunters and hermit are safely outside, aware now that the monster is near and more incensed and fearful. While they lead the hermit away the monster hides out in a crypt only to witness Pretorius and his two henchmen robbing the grave of a young woman. The men leave and Pretorius stays, ending up talking to the monster about his plans to create a second creature.


Henry refuses to complete the work and Pretorius reveals that the monster is involved and also demands that Henry help. Pretorius signals to the monster to carry out a plan to abduct Elizabeth, Henry’s wife as of very recently, in order to force Henry to complete the creation.


Once Henry has agreed to assist in the experiment they prep and a storm rolls in for them to take advantage of. Lightning strikes on the contraption above the raised metal table, electrifying the body of the creature wrapped from head to toe in bandages. When she reaches the ground again they realize they have a success—the bride is alive.


Pretorius and Henry unwrap her revealing an absolutely stunning character, the Bride of Frankenstein, which Pretorius shouts upon confirmation she lived. Black hair swept up behind her head with white streaks in it sprouting from her electrified temples, she’s twitchy and hesitant, dressed in a floor length gown with a sharp stitch line carving her jaw she is fabulous. The monster arrives shortly after her reveal, reaching for her and saying, “friend?” In a hopeful manner.


Unfortunately for everyone the bride is less than impressed with the monster and she recoils away from him towards Frankenstein. Her rejection causes him to state that she hates him and is like the others, realizing that he can’t force someone to accept him.


The monster decides to smash the lab up, shouting to Elizabeth and Henry that they should go because they live. In contrast the monster tells Pretorius and the bride that they belong dead and are staying. The monster pulls the lever that brings on the castle tower’s destruction along with the laboratory and the experiments inside.


DRACULA’S DAUGHTER 1936

Following the commercially successful Universal Pictures horror films Dracula’s Daughter premiered in 1936. It is debated what the actual source material for the movies is, American Film Catalog’s page dedicated to the film states that it’s thought to be based on an unpublished story from the novel titled Dracula’s Guest while other, more modern sources claim it’s based on the 1872 novel Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu which is famous for it’s subject matter of lesbian relationships, the first novel of it’s kind in British fiction.


By 1936 when this movie premiered various other monster movies had premiered to varying degrees of success. One thing rang true for Universal towards the end of the Great Depression: horror movies are cheap to make and turn a profit, even during the worst of times. Not only are they cheap to make but source material from the Gothic era made perfect blueprints for the base stories of each monster. After the initial monster movies stories expanded in the pre-code and early code time periods.


Dracula’s Daughter is known to have themes of homosexuality and patriarchy, focusing on Countess Mayra Zaleska whom is the daughter of Dracula seeking to cure her thirst. She seeks help from Dr. Garth, a man she meets at a society party once she arrives in town, who instantly falls for the Countess.


Garth walks the Countess through a type of conversion therapy but she succumbs to her urges and attacks a young woman that her helper, Sandor, recruits for her. Under the guise of needing models for her paintings the Countess is able to lure in victims who are more likely to trust her because she is a woman of nobility.


It’s obvious from the first few scenes that the Countess isn’t as proud of her vampirism as her father the Count had been. Rather than wanting to completely indulge in her blood thirst she hopes that when he dies and she burns his body she’s free from his curse. This is a common story amongst those that have survived conversion therapy tactics—and using the word loosely—treatments. Struggling against one’s nature is known to end in heartache nine times out of ten but that false hope of being the tenth and fulfilling the impossible goal to change who you are.


Towards the three fourths mark of the movie the tone from the Countess changes. She becomes more sure of herself and definitive about after succumbing to her blood thirst and attacking a woman that ends up recounting the tale to the Doctor and authorities before passing.


Dr. Garth and his secretary have an unusual relationship to say the least and in order to lure him to the Dracula castle in Transylvania. Garth chases the Countess to the castle, realizing he cares about his secretary despite their more antagonistic than harmonious relationship. The Countess demands that Garth becomes her eternal partner and become a vampire in exchange for letting Janet, Garth’s secretary, free.


The plan isn’t carried out though, the Countess is killed by her now disloyal servant Sandor because she had promised him eternal life only for her to take on this side quest. Before Sandor can kill Garth and Janet as well he’s killed by a policeman accompanied by Van Helsing.


Dracula’s Daughter is one of my favorites of these thirties and forties monster movies. Gloria Holden’s performance as the Countess is spectacular and hard to look away from, giving the sense that she possesses a hypnotic glare even stronger than her father’s. The approaches are just as slow as Lugosi’s but amplified in fear factor that has withstood the test of time.


Holden’s magnetism and chemistry can be felt in each scene regardless of who she’s acting with. The only actors with more chemistry are Otto Kruger who played Dr. Jeffrey Garth and Marguerite Churchill who played Janet Blake, the doctor’s secretary. Something I’ve noticed about older movies that is a bit of viewing-learning-curve for me and it’s that key details will be given one time only through something like a sign in the background or a random conversation.


While taking notes I’d note the relationships between the characters only to check websites to confirm and find out I’d completely missed key details that answered much of my confusion. I had thought that older movies just didn’t care as much about the details and lore but in fact they just display it to the audience in far different ways. Once I’d realized how off I’d been things made much, much more sense as far as plots, monster’s abilities, and especially character’s relationships and histories.


SON OF FRANKENSTEIN 1939

At the end of the previous Frankenstein movie the monster burned the lab down with both himself and the bride inside with the mad scientist. We flash forward years after that event with Henry Frankenstein’s son Baron Wolf von Frankenstein played by Basil Rathbone. The new generation of Frankenstein’s arrive back in their ancestral home only to realize the entire town despises them and is wary of their arrival.


The policeman Inspector Krogh lost his arm as a child to the Frankenstein monster but befriends the family in spite of his history. The Inspector does however warn Baron Wolf that his attempt to repair his father’s reputation in the village won’t be met with acceptance from the townspeople.


When Baron Wolf arrives at the castle with his wife Elsa and son Peter he finds Ygor who is a man hung for grave robbing that survived the hanging with a neck deformity. He also finds the monsters body in the crypt that he decides to revive in his families name.


Despite Wolf being able to revive the monster it is under Ygor’s command who is directing it to murder all of the men in town that sentenced him to death. Due to the obvious connection Wolf puts two and two together and confronts Ygor and shoots him. In revenge for killing Ygor the monster takes Peter, Wolf’s son.


A fight ensues after the men, Inspector Krogh and Baron Wolf, chase the monster to the laboratory. The monster is knocked into the molten sulphur pit that is underneath the lab after he tears off Krogh’s arm—poetic justice for the Inspector.


Following the events the Frankenstein family decide to leave the village after all which causes the townspeople to cheer. In a gesture of good faith Baron Wolf leaves the castle to the village people who he believes are the rightful owners and protectors.


THE WOLF MAN 1941

One monster I find to be not scary with no hope of having fixed it on the other hand is The Wolf Man, or Lawrence “Larry” Talbot, first appearing in the 1941 film of the same name. It might be due to the makeup of the time or of the direction of the performance not feeling like it always matching the actor Lon Chaney Jr. It might’ve been due to Hay’s Code or maybe just capabilities and technological advancements but the Wolf Man looks like a caricature to my modern mind. It comes off as the safe version of the Universal Monster movies.


The story is created entirely by the studio in this case however, a deviation from the other films source materials. In spite of this the story is decent and still accomplishes the gothic themes and elements like the other movies. Larry Talbot returns to his home in Wales after his brother dies to be there for arrangements and to reconcile with Sir John, his father and the lord of the estate. Shortly after arriving he meets Gwen Conliffe, played by Evelyn Ankers, who works at a local antique store and is instantly smitten with her.


