Universal Dusts off Classic Monsters for New Franchise

Universal Dusts off Classic Monsters for New Franchise

Writers Alex Kurtzman (“Transformers,” “Star Trek,” “Amazing Spider-Man”) and Chris Morgan (“Fast and Furious’ series) will oversee the franchising and reboot of Universal Studios classic monsters, Deadline reports. The idea is to not only revive Dracula, The Frankenstein Monster, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man, but to create a universe that connects all of them just like Marvel’s Avengers.

The first in this series will be “The Mummy,” which is scheduled for release in April of 2016.

As we all know, over the last 15 or so years, Universal has attempted separate and individual reboots of The Mummy, Van Helsing, and The Wolf Man. Universal’s “Dracula Untold” will hit theatres this October, but is not a part of The Master Plan.

So far — not counting “Dracula Untold,” which no one has seen — and outside of 1999’s “The Mummy,” which successfully brought an Indiana Jones sensibility to the classic story, Universal has bungled every attempt to resurrect these beloved characters. The “Mummy” sequels are dreadful, as is Benecio Del Toro’s “The Wolfman” (2010) and Hugh Jackman’s “Van Helsing” (2004).

With age comes a little more wisdom and one thing I’ve figured out over the years is that Hollywood cannot in fact rape your childhood. Over time all the lousy sequels, prequels, and reboots,  fade away and what’s left standing is The Good. The only exception is that greedy chowderheaded hack  George Lucas who refuses to release high definition copies of the original, unmolested “Star Wars” films.

Knowing this helps me relax.

There is no film franchise past, present, or future that means more to me than the original Universal monster series. As a kid watching Shock Theatre on Saturday nights, they enthralled me. As a middle-aged man who binges on them every October, I not only become a kid again, I’m held in awe by the artistry. The look, the feel, the heart, the production design, the breathtaking performances…

In “Dracula” (1931),   Bela Lugosi’s hands — just his hands — prove they have more acting talent than all of Meryl Streep. As the doomed Wolf Man, Lon Chaney Jr. breaks my heart each and every time. What Karloff accomplished under a hundred pounds of make-up and wardrobe makes you wonder how the word “groundbreaking” can be attached to Andy Serkis.

Maybe Universal can bring all of that that back in some way. If so, that would be pretty wonderful. Regardless of how it turns out, thanks to DVD, my childhood is safe.

Outside of The Creature (who came much later), The Mummy, and Invisible Man, Universal’s original franchise did create a universe that brought together its monsters (and companions like Igor) on more than one occasion. There isn’t just “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” in 1943 (which is a direct sequel to 1941’s “The Wolf Man”). In 1944, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man, and Dracula would meet again in “House of Frankenstein,” which is the second sequel to the original “Wolf Man.” The Following year “House of Dracula” would reunite the trio again.  

Not counting The Invisible Man, The Creature, or the Abbott and Costello movies, I count 17 features featuring the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man.

Over time, the movies got cheaper and the plotting lazier. But something that never changed was the look and feel, or the appearance of at least one iconic actor knocking it out of the park.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am that these movies found me before MTV and all the other crap that kills the human attention span. A few years ago I tried showing my grandkids “The Wolf Man” (my favorite of them all). After 15 minutes I shut it off. They hated it. What a shame.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC