Archive for the Universal Monsters Category

Top 10 Universal Monster Movies

Posted in Top 10 Universal Monster Movies, Universal Monsters with tags , , , , , , , on June 25, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

This list builds up to my top spot. In the future the list can change (well at least my 10th spot). But outside of number 10 the other 9 films will remain. So here we go my top 10 Monster Movies.

I left off Abbott & Costello mainly because I sort of forgot, but I also see it as its own film. If I were to list it I would place it 4th or 5th

10. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

This was the first of the crossover films. It’s a solid film, but works best in the first half when it’s a Wolf Man sequel. Still a fun movie.

9. Ghost of Frankenstein

This one is when the Frankenstein films became B-Movies. This marked the first time another actor played the Monster as Lon Chaney took over the role. This one is just a lot of fun despite the flaws.

8. Creature from the Black Lagoon

50s camp at its finest. While the middle has some pacing issues the final act is rather creepy. Even with some sluggish pacing it never loses its charm.

7. The Invisible Man

More campy than suspenseful, which was a James Whale trademark this film is just fun. Claude Rains is great in the title role and the F/X actually hold up well and still make me wonder how they did that.

6. Dracula (Spanish Version)

At 104-minutes its quite long for a horror film from this era, but yet it works. From a technical side of things, the Spanish version is better, but Lugosi, Edward Van Sloan and Tod Browning’s eerie tone give the English version the edge, but I was quite surprised by how much I liked this.

5. Dracula

While the film is dated obviously I actually feel it also holds up well in terms of writing and directing; the shots in Dracula’s castle early in the film is text book filmmaking on setting an eerie tone. Though at the end of the day Lugosi and Van Sloan are what makes this so brilliant.

4. Son of Frankenstein

The last time Karloff played the Monster. This was a terrific film only problem is the Monster wasn’t given as much to do. As much as I love this film it lacks the James Whale touch, but its still a truly great film.

3. The Wolf Man

Like Dracula, I think the Wolf Man holds up well and still can be quite eerie. Lon Chaney was brilliant as the tortured Larry Talbot.

2. Frankenstein

Love the dark and eerie feel; this was such a great film and one of the horror flicks that forever shaped the genre. Karloff with no dialogue gives one of the greatest performances of all time.

1. Bride of Frankenstein


Words cannot describe how much I love this film. This is easily my favorite Monster movie and nothing really comes close. Again Karloff is brilliant. Unlike the first this has a lot more camp value, but also some truly touching scenes. A masterpiece simple as that.

House of Frankenstein (1944) Review

Posted in House of Frankenstein, Universal Monsters with tags , , , , on June 24, 2013 by Last Road Reviews


*** Out of 5

Tagline- Frankenstein’s Monster, Wolf Man, Dracula, Hunchback, Mad Doctor

Release Date- December 1st, 1944

Running Time- 71-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Edward T. Lowe (story Curt Siodmak)

Director- Erle C. Kenton

Starring- Boris Karloff, J. Carrol Naish, John Carradine, Elena Verdugo, Glenn Strange and Lon Chaney

As I’ve stated in other reviews for the Universal Monster films by this point despite being Universal films they were B-Movies and House of Frankenstein released in 1944 is no different. By this time in the series we were far removed from the first 3 Frankenstein films and the original Dracula and Wolf Man. House of Frankenstein came 5-years after Son of Frankenstein and and 3-years after the Wolf Man, but it might as well been a 100-years since quality was so drastically different. House of Frankenstein is the 2nd of 4 crossover films with the first being Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and the last 2 being House of Dracula and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. I suppose it was only a matter of time before Universal took advantage of having these characters and put them in a film together. This time around Dracula (Carradine) is added to the mix and we have the B-Movie staple of Monsters, mad scientists and a hunchback.

If anything House of Frankenstein sort of feels like an anthology; first Dr. Niemann (Karloff) and his story is set up. Than Dracula comes into the story, than after that enter Larry Talbot (Chaney) and finally the Frankenstein Monster (Strange). Perhaps it was the times or just the writing, but it always seemed as if there were problems linking all these Monsters together. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man more or less seemed to be the most successful in doing so, but even that film got a little sluggish when the Monster entered as the movie worked best in the first half when it was a Wolf Man sequel. Here in House of Frankenstein Dracula seems to be just a throw in since his story is unconnected to the rest of the film, well sort of.