Under the guise of looking for a new walking stick he attempts to flirt with Gwen and ends up purchasing one with a giant silver wolf handgrip. The local superstition states that a werewolf is a man that becomes a wolf and also mentions that they see a pentagram on the palm of their next victim.


Gwen nonetheless agrees to meet with him after work to go get their fortunes told by Romani people who are nearby. Gwen brings her friend Jenny and they visit Bela who sees a pentagram in her hand when he goes to give her a palm reading in his caravan. Meanwhile Gwen and Larry are walking around chatting about her engagement and are interrupted by Jenny screaming. They rush to her aid as she’s being attacked by a wolf and Larry jumps in to try and rescue her.


Larry is able to kill the wolf with his new walking stick but sustains a bite from the wolf who is revealed to be Bela the fortune teller. Gwen and Bela’s mother, Maleva, take the injured Larry back to his estate where his chest wolf bite heals within the night. Now that the wolf has turned back into Bela upon his death the people at the scene believe that Larry killed him. Things get worse for Larry when his bite heals and he’s lost most if not all of his proof of battling a wolf and not a man.


Gwen and Larry end up getting suspicion from the town about potentially having engaged in adultery when Jenny died, showing a stark consequence for the flirtation. Maleva tells Larry about the curse and Bela along with warning him he’s also cursed now, giving him a pendent that he regifts to Gwen. He doesn’t take Maleva seriously but transforms the next night running out and killing a villager. Due to the attacks resembling that of a wolf a hunting party is formed to track down the wolf.


When things reach a fever pitch Larry confesses to his father that he’s the werewolf but his father doesn’t believe him and instead straps him to a chair believing he’s lost his mind. Upon the full moon he transforms however and attacks Gwen, a pentagram having shown on her palm earlier, and his father not recognizing him kills him with his silver wolf headed walking stick.


This Universal Monster represents what the studio felt would be most successful during this time, what story and character could they create that is low budget but a box office hit. That makes the character an important control variable when examining what audiences connected with and looked for in horror movies during this time.


THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN 1942

Despite Frankenstein leaving at the end of Son of Frankenstein the town left behind is famished at the start of The Ghost of Frankenstein, released in 1942. The townspeople staunchly believe that the monster caused a curse on the town that can only be resolved by blowing the castle up. The mayor tries to intercede on their plan but is threatened he won’t be reelected if he stands in the way of this matter.


Ygor is still in the castle, and in fact not dead, sending pieces of stone from the top of the castle onto the townspeople below. The plan to blow up the castle is brought to fruition and Ygor survives the blast. From the rubble a hand is sticking out, the monster survived the pit and is now encased in material from the pit. Ygor notes that the pit damaged but preserved him and breaks him free, both escaping the castle into the graveyard nearby while the townspeople continue destroying the castle.


While Ygor and the monster flee through the graveyard and woods beyond it lightning strikes his neck bolt which at first Ygor believes is bad but proves to be good. Ygor exclaims that Frankenstein might’ve been his father but lightning is his mother. The two plan to find Doctor Frankenstein, the other son of Henry Frankenstein’s father in order to help the monster.


Doctor Frankenstein has a practice in Vasaria where he sees those with quote-unquote “diseased minds” and is performing a first of it’s kind brain surgery with his two assistants. One of the assistants, Bohmer, is Frankenstein’s former teacher having made a serious error resulting in being Frankenstein’s assistant instead.


When Ygor and the monster arrive in Vasaria and the monster approaches children playing after a young boy kicks a young girl’s ball onto a roof. His interaction and relationship with the little girl becomes a catalyst for a lot of the events in the film. She is not a catalyst for Ludwig’s purposes however, which are to destroy the monster or turn him into a controllable experiment that can be further studied.


