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Old 06-05-2019, 07:40 AM
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Loooooong time between sequels in later Universal Horror films


The first run of Universal Horror films established Universal's iconic monsters, and included some genuine classics.

The Phantom of the Opera
Frankenstein
The Bride of Frankenstein
Dracula
The Mummy
The Invisible Man
The Werewolf of London


You might also include in there The Old Dark House and the silent Cat and the Canary, although those had no iconic monsters, and got a lot less exposure later on, when most of the others were leased to independent TV stations.

Those films were made over a ten year period, from 1925 to 1935. There were arguably others (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Univer...assic_Monsters), but these films contained the nucleus of the Universal legacy. When one film was the sequel to another, as with Frankenstein and Bride of Franklenstein, the sequel picked up literally from the last scene of the original. aside from the opening scene, with Mary soon-to-be-Shelley recounting the events of the first Frankenstein story, the sequels picks up at the remains of the burning windmill where we apparently saw the monster destroyed. Similarly, Dracula's Daughter starts in the crypt where Dracula has been staked, with the police interviewing Edward van Sloan as Abraham van Helsing.

In 1936, Universal turned away from horror films, dropping them altogether from their production schedule and moving on to other subjects. But a double-bill showing of Dracula and Frankenstein was an unexpected and significant success, and convinced the studio to go back into the horror business.
But there was a substantial difference. Not only was there a Changing of the Guard -- Carl Laemmle Jr. no longer produced, John Balderston no longer wrote screenplays, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, although they still appeared, would each only portray their signature character only once more. Completely new incarnations of The Werewolf (now The Wolfman, played by Lon Chaney Jr. instead of Henry Hull) and The Mummy (now Kharis, played mostly by Chaney, rather than Karloff's Im-Ho-Tep; and Kharis remained mute and bandage-wrapped, unlike the eloquent Im-Ho-Tep) and The Phantom of the Opera (for the first time he became an acid-scarred and burned composer seeking revenge, rather than the deformed since birth loner of Gaston Leroux's dark fantasy). Kurt Siodmak did a lot of scripting, Hans J. Salter composed a lot of the music. The setting for the Frankenstein movies was changed completely.

A lot of people (especially those involved) felt that the new films were a lot less classy than the original ones, more mechanical, pandering to the audience, more commercial. But there was also another change I just realized -- the internal time between sequels had lengthened appreciably.

The studio continued to crank out the movies continuously, several each year, with sequels appearing every year. But the subjective time between these sequels, within the universe of the stories, now stretched out to downright absurd lengths.

Son of Frankenstein was the first of the iconic monster sequels in the new regime. Instead of being set in Ingolstadt, with the laboratory in an old watchtower far from everything else, it's now set in the town of Frankenstein, with a laboratory right behind the family house. Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) has had time to grow up into a young doctor, and Inspector Krogh (Lionel Atwill), who had his arm "torn out by the roots" by the Monster, has grown up, as well so this sequel, filmed only four years after Bride of Frankenstein, actually takes place some 25 years later.
Ghost of Frankenstein, made three years later, is filled with inconsistencies (wasn't Ygor killed in the previous film?), but could have taken place three years later, but clearly some time has passed since the events of the prior film.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, made the next year, takes place many years after the events of both The Wolfman and Ghost Larry Talbot (the Wolfman), clearly WAS killed in the earlier film, but that is explained, kinda, at the beginning of this film. The Frankenstein monster is found frozen in ice.
House of Frankenstein takes place after the events of the previous film, with this time both The Wolfman and the Monster frozen in ice, with no indication of how long they've been there. At the end, the monster carries the Mad Scientist (played by Karloff) into a swamp.
In House of Dracula, made the next year, they find the skeleton of the Mad Scientist and the body of the Frankenstein monster in a cave far below where the swamp was, so clearly a lot of time has passed for the bodies to work their way through and for the Scientist's body to have completely decayed.


So from the first to the last in the series (ignoring the Abbott and Costello comedy), we have something in excess of forty years for films that cover fewer than 15.

The Mummy movies are even worse in this respect. The first film starts in 1921 and finishes a decade later. The second film, The Mummy's Hand, was made in 1940, and could have been set then.
The Mummy's Tomb, made two years later, is set Thirty Years afterwards. at the end, though, the hero gets a draft notice that is clearly intended for WWII, so it's very confusing.