After escaping from prison Dr. Niemann looks to get revenge on the people who sent him to prison and with the help of his hunchback assistant Daniel (Naish) he uses the Monsters to carry out that revenge.

The screenplay was written by Edward T. Lowe based off a story by Curt Siodmak who wrote the original Wolf Man and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. The story while interesting might have been better suited as its own film and not a Monster movie as the Monsters are just simply there because Universal has the rights to them all. As I stated the script very much feels like an anthology since Dracula never shares any screen time with the Wolf Man or Frankenstein Monster and it seems he was just put in for the sake of it. The script by Lowe is fairly decent, but adds nothing new to the legacy of either of the 3 franchises. Larry Talbot for the most part just rehashes dialogue from the previous film and its quite clear there wasn’t anything left for the character to do. The biggest letdown is the Monster doesn’t come alive until the final 10-minutes and when he does come alive he’s strapped down and it isn’t until the final 4-minutes he breaks out of the straps. Overall the script isn’t bad, but its brought down by not really being able to work the Monsters in together and it feels like 4 different scripts were written than edited together. I think the film would have played a lot better had it just been about Niemann wanting revenge and not mixing in the Monsters. In Ghost of Frankenstein the Monster had his brain switched with someone else thus creating a new Frankenstein Monster, but in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man that’s ignored and ruined Lugosi’s performance as the Monster (which wasn’t very good to begin with) and that’s continued here in House of Frankenstein as the Monster is back to being the original creation and the fact he actually isn’t is ignored.

House of Frankenstein was directed by Erle C. Kenton who previously helmed Ghost of Frankenstein and the year after this film he would direct House of Dracula. Seeing as Kenton directed Ghost of Frankenstein it is a bit annoying that the fact the Monster isn’t the original creation anymore is still ignored, but I suppose not writing the film there isn’t much he can do. The pace of the film can at times be a bit sluggish, but that’s more with the script than the directing. Gone is the eerie atmosphere the Monster movies were based on in their early days. Of all the Monster films I think Dracula and the Wolf Man hold up the best in filmmaking techniques for the most part and too bad Kenton doesn’t use any of those. Suspense is light and there really isn’t an eerie atmosphere either. To his credit though Kenton does deliver a fun film and while this isn’t exactly high quality filmmaking, Kenton is a competent director and makes a fun film with the flaws being more to do with the script than anything else.

John Carradine is sort of the forgotten Dracula and this marked his debut as Count Dracula and he would reprise the role the following year in House of Dracula. Carradine doesn’t have the charisma of Lugosi nor is he as eerie, but with that said I do like Carradine’s take on the role and while sure he’s nothing like Lugosi despite playing the same character I find him entertaining, but he really isn’t given much to do. Glenn Strange plays the Monster for the first time here and he’d play the tole twice more (House of Dracula & Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein). It’s really difficult to rate his performance seeing as he only has a few minutes of screw time and most of that he’s strapped down. It’s impossible not to compare anybody that plays the Monster to Karloff and nobody has or ever will match or top Karloff in the role, but Strange wasn’t bad. It’s just unfortunate he isn’t given a whole lot to do. Lon Chaney again is excellent as the cursed Larry Talbot, but he just rehashes past dialogue and while Chaney by this point does seem to be going through the motions he’s still a joy to watch.

House of Frankenstein was Karloff’s return to the series as he last appeared in the franchise in Son of Frankenstein his last outing as the Frankenstein Monster. Karloff is one of my all time favorite actors and my favorite horror actor and Karloff is excellent here, but only hindered by his screenwriter.

My review for House of Frankenstein may not be overly glowing, but despite the many flaws it is an entertaining film only brought down by the fact the film seemed to be unable to mix these iconic Monsters together and again I think the film would have turned out better without them. However House of Frankenstein is a fun film to watch and flaws and all should please fans of the series.














Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) Review

Posted in Creature from the Black Lagoon, Universal Monsters with tags , , , on June 22, 2013 by Last Road Reviews


*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Centuries of Passion Pent Up in His Savage Heart

Release Date- March 5th, 1954

Running Time- 79-Minutes

Rating- G

Screenplay- Harry Essex & Arthur Ross

Director- Jack Arnold

Starring- Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno, Nester Paiva, Whit Bissell

Released in 1954 Creature from the Black Lagoon was I guess meant to sort of restart their monster series with a new series. Back in the 30s Universal thrived on their Monster movies and these weren’t seen as B-Movies, but rather big Hollywood releases, but after the Wolf Man in 1941 these Monster Movies were more or less now B-Movies and several years after the series ended came Creature from the Black Lagoon, who like other Monsters is meant to be a little sympathetic, but personally I don’t really view the Creature that way for the most part.

The 1950s were a fun time in the horror and sci-fi genre with many excellent films with a lot of them being mutated insect films, which as a kid scared the hell out of me and Jack Arnold who directed this very film was responsible for the cult classic Tarantula, which as a kid scared the living hell out of me. The 50s had a very campy and feel and some of that was intentional other times perhaps not. Even Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which is a personal favorite of mine had some camp value to go along with its eerie tone, but even with so many excellent films from the 50s, but the decade for me would be more in the middle of the road when ranking decades in the horror genre. Creature from the Black Lagoon doesn’t quite have an eerie feel in my opinion though there is some decent suspense, but it does have some camp value and very much has this B-Movie charm that helps keep the film fun even in the slower scenes.

After an exploration trip in the amazon jungle, the explorers from across a human like prehistoric creature and they try to capture it, but escapes and returns for revenge.

The screenplay by Harry Essex & Arthur Ross is decently plotted with decent characters. The script isn’t as strong as the Monster movies of the 30s, but the script is still entertaining and fun. The script has a certain charm and while it may not be great it’s just a lot of fun. This really was a simpler time in film and Essex & Ross deliver a very fun screenplay that helped shape the Monster film for years to come.

Director Jack Arnold delivers a really fun film that has some pacing issues, but even in the slower scenes, Arnold still keeps the film moving at a fun pace. Creature from the Black Lagoon really has this B-movie charm that for me helps elevate the film. The final act actually does have some nice suspense and overall Jack Arnold delivers a really fun film and again while the pace a little uneven it never loses its charm. Creature from the Black Lagoon is a really fun film and while it doesn’t reach the epic heights of the Universal Monsters of the 30s it still can stand proudly next to them.

Jack Arnold besides feature films would direct many TV shows including Love Boat, Gilligan’s Island, Brady Bunch and Rawhide, which starred Clint Eastwood who had a bit role in Tarantula. The following year after Creature from the Black Lagoon Jack Arnold would return to direct the sequel Revenge of the Creature.

Once again Universal deserves praise for their amazing HD presentation. Clarity and detail shine, grain is present, but never too much. The underwater scenes are about as murky as things will get and they still look wonderful. There a couple of scenes where clarity might drop, but it doesn’t look bad or anything. Creature from the Black Lagoon is a beautiful HD presentation with no DNR or anything else that tries to make it too new looking.






























Dracula (1931 Spanish Version) Review

Posted in Dracula (Spanish Version), Universal Monsters with tags , , , on June 21, 2013 by Last Road Reviews


**** Out of 5

Release Date- April 24th, 1931

Running Time- 104-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- B. Fernandez Cue

Director- George Melford

Starring- Carlos Villar, Lupita Tovar, Edwardo Arozamena, Barry Newton, Pablo Alvarez Rubio

The Spanish version of Dracula was shot at the same time and used the same exact sets as the English version and was released a couple of months after the English version. For quite sometime the Spanish version was quite rare, but now is easily found on DVD and Blu-ray releases of the English version. There are people who consider this version to be better than that of the Bela Lugosi version and I can actually see why and in many ways I like this film almost as much. From a technical standpoint I would actually favor this film and despite using the same sets the production values are a little stronger here and there is also a little more camera movement however what gives the English version the edge in my opinion is this one just doesn’t have the eerie feel Tod Browning created in the English version. For the most part the films are identical, but they are also quite different as the English version runs at 75-minutes and this one runs at 104, which is quite rare for horror pictures of the time. The good portion of horror flicks ran around 60-minutes with many not running much longer than 75-minutes, but the Spanish version of Dracula clocks in at 104-minutes and for the most part the film is very well paced.