Ultimately the competing goals for the monster’s body cause Ygor’s brain to be put into it by Bohmer, having betrayed Frankenstein in order to redeem his reputation for the successful, experimental surgery. Since the monster abducted the little girl prior to undergoing the surgical brain transplant an angry mob has now formed led by her father. Time has passed since the brain transplant but originally her father had thought she had died in the fire the monster accidentally set when abducting her.


The mob makes their way to the Frankenstein castle and Ygor as the Frankenstein monster has a plan to gas the townspeople that storm the castle. Fortunately the little girl is still alive and inside the castle, Elsa bringing her down from somewhere. I might’ve missed it but there didn’t seem to be an explanation other than covering the monster’s tracks to continue to hide the girl and let her father believe she’d died in the fire.


It seems that things are going downhill and that Ygor will have all the power of the monster’s body with all of the evil intentions he harbors. Suddenly Ygor starts to loose his sight and it’s revealed that the brain needed to be a direct blood type match for the operation to fully work. Bohmer is killed by falling into the machinery used to reanimate creatures.


This scene is particularly top of mind in light of Taylor Swift’s Fortnight Music video full of references to this time period of film and more specifically Frankenstein films. Taylor Swift is strapped into the monster’s spot with her head covered in metal machinery, the electrified machines behind her becoming deadly to the lab workers similarly to Bohmer.


Normally I chalk things like this up to coincidence and being influenced by old Hollywood like many things have been but with T-Swift the symbolism, Easter Eggs, and lore runs deep, this is no different. The time period of these Universal monster movies based on 19th century gothic fiction is peak romanticism in the best ways which is exactly the vibe of The Tortured Poet’s Department music video.


In Ghost of Frankenstein the monster goes up in the flames of the laboratory, melted by the flames and buried in the falling infrastructure. The final scene is Elsa and policemen escaping into the scenery beyond the burning estate, cleansing with the destruction of fire similar to how the tale ends in the first film and many portrayals that align with that one.


SON OF DRACULA 1943

another addition to the Dracula franchise is added, Son of Dracula, released in 1943. Noticeably in this film all of the workers and servants around the estates and establishments are black actors rather than white actors as they’d previously been for other films.


Now set in America rather than various European locations it also centers around a plantation that is passed from a father to his daughter upon his death. Kay is a badass goth queen dripping in romanticism, Katherine Caldwell inherits her father’s plantation, Dark Oats, and is secretly dating a mysterious man Alucard. Upon Alucard’s arrival in town Kay breaks off her engagement to longtime love, Frank Stanley, and hastily marries Alucard who is actually Dracula spelt backwards.


Frank believes he has killed Kay when he shoots Dracula and the bullets go directly through him but Kay is actually a vampire now. Once Frank is jailed she teleports as mist into his cell to inform him that she had a plan all along—she would become a vampire by seducing Dracula then she would turn Frank into a vampire and they will live together forever.


Unfortunately for Kay and the plot this movie was made during Hay’s Code reign over Hollywood and Frank betrays Katherine, setting her coffin on fire rather than joining her in eternal life. I can’t help but wonder if this movie could’ve held up better without the restrictions. It’s clear that the intention of the creatives is to have Kay end up as a vampire with her love or at the very least them dying together in a blaze of glory. The plot points in the same direction the entire time up until the end when we must have the pious men protect Kay from herself, similarly to Lucy in Dracula, for fear of infighting such transgressions from audience members.


Despite feeling this way all’s not well however with portraying Kay as a victim when she’s still villainous, especially in her scheming. First off, she tricks Dracula regardless of what Dracula’s plans might’ve been, still not off to a great moral start. She then goes on to break her fiancé’s heart in order to secure immortality and then even still she leads her fiancé to believe he killed her only to reveal herself via mist in his jail cell. During his near break with reality Kay informs Frank that she took the choice of becoming a vampire from him, already drinking his blood.


I still would’ve wanted to see the more macabre ending but this has potential (and most likely removed) Hay’s Code don’t and be carefuls all throughout it. Fears about Eastern European immigrants are replaced with ideas about a quote “superior race” which comes up quite frequently. Noticeably in this film all of the workers and servants around the estates and establishments are black actors rather than white actors as they’d previously been for other films.


