Universal Monster Movie Remakes

There seems to be a cycle of remakes somewhere over the 20- or 25-year mark for most of the Universal Monsters.  Or at least, Hollywood likes to revisit many of these characters/creatures in one form or another just about every other decade.  Granded, not all of these are strict remakes, and I'm leaving out plenty attempts to capitalize on the property in indirect fashion (Though I included a few examples of the latter where nothing else could be found).

You can see groups of some of these remakes as coming in "waves."  The first wave, of course, were the original Universal series of movies that eventually entwined into a shared universe that included Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man.  Perhaps other monsters might have been included as well, had the entire concept not grown so stale that the series petered out and the characters merely became comedic foils in the Abott and Costello films (and others, now mostly forgotten).

The next wave were Hammer Studio's series of monster movies beginning in the late '50s that claimed not to be remakes but rather original films or adaptions of the source material.  Oh, but they just happened to cover the same characters and in nearly the exact order as Universal Studios had introduced them twentysomething years previous.  And they simiarly milked a great many sequels out of Drac and Frank in particular as well as moving on to lesser vampire characters for additional features when their lead wasn't available, just as Universal did in the '30s and '40s with and without Bela Lugosi.

The 1970s did not have an organized revival of these properties so much as some opportunistic contenders that ressurected Dracula and Frankenstein but failed to revisit the Mummy or Wolf Man.  In fact, two competing werewolf movies emerged in 1981 to fill that void: The Howling and An American Werewolf in London.

It wasn't until the '90s that a more organized series of monster films emerged, all with substantially greater budgets and commensurately impressive effects.  Dracula and Frankenstein in particular boasted new adaptations that adhered more closely to their respective literary sources.  While the Mummy was later included in this wave, the Wolf Man was passed over until 2010.  I've read suggestions by reviewers that the return of these monsters was a reaction to the "new monsters" (as I call them) like Freddy, Jason, Pinhead, etc. having been played out by the end of the '80s.  In fact, that series began to resort to "Wolf Man Meets Frankenstein"-style crossovers like Freddy vs. Jason (2003) in order keep from replaying the same plots for the umpteenth time.

Although there was the terrible attempt at a mass ressurection of several classic monsters in Van Helsing (2004), the characters remained dormant until recently.  Universal currently has plans to reboot the entire series of monster properties into a (presumably) shared universe that was supposed to begin with Dracula Untold (2014).  However, that film failed to garner much interest.  The series is expected to continue, although Dracula will likely get a different reboot in the hopes of getting a better toehold with the public.

The Major Monsters and Their Movies

I've included lists of various monsters and their respective remakes, although it isn't a strict listing. 

The Dracula Movies
Dracula (1931) (Universal)
Dracula (1958) (Hammer)
Dracula (1979)
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Dracula Untold (2014) (Universal)

The Frankenstein Movies
Frankenstein (1931) (Universal)
Curse of Frankenstein (1957) (Hammer)
The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994)
Victor Frankenstein (2015)

The Mummy Movies
The Mummy (1932) (Universal)
The Mummy (1959) (Hammer)
The Mummy (1999) (Universal)
The Mummy (2017) (Universal) - Listed as in pre-production.

The Wolf Man Movies
Here's a monster that suffers from being interchangeable.  Where's Dracula is a terrific character in his own right (so not just any vampire will do), and Frankenstein is far more than a synthetic creature or a zombie, the Wolf Man is simply a werewolf.  Movie studios were free to tell werewolf stories, so they did.  It didn't have to be the Wolf Man; there is enough drama in anyone being bitten and cursed to transform into a blood-thirsty beast when the moon is full!
The Wolf Man (1941) (Universal)
Curse of the Wolf Man (1961) (Hammer)
The Howling (1981) or An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Wolf (1994)
The Wolfman (2010) (Universal)

Other Universal Monsters

Some "minor" but good characters never seemed to be included, not in the shared universe and not in the waves of remakes, though they have returned in one form or another over the years.

The Invisible Man Movies
The Invisible Man hasn't fared very well over the years, with many adapations using the premise as a joke more than for horror (e.g., the character sneaks into dressing rooms).  In fact, of all the films to use the central device of invisibility, only Hollow Man (2000) seemed to follow the tone of the original novel (and, to a lesser extent, the original film).
The Invisible Man (1933)
Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
Hollow Man (2000)
The Invisible Man (2018) - Listed on the IMDd sans details.

The Creature Movies
Creature from the Black Lagoon really hasn't had any luck in being adapted.  I suppose this is a credit to the original film(s) in that the Creature itself is simply too iconic to touch.  The plot is universal though (no pun intended) in that we all intuit the mixture of horror and empathy for the Creature, which is something of a re-telling of King Kong, in a way.  About the closest thing to a remake was Anaconda (1997) which used the original premise in nearly every way but featuring the actual Creature!  I don't think it was a coincidence that this film was produced during the same period as the major remakes of Frankenstein (1992), Dracula (1994), and The Mummy (1999)!  Conversely, there have been films featuring Gill Men (e.g., Island of the Fishermen in 1979, Humanoids from the Deep in 1980), but the plot never paralleled the original in any distinct way.
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Anaconda (1997)

The Phantom of the Opera
The character's cinematic history is muddied by the fact that the popular musical has superceded the novel or any of the earlier films in the public's consciousness.  It's hard to say definitively whether any film made after the music premiered in 1986 was a remake of the original films or merely cashing in on the popularity of the musical.  For example, the Robert Englund-starring adaptation of Phantom (1989) was likely filmed only because Phantom was the biggest musical in the world at the time (It's still the highest-grossing, incidentally).  Indeed the musical remains the most recent film version (2004) of the story!
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Phantom of the Opera (1943) (remake)
Phantom of the Opera (1998) (Dario Argento)


As I said above, there are plans to reboot the shared universe of the Universal monsters over the next few years, but I'm sure we'll see another round or two in my lifetime.  They're more than monster movies; they're legends that will long be retold.


Copyright 2016 the Ale[x]orcist.