The Mummy's Ghost, made two years late, again could have been set then. But its sequel, The Mummy's Curse, is set about 25 years later. So the second series of Mummy films , made over a span of only four years, covers about sixty in "internal time". If you include the original film, add about twenty years to that. There are whopping inconsistencies of Mummy behavior and of setting in the second series of Mummy films, too.

(The Invisible Man films are a hopeless mess of tangled relationships and time -- better not to go there.)
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Old 06-05-2019, 11:20 AM
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Also, The Mummy's Hand and The Mummy's Ghost are set in a town somewhere relatively close the the Atlantic coast, where everyone speaks with flat midwestern accents. Ghost ends with Kharis sinking into a swamp just outside of the town.

The Mummy's Curse begins with them digging Kharis up from a swamp in Louisiana, with a lot of people speaking in faux-Cajun accents.
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Old 06-05-2019, 07:39 PM
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Like a lot of CalMeacham’s threads, I find this one fascinating, but have no idea how to comment on it.

Ummmmm, let’s try this: The Mummy’s Tomb and The Mummy’s Ghost were set in a small college town in Massachusetts. I know this from reading the transcripts in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine back in the 1970s.

What was up with Mummymaster John Carradine’s house-on-a-stick in The Mummy’s Ghost?. Who the hell lives in a house on a stick, especially when they’re the caretaker of a 4,000-year-old dead guy who’s swathed in bandages and lives on boiled leaves?

Of COURSE Ygor survived and showed up in The Ghost of Frankenstein.. If you can live through multiple hangings, you can survive a pistol shot from that limp-wristed fruit Basil Rathbone.
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Old 06-05-2019, 07:42 PM
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Also, The Phantom of the Opera had no sequels, just remakes. First Claude Raines, then Herbert Lom (????) from Hammer films. Whose bright idea was to make him acid-scarred, anyway? What was wrong with the Leroux original take, which Chaney used?

Also, why did the remakes lose that incredibly cool torture chamber with the mirrors and the iron tree?
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Old 06-05-2019, 07:45 PM
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Also...The Mummy’s Tomb has been called the most unpleasant of the Mummy series, because Kharis kills mostly elderly people.
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Old 06-06-2019, 12:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ukulele Ike View Post
Also, The Phantom of the Opera had no sequels, just remakes. First Claude Raines, then Herbert Lom (????) from Hammer films. Whose bright idea was to make him acid-scarred, anyway? What was wrong with the Leroux original take, which Chaney used?
My guess is it had something to do with not wanting to offend people who were born with deformities. They also toned down Raines' make-up from Chaney's because of the public's sensitivity to real-life injuries suffered by soldiers during WWII.
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Old 06-06-2019, 07:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ukulele Ike View Post
Also, The Phantom of the Opera had no sequels, just remakes. First Claude Raines, then Herbert Lom (????) from Hammer films. Whose bright idea was to make him acid-scarred, anyway? What was wrong with the Leroux original take, which Chaney used?

Also, why did the remakes lose that incredibly cool torture chamber with the mirrors and the iron tree?
As I said, the first Universal remake is the one that changed the Phantom from a deformed individual to a pathetic acid- and flame-scarred victim of an unscrupulous publisher that stole his work. Leroux's story had a rich but weird background for Erik that has him deformed in body and mind. I don't think that the change was done to prevent offending people with deformities (Universal was using the deformed Rondo Hatton in films at this time as a monster, as in The Brute Man). I think they were trying to make a case for some audience sympathy with the Phantom.

Hammer's version -- the first that I saw -- is interesting in that it followed Universal's new background fort the Phantom (just as their version of Horror of Dracula followed the trope of "vampires dissolve in sunlight" from Universal's use of the trope in Son of Dracula and House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula), despite the fact that Hammer was significantly changing the basic storylines of the horror films to prove that they weren't the same as Universal. They gave the Phantom an Evil Hunchbacked Assistant, for instance, which no other version has. They included another feature of every Phantom movie -- The Falling Chandelier -- but they stuck it at the end, an made it the cause of the Phantom's own death.