This film is the most stark transition in my opinion from pre and post Code horror films, even affecting the niche genre of the Little Three studios. It’s obvious there’s friction between the studios and the creatives, the conflicting decisions muddying the plot and causing unnecessary distractions from the scarier aspects.


FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN 1943

By 1943 with multiple monsters now introduced Universal Pictures decided to combine monsters in the same film, starting a trend that would further build and solidify these characters as core classic horror figures.


About four years after The Wolf Man and The Ghost of Frankenstein grave robbers are breaking into the Talbot family crypt and discover that Larry’s tomb is full of wolfsbane. Since the introduction of the Wolf Man as a character a chant accompanies the legend which the robbers recite at the grave. After this and removing the wolfsbane Larry grabs one of their arms.


After being found by the police and taken to a hospital doctors are extremely confused by Larry’s miraculous survival of blunt force trauma to the head. He has a skull fracture and doesn’t readily remember details but turns into a werewolf and kills a policeman which spurs his memory, reigniting his desire to be stopped from killing again. People don’t believe him until they travel to his grave to investigate and find it empty.


Melva recommends that Larry seek the help of Dr. Frankenstein and he goes to try and find the notes in the ruin of the castle. After posing as a potential buyer Elsa Frankenstein, Ludwig’s daughter, returns to the estate to meet him and he asks her about the notes hiding place. Despite her not agreeing to help him they do agree to attend a festival together. Dr. Mannering wants Larry to commit himself to a hospital before the next full moon and has tracked him across Europe. After the monster crashes the festival and is attacked by the villagers Mannering and Elsa agree to join the cause to stop the monster.


Mannering is pretending to be able to help Larry to lure him to the ruin where he and Elsa plan to drain the life out of both monsters. Mannering’s curiosity gets the best of him and he decides to fully revive the monster rather than draining his life force like he’d agreed to. It doesn’t matter who is betraying who however because the innkeeper suspects they’re all in cahoots and blows the dam that overlooks the estate, flooding the ruins. Elsa and Mannering escape but due to their fighting the Wolf Man and Frankenstein’s monster are swept away.


HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN 1944

In an entirely new story line we meet Doctor Gustav Niemann who is imprisoned for trying to recreate Frankenstein’s experiments. Alongside him is a hunchback named Daniel that becomes Niemann’s assistant in exchange for the promise of the doctor quote-unquote fixing his deformity. Of course the fix is being the subject for Niemann successfully transplanting a brain from one body to another.

After escaping the prison together and being believed to be dead the pair aids a stuck carriage which results in their invitation inside Lampini’s living cart. Part of Lampini’s traveling show of horrors is Dracula’s skeleton, staked inside of his coffin. When the subject comes up Lampini talks smack about Niemann and his reputation and Niemann instructs Daniel to murder him and the driver so they can assume their identities.


Upon assuming the identities Niemann begins a plan to exact revenge on the men who imprisoned him. After running Lampini’s horror show in his place and surviving vocal suspicion from Inspector Anz in front of the Burgomaster. After they leave the caravan the doctor pulls the stake from Count Dracula’s heart which revives him. The special effects are practical, what appears to be various slides transitioned over one another to go from skeletal to the actor or Count.


The Count and Niemann strike up a deal that Niemann will always make sure that Dracula’s coffin is safe during the daylight hours and ready for him when he returns to it. Dracula agrees to revenge kill Burgomaster Hussman for Niemann and introduces himself to them as Baron Latos while offering a ride in his carriage. Diverting from the plan Dracula becomes obsessed with Rita, the Hussman son’s wife. He decides to seduce Rita and makes her wear his ring that shows her “his world” which she describes as full of dead people.