From a technical standpoint I think the Spanish version of Dracula is the better film and despite using the same sets as the English version the production values are a little stronger and the one knock on the English version, which I guess is fair is that the production feels more like a stage play rather than a film and while I agree for the most part as it does at times feel like a play the Spanish version at least to me doesn’t really feel that way with a couple of scenes that have a play like feel. What gives the English version the edge is this one lacks the eerie feel of the English version. Spanish Dracula does have a couple of eerie moments, but that dark mysterious and eerie atmosphere isn’t present like the English version.

The screenplay by B. Fernandez Cue is more or less the same as the English version with a few changes here and there and like the English version the script holds up very well. Characters are strong and the film well plotted and I suppose Garrett Fort who wrote the English version gets more of the credit here since Cue does a straight up adaption for the most part and while I wouldn’t say the changes are for the better, but they still work and at least offer up an interesting alternate version.

Director George Melford delivers a fun film that while lacks the eerie atmosphere of the English version is the better paced of the two. Spanish Dracula turned out far better than I expected and like I said despite running at 104-minutes compared to the usual 60-75-minutes (English version was 75-minutes) the film never feels overly long and while I guess it could have lost a couple of minutes, Melford does a better job at pacing the film and has a little more camera movement, but again what gives the English version the edge is the eerie atmosphere, which this version can lack at times. Overall Spanish Dracula is a well directed film and its fun to watch to see an alternate take on more or less the same exact material.

Carlos Villar does a nice job as Dracula, but he lacks the charm and creep factor Bela Lugosi had in the English version and while Villar can be a bit campy in spots I’d actually rate him as one of my favorite Dracula’s, but just don’t go in expecting anything like Lugosi and you won’t be let down since he’s far inferior when compared to Lugosi. Edwardo Arozamena as Van Helsing was solid, but far inferior to the Edward Van Sloan and at times unlike Van Sloan who played the role straight, Arozamena can be a tad bit campy in spots. What I find actually really interesting is in the English version Helen Chandler who played Mina is very covered up and Lupita Tovar who plays the same character only named Eva is dressed a little more sexy and does bring some sex appeal to the film.

When a film is underground a lot of times it gets more praise and sometimes I can’t help, but think its people trying to be different just like when a film or TV show is really popular all of a sudden every review is bashing it and you have to wonder if its so hated how can it be so successful? In the case of Spanish Dracula I can see again how some might prefer it, but I also can’t help, but think its people wanting to be different as well. Spanish Dracula is an excellent film and I really didn’t expect to enjoy it nearly as much as I did and while again from a technical standpoint this was the better film, but the English version is loaded with eerie atmosphere and thus gives it the edge, but this version comes highly recommended.

The Blu-ray release, which can be found as an extra on Dracula gets off to a great start as the print is stunning despite being at the time of its release 81-years old. Clarity is amazing and early on it looks just as good if not better than the other films on the Universal Monster Movie Collection however at the 19-minute mark there is a major drop in quality where it gets grainy and has a few lines going down the screen and a couple of scenes lose a lot of detail and borders VHS. The print damage is actually a little distracting and made more so by being such a drop in quality as the start again is stunning. Though with that said at the 29-minute mark the picture starts to stabilize again and the print damage isn’t as distracting and within a minute or 2 the print once again looks beautiful in clarity with some great detail. The HD quality from Universal deserves all the praise it gets since putting less work into it and due to the age of the film nobody would question it, but Universal gave this film the proper treatment and is a revelation.








Universal Monster Movie Photo Gallery

Posted in Universal Monsters with tags , , , , , , , on June 20, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

Well I figure to make my return here might as well get a theme going and I’m gonna focus on the Universal Monster movies. I’ll probably break it down in 2 volumes with another batch of reviews and photo galleries at a later time.

I haven’t been around here nearly as much I try and keep up with reviews from everyone else, but sometimes that goes out the window. So to kick things off here’s some awesome photos from various Monster movies from Universal

(Note all photos of the Frankenstein Monster are Boris Karloff unless otherwise noted).













Lon Chaney as the Monster with Bela Lugosi


Another of Chaney as the Monster


Bela Lugosi as the Monster


Glenn Strange as the Monster


Glenn Strange as the Monster with Boris Karloff