Edited to add: I don't know why subsequent version lost the "cool torture chamber", although it really goes with Leroux's non-acid-scarred background of the Phantom -- Leroux said that he lived in Persia for many years building and devising such torture chambers, and when he moved into the Paris Opera house, spent many years building the torture chambers and trap doors to suit himself. The acid-scarred version wasn't living there as long, and didn't have time to set all that up.

I'm not sorry to see it go -- in the book both Christine and Raoul her lover were unbelievably naïve, being taken in by tricks that wouldn't fool a five-year-old today. Terry Pratchett realized this and poked fun at it in his Discworld novel Maskerade.
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Last edited by CalMeacham; 06-06-2019 at 07:12 AM.
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Old 06-06-2019, 09:12 AM
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I just don’t see a rationale for “audience sympathy for the Phantom.” There certainly wasn’t any audience sympathy for Chaney’s Phantom, which is why he’s a paragon of Monsters.

Then again, I never saw the rationale for Irving Thalberg putting crappy songs and mushy romances into A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races. Hollywood got too damn SOFT after 1934, if you ask me. Dilute a masterpiece like Duck Soup, make monsters more cuddly, stop depicting adulterers and dope fiends and nekkid ladies. Bah!
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Old 06-06-2019, 09:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ukulele Ike View Post
I just don’t see a rationale for “audience sympathy for the Phantom.” There certainly wasn’t any audience sympathy for Chaney’s Phantom, which is why he’s a paragon of Monsters.

Then again, I never saw the rationale for Irving Thalberg putting crappy songs and mushy romances into A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races. Hollywood got too damn SOFT after 1934, if you ask me. Dilute a masterpiece like Duck Soup, make monsters more cuddly, stop depicting adulterers and dope fiends and nekkid ladies. Bah!
I appreciate your points, but would point out that

a.) You CAN get sympathy for monsters. Merian C. Cooper rejected attempts to tone down King Kong's violence (and rebuffed attempts to make him look more human) by saying that, by the end of the movie "he'd have women crying for Kong". There's certainly sympathy for Frankenstein's monster, the misunderstood outcast.

b.) Changing the story wasn't trying to build sympathy for Lon Chaney's Phantom, but for the Claude Rains version (who also does less wanton mayhem). and later, of course, Hammer tried to do the same with Herbert Lom's Phantom.(And fobbed off a lot of the blame for destruction on his Hunchbacked Assistant, making Lom's Phantom even less culpable.)
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Old 06-06-2019, 10:07 AM
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You’re right about Kong and Boris...scary as hell, but the drop of the milk of “human” kindness adds great depth.

Chaney's Phantom, crazed with love for Christine and jealousy of Raoul, is bad pretty much through and through. He murders randomly, has knowledge and cool tools like the “strangler’s noose” and the weird snorkel that allows him to walk around under the lake water and kill people in boats, he eavesdrops on the roof of the Opera House while dressed as the Angel of Death and “riding” the colossal statue, has that torture chamber, has barrels and barrels of explosives connected to his golden switches shaped as a grasshopper and a scorpion, gets ripped to pieces by a vengeful, bloodthirsty mob...it’s a classic early 20th century Gothic Novel.

The 1925 version tells the story of the novel; the 1942 version is a complete re-write. With color and pretty music.
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Old 06-06-2019, 10:11 AM
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Looks like I’ve derailed this train and driven it right through the station wall onto city streets. Let’s get back to Universal in general, and the timelines of the various series.
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Old 06-06-2019, 02:47 PM
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There was a 1944 Karloff movie called The Climax. ISTR that it was originally intended to be a Phantom sequel. See the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_ClimaxWikipedia article for details.
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Old 06-06-2019, 03:21 PM
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There was a 1944 Karloff movie called The Climax. ISTR that it was originally intended to be a Phantom sequel. See the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_ClimaxWikipedia article for details.
Wasn't familiar with that one, or its history. Interesting.

Nothing indicates how long after (the version of Phantom this was intended to be a sequel to) this film is set, so I assume no great length of time. If so, this differs from the other 1940s horror films from Universal.
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Old 06-06-2019, 03:58 PM
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They have a repeat actress/character from the Claude Rains version, so I assume it was set in that "universe".
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