Dracula proceeds with the plan however after securing his next chosen victim and transforms into a bat and kills the Burgomaster. After Dracula abducts Rita a chase ensues after his carriage and when Niemann and Daniel realize the heat is coming from Dracula and they are virtually undetected they unload Dracula’s coffin from their carriage.


Right as they ditch him Dracula’s carriage crashes and before he can get inside his coffin the sun rises, causing him to become a skeleton again. Once Dracula is dead Rita is freed from his ring’s grip and returns to a normal state reunited with her husband and safely with police.


Niemann and Daniel make it to Frankenstein’s village with the intention to find the Doctor’s research notes to assist in his own experiments. They come across a group of Romanian people all traveling by caravan and some of which putting on shows and attractions near the ruins of the castle Frankenstein.


The local police near the ruins don’t want anyone around the area however noting that every time someone comes around there something terrible happens to the village. They also won’t let the crew stay but despite the dispute Daniel is having his Romeo moment and falls instantly for a dancer named Ilonka.


Following a dispute over her earnings a man in the caravan group starts whipping her which Daniel saves her from. Daniel goes on to introduce himself when she wakes up only for her to be uninterested when she learns of his disability. The doctor and Daniel then make it into the castle ruins and are able to find the frozen Frankenstein monster and the Wolf Man in the ice caves below. Larry survives the melting with ease, transforming back into his human form and picking right back up in his lamenting whines. Frankenstein’s monster however is in tact but won’t wake and Niemann promises to place Larry’s brain into the monster’s body in order to overcome the werewolf curse.


Once the new squad finds Frankenstein’s journals they all travel to Visiria where Niemann’s own lab was. On the journey Ilonka falls in love with Larry after Niemann tasks Daniel with caring for the monster. With all of the main characters now together the real challenges the characters face come to the forefront.


Somehow all of that was set up for the main plot of the movie which is the battle for the monster’s body and eventual revival of the monster. Physical, moral, and ethical implications play out throughout their time in Visiria while prepping for some sort of revival of the monster. In addition to the issues surrounding the monster Lawrence transforms into the Wolf Man, murdering locals.


The Wolf Man’s story culminates with Ilonka shooting him with a silver bullet while he goes to attack her resulting in both dying. When Daniel discovers their bodies he snaps, confronting Niemann in the lab. The monster wakes up and tosses Daniel out of there with no resolution to his discontent and villagers arrive and spot Frankenstein’s monster.


With the knowledge that the monster hates fire they chase him into the woods near the castle and set the marsh grass on fire. The fire chase forces Frankenstein’s monster into quick sand like mud and while still carrying Niemann he plunges into it and begins sinking. Frankenstein’s monster and Niemann sink under the surface, presumably dead.


An abrupt ‘The End’ flashes onto the screen once the camera pans slightly up from the quicksand where the monster had just stood. So much happens in this movie from start to finish that is commonly used for clips of the monster and Dracula as well as the Wolf Man with Ilonka.


By far this is one of the best movies in the series despite being a little disjointed in how we get to the end outcome. The immediate ending after the rising action did leave me jaw dropped and confused however. It’s easy to expect modern conclusions and forget that the viewers of the past weren’t necessarily as interested in the aspects I found most interesting now—like the ending and possible epilogue.


Fortunately some resolution exists in the next film that features them tilted House of Dracula which released in 1945.

HOUSE OF DRACULA 1945

One of the most well known Universal Monster films House of Dracula came out in 1945 and jumps right into the action with the Count casing a castle in Visaria. At Dr. Edelmann’s home around sunrise Dracula pleads for him to be allowed to rest in his coffin in the basement. Dracula explains that he’s come to the doctor in hopes that he can be freed of the curse that causes him to be a vampire. Edelmann doesn’t believe him however but does believe that he’s a crazy man who has tricked himself into thinking he needs blood to survive.


