Although they’re about a generation out of step with the rest of the world now, the Universal Monsters remain some of the most recognizable creations in the world. There’s just something eternally cool about Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Werewolf, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Even if a kid doesn’t immediately recognize these monsters, he wants to know who they are.
Unlike Jason, Freddy Krueger, or Michael Meyers, the Universal Monsters stand out at first glance. They just look different. Where Freddy, Jason, and Michael Meyers tend to look like ordinary people gone really wrong, the Universal Monsters somehow look regal and more otherworldly. Dracula looks like a lord in his suit and cape. Frankenstein’s monster looks totally rad with the bolts and the scars all over his face. The Mummy looks decrepit, but Brendan Fraser’s franchise (which is getting a new edition in 2008) taught the movie-going audience to fear the Mummy in a whole new way. The Werewolf, especially with his human side not totally evoking sympathy, looks kind of corny but is a definite archetype of the lycanthrope. And the Creature from the Black Lagoon – no one has ever looked like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
To make those monsters even more different, all of them had some hint of tragedy clinging to them. Dracula could’ve been a good guy if he hadn’t gotten bitten by a vampire. Frankenstein’s monster was actually childlike at the beginning until he was mistreated and finally hunted to turn him into a vengeful creature. The Werewolf suffered a gypsy’s curse. The Mummy just wanted to rest undisturbed until grave robbers made off with his goods. And the Creature from the Black Lagoon just wanted his fish bowl left alone – and maybe a little love.
Beginning in the 1930s, the Universal Monsters ruled the silver screen. Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, and the Mummy all put in their original appearances and lurched, flew, and howled their way to fame. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was a latecomer, not putting in an appearance until 1954. But even after only one movie, the creature immediately became a staple in the league of monsters.