Edelmann is someone who plans to help a multitude of Universal Monsters including Larry, arriving flustered and desperately requesting help to either end his life or the curse. Larry is particularly plagued by his curse in this film having come to the conclusion that he can’t go on with his current circumstance. Edelmann gets to work on searching for cures to the various curses that plague the monsters as well as a way to fix his assistant Nina’s hunchback. While Edelmann is researching what could be causing Dracula’s vampirism he’s seducing the other lab assistant Miss Morelle with his ring.


The doctor identifies a parasite in Dracula’s blood and pressure in the Wolf Man’s skull that could be related to their respective curses. This is the first time in the films that we get indications of a scientific nature for the root of their ailments. Through the development of a wolfsbane serum in the lab the doctor thinks he can stop Larry from transitioning into a werewolf.


For Dracula’s treatment he prescribes blood transfusions to try and rid of the parasite. Despite having recovered somewhat from his vampirism with the treatment his reflection disappears again as he ramps up his hypnosis of Miliza. They start to catch onto Dracula after he makes Miliza throw her cross away from her so that he has free reign over her.


With his next victim lined up and ulterior motives Dracula agrees to the next blood transfusion but causes Edelmann to pass out. Once Edelmann and Nina are out Dracula reverses the blood transfusion valve so that his blood goes into the doctor’s body. Now fully back to his vampiric ways the Count turns into a bat and goes to Miliza’s room only to be chased out with a crucifix. Edelmann keeps up the chase all the way to Dracula’s crypt in the basement where he’s fleeing to as sunrise approaches.


Dracula is inside the casket when Edelmann moves it into the sunlight and opens it, causing him to die once again leaving just his skeleton with his ring on his finger. Once Dracula is dead Miliza returns to normal and is now free from his spell and hypnosis. Larry having joined the fight at Nina’s begging to do so is there to comfort her as the doctor starts to transform.


In a really cool dream like sequence Edelmann begins to become a vampire and sees his reflection disappear and then imagining a dark, corrupt version of himself coming to him. In his mind the two versions are the devil and angel on someone’s shoulder; an evil scientist version of himself that aims to resurrect the Frankenstein monster and fix Nina’s hunchback so he can attack her being the devil.


Rather than being scared straight Edelmann decides to make his imaginings a reality, it being a better story telling technique than a villain’s master plan monologue. Edelmann considers becoming immortal and continuing the work of Frankenstein, starting to rant and rave similarly to the other scientists who succumbed to the pull of the experiments. Nina comes to the doctor’s lab and demands that Larry receive the next available treatment before the full moon.


We hear from silly Larry that he now associates the moon with evil and darkness, expressing his guilt and despair. The townspeople believe that Edelmann is Talbot, a werewolf, but despite efforts they haven’t been able to apprehend him. The operation cures Larry of his werewolf curse but Edelmann is becoming the monstrous, evil version of himself as he revives Frankenstein’s monster. The doctor kills Nina only to end up being shot and killed by Larry who then sets fire to the lab, trapping the monster in the flames before the roof collapses.


CONCLUSION & UP NEXT

The second video, that I am planning to post at the end of July will cover Dracula portrayals from 1958-1979 movies, including the Blaxploitation ones like Blacula, the Frankenstein movies from 1948-1992, and The Wolf Man movies from 1961-2004.


At the end of this December the final part of the series will be posted. The final video will cover related video games, some other interpretations of vampires and the Dracula story, twists on Frankenstein movies like Frankenweenie and Lisa Frankenstein, and werewolf movies like Underworld and Van Helsing. Included in this video will be a Nosferatu 2024 review and any information available about the upcoming Wolf Man 2025 movie release.


Between now and then I’m planning to post at least one video a month if not more depending on life circumstances. For the month of May the video will be a tried and true topic, one of my favorites, Jennifer’s Body and movies like Ginger Snaps, Carrie, and Freaky. Currently I have an article up on my website www.redrosehorror.com covering Jennifer’s Body which will most likely be the same content featured in the video—May is busy-busy.



Thank you for watching!

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